08:30 a.m. Contemporary Service
09:45 a.m. Traditional Service
11:00 a.m. Contemporary Service
DO YOU KNOW ABOUT THE CHRISTIAN CHURCHES AND CHURCHES OF CHRIST?
It's a great joy to introduce you to Christian churches and churches of Christ. Though not part of a denomination, our church is part of a fellowship of independent churches within Christianity known as the Restoration Movement. Our conviction is that a divided Christianity is hampered in bringing the world to Christ. Jesus prayed for His followers, "I pray...that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me: (John 17:20,21).* The reason this unity is necessary is so that people may believe in Christ. The salvation of the world by the spreading of the gospel ("good news") of Christ is our mission (Matthew 28:19, 20). The accomplishing of this goal has been hindered by division into many denominations and sects, which wastes time, energy, and money, while confusing those who seek for truth. The world cannot be won until the followers of Christ are one.
Early in the 19th century, leaders from various denominations in different parts of America, independent of one another, came to believe that followers of Christ should discard the divisive spirit of many centuries. They passionately desired to go back beyond the Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox churches to be the church described in the Bible. They tried to do this by laying down all the baggage of sectarian names and creeds. Once they began discovering one another's existence, they gathered--not to start another sect, but to call people back to the church of the New testament, unbound by traditions and rules of men. Now there are more than 5,500 such churches in America with more than 1 million members, and at least that many overseas as well. These churches support some 38 colleges and seminaries, 1,000 missionaries around the world, and 1,000 U.S. benevolent and para-church agencies.
With Jesus as the owner and head of the church (Matthew 16:16,18; Ephesians 1:22), we are a free congregation, not ruled by a headquarters or hierarchy, but self-governed by leaders with faith and spiritual maturity (1 Timothy 3:1-13). Although independent, each local church is encouraged to fellowship and cooperate with other like-minded churches in mission and benevolent work. Because all Christians are spiritually gifted to minister, we do not maintain a "clergy" class, though some are paid to serve in staff leadership (1 Peter 4:10; Ephesians 4:11,12)
With an evangelical faith, the following three statements are foundational to all we believe and practice.
- We are Christ-centered A saving, personal relationship with Him is the only requirement for belonging to His church. As His followers, we wear no name but His--Christians (Acts 11:26). We believe that human doctrinal checklists are not needed to determine who should be added to the church. It is enough to proclaim, "Christ is our only creed," for these reasons: He is the one and only Son of God who died for our sins and rose from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:1-8). His is the only name by which we must be saved (Acts 4:23); forgiveness of sins and the promise of eternal life are available to those who receive Him as Savior and leader (Lord) (John 3:16; Romans 10:9, 10; Acts 2:38). He is returning one day to resurrect the dead and bring all believers to Heaven (John 5:28,29).
- We are Bible-based Because it is the inspired Word of God, the Bible serves as our only authority. Why not then restore the church revealed there, just as it was, without human additions, subtractions, or theologies? Both the Old and New Testaments form the entire revelation of God, but the New Testament is the agreement (covenant) given Christians to live under (2 Timothy 3:14-17; 2 Peter 1:20,21). Our concern is always, "What does the Bible say?" In order to refrain from elevating opinions and questionable interpretations to the status of revealed truth from God, we hold to the motto: "Where the Scripture speaks, we speak; where the Scripture is silent, we are silent."
- We are unity-minded Our plea is for unity in purpose, spirit, and practice. While unity movements have historically tended to stress "invisible" spiritual unity while maintaining visible signs of distinction, we seek to be a church like that in the New Testament. There we do not find denominations even existing. We seek to bring down the walls of division that Paul denounces (2 Corinthians 1:10-13). We have no formal manmade creed to which members are required to subscribe, nor do we want to get tangled up in the opinions that divide Bible-believing people. So we honor the time-honored principle: "In essentials, unity; in nonessentials, liberty; in all things, love."
