The Church of Christ is done for


I’m a lifelong member of the Church of Christ denomination (yes, yes, I know it’s not a denomination). I’ve attended a pretty broad spectrum of CofC’s – from the incredibly hateful and legalistic to the more progressive, open-minded kind. Which basically means they’re fine with clapping during worship AND after baptisms.

Because of my relationship with the CofC, I take pride in what it brought to the Protestant discussion – mainly its insistence on the Bible as its only creed. At the same time, I’m painfully aware of its shortcomings – mainly the inconsistencies that arise when taking the Bible as its only creed.

I bear no ill-will towards the Church of Christ. It has created what I believe to be a solid foundation for the rest of my spiritual journey, instilling in me a desire to know God’s word, understand it to the best of my ability and apply it as best as possible.

But, I think the denomination as we know it is done for.

The reason – as I see it – is three-fold:

  1. It is known for what it opposes rather than for what it stands.
  2. The core values of the Church of Christ are no longer relevant to today’s Christians.
  3. At the fundamental level, innovation is abhorred and tradition is adored. (Hehe – I like rhyming.)

I’ll go into depth on each of these in an upcoming post.

Am I way off? Are these three things unique to the Church of Christ or do they accurately describe issues facing a number of denominations?

What do you think?

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  1. Brad
    December 18, 2008 at 8:06 am — Reply

    Todd I think it’s undeniable, as unpleasant as that prospect is to me. I’ve watched most of my friends in my generation in the Church of Christ who were spiritually minded move away from the CofC over the years and most have latched on to more charasmatic movements though some simply to churches that aren’t quite as married to tradition. Some of my family too. I went to the Tulsa workshop several times in the 90s and the pavillion where the main events were held was overflowing. People were sitting up on the stage with the speaker because there was no room anywhere else. I went again in 03 and it was only 2/3rds full. I went again in 07 and to say it was half full is being generous.

    I sometimes wonder about the future of the CofC denom and wonder if my calling is to stick with it until it dies. To be there for those who will be there on the ship as it goes down. I don’t know. I love my congregation, and all the congregations I’ve been a part of over the years. But like you I think the needed fundamental change is just plain not going to happen. Not unless God decides to make it happen. Which he can, but I’d be surprised if he does. Then again God has a habit of surprising me, so I won’t put it past him.

  2. Kristin
    December 18, 2008 at 10:21 am — Reply

    I do not think these three things they are unique to the churches of Christ nor do I think the church of Christ is done for…maybe the ones that fit the bill you outline above, but not all of them 🙂
    I haent commented in forever, I know, but I have been reading. Keep it up, Todd!

  3. Timothy
    December 18, 2008 at 1:28 pm — Reply

    What you’ve said is right on the money, and it’s the reason I no longer attend C of C here.

  4. Austin Conscience
    December 18, 2008 at 4:08 pm — Reply

    “…Bible as its only creed”?! Define creed. Then explain how that applies to living my life according to the Bible since I haven’t read about creed in the Bible. Then explain what other “creed” I should follow as a Christian, as I am only a Christian because of what I know from the Bible.

    Sorry, Todd, you hit a major button.

  5. December 18, 2008 at 6:04 pm — Reply

    In middle school I decided I would someday leave the Church of Christ because it did not provide what I needed: instruments and exuberant dialogue on what God is doing in our lives. But those are things *I* needed, and I don’t fault the CofC for not providing them. Different people grow in Him in different ways.

    As Kristin touched on, I also don’t think adherence to tradition is specific to the CofC, but I do believe it is more pronounced. All denominations struggle with change.

    I am confident in this: it is very easy to be saved and spend eternity in Heaven. While it takes constant effort to walk in daily fellowship with Him, He showers us with mercy and grace. It is ours for the taking. So while I may have worshipped differently than those in the CofC, I do believe I’ll see those Christian brothers and sisters in Heaven, when we are all basking in His glory.

  6. December 18, 2008 at 6:44 pm — Reply

    First off, thanks for the thought provocative post. It’s certainly something I’ve thought about/wrestled with since graduating from Harding.

    I think your synopsis hits the nail on the head. There are some core issues that are taking down the CofC ship.

    My decision to worship elsewhere was less about any shortcomings of the Church of Christ, and more about recognizing the difference between religion and spirituality.

    Anyone that wishes to debate the ins and outs of the CofC, Baptist, Methodist, etc are debating their religious belief system. There’s nothing wrong with that. That is, until it begins to distract from your relationship with God (i.e. spirituality.)

    In the bigger picture, it doesn’t matter if any particular denomination disappears. (Because eventually 100% of them will.) Those are all manmade institutions.

    What is important is that we’re working to further God’s Kingdom on Earth.

