A Theory of Faith and Practice
What is the Juneau Church of Christ? The church is a community of Christians. The thoughts below verbalize some of the ideals, presenting a theory of faith and practice, that we pursue in a common walk with Christ Jesus.
Consider this also a warm invitation to worship God with us.
What Is The Message?
Here is the essential message of Christians in this church of Christ: Jesus Christ and his crucifixion (1 Corinthians 2:2). Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, he was buried, and he rose again on the third day in fulfillment of the scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).
His death, burial, and resurrection are more than a history lesson -- this gospel is the very means that God has to bring human beings out of death and into his salvation (Romans 1:16).
For this reason, we see the message not only as a group of factual events, but as something dynamic which compels us to become followers of Christ.
In becoming followers (or disciples), we seek to follow him alone as Lord not only of our individual lives, but as Lord of his church. Consequently, we place no value in regulations outside the Bible concerning membership in his church, its organization, and its worship.
But, we place a very high value on the New Testament's instructions and practices and goals for this community. We believe the Spirit of God preserves these very ideals in the New Testament as the standard for the church.
People of Spiritual Recovery
People in this congregation are people with a spirit of recovery. That is, first, there is the understanding that each human being is in a progression of recovery from the effects of sin, and that various ones are in different places of that recovery. We encourage each other in that recovery wherever each may be.
Second, this is a people wanting to recover spiritual ideals which the New Testament holds for the church.
Religious people across the nation and around the world have lamented that the simple teachings of Christ concerning the life of his church are given secondary importance. Many such folk have expressed that the best solution is to go back to the Bible and recover Jesus' teachings for the life of the church.
In the likes of Hippolytus, of the Waldenses in the 12th century, of John Wyclif, of the Reformation, of the Spirituali in the 16h century, and on into modern times, individuals, small groups, and great movements have sought the same with varying degrees of success: to find in the Scriptures the unique document for the church and Christian life.
So we assert:
- We can recover the simplicity and purity of the New Testament teaching;
- We can continue "steadfastly in the apostles' teaching . . ." (Acts 2:42) by following the Scriptures.
- We can plant the same seed (the Word of God, Luke 8:11) planted in biblical times, and simply be Christians, generically, without sectarian prejudice.
Christians can be united upon the Bible alone. The plea is the Christian church free of denomination, sectarian, and traditional divisions.
We feel that no doctrines of faith or acts of faith should be required of people except those which are evident in the Bible. Recovery of plain Bible teaching need not produce a new denomination: rather, it can aim simply to recover the New Testament ideal for the church.
Christians in this community of Christ today foster this notion, using the Bible uniquely we seek to rediscover Christ's own designs for the church and to follow them. Indeed, where God has not spoken in the Bible, no person, no group of persons, has the right to demand conformity to any tradition in the name of Christ.
But, where God has spoken in the Bible, we must call people back to God's order.
Just The Church, Please: Not A Denomination Of It
Our interest, consequently, rests only in New Testament ways, not in subsequently developed traditions. We prefer to think of ourselves not as a denomination -- not Catholic, not Orthodox, not Protestant -- but as foundational parts of the community of Christians which Jesus builds through faith.
We choose Christ's name, so that the term "Church of Christ" becomes a descriptor of Christ's ownership, not as an official name. Indeed, the Bible offers no "official" name for the Lord's community.
We are human beings with all the troubles and weaknesses common to all, so these goals are not always met consistently. So we redouble efforts with each generation, with each person, to commit to study and restudy the Scriptures anew, to find God's will in the Bible in order to obey the Lord. 2 Timothy 3:16.
Here is our call to all who believe in the Lord God: study afresh his Word, the Bible, set aside man-made traditions, and as one body lift up the Risen Lord to the world. John 12:32.
A Call To Unity
The New Testament Witness
Jesus prayed for unity. John 17. The apostle Paul plead with divided Christians to unite in the gospel of Christ. 1 Corinthians 1:10.
Harmony should be based upon Bible teachings (1 Corinthians 4:6), not upon compromise of those teachings. Unity may be sought and found in using the Scriptures themselves, the primary documents of the Christian faith, as the avenue to Christ's intents.
Accepting extra-biblical practices and beliefs brings disunity. Retaining different man-made traditions of varying religious groups only serves to alienate their respective members from one another.
God has vested all authority in Christ (Matthew 28:18), and Christ serves as God's spokesman today. Hebrews 1:1-2. We believe the New Testament alone sets out Christ's instructions to his followers, so it alone must serve as the basis for all teaching and practice in the name of Christ. New Testament ideals would become the goal of all who claim Christ as Lord.
The Hebrew Bible Witness
We do not imply that the Hebrew Bible (or Old Testament) has no value. Just the opposite: the apostle Paul says it was written for our learning. Romans 15:4. He indicates it is able to instruct for salvation. 2 Timothy 3:15.
The Hebrew Bible is part of God's Word. In it, the prophet Jeremiah speaks of a day when God would make a new covenant. In the day of that new covenant, God's people would be united by his own action in the hearts of people. Jeremiah 31:31-34.
Thus study of the Hebrew Bible leads, finally, to acceptance of this "better covenant" (Hebrews 8:6), or we have missed its mark. The older covenant held the shadow of things to come. Hebrews 10:1. Now that the reality of Christ has come, we read the Hebrew Bible as a guide leading to Christ. Galatians 3:24.
