Who are the churches of Christ?
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Who are the churches of Christ?

By: Batsell Barrett Baxter

One of the earliest advocates of the return to New Testament Christianity, as a means of achieving unity of all believers in Christ, was James O'Kelly of the Methodist Episcopal Church. In 1793 he withdrew from the Baltimore conference of his church and called upon others to join him in taking the Bible as the only creed. His influence was largely felt in Virginia and North Carolina where history records that some seven thousand communicants followed his leadership toward a return to primitive New Testament Christianity.

In 1802 a similar movement among the Baptists in New England was led by Abner Jones and Elias Smith. They were concerned about "denominational names and creeds" and decided to wear only the name Christian, taking Bible as their only guide. In 1804, in the western frontier state of Kentucky, Barton W. Stone and several other Presbyterian preachers took similar action declaring that they would take the Bible as the "only sure guide to heaven." Thomas Campbell, and his illustrious son, Alexander Campbell, took similar steps in the year 1809 in what is now the state of West Virginia. They contended that nothing should be bound upon Christians as a matter of doctrine which is not as old as the New Testament. Although these four movements were completely independent in their beginnings eventually they became one strong restoration movement because of their common purpose and plea. These men did not advocate the starting of a new church, but rather a return to Christ's church as described in the Bible.

Members of the church of Christ do not conceive of themselves as a new church started near the beginning of the 19th century. Rather, the whole movement is designed to reproduce in contemporary times the church originally established on Pentecost, A.D. 30. The strength of the appeal lies in the restoration of Christ's original church.

It is primarily a plea for religious unity based upon the Bible. In a divided religious world it is believed that the Bible is the only possible common denominator upon which most, if not all, of the God-fearing people of the land can unite. This is an appeal to go back to the Bible. It is a plea to speak where the Bible speaks and to remain silent where the Bible is silent in all matters that pertain to religion. It further emphasizes that in everything religious there must be a "Thus saith the Lord" for all that is done. The objective is religious unity of all believers in Christ. The basis is the New Testament. The method is the restoration of New Testament Christianity.

The most recent dependable estimate lists more than 15,000 individual churches of Christ. The "Christian Herald," a general religious publication which presents statistics concerning all the churches, estimates that the total membership of the churches of Christ is now 2,000,000. There are more than 7000 men who preach publicly. Membership of the church is heaviest in the southern states of the United States, particularly Tennessee and Texas, though congregations exist in each of the fifty states and in more than eighty foreign countries. Missionary expansion has been most extensive since the second World War in Europe, Asia and Africa. More than 450 full time workers are supported in foreign countries. The churches of Christ now have five times as many members as were reported in the U.S. Religious Census of 1936.

Itun Berriaren antolamendu planaren arabera, Kristoren elizak autonomoak dira. Biblian fededun komuna eta bere irakaspenekiko atxikimena elkarrekin lotzen dituzten lotura nagusiak dira. Ez dago elizaren egoitza nagusia, eta tokiko kongregazio bakoitzeko zaharrenaren gainetik dagoen erakunderik ez dago. Kongregazioak borondatez elkarlanean ari dira umezurtzak eta zaharrak laguntzen, ebanjelioaren esparru berrietan eta antzeko beste lan batzuetan ebanjelioaren aldarrikapenean.

Kristoren elizako kideak berrogeita hamar institutu eta bigarren hezkuntzako irakaskuntza, eta hirurogeita hamabost umezurtz eta etxe adinekoentzat. 40 aldizkari eta elizako kideak banatzen dituzten aldizkari inguru daude. Nazio mailako irrati eta telebista programa "The Herald of Truth" izenekoa da. Abilene-ko (Texas) Highland Avenue elizan babesten du. Urtean bere $ 1,200,000 urteko aurrekontuaren zati handi bat doakoa izango da Kristoren beste eliza batzuek lagunduta. Irrati programa 800 irrati baino gehiagotan entzuten da eta telebista programa 150 geltokietan baino gehiagotan agertzen da. "World Radio" bezala ezagutzen den beste irrati-ahalegin zabala Brasilen 28 geltokietako sare bat dauka, Estatu Batuetan eta atzerriko beste hainbat herrialdetan eraginkortasunez funtzionatzen duena, eta 14 hizkuntzan ekoizten da. Azaroko aldizkari nagusietan publizitate programa zabala hasi zen azaroan.

Ez dago konbentzio, urteko bilera edo argitalpen ofizialik. "Lotzen duen lotura" Itun Berria kristautasunaren berreskuratzearen printzipioei lotzen zaio.

Guztiz antolatuta egoteko nahikoa luzea den kongregazio bakoitzean, gobernu organo gisa balio duten adineko edo presbiter ugaritasuna dago. Gizon horiek tokiko kongregazioek aukeratutakoa da, Eskrituretako aurreko tituluen arabera (1 Timothy 3: 1-8). Zaharren menpean diakerak, irakasleek eta ebanjelistak edo ministroak dira. Azken hauek ez dituzte zaharrekiko berdinak edo berdinak dituzten aginpideak. Zaharrenak artzainak edo arduradunak dira, Kristoren buruarekin Itun Berriaren arabera konstituzio moduko bat baitute zerbitzatzen dutenak. Ez dago lurraren aginpiderik tokiko elizako zaharrenaren aurrean.

The original autographs of the sixty six books which make up the Bible are considered to have been divinely inspired, by which it is meant that they are infallible and authoritative. Reference to the scriptures is made in settling every religious question. A pronouncement from the scripture is considered the final word. The basic textbook of the church and the basis for all preaching is the Bible.

Yes. The statement in Isaiah 7:14 is taken as a prophecy of the virgin birth of Christ. New Testament passages such as Matthew 1:20, 25, are accepted at face value as declarations of the virgin birth. Christ is accepted as the only begotten Son of God, uniting in his person perfect divinity and perfect manhood.

Only in the sense that God predestines the righteous to be eternally saved and the unrighteous to be eternally lost. The statement of the apostle Peter, "Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons, but in every nation he that feareth him and worketh righteousness is acceptable unto him" (Acts 10:34-35.) is taken as an evidence that God did not predestine individuals to be eternally saved or lost, but that each man determines his own destiny.

The word baptize comes from the Greek word "baptizo" and literally means, "to dip, to immerse, to plunge." In addition to the literal meaning of the word, immersion is practiced because it was the practice of the church in apostolic times. Still further, only immersion conforms to the description of baptisms as given by the apostle Paul in Romans 6:3-5 where he speaks of it as a burial and resurrection.

No. Only those who have reached the "age of accountability" are accepted for baptisms. It is pointed out that the examples given in the New Testament are always of those who have heard the gospel preached and have believed it. Faith must always precede baptism, so only those old enough to understand and believe the gospel are considered fit subjects for baptism.

No. Ministers or evangelists of the church have no special prerogatives. They do not wear the title of Reverend or Father, but are addressed simply by the term Brother as are all other men of the church. Along with elders and others they do counsel and advise those seeking help.

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