The Big Lie

It is quite the debate to rightly ascertain the biggest lie of the hard-core Church of Christ denomination. However, one does stand taller than the others and just where this one began is not easy to pin point.

To be specific the lie comes in several different forms and stated in the following ways:

  1. The Church of Christ is the only true church
  2. The Church of Christ has always been the only church
  3. The Church of Christ was established on the Day of Pentecost 33 A.D. (Acts 2)
  4. (A variation from above) The Church of Christ was established on the Day of Pentecost 33 A.D. and grew strong then decimated to nothing or almost nothing for a number of centuries. Then in the past 200 years revived and became vibrant again.

Each of these statements, and even others very similar, have been spoken, written and taught in the presence of this writer. This is not just a lie, it is the BIGGEST lie of the denomination that is the Church of Christ.

WHY IS THIS THE BIGGEST LIE?

It is the biggest lie because by teaching this it boasts that everything the Church of Christ leaders say comes with authority. These statements give the denomination importance and significance. Yet the very act of saying or repeating these things is not only to speak a lie but also to show daft ignorance.

On one occasion Jesus asked his followers who people thought he was. There were many rumors going around about who this Jesus was. Several answers were given and then Jesus asked his closest associates, “Who am I?”

Peter responded and said, “You are Christ, son of the living God.”

This answer was correct and immediately Jesus makes the following statement,

“And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Matthew 16:18

If the Church of Christ denomination is the ONLY true church and all other churches going by other names are false – then it means for several centuries the church failed. It means the gates of hell prevailed against the church. This is a direct contradiction to what Jesus stated in Matthew 16. IF the Church of Christ denomination began in AD 33, then the claim that the Church of Christ lost vibrancy, fell to nothing or was “revived” after several centuries of nothing, then this is a direct violation of Christ’s words.

WHEN DID THE CHURCH OF CHRIST BEGIN?

No evidence exists that there was ever the presence of the Church of Christ denomination before the Restoration Movement of the 1800’s. It is true that many of the Puritans, who settled New England in the 1600’s, had church buildings that wore the name “Church of Christ.” However, the Puritan theology (Reform) and Church of Christ theology (a Pelagian/Arminian hybrid) are in direct contrast to each other. Those names the Puritans placed on the buildings were just that- names. They did not practice or teach what the Church of Christ teaches.

As any good Church of Christer would tell you Romans 16 Paul salutes the Churches of Christ therefore that is the proof and evidence of it’s first century existence.  However, that is stretching things a little.  Paul was making a general reference to the churches that belong to Christ.  Just as the same Paul talked about the the church of God in Corinthians.  It is a general statement of possession and not a reference to any modern church name.

The Church of Christ denomination, officially recognized in 1906, did not begin in AD 33. It began in North America in the 1800’s. It began with MANY noble ideas and exclusivity was NOT one of them. There “was now no intention to set up a new separate communion or denomination. Alexander Campbell was pleased with the Baptists more than any other community of Christians.” (Murch, James DeForest, Christians Only page 61.)

What sprang from the work of Alexander Campbell was eventually a new denomination. A denomination that thru the years grew more exclusive and divisive. It grew into what is present day Church of Christ. He had no desire to set up a new denomination. He regarded his friends in other churches as Christians. (ibid, page 44). This idea would most definitely be damned in the present day hard core Church of Christ.

There are these things called facts. Ignoring them produces ignorance and apathy. With the smallest amount of research one can find the truth that the present day Church of Christ was set up in America in the 1800’s and not Jerusalem in AD 33. Some may hear their leadership make the false claim that the Church of Christ was began in AD 33. When they find the historical facts prove this false, those people may begin wondering what else the leadership is also falsely claiming.

The Big Lie in the Church of Christ is found in the claims that it IS THE CHURCH. That it began in AD 33 on the Day of Pentecost. This false claim props up the denomination as the authority. The writer believes that many who repeat this lie may genuinely be ignorant and are unaware that it is a lie. Further, it is often said the more something is repeated the easier it is to believe it. That can certainly be the case here. The more hard-core the Church of Christ congregation is, the more adamantly they repeat this error.

To those who are considering leaving and finding another body of faith remember that Christ church (a church or collection of believers that span MANY names) will never be weak, decimated or disappear. As Jesus promised, the gates of Hell have never nor will ever prevail against it!

