The New Testament (the books of the Bible from Matthew through Revelation) contains the history of the church, the pattern or structure of the church, and the purpose of the church.
The church of Christ began on the Day of Pentecost following the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. It was the same church which Jesus had promised to build: “…on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades shall not overcome it.” (Matthew 16:18)
The first sermon of the church, preached by the apostle Peter, resulted in a great response by the same Jews in Jerusalem who, just a few weeks earlier, had called for the death of Jesus.
After those who heard Peter’s sermon were convicted of their sin in rejecting Jesus as God’s Son, they asked, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
In reply, Peter answered, “Repent and be baptized, everyone 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).
“And the Lord added to their number (“the church” KJV) daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47).
The Purpose of the Church
The church which was established at this time was the result of the plan of God from the beginning, Paul comments on this in Ephesians 3:8-11: “…to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God…
His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known…according to His eternal purpose.
Briefly stated, the purpose of the church which God designed is:
• To worship God
• To proclaim the gospel of Jesus
• To build up Christians to mature faith
• To do good works to those in need.
The Design of the Church
The head of the church is Jesus, Himself. “And He (Jesus) is the head of the body, the church” (Colossians 1:18).
The human roles which make up the church include all the saved, who are members of the body; elders, who serve as overseers; deacons, who are servants to the church; evangelists or ministers, who teach and preach the gospel message. All Christians are called “saints,” and all Christians are described in the New Testament as “priests.” (Several passages in the New Testament describe these roles, including Acts 2:47; Ephesians 4:11; I Timothy 4:1-5, and I Corinthians 12:27-28.)
The elders (also called bishops, presbyters, pastors, and shepherds) are charged with leading and watching out for the congregation over which they serve. The Bible describes them as:
• Married to one woman, with children who believe and are respectful
• Temperate, self-controlled, respectable and hospitable
• Not one who get intoxicated, violent quarrelsome, or who is a lover of money
• Able to teach, not a new convert
• Having a good reputation within the community
The office of Deacon is also described in the New Testament. They are to be:
• Respectable, sincere, sound in faith
• Married to one woman (who is not a gossip), with children who are respectful
• Free of drinking to excess and seeking dishonest gain
Ministers, or evangelists, are men who are faithful in proclaiming the gospel message of the New Testament. They are to preach to please God, not to please men.
Churches of Christ take our worship pattern, as all other practices, from the New Testament. Accordingly, each Sunday we take the Lord’s Supper to commemorate the death of Christ (Acts 20:7).
We also take up a weekly offering, a practice which dates back to the plan Paul gave for collecting money for the church in Jerusalem during a time of need. (I Corinthians 16:1-2).
You may have noticed that there is no mention of instruments in worship in the New Testament. Consequently, our singing is without instrumental accompaniment, as called for in Ephesians 5:19, and as practiced by the first century church.
Churches of Christ strive to confirm as closely as possible to simple New Testament patterns. While we don’t claim to imitate the first century church perfectly, we believe that careful faithfulness to the pattern of scripture, a pattern given to us by God, is important.
We do not adopt formal creeds or statements of belief other than the New Testament itself, although we would agree with many of the statements found in some of the creeds and Confessions..
We have no formal organization or governing body except for the local church and the elders who oversee it.
Our worship services are led by faithful men of the congregation rather than by special clergy. We review all believers as equal; all are saints and priests. None are to be called “teacher” or “father” in a religious way. (Matthew 23:8-12).
We have not traced any history of a “denomination.” This is intentional. We want to identify only with the church of the New Testament, and we do not want to defend the practices and teachings of men, even though they are men of sincerity and great learning.
Only by looking back to the Bible can men of every age find unity and capture the purpose of god’s plan for His church.
Does this simple approach to New Testament Christianity appeal to you? We invite you to join us in our efforts to be simply “Christians.”