“What Is The church of Christ?”Categories: Reflections (articles from R.Bowman), The church of Christ
Vol.XXVI February 2, 2011 No.3
What is the church of Christ?
The church of Christ as described in the Bible is not an institution or organization which has been established and structured by men. The term "church" in the Bible means literally "the called out" and is simply a collective word for Christians, those individuals baptized into Christ (Acts 2:41,47; I Cor.12:12-27; Eph.1:22-23; 5:23-32). It is used in two ways: to describe all of those who have obeyed the gospel (the "universal church") Mt.16:18; Eph.1:22; 5:23; and to describe a collectivity of saints working together in a locality (the "local church") Acts 13:1; I Cor.1:2; I Thes.1:1.
The work of the local church as outlined in the New Testament is to provide an upbuilding spiritual environment for its members (Eph.4:11-16), to preach and teach the gospel (I Thes.1:1-8; II Tim.2:1-2), and to help those saints in need (Acts 6:1-6; 11:29-30). The church exists that we might help one another in our efforts to reach heaven, seeking the spiritual welfare of other Christians (Gal.6:1-10). Our mission is not social, recreational, or political.
We are concerned with scriptural authority for our activities and beliefs, thus we strive to speak where the Bible speaks, remain silent where the Bible is silent, do Bible things in Bible ways and call Bible things by Bible names (I Tim.1:3f; Gal.1:8-12). The New Testament provides patterns for local church activity and our aim is a proper application of those principles and a respect for the silence of the scriptures (II Tim.1:13; 3:16-17; I Pet.4:11).
The worship of a local church follows the New Testament pattern of teaching (Acts 20:7), prayer (Acts 2:42; 12:5), and giving (I Cor.16:1-2; II Cor.9:6-8). Also, we observe the Lord's supper (communion) every first day of the week (Acts 20:7; I Cor.11:23-29), and participate in congregational singing of "psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs" without the accompaniment of mechanical instruments of music (Eph.5:19; Col.3:16).
With regard to organization, the scriptures provide for no hierarchy beyond the local congregation. Each local church is autonomous and independent of other local churches. The overseers of each congregation are called elders and are chosen and appointed by the local church. They are to provide for the spiritual needs of the congregation (I Tim.3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9; I Pet.5:1-4; Acts 20:17-31). They are sometimes referred to as bishops (Phil.1:1). Deacons are also appointed to assist the elders. The elders serve as pastors, rather than the preacher, whose work is to preach, teach, and serve as an example in Christian life and service (I Tim.4:12-16; II Tim.4:2).
We invite you to join with us in our efforts to maintain New Testament Christianity in the present generation.