The title of this post is a question that hyperconservative churches of Christ (like the 3 TV hosts) love to ask. The implication to their question is that they (the hypercons) are not just in a church that is in the Bible, but that they are in the only modern church that is in the Bible. In other words, they are the only ones who are theologically correct (TC). They are the only ones who are really Christians.
Of all the arguments for tearing down the walls of denominationalism I’ve heard (and I’ve heard some good ones), this idea is to the Christian faith what New Coke was to soft drinks.
or the Yugo was to automaking.
In other words, it’s a load of complete rubbish that deserves to become a distant memory in the minds of those who have heard of it.
Unity = Good
Understand that I am not arguing against unity. Even a casual reading of the New Testament will yield to the reader that God desires for His children to be unified. Here are just a couple of examples:
“I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 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…May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (John 17:20, 21, 23).
“We were all baptised by one Spirit into one body – whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free – and we were all given the one Spirit to drink” (1 Corinthians 12:13)
Unity is a good thing. But the proponents of the “where’s your church?” idea aren’t interested in unity. They are interested in conformity – to their limited interpretations of Scripture.
Conviction = Good
Understand, also, that I’m not arguing against having convictions. I agree completely with the old expression that goes, “you have to stand for something or you’ll fall for anything”. Or, as Scripture says, “But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.” (1 Corinthians 2:15)
The problem I have is this idea that the name of your church is enough to condemn or save you. “Why are you in a church that’s not in the Bible?” The hyperconservative asks. Well, why are they in a church that’s not in the Bible?
Churches That Are In The Bible
The churches in the Bible were located in the modern countries of Israel, Turkey, Italy, etc – in other words, in countries that are near and around the Mediterranean Sea. Did the person who asked this question pack up his or her things and move to this region? No? Then guess what – they aren’t in a church that is found in the New Testament.
In fact, you won’t even find the exact phrase “church of Christ” in the Bible at all! I’m still waiting for someone to answer the challenge to find “church of Christ” in the Bible. If they find it, I’ve got $1000 that I will give them.
But That’s Not What We Mean…
“But we mean why are you in a church that doesn’t act like the church in the Bible,” they might respond.
First, if you mean that, then why don’t you say that?
Second, my hypercon friends, I hate to tell you this, but you are also not in a church that acts like the church in the Bible. Let’s look at three basic ways in which you join the rest of us by not acting like the church we find in the New Testament:
1. The infamous holy kiss.
Hyperconservative churches of Christ don’t do this. Check here for more explanation.
1 Corinthians 11:5-6 says:
“But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, for that is one and the same as if her head were shaved. For if a woman is not covered, let her also be shorn. But if it is shameful for a woman to be shorn or shaved, let her be covered.”
Hyperconservative churches of Christ don’t follow this. At least not the ones in our area.
3. Tongues and Prophecies.
Sorry, I couldn’t find a good picture. We’ll just let Scripture speak for itself.
“Therefore, brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak with tongues.” (1 Corinthians 14:39)
Hyperconservative churches of Christ forbid people from speaking in tongues.
So, gentlemen, I ask you… why are you in a church that is not in the Bible?
Wait! Stop! Let me give you the answer to that question.
It doesn’t matter whether or not you are in a denomination. It doesn’t matter whether or not you can “find your church in the Bible”. All followers of Christ are in Christ’s church and we are all called to be a part of something that transcends differences – that transcends denominations.
The churches that existed in the first century, that Paul and the other NT writers were addressing, were all different. They were dealing with different issues. They lived in different cities with different cultures and values.
Where did they find their unity? In the words of the New Testament? No, because they didn’t have the New Testament. They had the words of the ones who taught them, the letters from various NT writers, what we call the Old Testament (if they were Jewish), and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Their unity was in the Gospel of Christ.
“…[S]tanding firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.” (Philippians 1:27)
This is at the heart of the New Testament – the Gospel of Christ. What is the Gospel of Christ? The hypercons would, by necessity, link baptism to the Gospel. And while Baptism plays a part in the life of a Christian, baptism is not the Gospel (1 Cor 1:17).
So, what is the Gospel?
“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” Romans 5:8-10
Like the church of the first century, this is where we find unity. We don’t conform to the teachings of a few hyperconservative church of Christ TV host/pastors, or Baptist pastors, or Lutheran pastors, or [fill in the blank] pastors… we conform to Jesus, and Jesus alone.
And there – in that conformity and only in that conformity – will we be a part of the Lord’s church – a part of the worldwide churches of Christ as found in Scripture and through the last two thousand years.
No matter what the sign outside reads, or whether or not we are in a church that’s “not in the Bible”.