Ask Your Preacher
I love church, and I love being part of God’s family, but I really dislike being a certain type of christian. I don't understand why there are so many different beliefs for one religion (like Catholic, Methodist, and so on); is it possible to just be a christian and not any thing specific? Is there a special church that's just christian?
No Party Affiliation
Dear No Party Affiliation,
All we should ever be is just christians… you are absolutely right for being frustrated. The denominational world is confusing… exactly the opposite of God’s church (1 Cor 14:33). The term ‘denomination’ comes from the idea that a church believes that it is a subgroup of a larger religious body. Lutherans worship and teach differently than Episcopalians, Catholics, Presbyterians, etc., but they all believe themselves to be christians – this is wrong. Jesus said that there is only one path to heaven (Matt 7:14). Denominationalism teaches that how you act and worship are matters of opinion, but Jesus said that how you act and worship are matters of truth (Jhn 4:24). The only way to avoid denominationalism is to find a congregation that simply teaches what the Bible says – no creeds, no opinions, no personal agendas. If we truly love Christ, we will follow His commandments (1 Jn 5:2).
Everything a church does (worship, membership, how they teach to be saved, how they spend their money, even their name) needs to have Bible verses backing them up (1 Tim 3:15). A church needs to be able to explain the reasons for why they do what they do (1 Pet 3:15).
Our congregation here in Monroe goes by the name ‘Monroe Valley church of Christ’ because ‘church of Christ’ is a Biblical name for a congregation (Rom 16:16). We worship by singing (Col 3:16), studying the Bible (1 Tim 4:13), praying (2 Thess 3:1), taking communion (only on Sundays – Acts 20:7), and taking up a collection (also only on Sundays – 1 Cor 16:1-2). We teach that you must hear God’s Word (Rom 10:17), believe God’s Word (Jhn 3:16), repent of your sins (Mk 6:12), confess Jesus as your Savior (Lk 12:8), and be baptized to be saved (Acts 2:38, 1 Pet 3:21). We do all these things because they are practices found in the Bible. As you said, you don’t want to go to a church that offers their own thoughts – you want God’s thoughts.
There are other congregations like ours scattered across the country and the world. Most of them use the name ‘church of Christ’, but then again, many churches that use that name aren’t faithful. A Bible name for a church isn’t enough to make it faithful. We have helped others, like yourself, looking for New Testament Christianity find faithful congregations in their area by contacting other preachers and christians that we know. We’d be happy to do the same for you. If you feel comfortable, just let us know what general area you live in, and we will try and get you in touch with a congregation that lives like your Bible reads (our e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org). It is frustrating, confusing, and exasperating to deal with denominationalism. Thanks be to God that there is a better option!
To follow up on your response about calling men ‘father’ (the post entitled “Parental Paradox”), are you saying it is all right to refer to men as ‘father’ as long as you are not putting them above God? Including, not only a biological parent but even a person of spiritual fatherhood? Some folks in my Lutheran congregation refer to our pastor as ‘father’ or ‘reverend’ or even ‘brother’ but never revere him above God as you pointed out in your post.
Dear Taking Titles,
In order to understand why it is wrong for religious leaders to take the name of ‘father’, we need to put that statement in context. Jesus said to not call anyone ‘father’ (Matt 23:9) at the same time as He condemned the scribes and Pharisees for loving the praise and honor of men (Matt 23:4-6). When ‘father, ‘rabbi’, and ‘master’ are given as titles of prestige and honor, this is exactly what Jesus was condemning. The titles you mentioned are often used in exactly the same manner – ‘reverend’ especially. The word ‘reverend’ is never even found in the Bible. The only one who deserves our reverence is God (Heb 12:28). Anytime that religious leaders take on titles like these, it is a sign that they are seeking to distinguish themselves from other christians. This is the exact opposite of what the apostles did (Acts 10:25-26).
(This is a follow-up to the post “Without Creedence”)
Your answer to the difference between creeds and publications that preachers write didn't fully explain a difference between the two. Can you please show me where different denominations hold their "creed" books to the same standard as the Bible? I have had many discussions with various Lutherans and Baptists alike, and none of them view their supplements to the same degree of Bible authority. They all view them as teaching tools to supplement the Word. Many preachers claim that their writings should be heard because they are "based" on the Word of God. Many religious groups with creed books would claim the same. I believe the difference between a creed book and the publications church of Christ preachers write is that we believe that one follows the Bible, and the others don't. Our friends outside the church make the same claim. Anytime we hold our opinions and explanations to demand the same level of attention as plain Scripture, we have written creeds by your definition. Maybe we should simply point people to Scripture and quit offering our opinions.
Dear Tracking Tracts,
If a preacher takes something he writes and gives it equal weight to the Bible, then he is sinning, but we’ve never personally experienced someone using a tract or commentary that way. Your statement that “many preachers claim…” is arbitrary, and we can’t speak to personal experiences and subjective viewpoints. In fact, the discussions you have had with various Lutherans and Baptists are also subjective because most Baptists and Lutherans don’t know what their own creed books even say. The key is to read the books for yourself and ask what the leaders of these churches say about their creeds. The Lutheran church uses four creeds: The Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, the Athanasian Creed, and the Augsburg Confessional. They teach that these creeds are authoritative guides for their worship and beliefs – they aren’t commentaries; they are distinct belief systems that don’t require Bible authority to back them. As we said, read them yourselves.
The Baptists are even more blatant about the value they place upon their creeds. The Standard Manual For Baptist Churches says that baptism used to be a necessary part of salvation, but now things are different (Standard Manual for Baptist Churches pg. 22). That type of a statement clearly places their manual as a religious authority above the Bible!
Not all people who are part of a religious group understand why they do what they do and where their beliefs come from, but that doesn’t make the creed any less of a guide for their respective denominations. These creeds add to God’s Word, and that is definitely wrong (Rev 22:18-19, 1 Cor 4:6).