    Something makes me believe he has little care for something as insignificant as powerpoint, instruments, or how many old school v. new school songs we sing each Sunday.

    If someone can explain to me how those further God’s Kingdom, I’m all ears.

  7. Katy
    December 18, 2008 at 7:31 pm — Reply

    I don’t see the inconsistencies in having the Bible as your creed… I do agree that tradition can be valued over innovation, but shouldn’t we remember where we came from?

    What inspired such a post?

  8. December 19, 2008 at 12:22 pm — Reply

    @austin :: so you’re saying that one cannot become a Christian without knowledge of the Bible?

    Rom. 1:19-20?

    • December 19, 2008 at 1:17 pm — Reply

      Uhoh…There’s a can o’ worms.

  9. December 19, 2008 at 4:25 pm — Reply


    What is your definition of a Christian?

    If you are talking of a person who daily walks with Christ, then no, you cannot be a Christian without knowledge of the Bible. This is because you cannot read about Him — His character, His laws — without the having the Bible to open and read.

    If you are talking about a person who is saved and will spend eternity in Heaven, then yes, you can be saved without knowledge of the Bible: Luke 23:42-43 “Then he [a criminal being crucified next to Jesus] said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ Jesus answered him, ‘I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.’ ” That criminal may have had no knowledge of the prophets, but he believed in Jesus and that man, because of all Jesus’ mercy and love and grace, was saved.

    The verses you referred to in Romans “since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities — His eternal power and divine nature — have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” These verses do not fit my definition of a Christian (daily follower of Christ) but, in my opinion, they do allow for people to be saved who have not heard the name Jesus.

  10. December 20, 2008 at 8:43 pm — Reply

    just to keep the conversation going.

    The vast bulk of time that Christians have existed has been without a Bible to open and read.

    Don’t get me wrong, the Bible we have today is and incredible tool and resource that provides a concise and easy place to look at the person of Christ/God, and I have yet to see any evidence show any errancy in the truths therein.

    I must however make it a point to say that the truths contained in the Bible are much more important than the Bible itself.

    I would also add, that I need not make a case to that point since the very truths survived 1500 plus years before finally being given to the common man in the form of the Bible we now have.

    I recommend a book ‘The Jesus Sutras’. The book tracks the Gospel as it passes through China well before any Bible. The story and truths about Christ are passed orally and they stay in tact.

    I believe the conversation that God began will always carry on. Complete, and without error, Bible or not. I cannot reduce the truth and power of Almighty God to paper and ink. But I am super thankful for the miracle that is the Bible

  11. December 23, 2008 at 12:20 am — Reply

    Great discussion.

    Vince and John, love what you have to say.

    Going to be around for Christmas? Can you give me some ideas of something to do in the area? I need a break from being.

    I think an entirely different way of thinking is needed. The entire way of processing the story falls short and trust me that is not confined to the CoC. The get saved so I can say I have the stamp just doesn’t do the story justice.

    The idea of becoming a part of the story, watching it unfold over time all are crushed when it becomes about using or not using or the right time or any number of issues.

    IT would seem Paul fought this attitude constantly, simplifying the greatest story about the greatest Kingdom into some list of do’s and don’ts.

    Why would we do that to the story? Take that fact and throw it in with people who have been raised to defend a brand of do’s and don’ts and it won’t go well.

    But trust me, that is not brand centric. I deal with it no matter the background.

    That is why I hear the discussion about the Bible. What seems to have happened is we lost the fact that we are a continuation of the story. The calling and purpose while not documented in such a beautiful way are still happening. We add to the story, we contribute to what God is doing today.

    How did that come to defending the name on the door or the style of worship? People die and go hungry and we debate style of worship.


    Why wouldn’t anyone with any energy say I need something more? As someone who was a card carrying member of one of those Wichita area CoC’s I certainly get what you are saying.

  12. December 23, 2008 at 10:17 pm — Reply

    I think you’re right Todd. I think the bottom line is that, as a complete whole, CoC’s have invested time in building walls instead of bridges. I realize that there are many, many exceptions to this rule. Unfortunately, I think the walls have proven to be to strong to completely knock down despite the valiant efforts of many (yourself included) over the years. Somebody needs to call Jimmy Huff. He knows all about building bridges.

  13. December 26, 2008 at 8:30 am — Reply

    A huge issue I see, more and more, is that the CoC puts way too much emphsis on the worship assembly and not enough time to building relationships, fellowship and evangelism. The assembly has become, in many progressive churches, a huge drama performance. We are becoming what we have been against for so long. We are becoming a Catholic church in the sense of our “presentations”.

