The Independent Christian Churches/Churches of Christ are a part of the Restoration Movement and share historical roots with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the a cappella Churches of Christ.
These churches are best defined as those in the Restoration Movement who have chosen not to be identified with the denomination known as the "Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). The obvious difference from the Churches of Christ is the use of instrumental music in worship. The instrumental Christian Churches and the a cappella Churches of Christ are otherwise fundamentally identical. There are no denominational ties, and therefore, no official statistical data, but the 2006 Directory of the Ministry'' documents some 5,500 congregations. Many estimate the number to be over 6,000.
The churches are independent congregation
and typically go by the name "Christian Church" (without the tag "Independent"), but often use the name "church of Christ" as well. Though isolated exceptions may occur, it is generally agreed within the movement that no personal or family names should be attached to a congregation which Christ purchased and established with his own blood, though geographical labels are acceptable. Thus, it is common for a congregation to be known as "[City Name]
Christian Church," but in some areas they may be known as "[The/First] Christian Church [of/at] [City Name]
." In recent history, individual congregations have made the decision to change their formal name to break with traditional nomenclature and to adopt more generic names like "Christ's Church [of/at] [City Name]
", "[City Name]
Community Christian Church", or "[City Name]
Community Fellowship". The tendency in Restoration churches to choose names such as "Christian Church" and "Church of Christ" can cause difficulties in identifying the affiliation (if any) of an individual church based solely on its name. Furthermore, it is not uncommon for churches outside of the Restoration Movement to use similar names (see Church of Christ (disambiguation)
Separation from the Disciples of Christ
The Independent Christian Churches/Churches of Christ and Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
(DoC) parted ways due primarily to disagreements concerning liberal trends and the development of a denominational structure within the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). The split occurred as local congregations refused to take part in rapidly developing extra-congregational organizations that eventually evolved into a General Assembly. They were also disturbed by what they saw as liberal influences within the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) concerning Biblical crticism and social justice. This came to a head at the 1926 DoC Convention in Memphis, Tennessee
The official separation between the independent Christian Churches/Churches of Christ and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is difficult to date. Suggestions range from 1926 to 1971 based on the events outlined below:
- 1926: The first North American Christian Convention (NACC) in 1927 was the result of disillusionment at the DoC Memphis Convention.
- 1930s - 1940s: Symbolic differences and disagreements flourished.
- 1955: The Directory of the Ministry was first published listing only the "Independents" on a voluntary basis.
- 1968: Final redaction of the Disciples Year Book removing Independent churches
- 1971: Independent churches listed separately in the Yearbook of American Churches.
Because of this separation, many independent Christian Churches/churches of Christ are not only non-denominational, they can be anti-denominational, avoiding even the appearance or language associated with denominationalism holding true to their Restoration roots.
Because the independent Christian Churches/churches of Christ are independent congregations there is no set creed, but The Directory of the Ministry contains the following general description:
"Members of Christian Churches and churches of Christ believe in the deity and Lordship of Jesus Christ, the inspiration of the Bible, and the autonomy of local congregations. Following the basic principles of the 'Restoration Movement', they accept and teach believers' baptism (immersion) into Christ for the forgiveness of sins; they assemble for worship on the first day of the week, making the observance of the Lord's Supper a focal point in such worship. They seek the unity of all believers on the basis of faith in and obedience to Christ as the divine Son of God and the acceptance of the Bible particularly the New Testament as their all-sufficient rule of faith and practice."
Of the principles cited above, one characteristic marks most Christian Churches and Churches of Christ as distinctly different from other modern evangelical Christian groups today. That is the teaching that a person is ultimately converted to Christ and saved through faith in Christ and obedience to him in a believer's baptism
- * by immersion,
- * for publicly confessing believers in Jesus Christ,
- * a work of God's grace, not a work of man,
- * a promise received through obedient submission
- * necessarily accompanied with confession of sinfulness and repentance,
- * the occasion when one receives God's forgiveness for their sins,
- * the occasion when one calls on His name for salvation
- * the occasion when the equipping, indwelling Holy Spirit is received as a seal and promise of heaven,
- * a "circumcision" or transformation of the believer's heart by the hands of Christ himself,
- * foreshadowed in the Old Testament ceremonial washings, now fulfilled in a believer's shared experience with Christ,
- * symbolic of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, and the only assurance of the hope of the resurrection from the dead,
- * specifically emphasized and commanded by Christ in his brief closing remarks ("The Great Commission") before ascending into heaven,
- * not only an outward sign of an inward change, but is both simultaneously,
- * one baptism indeed, both physically in water and spiritually in the blood of Jesus,
- * entry into the body of Christ at large, and hence, the only viable entry into the membership of a local congregation of the Independent Christian Churches and Churches of Christ (as in the Church of Christ (non-instrumental), a candidate for membership is not usually required to be re-baptized if they have previously been "baptized into Christ"in accordance with the above general understanding and/or guidelines).
