A "denomination" signifies a division or a segment. "Denominationalism" means devotion to denominational principles or interests. All the religious denominations of our day were established by men, hundreds of years after Jesus Christ established His church in Jerusalem on Pentecost, about 33 A.D. (Acts 2).
We claim that the modern-day "church of Christ" is NOT a denomination. Please consider with us why this claim is made.
DENOMINATIONALISM IS WRONG
Christ established but ONE church (Matt. 16:18, Acts 20:28, Col. 1:24, Eph. 4:4). Christ is not divided. The apostle Paul said that religious division is wrong (I Cor. 1:10-13). Jesus prayed for the unity of all believers (John 17:20-21). Our Lord did not work against His own prayer for unity by establishing conflicting and contradictory denominations. Denominationalism retards the salvation of lost souls (John 17:21). Denominationalism breeds skepticism and doubt. Different doctrines cause many to lose respect for the Scriptures.
IN APOSTOLIC TIMES CHRISTIANS BELONGED TO NO DENOMINATION
Christians were members of the universal church for which Christ died. When one accepts Christ, there is no need to accept anything else (Col. 2:9-10). When you accept Christ only, you become a "Christian," a disciple of Christ. Others in any place who do the same thing will be, like us, Christians only.
CHARACTERISTICS OF THE UNDENOMINATIONAL CHURCH
1. It has no denominational founder. "And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it," said Jesus (Matt. 16:18).
2. It has no denominational head. "And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence" (Col. 1:18). Christ is the Sovereign Head of the church. The undenominational church does not recognize any human head or headquarters.
3. It has no denominational creed. We have no creed but Christ. "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God" is our confession of faith (Matt. 16:16, Acts 8:37). We have no book of discipline or rule of faith. We practice only the Scriptures. "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work" (II Tim. 3:16).
God's Word is sufficient to cover every problem of congregational organization and activity. THEREFORE, HUMAN CREEDS ARE UNNECESSARY. "As His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue" (II Peter 1:3).
4. It has no denominational name. The church of the New Testament was known as:
- "The church" (Eph. 3:10, Col. 1:24)
- "The church of God" (I Cor. 1:2, I Tim. 3:15)
- "The body of Christ" (I Cor. 12:27, Eph. 4:12)
- "The church of the Lord" (Acts 20:28)
- "The church of Christ" (Matt. 16:18, Rom. 16:16)
The individual members of the church were known as:
- "Disciples" (Acts 11:26)
- "Christians" (Acts 11:26, Acts 26:28, I Pet. 4:16)
- "Saints" (Rom. 1:7, Phil. 1:1, Col. 1:2)
- "Brethren" (Col. 1:2, James 1:2)
- "Children of God" (Gal. 3:26, I John 3:1)
- "Priests" (I Pet. 2:5, Rev. 1:6)
5. It has no denominational organization. There is no ecclesiastical organization, no popes, no cardinals, no archbishops, no church councils or conventions. Each congregation of the Church of Christ is independent, under the authority of Christ as revealed in the New Testament. We have a plurality of qualified elders (Acts 14:23), just as was found in the first century church.
6. It has no denominational worship. We have no denominational rites or ceremonies. We seek to worship "in spirit and truth" (John 4:24), following the pattern of the first century church. Each Lord's day worship consists of:
- Lord's Supper (Acts 20:7)
- Contribution (I Cor. 16:2)
- A cappella Singing (Eph. 5:19)
- Praying (Luke 18:1)
- Preaching (II Tim. 4:2)
7. It has no denominational requirements for membership. We ask people to do only what men and women in the New Testament were commanded to do:
- Hear and understand God's Word (Acts 8:30-31)
- Believe (Acts 8:37)
- Repent (Acts 17:30)
- Confess (Acts 8:37)
- Be baptized for remission of sins (Acts 2:38)
After obeying the gospel, TO WHAT DENOMINATION DID THE FIRST CENTURY CHRISTIANS BELONG? Catholicism had its beginning in the 7th century. Protestantism had its beginning in the 16th century. New Testament Christians belonged simply to the undenominational church.
THE CURE FOR DENOMINATIONALISM
We must have an unreserved commitment to the Bible as the sole, objective standard in religion. Unity can exist only when there is allegiance to a single objective religious authority. When all men will lay down their creeds, disciplines, manuals, confessions of faith, catechisms, think-so's, maybe's, and subjective feelings, and with an unprejudiced and receptive heart turn to the Word of God, then, and ONLY then, will unity result. We must be committed to being nothing, calling ourselves nothing, obeying nothing, and saying nothing except that which is authorized by the Word of God.
Surely, it is possible to occupy an undenominational position. It is our plea for all to abandon the things that divide those who profess to be Christians, and occupy, with us, this undenominational ground.
If we preach ONLY the gospel, it will produce in our day the one, true New Testament church that it produced in the days of the apostles, when no denominations existed.