Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Name of the Church

If you came in here looking for the name of the church, you won't find it. As far as my Bible knowledge goes, God never gave a name to the church. This has been something I've been discussing a bit over the past week or so, so I thought I should put my thoughts on it all in one place, at least to help me organize in my own mind. As I mentioned, I am unaware where God gave any sort of official name to the church. Some have taken this to the extreme though and condemned those who refer to themselves as part of the church of Christ as ignorant of Bible things, condemned to hell and in violation of the New Testament pattern. In a sense, I can understand where this thought has spawned from. We live in a culture were it seems that many different names have been given to the Lord's church: Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, etc. It is also true that many use the phrase "church of Christ" in a way that places is in the line up of just another denomination. The truth is though, that simply because some people use something in a bad way does not always make it inherently wrong. The question that then remains is, "Is using the phrase 'church of Christ" as a descriptive phrase" sinful?

First note that the questions pertains to describing what the church is. My wife and I have a Pontiac Torrent. That is the name of the car. Because there are so many vehicles, there is a need to give each different type a name. When there is only one of something though, there isn't a real need to name it. We simply call Earth's moon, "the moon" because we only have one. There is no need for us to name it as there is no need to distinguish it from another moon that we have. Because there is only one true church, there is no real need to give it a name. The word "church" simply means "congregation" or "assembly" and there is only one assembly of God's people. Though this assembly is not given an official name, it is still given descriptions. his is only a few examples, but the Lord's church is called the following: the church (Acts 11:26), the body (Eph 1:22-23),
church of God or assembly of God (Acts 12:5), churches of Christ or assemblies of Christ (Rom. 16:16), the way (Acts 9:2). There are many more examples, but from these we can note a descriptive nature. Many times we see a local congregation noted as "the church of (city name)" also, but this is once again a descriptive phrase. The Lord has provided many different ways to describe the church so we have no need to create our own ways, but what we really want to notice is the lack of a name, but the fullness of descriptions.

That then leads us to the question of the almost sole use of "church of Christ" to describe the Lord's body. I for one have no problem with using any other description to describe the congregation of the Lord. If a group that is faithful to the Lord want to describe themselves as "the way" by all means they can and they will be my brethren in Christ. Why then do so many seem to only accept "church of Christ" as a group of faithful brethren? If that is the true attitude they have, then it is the wrong one, but most that I know prefer "church of Christ" as convenience. Having the name "church of Christ" on a sign in no way designates faithfulness. The Assembly of God and The Church of God both have scriptural names, but in their practice are about as far from truth as one can be. On the other side of that, many have "church of Christ" on their sign and are also far from truth. How we describe the church is important, but so is what we practice.

The oft used description of "church of Christ" makes finding a sound group of Christians with which to worship easier. Instead of having to go through assembly after assembly described by different names, we can have an easier time finding people we can worship with when we come to a new city or go on vacation. This can lead to people using it more in a denominational sense, but there are plenty of things we do that can lead to that, but that doesn't mean it is wrong to do. Commonly using the phrase "church of Christ" to describe who we are and to whom we belong is not inherently wrong, but we must be sure that we use it in the proper way and remember what it means.

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