Be Free

Leaving the Church of Christ Part Two: Finding A Healthy Body of Believers

“You just need to sit a while and let us minister to you.”

Those were most likely the most helpful and comforting words I had heard.  Pastor Doyle Jackson from The Church Next Door had shared them with me as we met for dinner on several occasions and discussed our lives and our theologies. 

If you are preparing to venture away from the Church of Christ denomination, most likely they are words you need to hear as well.  Find a place and heal as you let other brothers and sisters minister to you.

But how do you find the right place?  How do you avoid getting into another damaging church atmosphere or cult like setting? 

STUDY

The Church of Christ has got to be one of the most ignorant collections of theologians history has ever known. There is no way to substantiate such a large statement but there is truth in that hyperbole.  Even though that statement is said with tongue in cheek it goes a long way to describe the infancy and lack of elementary truths most Church of Christ leaders do not grasp.  (Hebrews 6:1)

Hard core Church of Christ will tell you they do not study “Theology.”  They avoid the word and term all together. I am not certain as to why but if I had to guess it is because “denominations” study theology.  The hard core Church of Christ will do everything it can to not appear “denominational.”  I have joked in past that when the Church of Christ learn that Methodists pray and Baptists use hymnals, the Church of Christ will stop praying and using hymnals.

Theology is the study of God.  The best place to get that is THE BIBLE. Groundbreaking revelation is it not?  You can study what other sources have to say about theology and a SHORT LIST of good books will be at the end of this article.  However, first and foremost, it is important that you simply study the Bible. Read it through as often as you can.  That may mean once a year, for others it may mean a few times a year.  Read the Gospels several times a year.  Only three chapters a day gets you through it in a month. 

Get some good study tools to help you understand the parts that are difficult.  These study tools will help you get through some areas where there seems to be contradictions.  The first list of books at the end of this article are study tools to help in this process.

PRAY

Pray and fast for the Holy Spirit to guide you.  The Church of Christ spends little, if not zero amount of time on the Holy Spirit.  Having spent about 25 years in the Church of Christ, I cannot remember one sermon, class or series specifically spent on the Holy Spirit.  One does NOT have to be a Pentecostal to know and understand how powerful the Holy Spirit is. Remember, it is God living IN YOU. Romans 8:11

I can personally testify how I prayed that God would guide me to good teaching and preaching.  This most likely was the most significant step in my spiritual maturity.  I can take NO credit for this, it is all God’s grace towards me.  God answered that prayer with a resounding YES.

Getting healthy spiritually means feasting on God’s word.  Develop a theology – once you begin studying theology you will know what that means.  This does not mean you have every answer to every question.  It does not mean you know exactly how the end times will play out.  Jesus’ own disciples could not even figure out the very time they were living in let alone how the end times would come to pass.  What it DOES mean is you have a good grip of Scripture and can glorify God by being an active member of His body the Church. (1 Peter 3:15)

GRACE

Find a body of believers with whom you find comfort AND a body of believers that teach MUCH on the grace of God.  Those who have been in the hard core Church of Christ NEED TO HEAR about God’s grace.

Did you know Noah was ONLY righteous because God’s grace towards him?  Did you know that Abram did what he did ONLY because of God’s grace?  He was an idol worshiper when God called him.  (Joshua 24:2,3, 14). 

This is NOT ordinarily taught in the hard core Church of Christ because it does not fit their agenda.  Most people think Abram just got it together one day all on his own OR that he was righteous and BECAUSE of his righteousness God used him. THIS COULD NOT BE FURTHER FROM THE TRUTH!  

God was gracious to everyone who had a relationship with him in the Bible.  Period.  We are ALL unholy and unrighteous (Romans 3:12) and spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1) and the only reason we are alive is that God was gracious towards us. The ONLY reason we seek to worship Him is that he worked in us first. (John 6:44, 65)  Grace upon grace.

Please, the please from Church of Christ Recovery is do not wander from the Spirit of God.  Allow a church to minister to you, all God to be gracious to you and heal.  Enjoy the freedom God provides.

Be Free!

Leaving the Church of Christ Part One: My Story

For those who have been in the Church of Christ for a long time or even a lifetime, it can be difficult leaving.  For many of us the constant teaching theme In the Church of Christ is that we can’t trust the teaching of others.  To be quite fair, this should be a concern for we don’t want to go from one cult like assembly to another fellowship where someone else is twisting the Scriptures to suit their needs.

