"About Church Names"-- Cled E. Wallace
We are glad for our readers to see the More that Brother Kurfees has to say "About Church Names." There is a good deal of merit in much that he has to say, but it still seems to me that in spots he is shying at a bogey-man, so much so that, because he thinks brethren use "church of Christ" too much, he is almost if not altogether afraid to say it at all. It is my contention which I have reiterated over and over in the press for years that the people of the Lord should be called anything and everything they are called in the New Testament. The church of Christ in Tennessee or in Oklahoma includes the people of God in those states. It does not exclude any who are the Lord's people, or include any who are not. If Brother Kurfees or any or "many" others think otherwise, they are simply mistaken. I have no defense to make of any who know little enough about the church to refer to it as "Another Denomination." Neither am I conscious of any disposition "to stereotype, or patent, so to speak, one specific designation for our Lord's body" or encourage anybody else to do so.
We have "church" and "assembly" in our English New Testament. In the language originally employed it was "ecclesia" with its various forms. The context and various designating terms identify the character of the assembly. There was no religious significance in the term itself. The character of "the assembly" or "the church" in Romans 16:1 is certainly and necessarily implied even without a qualifying designation and the qualifying designation was therefore unnecessary. The brethren to whom the letter was written had no excuse for not knowing what it was. In the same chapter he refers to "churches of Christ." (Verse 16.) There was one in Cenchreae. It was "the church" of Christ there. If not, why not? "All the churches of Christ" sent greetings to the church of Christ in Rome. Nobody that I know, of denies that it was the body of Christ, the church of God, the Kingdom of Christ and God, the household of the faith and several other things it is called in the New Testament. The same applies to "the church that was there" in Antioch. I really do not see much point to what Brother Kurfees "respectfully contends" for just here.
I am aware of the fact that many people use scriptural names in connection with unscriptural things and affairs, and that it is confusing. I am not responsible for that and see in that fact no reason why I should not apply a scriptural name even regularly to the real thing. The term "Christian" has been very widely abused, but I have not heard that even Brother Kurfees protests the wide use of it by the brethren, because the followers of Christ are also called "disciples," "brethren" and "saints," and some others call themselves Christians when they are not. The church is still Christ's and it is all right to say it is, regardless of what somebody else may say about the sectarian outfit he is lined up with. This ought to be too clear to be questioned.
Brother Kurfees is delighted over a big change in the way of church reports, from preachers over the country, read in the last few months. He finds the term "church of Christ" used in only one report out of seventy-one. That suits me all right and I would not cast any shadow over the Joy he feels, but I do not see much point in it. If the reporters are talking about "the church," they are talking about Christ's church or ought to be. Whose church is it? Jesus said: "Upon this rock I will build my church." He did and it is the church of Christ.
The observation that "you can't ever tell what is preached or practiced in a meeting house, by what the sign out in front may say" has nothing to do with our brother's objection to the term "church of Christ" as far as am able to see. You could always "tell" if people would always practice calling Bible things by Bible names, and practice quitting calling unscriptural things by scriptural terms. It seems to me that Brother Kurfees ought to be working on them instead of us. They are the ones I like to work on for causing such confusion that I would have trouble finding "the church" should I come to his city.
We are given a specific example of just how we ought to say it. "We say here in our city, Goldfloss Street Church, which meets for worship at 719 Goldfloss St.' " Well, is it a church of Christ "which meets for worship" at that address? I think so for Brother Kurfees says that "Christ had no such idea about His church" and "He did not give His church etc." (Italics mine) He should be careful or he will be using the term church of Christ next without quotation marks. We are to conclude that it is right to use the term "Goldfloss street church" with great regularity, but wrong to say "Goldfloss street church of Christ" at the same place with the same regularity. I don't quite get it. "He did not give his church one distinct exclusive name" which is just another way of saying that the church of Christ is not given "one distinct, exclusive name." Brother Kurfees has a hard time trying to keep from saying it! He objects to the regular use of "one" designation and regularly employs a term without any designation, although there are several designations in the New Testament! Anyhow, if I ever come to Winston-Salem I will try to find the "Goldfloss Street Church which meets for worship at 719 Goldfloss St." and when I find it I expect it to be the body of Christ. And if Brother Kurfees ever gets as far as Austin, Texas he is invited to the church of Christ which meets for worship at 19th and University. We assure him that he will not "find a pipe organ, piano and robed choir."