The teaching that "salvation coming by grace through faith at immersion into Christ" is the only New Testament example for Christians to follow today is viewed by many groups, particularly those of Calvinist persuasion, as too similar to a salvation by works rather than a salvation by faith alone. Christian Churches and Churches of Christ contend that true faith is not mere belief, but no less than a believing, trusting, and repentant obedience, that baptism is always mentioned in the passive verbal forms in the New Testament (i.e. "be baptized [at the hands of another]", as opposed to Old Testament-styled active commands), because it is a work of God, not man. The assertion follows that it is Christ's redemptive work one trusts in as they, by faith, accept his free offer of grace. Finally, a life of committed service until death is seen to demonstrate the authenticity of one's faith, and further makes his or her calling and election sure.
The Christian Churches/churches of Christ support a variety of Bible colleges and seminaries. Because there is no official "denominational" structure in the movement, the local colleges often serve as information centers and allow the local churches to maintain connections with each other.
Colleges and Seminaries of the Christian Churches/Churches of Christ
- Alberta Bible College, 1932 - Official Website
- Atlanta Christian College, 1937 - Official Website
- Boise Bible College, 1945 - Official Website
- Central Christian College of the Bible, 1957 - Official Website
- Cincinnati Christian University, 1924 - Official Website
- Colegio Biblico, 1945 - Official Website
- Crossroads College, 1913 - Official Website
- Dallas Christian College, 1950 - Official Website
- Emmanuel School of Religion, 1965 - Official Website
- Florida Christian College, 1976 - Official Website
- Great Lakes Christian College, 1949 - Official Website
- Hope International University, 1928 - Official Website
- Johnson Bible College, 1893 - Official Website
- Kentucky Christian University, 1919 - Official Website
- Lincoln Christian College and Seminary, 1944 - Official Website
- Louisville Bible College, 1948 - Official Website
- Manhattan Christian College, 1927 - Official Website
- Maritime Christian College, 1960 - Official Website
- Mid-South Christian College, 1959 - Official Website
- Milligan College, 1866 - Official Website
- Nebraska Christian College, 1945 - Official Website
- Northwest Christian University, 1895 - Official Website
- Ozark Christian College, 1942 - Official Website
- Puget Sound Christian College, 1950-2007 - Official Website
- Roanoke Bible College, 1948 - Official Website
- Saint Louis Christian College, 1956 - Official Website
- Summit Christian College, 1951 - Official Website
- Summit Theological Seminary - Official Website
- William Jessup University, 1939 - Official Website
The following are expressions typically used by such churches as an explanation and clarification of beliefs:
- "Where the Scriptures speak, we speak; and where the Scriptures are silent, we are silent"
- This defines a commitment to speak, teach, and preach on the contents of the Bible while avoiding additions to the scripture that come about from traditions or cultural developments.
- "In essentials unity, in opinions liberty, and in all things love"
- Essentials include the direct teachings of the Bible, opinions refer to those areas not specifically defined in the Bible (such as musical instruments in worship), and love is held as the unifier that holds the congregation together in spite of differences in opinions.
- "No head-quarters but heaven, no creed but Christ, no book but the Bible, no plea but the gospel, and no name but the divine."
- These churches hold the Bible as the direct basis for doctrinal statements rather than referencing any denominational creeds and believe that churches should take on no name other than the one that defines them as followers of Christ. Hence the name "Christian"
- "Christians only, but not the only Christians."
- A recognition that the people of these congregations define themselves only as Christians (not Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, etc.), but they do not consider themselves to be the only Christians.
- Baptism: A Biblical Study; Dr. Jack Cottrell; College Press, Joplin, MO: 1989; ISBN 0-89900-341-9.
- Union in Truth: An Interpretive History of the Restoration Movement; James B. North; Standard Publishing; Cincinnati, OH: 1994; ISBN 0-7847-0197-0.