- In essential beliefs, unity. We focus on the foundational, unifying truths of Christianity. "There is one body and one Spirit--just as you were called to one hope when you were called--one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all" (Ephesians 4:4-6).
- In nonessential beliefs, liberty. "Accept him whose faith is weak without passing judgment on disputable matters" (Romans 14:1)
- In all things, love. "If I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing: (1 Corinthians 13:2). If Christ's followers won't be divided in Heaven, why should they be divided on earth? So we seek to wear a name that all followers of Christ can unite on--to be known as Christians only (Acts 11:26; 1 Peter 4:16). Neither Catholic, nor Protestant--we are just Christian. This spirit is found in the motto: "We are not the only Christians, but we are Christians only." Though accurately labeled as "nondenominational," or "undenominational," these only tell what we are not, not what we are. Besides, these terms have come to include a wide variety of churches that simply have no formal ties to any one sect; nevertheless, many function denominationally with their creed-like statements of faith and sectarian attitudes. Some may say that we are "interdenominational" because our church welcomes people from all denominational backgrounds. However, that term may give the impression that we approve of denominationalism or compromise biblical truth for the sake of unity. Although we rejoice in the faith and good works of people within the denominations, we reject the spirit of division in which many people unwittingly share. Perhaps it's better to be thought of as being "predenominational," since our plea is a return to the New Testament church in its original faith and form before denominations arose. We do not claim to have reached this ideal ourselves--of living up to all that the early church built by Jesus and guided by His apostles ought to be. But the ideal is worth striving and praying for.
To be a member in this church requires no more nor less than what it means to be a Christian--a member of God's family. The only requirement is a confessed faith in Christ which results in repentance and baptism. Yet, that is only the beginning, because a member of a family has greater responsibility than a houseguest. It involves commitment to love, serve, give, and grow. Immersed believers from other communities or churches are accepted upon their confession of faith (Matthew 16:16). Simply let a church leader or member know of your desire to join our family. The steps to a right relationship with God are shown to us in the Bible through the following.
FOUR FACTS OF LIFE
- God loves you. God created us for, and wants us to have, a right relationship with Him now and forever in Heaven. "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16).
- Sin separates us from God. God loves us, but hates sin. Everyone, then, who knowingly disobeys and rejects God's will has chosen to break the bonds of fellowship with Him. To continue in this lifestyle leads to eternal separation--Hell is as real as Heaven. "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). "Your sins have hidden his face from you" (Isaiah 59:2). "For the wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23).
- Jesus offers a right relationship with God. Our relationship with God is not restored by anything we do, but on the basis of what Jesus already did for us on the cross--dying as the sacrifice in our place. It cannot be earned. We can never make up for our sin by self-improvement or good works. "The gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23). "There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:2).
- You must receive Jesus. Salvation is God's free gift to us, but we must accept it. Only by trusting in Jesus Christ as God's offer of forgiveness can anyone be saved from sin's penalty. When we turn from our self-ruled life and turn to Jesus in faith we are saved. Those who became Christians in the early church followed this pattern and we do the same today, without adding to, or taking away from the covenant promises of God.
BELIEVE IN JESUS
"Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God" (John 1:12). "If you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved" (Romans 10:9). "It is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--not by works, so that no one can boast" (Ephesians 2:8,9). Repent (turn from sin) "Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? (Romans 6;2,3). "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38).
As the identifying act of our union with Christ's death, burial, and resurrection, believers' immersion in water expresses the biblical model and proper translation of the original word. "Don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life" (Romans 6:3,4). "Those who accepted his message were baptized ...that day" (Acts 2:41). We invite you to join in this movement of God's great mission to reconcile all people to himself through His Son, and gather them into His one household of faith, hope, and love. There's always room for one more.
Used by permission Brett Kays ministers with the Southpoint Christian Church of Woodhaven, Michigan * Scriptures are from the New International Version.