Christian churches and churches of Christ

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Christian churches and churches of Christ
ClassificationChristian, Restoration Movement
OrientationNew Testament, Restorationism
SeparationsChurches of Christ, Disciples of Christ
Members1,071,616 in the United States
  (Redirected from Independent Christian Churches/Churches of Christ)
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Christian churches and churches of Christ
ClassificationChristian, Restoration Movement
OrientationNew Testament, Restorationism
SeparationsChurches of Christ, Disciples of Christ
Members1,071,616 in the United States

The Christian churches and 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 on the one hand not to be identified with the denomination known as the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). On the other hand, they generally use instrumental music as part of their worship, which is a difference in practice from Churches of Christ. The instrumental Christian Churches and the a cappella Churches of Christ are otherwise very similar and are generally the same Christian body.

Churches in this tradition are strongly congregationalist and have no formal denominational ties, and thus there is no proper name that is agreed to apply to the movement as a whole. Most (but not all) congregations in this tradition include the words "Christian Church" or "Church of Christ" in their congregational name, though the same can be said of Churches of Christ and of congregations within the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Also due to the lack of formal organization is a lack of official statistical data, but the 2006 Directory of the Ministry[1] documents some 5,500 congregations. Many estimate the number to be over 6,000.[who?]

Congregational nomenclature[edit]

The churches are independent congregations and typically go by the name "Christian Church", 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," [2] but in some areas they may be known as "[The/First] Christian Church [of/at] [City, Community, or Other Location 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[edit]

The separation of the independent Christian churches and churches of Christ from the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) (DoC) occurred over an extended period of time.[3]:185 The roots of the separation date back to a polarization that occurred during the early twentieth century as the result of three significant controversies.[3]:185 These controversies surrounded theological modernism, the impact of the ecumenical movement, and open membership (recognizing as full members individuals who had not been baptized by immersion).[3]:185

The Disciples of Christ were, in 1910, a united, growing community with common goals.[4] Support by the United Christian Missionary Society of missionaries who advocated open membership became a source of contention in 1920.[3]:185 Efforts to recall support for these missionaries failed in a 1925 convention in Oklahoma City and a 1926 convention in Memphis, Tennessee.[3]:185 Many congregations withdrew from the missionary society as a result.[3]:185

A new convention, the North American Christian Convention, was organized by the more conservative congregations in 1927.[3]:185 An existing brotherhood journal, the Christian Standard, also served as a source of cohesion for these congregations.[3]:185 By this time the division between liberals and conservatives was well established.[4]

The official separation between the independent Christian Churches/Churches of Christ and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is difficult to date.[5]:407 Suggestions range from 1926 to 1971 based on the events outlined below:

Because of this separation, many independent Christian churches and 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 and firm conviction that Christ has founded only one church which is his body.


Because the Christian churches and churches of Christ are independent congregations there is no set creed, but The Directory of the Ministry[1] 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 regenerative baptism by 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 regenerated by the Holy Spirit, and receives the remission of sins, during his baptism.[6] Baptism is:

  • by immersion[7] [Rom 6:4],
  • for publicly confessing believers in Jesus Christ [Acts 8:37],
  • a work of God's grace, not a work of man [Col 2:12],
  • a promise received through obedient submission [Acts 2:40, 41],
  • necessarily accompanied with confession of sinfulness and repentance [Acts 2:38; Acts 3:19; Rom 10:9,10],
  • the occasion when one receives God's forgiveness for their sins [Acts 2:36-37; Acts 2:40-41],
  • the occasion when one calls on His name for salvation [Acts 22:16],
  • the occasion when the equipping, indwelling Holy Spirit is received as a seal and promise of heaven [Acts 2:38; Titus 3:5],
  • a "circumcision" or transformation of the believer's heart by the hands of Christ himself [Col 2:11,12],
  • foreshadowed in the Old Testament ceremonial washings, now fulfilled in a believer's shared experience with Christ [Heb 10:22],
  • sharing in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ [Rom 6:4], and the only assurance of the hope of the resurrection from the dead [Rom 6:5-7],
  • 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 [e.g. "born again" John 3:4, 5],
  • one baptism indeed, both physically in water and spiritually in the blood of Jesus [Eph 4:5; John 3:5],
  • 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) [Eph 4:5].