  14. Rick
    January 6, 2009 at 8:57 pm — Reply

    I am from a small town with a Church of Christ university. If this is the end of the CoC does this mean we now will get a Wal Mart? Just curious… (ps.. just trying to lighten things up abit)

    On the serious side, I am a townie as they refer to the non CoCers around here. And while I am an outsider, I can verify the fact that CoCers are known more about what they are against than what they are for. Aamof… I don’t know what you guys stand for, but I know you CAN’T have instruments in church and can’t listen to christian music, but can listen to the most abhorrent secular music made. Take this lightly as I am not condemning you for this, just affirming what is said outside the CoC rings.

    There are others but this is Todd’s blog (which is interesting so far, first time reader) so I will shut up now.

    Peace from an outsider townie…

  15. Rob
    March 29, 2009 at 9:05 pm — Reply

    I stand in a curious position. I think, on the one hand, that you have fairly accurately summed up the “problem with the churches of Christ”. On the other hand, I’m not ready to give up on it just yet. We can learn to be “for” and not just against. We just need to change our focus. I believe the core values of the church of Christ should be relevant to everyone. The problem is that most members couldn’t tell you what the core values are, or they fall back into 1950’s rhetoric to try to describe them. Finally, it is not innovation that is abhorred, it is change. Too many people “of a certain age” in my view are overwhelmed by the level of change in the world around them so they try to find a refuge from change in their church (this is not just a church of Christ problem, it is a problem with many–perhaps all–mainline denominations.) The church stands in tension between those who crave innovation and change and those who are simply overwhelmed by it. Whose souls are most valuable? Which ones do we drive away? Not easy issues to deal with. We must educate our members to see innovation as a return to the real stability of God’s will for them. I think that can be done (more details are available if you would like them)

  16. Steve
    July 4, 2009 at 1:52 am — Reply

    First of all, let me say that I’m rarely up this late. However, in my opinion,discussions such as this have been missing or ignored for the past two decades, so this discussion is worth the rough morning I’m sure to have.

    I may be a bit late to the conversation, but I must say it’s been a good one. Todd, I think your thoughts are on point. Growing up in the CofC, I too claim a certain sense of gratitude for the foundation it instilled and have no ill-will toward what I experienced personally in the different Churches I attended.

    I would also agree with your main observation of the Bible as the “only” creed being one of the potentially fatal flaws of a well-intentioned Church (I find this holds true for well-intentioned individuals as well).

    My rough road and personal battle with judgmentalism led me to stop attending in the late 90’s, leaving me with frustration and seeking to blame the Church for the judgmental person I’d become. “Everyone was fake and I knew better than to fall for their little games” is how I lived for a few years, not realizing that it was me who was being “fake”. I knew there was more to Jesus’ life, burial, and resurrection than “Jesus died for the forgiveness of my sins”, yet I didn’t know what was missing.

    To make a long story short, in 2004 my wife ran into some of her friends from ACU who were planting a Church in S. Fort Worth. I was hesitant. I didn’t want to go to some random Church, I wanted to find a CofC in which I could be a part of some grand transformation that was to come. I can’t tell you how, other than God intervened and I found myself in a living-room with five other people worshiping, praying, reading the Bible, and discussing what it means to live for Christ & participate in the process of God’s Kingdom breaking into the world (specifically, our community). We have, over the past five years, seen countless baptisms and grown to roughly 80 people seeking to live the life Jesus calls us to live.

    I would disagree with you in only one area, I don’t share your feelings that the CofC’s core values are “no longer relevant”, I would choose to call them incomplete. It is vitally important to have a solid foundation that seeks to resemble the Churches that were led by those who knew Jesus while He was human. This is vital because the Bible is the “Living and breathing” Word of God. Without a firm anchor, we lack the capacity to allow the living and breathing to take place in the form of innovation without going off the deep end.

    There are many problems with the CofC that are problems with many other factions as well. Having the “Bible as the only creed” is nothing more than a form of idolatry. This takes many shapes, some more recognizable than others. The CofC is risking their existence in their attempt to protect their flavor of idolatry, which is called “bibliolatry”.

    This is an overdue discussion for not only the CofC, but for western Christianity as a whole. The threat to every Church is it’s inability to keep idolatry out of it’s belief structure. Anything that is placed above the call to “live like Christ” will be the demise of any Church that proclaims Him as their Lord and Savior. Without acceptance, confession, transparency, accountability, service to others, death to self, and God’s all encompassing Justice at it’s core and individuals exemplifying (not just proclaiming) Life in Christ, a Church’s only value will lie only in it’s luke-warm pot-luck brunches. Most of us would probably rather stay home and settle for left-overs.

    God’s Grace to everyone who cared enough to share their thoughts.

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The Church of Christ is done for