Churches of Christ - 10 Things to Know about their Beliefs and History

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Updated Jan 23, 2024
Churches of Christ - 10 Things to Know about their Beliefs and History

Churches of Christ are independent Christian congregations linked with one another through distinguished beliefs and practices. Now represented worldwide as one of the various denominations to evolve out of the American Restoration Movement, they declare biblical foundation for their doctrine and practice and outline their legacy back to the early Christian church as expressed in the New Testament.

Discover 10 things to know about the Churches of Christ’s history and beliefs!

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1. The Churches of Christ arose from the Restoration Movement

The American Restoration Movement of the 19th century began with the merging of various independent contingents to return to apostolic Christianity. Two were of critical significance to the advancement of the movement. The first, driven by Barton W. Stone started at Cane Ridge, Kentucky and named themselves solely as "Christians". The second started in western Pennsylvania and was headed by Thomas Campbell and his son, Alexander Campbell. They adopted the name "Disciples of Christ". Both groups tried to restore the whole Christian church on the doctrine set forth in the New Testament, and both thought that creeds held Christianity divided.

Despite their variations, the two movements agreed on numerous decisive concerns. Both saw restoring the early church as a path to Christian freedom, and both believed that solidarity among Christians could be accomplished by using apostolic Christianity as a basis. The dedication of both factions to reviving the early church and to unifying Christians was enough to inspire a union among many in the two movements. However, early in the 20th century, the Restoration Movement broke apart into different groups, primarily the "Church of Christ," "Christian Church," and "Disciples of Christ."

Despite being influenced by the Restoration Movement, individuals of the Church of Christ do not consider themselves as a new church originating near the beginning of the 19th century. Rather, the whole movement is designed to represent in modern times the church first established on Pentecost, A.D. 30. The strength of their conviction rests in the renewal of Christ's original church.

Further Reading: What Is Pentecost and Where Did It Come From?

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2. The Church of Christ founders believed in adhering solely to the Bible.

Churches of Christ seek to follow the teachings of the Bible being the only source to find doctrine (known abroad as sola scriptura). Churches of Christ commonly see the Bible as historically authentic and accurate, unless the written context clearly designates differently. Regarding church disciplines, worship, and tradition, there is notable freedom from congregation to congregation in deciphering what is biblically admissible, as congregations are not regulated by a denominational authority. Their method to the Bible is inspired by the "assumption that the Bible is sufficiently plain and simple to render its message obvious to any sincere believer". Linked to this is a presumption that the Bible presents an understandable "blueprint" or "constitution" for the church.

Further Reading: What Is Sola Scriptura? Meaning and Significance?

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3. The Churches of Christ are autonomous congregations.

Following the design of structure found in the New Testament, churches of Christ are autonomous. Their collective faith in the Bible and adherence to its teachings are the main bonds which connect them together. There is no primary headquarters of the church, and no organization superior to the elders of each local congregation. Congregations cooperate deliberately in helping orphans and the aged, in preaching the gospel in new domains, and in other related works.

Find more information on the Internet Ministries of the Church of Christ.

Further Reading: What Is the Purpose of the Church?

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4. There are over 15,000 individual Churches of Christ.

The most current reliable estimation notes more than 15,000 individual churches of Christ. The "Christian Herald," a common theological publication which publishes statistics regarding all the churches, determines that the total fellowship of the churches of Christ is now 2,000,000. There are over 7,000 men who preach publicly. Membership of the church is largest in the southern states of the United States, especially Tennessee and Texas, though there are congregations located in each of the fifty states and in over eighty foreign countries.

Further Reading: Christian Denominations - History and Beliefs

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5. Churches of Christ are governed by a plurality of elders.

In each congregation, which has endured long enough to become sufficiently organized, there is a group of elders or pastors who serve as the governing authority. These men are chosen by the local congregations on the foundation of qualifications established in the scriptures (1 Timothy 3:1-8). Serving under the elders are ministers, teachers, and evangelists or missionaries. The following do not have authority equal to or exceeding that of the elders. The elders are caretakers or supervisors who serve under the command of Christ according to the New Testament.

Further Reading: Where Does the Bible Mention Church Elders?

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6. Churches of Christ believe in a process of salvation.

Churches of Christ regularly teach that the process of salvation comprises the subsequent actions:

- One must be properly taught, and hear (Romans 10:14-17);

- One must believe or have faith (Hebrews 11:6, Mark 16:16);

- One must repent, which means turning from one's former lifestyle and choosing God's ways (Acts 17:30);

- One must confess belief that Jesus is the son of God (Acts 8:36–37);

- One must be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:38); and

- One must live faithfully as a Christian (1 Peter 2:9).

Further Reading: Is There a Process of Salvation?

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7. Churches of Christ baptize by immersion only.

According to the Church of Christ's Internet Ministries, the word baptize originates from the Greek word "baptizo" and precisely means, "to dip, to immerse, to plunge." In addition to the accurate meaning of the word, immersion is practiced because it was the tradition of the church in the apostolic era. Furthermore, only immersion corresponds to the representation of baptisms as given by the apostle Paul in Romans 6:3-5 where he describes it as a burial and resurrection.

Further Reading: What Is the Symbolism & Importance of Water Baptism?

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8. "A cappella" singing is the only music used in worship.

As an outcome of the distinguishing plea of the church - a return to New Testament Faith and practice - acapella singing is the only music utilized in worship. This singing, unaccompanied by inanimate instruments of music, corresponds to the music used in the apostolic church and for numerous centuries thereafter (Ephesians 5:19). It is believed that there is no jurisdiction for involving in acts of worship not found in the New Testament. This belief excludes the use of instrumental music, along with the use of candles, incense, and other comparable elements.

Further Reading: Why Do Christians Sing Praise and Worship Songs?

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holy bible, church of christ

9. Churches of Christ have a distinctive plea.

The Churches of Christ have a distinctive plea for spiritual unity based upon the Bible. In a segregated religious world, they believe that the Bible is the only plausible commonality upon which Christians can unite. The objective of their plea is religious unity of all believers in Christ following the basis of the New Testament and the method of the restoration of New Testament Christianity.

Further Reading: Read and Search the Bible Online

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10. Most members of the Churches of Christ live outside the United States.

Churches of Christ in America make up slightly less than half of its worldwide membership. There are more than 1,000,000 members of the Churches of Christ in Africa, roughly 1,000,000 in India, and 50,000 in Central and South America. Total worldwide membership is over 3,000,000, with around 1,300,000 in the U.S.

Read more about the Churches of Christ in the following areas of the world: Australia & Europe.

Further Reading: 7 Lessons from Christians in South Asia

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This article is part of our Denomination Series listing historical facts and theological information about different factions within and from the Christian religion. We provide these articles to help you understand the distinctions between denominations including origin, leadership, doctrine, and beliefs. Explore the various characteristics of different denominations from our list below! 

Catholic Church: History, Tradition & Beliefs
Jehovah's Witnesses & Their Beliefs
Mormons: The Church of Latter Day Saints & Their Beliefs
Baptist Church: History & Beliefs
 Presbyterians: History & Beliefs
Mennonites & Their Beliefs
United Methodist Church: History & Beliefs
Seventh-Day Adventists & Their Beliefs
The Pentecostal Church: History & Beliefs
Lutheran History & Beliefs


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