Now this is written to those who are in, what I call, the “hard core Church of Christ.”  Those are churches with the teaching that one can ONLY go to heaven if they are a member of the Church of Christ.  Some other descriptions of the hard core Church of Christ can be found HERE in this article. There are some Church of Christ assemblies that don’t teach like this.

This is the first article in a three part series on Leaving the Church of Christ.  I would like to humbly share my story.  It would be best to give a picture on what might happen to others who might also want to leave the Church of Christ.  I would also like to give practical advice and insights on what worked for me.  Some may have it worse and some maybe might not.  It would be safe to say if you have family and friends who have been in this denomination for a longtime or a lifetime, it will be difficult to keep the normalcy in your relationship, for they will now think you are hell bound.

My Story

In 1996 I had decided to leave the Church of Christ.  I was working in what most would call a NON—legalistic Church of Christ.  Now there were some members, a few, who did think we were the ONLY ones going to heaven, but most of the church did not feel this way.  It was a congregation of about 400 and the leadership was horrible for they led by compromise on every issue.

The church where I was working was full of people who did not think instrumental worship music was sinful.  Through college and into this career I also knew that it was not a sin to have instrumental music in worship.  Leaving the Church of Christ was easy for me to PERSONALLY do, however, for those close to me it was hard for them to accept.

I had been offered a job at a Christian Church nearby.  I prayed over this matter much.  I had no problem taking on the job but I did not want to hurt the relationships in my life if this was NOT where God wanted me.  So,  I asked God for a very specific sign and He provided.

The Family Reaction

First I told my parents. We sat down and had several hours of conversations over a few day period.  They were not accepting even after the conversation was complete.  I reasoned with them on the many topics they brought forth. I was well educated and prepared for this conversation and welcomed their questions with humility.  They AGREED with my on every single point until a conclusion was reached.

Even though they agreed on EVERY point they could NOT bring themselves to seeing the conclusion.  It went in circles over and again.  However, because they had heard the same messages preached and taught over and again for decades, they could not see a different conclusion EVEN THOUGH IT WAS OBVIOUS.  My parents had been taught that white was blue for decades.  They could not understand their error.

They then proceeded to call everyone who had ever been in my life that they thought MAY have had some sort of influence in my new direction.  They called old college professors, old work associates, old friends and grilled them.  They blamed radio preachers and they blamed Christian Rock.  Essentially they felt that I could not come to this on my own but rather I was weak minded and weak willed and would simply follow any and every little message that would come along.

At one point a friend called me after talking to my father on the phone.  He shared with me that my father said, “I would rather him never go to church again than go to a ‘denominational’ church.”  I forgave my father immediately.  Even though almost 20 years later the words still sting slightly I have forgiven him.

The Old Friends Reaction

Next came the letters from past elders and other family members.  My sisters accepted the change for even though they still remain in the Church of Christ denomination, they have no problem with other denominations.  They are not hard core. But my brother had great difficulty.  I received a letter from him condemning my decision and equating me to Lot of the Old Testament.  I had taken phone calls from previous elders who had condemned my decision.

Though the years my parents and I have taken a “let’s just not talk about religion” stance.  There have been a few times this has been breached but most often it is respected.  This hurts a little because theology plays such a HUGE role in my life now and to be unable to share what the Spirit is teaching is like wearing a muzzle.

Humility Helps

Because we are followers of Christ we MUST take on a Christ like attitude.  Be humble.  Not a fake humility but a true humility.  Do not boast how much knowledge you have.  Do not have actions or attitudes which make people feel inferior to you.  Be humble.

Accept the fact that you will have critics and some of them share your last name.  While Jesus was on earth, his own brother James thought he was nuts (Mark 3:21). This puts you in good company.  Pray for those who treat you with spite.  Bless those who curse, revile you and say all kinds of evil against you (Matthew 5:11).  Be patient with people who are not on a level of Bible knowledge as you.

Having MORE knowledge does not make you more righteous not does it make you closer to Jesus.  Be humble and find areas to serve.  Be prepared to be disappointed and hurt at the ignorant things family and friends will say.

This is part of my story.  I hope that you, the reader, can find some benefit in my experiences.  God bless you in your journey.

Be Free