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Church of Christ
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Church of Christ

Alternate meanings: see Church of Christ (disambiguation).

The Churches of Christ are a body of autonomous Protestant congregations that have their roots in the American Restoration Movement of the Nineteenth Century. The churches of Christ have as distinctive traits their refusal to hold to any creeds other than the Bible itself ("Where the Scriptures speak, we speak; where the Scriptures are silent, we are silent,") their practice of adult baptism for the remission of sins, autonomous congregational church organization with congregations overseen by a plurality of elders, the weekly observance of communion, and their belief in a capella congregational singing in worship. Other churches that have their roots in the Restoration Movement include the Independent Christian Churches/Churches of Christ (Instrumental) and the Disciples of Christ.

Churches of Christ in the past would be characterized as a sect (holding that they are not another denomination); but some congregations today would consider themselves to be "Christians only, but not the only Christians." It should be noted that some members, particularly older members, of this group are apt to object to being referred to as "Protestants", saying that the Church was not founded as a protest against anything, other than perhaps the domination of the present world by Satan. Some, probably most, members would also object to the categorization of their church as a "denomination", as one of the tenets of this movement is that they are not a denomination and that denominationalism is a sinful departure from the original plan laid down in the Bible for the Church.

Table of contents
1 Church organization
2 Specific teachings and prohibitions
3 Other Restoration Movement bodies
4 External links

Church organization

There is no headquarters for the Church of Christ and each congregation has its own structure consisting of Elders, Deacons, and one or more Preachers/Evangelists. Typically the churches participate in a loose informal network of other local churches of Christ.

Elders are spiritually mature Christian men who work in some specialized capacity of a spiritual nature. They provide moral guidance, approve and establish bible study curriculum, select Sunday School teachers, and select the Preacher/Evangelist if the position becomes vacant. In some congregations, elders also select the deacons. Elders are also called pastors, shepherds, and bishops; these Biblical terms are held to refer to the same office, but the use of "elder" is the most common by far. Elders are selected by the members of a congregation; the method of doing this varies slightly between congregations, but involves confirming that a potential elder does indeed embody all of the characteristics of elders which are listed in the Bible.

Deacons are recognized special servants of the church and most often take care of specialized needs of the congregation. Typically the physical building in which services are held will have a Deacon overseeing it. Deacons, like Elders, are generally selected by the congregations in a manner very similar to that of Elders.

The Preacher/Evangelist/Minister prepares and delivers sermons, teaches Bible classes, performs weddings, preaches or evangelizes the gospel, and performs baptisms. This position is typically paid. (Traditionally Churches of Christ do not use the title "pastor" to refer to their pulpit minister, as this term is held to refer to the same position as "elder" in the Bible.)

Many congregations also employ other paid ministers besides the pulpit minister including ministers for youth, college students and women.

Specific teachings and prohibitions

Churches of Christ mostly agree with the theology of other Fundamentalist Christian groups, believing in Jesus Christ as the son of God, the death of Jesus by crucifixion as atonement for sin, and most other basic Christian teachings. However, there are many specific practices that distinguish them from these other bodies.

The Church of Christ believes that the organization and structure of the church was laid down by Jesus Christ himself through his apostles in the form of the Bible. Since this Church has no headquarters and each church is independent, the teachings may vary but there is a remarkable degree of uniformity among churches of Christ in each region. The common variances are over the institution of Bible classes, the method that the Lord's supper is served (whether the fruit of the vine is served in one cup or many), the role of women in public worship and whether ministers should be paid professionals or serve on a volunteer basis.

They specifically believe or prohibit:

Because of the autonomous nature of churches of Christ, many vary in their adherence to some of these practices. Many congregations are actively debating many of these issues, but as a whole this list reflects practices considered to be standard, with a focus on those beliefs that distinguish the churches of Christ from other Protestant groups.

Other Restoration Movement bodies

The Churches of Christ have their roots in the American Restoration Movement of the 19th Century. Out of this movement sprang one body interchangeably called "The Churches of Christ" or "Christian Churches," sometimes called "Campbellites." After the American Civil War there began to be divisions in this body over the issues of Missionary Societies and instrumental music in worship which reached a head in 1906 when the two groups formally split, agreeing to be listed separately in the religious census then conducted by the Bureau of the Census. Those holding to the prohibition of instrumental music are the Churches of Christ today.

Instrumental congregations began to divide in the 20th century during the Fundamentalist response to modernism which solidified in the 1960's with two groups: the Independent Christian Churches/Churches of Christ and the Disciples of Christ.

Other groups related to the Restoration Movement were the Christian Connexion and The Christian Church, both of which merged into the Congregational Church during the 1930's and thus eventually became part of the United Church of Christ.


A major disagreement over the establishment of "institutions" at a level over that of the local congregations in order to serve works such as children's homes came to a head in the 1950's and 1960's. Today those who disagree with this idea are referred to as non-institutional or often by the pejoratives "anti-cooperation" or "anti." They represent approximately 15% of U.S membership and are also represented by missionaries in other countries as well.

What is now called the International Churches of Christ (sometimes called "The Boston Movement" which was grounded in the Church of Christ "Crossroads Movement"), which is often considered a cult, had its origins in certain congregations of the Church of Christ. Since the late 1980's, however, Church of Christ leaders have repudiated the Boston Movement as an apostatized, schismatic cult; the Boston Movement in turn has declared itself to be a faithful remnant being called out of a dead or dying church, namely the mainline churches of Christ. (See the Paden article, sixth link below, for an impartial examination of this accusation.)

External links