Church of Christ -- "Frequently Asked Questions"
Is the Church of Christ related to the United Church of Christ?
No. The United Church of Christ is completely unrelated to the Church of Christ. The United Church of Christ was formed by the union of several branches of Protestantism whereas the Church of Christ is a separate body of believers unified by the idea of adhering to the ancient ideals found in the Bible.
Are you affiliated with a denomination?
We consider ourselves non-denominational. Although Churches of Christ are governed locally by elders, they are connected to one another by agreement on matters of doctrine and practice. However, the Church of Christ has no central headquarters which regulates the practice of individual churches.
Who are the elders?
Elders are the leaders of the church congregation. They provide moral guidance, oversee such activities as the selection of Bible study curriculum, Sunday school teachers, and the congregation’s preachers, and are responsible for the disbursement of funds and other practical matters. They are spiritually mature men who embody all the characteristics of godly men as described in the Bible in 1 Timothy 3:1-7; 5:17-20 and Titus 1:5-9. When the need arises for new men to join the group of elders, with the consent of the congregation the current elders choose those who display those characteristics and the presence of the Holy Spirit.
In the New Testament the elder is identified also as bishop or pastor. On his missionary journeys the Apostle Paul appointed elders to oversee the spiritual life of the church. The elder’s primary role as overseer demands that he has a good grasp of the doctrines of the faith and that he teach and guard against error. His wise counsel is also needed to help the members of his congregation remain faithful and find strength to live moral, holy lives.
Why do you not use a piano, organ or other instruments in the worship assembly?
For the greater part of Christian history—especially in the early centuries—singing was done without accompanying instruments. Singing without instruments seems novel to many people but is in fact common throughout Christian history. Although the Old Testament prescribes various instruments for Temple services, such is not the case in the New Testament. It is surprising to many people when they are encouraged by the human voice’s ability to inspire. The New Testament exhorts us to sing with Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (Colossians 3:16).
How does one go about joining the Church of Christ?
By becoming a Christian or by already being one: we don’t speak about joining the church as much as we speak of becoming a Christian. If a person follows the New Testament pattern for becoming a Christian he is by virtue of his conversion already a member of the Christ’s church. The pattern for becoming a Christian is a simply matter of expressing faith in Christ, making a statement of confession, and being baptized for the remission of sins.
What does it mean to be a born again Christian?
In New Testament terms this is redundant. If a person is a Christian he is born again and visa-versa. Being born again comes from Jesus’ discussion with one of Israel’s teachers in John 3:1-5. Simply put Jesus says that one must be born of water and the Spirit in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Being born again refers to the process whereby the Holy Spirit acts within a person’s soul to bring about a changed life. Some groups attach significance to a particular emotional experience which they believe demonstrate their conversion, but in the Bible the experience of being born again is not always accompanied by a great rush of emotion or an experience beyond normal experiences. It is God working in a person’s heart to bring about repentance and faith which naturally leads to a changed way of life.
How does one go about becoming a Christian?
Becoming a Christian begins with believing in the Gospel of Christ: the Son of God was born a human being, put to death for our sins, and resurrected to provide us with a new life. Along with a number of other important teachings, this is the starting point. Each person is asked to respond to this belief by obeying the command to repent: he must change the sinful habits in his life and live according to the morals proscribed by Christ’s teachings. One is also expected to obey the command of the Apostles to be baptized for the remission of their sins (Acts 2:38 contains both the command to repent and to be baptized). In the act of baptism we have illustrated the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. Once a person has submitted to these steps, he has become a Christian although his life is now really just beginning. Conversion to the Christian faith begins a new life with new ideals and ideas about right living.
What does the Church of Christ believe about the Bible?
We believe that the Bible is inspired by the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 3:16); in other words by his Spirit God directed various individuals to write what he spoke. The Bible has always been the authoritative voice for the Christian church’s teachings and practices. The church in the first three centuries recognized the authority of these writings over many other writings of the time. Since that time, the Bible has been seen as the definitive voice of normative Christianity. It is apostolic in that it contains the teachings of the apostles.
The Church of Christ accepts the Bible as the Word of God. We read it as if God were speaking to us today, and we believe that it was meant to be read by all Christians for their learning and spiritual growth. No other book provides the church with an authoritative voice for what God demands.
Does the Church of Christ adhere to a creed?
We believe that the Bible provides the creed for the Christian Church. Early creeds like the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed were distillations of biblical teachings. They developed for several reasons: first, most Christians did not have ready access to a copy of the writings of the Bible (copies were kept in churches and read aloud, but the process of copying manuscripts made it unlikely that anyone could own a copy), second, this lead to the need to present the teachings of the church in shortened form so that everyone could remember and repeat it, and third, heresies forced the early church to clarify exactly what they believed in order to differentiate its teachings from false teachings.
Although Churches of Christ believe that the Bible is our creed, the early creeds are a good representation of what the church has always believed and what the Bible teaches. Because so many different creeds have arisen throughout history and because we believe the Bible is the creed of the church, we encourage Christians to use it as our primary source of Christian teaching. Certainly more work needs to be done in order to clarify differences in understanding, but the Bible must be the starting point because it carries the weight of apostolic authority.
What are some of the most important teachings of the Church of Christ?
The Bible teaches that there is one God revealed in his triune nature (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), that this God created the universe and sustains it by his power. The Bible also teaches that the second person of the trinity (the Son) was born a man by a virgin birth and was crucified, buried and resurrected. It teaches that he established the church and that he will return again for judgment when his Father determines the time for history to end. God calls all people to follow him and accept the teaching that Jesus Christ is the one mediator between God and mankind. People are redeemed from judgment when they accept this teaching and follow the guidelines for holy living as explained in the Bible.
What is a typical worship service like?
Our worship service consists of several elements:
- Singing: as mentioned earlier we sing without the accompaniment of musical instruments. Hymnbooks are provided and each participant is encouraged to express his devotion to God in song. (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16)
- Readings: weekly readings from the Bible provide a source of learning and inspiration. At numerous times in the worship service, selected texts are read aloud from the podium. (1 Timothy 4:13)
- Lord’s Supper: weekly we partake of the elements which Jesus Christ chose to remind us of his sacrifice on the cross: bread and grape juice. The bread is his body and the juice is his blood. By participating in this meal the Christian remembers Christ’s sacrifice and proclaims allegiance to him. (1 Corinthians 11:23-26)
- Contribution: the monetary offering provided by the members sustains the work of the church, and this is considered not only a practical necessity but also a form of sacrifice to God. (1 Corinthians 16:2)
- Preaching: in addition to public readings the minister delivers a sermon on some portion of the Bible. (2 Timothy 4:2)
Are there other Churches of Christ in the New Jersey area and how can I learn more about them?
There are a number of churches in our immediate vicinity. Westfield, Whippany, Randolph, and Bridgewater are a few of the towns where you can find a Church of Christ. There are many others throughout the state as well as churches in the metropolitan New York area. This link may be useful in helping you find a Church of Christ in your area.