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.[citation needed] 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 [Col 2:12].[citation needed] Christian Churches also believe the kind of faith that saves has to be a faith that is complete or saving faith; the kind of faith that causes the believer to act [James 2:26]. In that respect, (being a work of God) baptism may be considered similar to belief [John 6:28, 29].[citation needed] The assertion follows that it is Christ's redemptive work one trusts in as they, by faith, accept his free offer of grace [Gal 2:16]. Finally, a life of trusting faithfulness until death is seen to demonstrate the authenticity of one's faith, and further makes his or her calling and election sure.[citation needed]

Educational institutions[edit]

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 seminariesLocationDate Founded
Alberta Bible CollegeCalgary, Alberta1932
Maritime Christian CollegeCharlottetown, Prince Edward Island1960

United States

Colleges and seminariesLocationDate Founded
Boise Bible CollegeBoise, Idaho1945
Central Christian College of the BibleMoberly, Missouri1957
Cincinnati Christian UniversityCincinnati, Ohio1924
Colegio Biblico[8]Eagle Pass, Texas1945
Crossroads CollegeRochester, Minnesota1913
Dallas Christian CollegeDallas, Texas1950
Emmanuel Christian SeminaryJohnson City, Tennessee1965
Florida Christian College

now Johnson University Florida

Kissimmee, Florida1976
Great Lakes Christian CollegeDelta Township, Michigan1949
Hope International UniversityFullerton, California1928
Johnson UniversityKnoxville, Tennessee1893
Kentucky Christian UniversityGrayson, Kentucky1919
Lincoln Christian UniversityLincoln, Illinois1944
Louisville Bible College[9]Louisville, Kentucky1948
Manhattan Christian CollegeManhattan, Kansas1927
Mid-Atlantic Christian UniversityElizabeth City, North Carolina1948
Mid-South Christian College[10]Memphis, Tennessee1959
Milligan CollegeMilligan College, Tennessee1866
Nebraska Christian CollegePapillion, Nebraska1945
Northwest Christian UniversityEugene, Oregon1895
Ozark Christian CollegeJoplin, Missouri1942
Point UniversityEast Point and West Point, Georgia1937
Saint Louis Christian CollegeFlorissant, Missouri1956
Summit Christian CollegeScottsbluff, Nebraska1951
Summit Theological SeminaryPeru, Indiana1974
William Jessup UniversityRocklin, California1939

Puget Sound Christian College, opened in 1950 but closed in 2007.[11]


A number of slogans have been used in the Restoration Movement to express some of the distinctive themes of the Movement.[12]:688 These include:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Directory of the Ministry
  2. ^ The naming practice is taken as applied doctrine from Paul's use of city names in writing epistles to "the church which is at Corinth" or "the church at Thessalonica" etc.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Douglas Allen Foster and Anthony L. Dunnavant, The Encyclopedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement: Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Christian Churches/Churches of Christ, Churches of Christ, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2004, ISBN 0-8028-3898-7, ISBN 978-0-8028-3898-8, 854 pages, entry on Christian Churches/Churches of Christ
  4. ^ a b Kragenbrink, Kevin R (2000), The Modernist/Fundamentalist Controversy and the Emergence of the Independent Christian Churches/Churches of Christ, Restoration Quarterly 42 (1): 1–17 .
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Leroy Garrett, The Stone-Campbell Movement: The Story of the American Restoration Movement, College Press, 2002, ISBN 0899009093, 9780899009094, 573 pages
  6. ^ Baptism & the Great Commission, pg. 11
  7. ^ Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon
  8. ^ Colegio Biblico
  9. ^ Louisville Bible College
  10. ^ Mid-South Christian College
  11. ^ Puget Sound Christian College
  12. ^ a b c d e f g Douglas Allen Foster and Anthony L. Dunnavant, The Encyclopedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement: Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Christian Churches/Churches of Christ, Churches of Christ, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2004, ISBN 0-8028-3898-7, ISBN 978-0-8028-3898-8, 854 pages, entry on Slogans