Autonomy From Other Congregations
The Juneau congregation remains autonomous (self-governed) and remains independent of any other congregation. The Holy Spirit binds this congregation with others together in a common love of God and his Word, and in the life and work of Jesus Christ. 2 Corinthians 13:14.
The congregation is governed locally, by elders chosen from within the congregation by the congregation's own members. These elders must meet the specific guidelines for this office given in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9.
Deacons also serve in the congregation, fulfilling specific tasks as the elders direct. They, too, meet biblical directives. 1 Timothy 3:8-13.
The congregation's staff includes preachers or evangelists and teachers. Their purpose is to preach or teach God's Word as clearly and relevantly as possible (1 Timothy 4:13; 2 Timothy 4:2), but they do not govern the congregation.
Without bureaucracy, there is no required convention nor official publication. We may freely cooperate with others in support of missions, and other evangelistic or social efforts. Yet, we maintain participation voluntarily.
Jesus said, "God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth." John 4:24.
Spiritual worship is walking by the Spirit in everyday life. Romans 12:1. It is doing the will of God from the heart. Romans 6:17. The New Testament teaches worship as a life-style.
Congregational worship is also critical. God's Word is truth. John 17:17. Consequently, worship should be according to that Word. Mark 7:7-8.
Uncluttered New Testament expressions of worship included praying, singing, sharing in the Lord's Supper, preaching and teaching. James 5:13; Acts 20:7a. Our congregational worship seeks the same expressions.
The Lord's Supper
Jesus himself initiated the Lord's Supper on the night of his betrayal. Matthew 26:26-29. Christians observe it in memory of their Lord's death. 1 Corinthians 11:24-25. The bread and wine remind us of the body and blood of Christ. 1 Corinthians 10:16. By sharing in this communion, we proclaim Jesus' sacrifice as that which draws us to God and to one another. 1 Corinthians 10:17.
Demonstrating the practice of the first century church, the New Testament says, "On the first day of the week the disciples came together to break bread." Acts 20:7. This congregation of Christ observes the Lord's Supper on the first day of every week.
By his grace we will do this until the Lord returns, in anticipation of his return. 1 Corinthians 11:26.
How Does One Become A Member?
The New Testament gives the process by which people of that day became Christians and members of the church: simply by becoming a Christian, one automatically became a member of the church. Acts 2:41,47.
Whoever heard the message of Christ, believed it, repented and was baptized, was therefore saved. Acts 2:38. Any saved person was added to the church by God himself. Acts 2:47. In baptism, the Spirit united individuals into the one body of Christ. 1 Corinthians 12:13.
Recognizing this process, this congregation has no other tradition to become members of the church. The moment one becomes a Christian, one becomes a member of the community of Christ. Anyone, anywhere, anytime who has chosen to follow Christ and to be baptized into him, has thereby become a part of his church. No further steps are required for congregational membership. There are no votes taken, no probationary periods. We assume no right to expect anything beyond faith in Christ and obedience to him.
Faith and Obedience
Faith in Christ as our sin-offering is the keystone for forgiveness of sin. Romans 3:25. Bible faith is not sterile belief of some facts (James 2:19-20):
- faith is reliance upon Jesus' sacrifice as the condition of God's grace (Ephesians 2:5-6);
- faith is an obedient heart committed to Jesus' will (Romans 6:17).
The obedience of faith (Romans 1:5) leads to
- repenting or turning away from sinful living (Acts 17:30);
- being buried with Christ in baptismal water and being raised with Christ to a new life in his Spirit (Colossians 2:12; Romans 8:11);
- walking then on empowered by the Spirit of God (Galatians 5:25);
- doing the good for people troubled by life's difficulties (Galatians 6:10).
Bible baptism culminates the new birth without which one may not enter God's kingdom. John 3:3-5. But baptism into Christ is not magical: without repentance and faith in Christ, it is pointless. Acts 2:38; Mark 16:16. Without Jesus' resurrection it is in vain. 1 Peter 3:21; Colossians 3:1-5. Without commitment to right living in Christ it is betrayed. Romans 6:2-3,13; 2 Peter 2:21.
Summarizing: becoming a Christian and receiving membership in the community of Christ are simultaneous events. We are saved by faith in Christ, that is, a faith which leads to repentance from dead works and which climaxes in the new birth. Faith then continues in spiritual growth to the end of life.
A Closing Invitation
Christ died for the sins of the whole world, for the sins of every person. 1 John 2:2. And God resurrected him from death to give us hope for eternal life. 1 Corinthians 15:20; Hebrews 9:28. The Holy Spirit invites everyone to share in God's saving grace. Acts 10:34-35; 2 Peter 3:9; Revelation 22:17.
Some will receive Christ's invitation in obedient faith and will be saved. Others will choose to reject the invitation and be condemned. Mark 16:16. Each individual has a personal decision to make concerning the Spirit's invitation.
You, dear reader, may have questions concerning the thoughts expressed in these notes. Please know that there are solid solutions ready to help in your spiritual walk, ready to draw more of the story of Jesus. Feel free to post your thoughts or questions by email or regular mail, all inquiries are more than welcome.
By Steve Kenney and Jon Paden,
erstwhile ministers with the Juneau Church of Christ.
© 1986-2013 K*P Publications
[Adapted from The Churches of Christ:
Who Are These People, by Joe R. Barnett]