Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
May 14, 1959

What Is The Difference Between The Church Of Christ And The Christian Church?

Jack Moyer, Birmingham, Alabama

(Editor's note: This excellent article was written some years ago by brother Meyer, and comes with special timeliness now inasmuch as so many of the errors he points out are again beginning to manifest themselves among those who profess to be "Christians only".)

In this tract we answer the question so often asked: "What is the difference between the Christian Church and the Church of Christ?" So many people think that the use of mechanical instruments of music in worship is about the only difference. And the Christian Church leaders want people to believe that, for not nearly so many unsuspecting and uninformed people will be caught in its apostasy when the facts are known.

Before the division came in the middle of the nineteenth century, the worship, work, doctrine, etc., of the church was exactly as they are practiced by the churches of Christ today. As much as the Christian Church people try to avoid the responsibility for the division, they will nevertheless have to admit the accuracy of the foregoing statement. The division first began to take form by the formation and introduction of a Missionary Society to handle the "missionary work" of the church. This started by congregations in different districts sending delegates to district meetings, and said districts being organized. One step in such organization led to another, until in Cincinnati, in 1849, the American Christian Missionary Society was formed. Those in the church who opposed this, and who stood on the same ground occupied by churches of Christ today, did so for several reasons. Such an organization was separate and apart from the congregations; was above and over them in supervising missionary work, while the only organization in the New Testament for doing the church's work was the local congregation. God's plan was for each congregation to be its own missionary society. The New Testament churches were not tied together in any inter-congregational organization, neither was there any organization over them. "Unto him be the glory in the church" — not in the missionary society. (Eph. 3:21)

If this was Christ's plan, and we are ordered to "make all things according to the pattern," (Heb. 8:5) the Christian Church people departed from God's plan in organizing anything but a congregation to do the mission work for the church. They still maintain that departure today, and this departure caused the original division.

The second cause of division, and point of difference, was the use of instrumental music in the worship. The church carried on its music worship exactly as the church of Christ does today, with singing alone, until instrumental music was introduced in 1859 in Midway, Ky. Those who worshipped without the instruments, as do churches of Christ today, opposed it for these reasons: (1) The Old Testament law was abolished on the cross of Christ (Col. 2:14), and we are therefore under the new covenant. (Heb. 9:15) Christ sent the Holy Spirit to guide the apostles into all truth (John 16:13), and through their preaching and writings in the scriptures "furnished us completely unto every good work." (2 Tim. 3:16-17) (2) The new covenant specified singing as the music for the church. (1 Cor 14:15; Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16) (3) We dare not change the plan of the covenant, and are therefore restricted to the music the new covenant specifies. (2 John 9)

Instrumental music advocates insisted that it was not necessary, but they thought enough of it to introduce it and by it to divide the body of Christ. (Rom. 16:17) So, instrumental music's introduction became another cause of division; it remains as a point of difference between the Christian Church and church of Christ today; and the Christian Church people must therefore bear the responsibility for causing the division by introducing something which they themselves claimed was a "non-essential" — yet to them it was more "essential" than the unity of God's people.

But in dividing the body of Christ by introducing missionary societies and instrumental music, the Christian Church people took two positions which are fundamental. First, they insisted that they should have these and other things in order to follow the pattern of the other religious groups. Israel wanted a king "to be like other nations," and God condemned that position. (I Sam. 8) The Christian Church people stand on that platform today — to be like the sects in everything. If God condemned it in the Israelites, He certainly condemns it in the Christian Church, as He is no respecter of persons. (Rom. 2:11)

Secondly, they took the position that if God did not condemn a thing, it was all right. Hence, they justified instrumental music. But that position is unsound, for God laid a principle from one end of the Bible to the other that we should do things precisely as He ordered, without addition or subtraction. (Deut. 4:2; Rev. 22:18-19) When God said to do something in one way, that excluded every other way. So far as we know, no Christian Church would put anything on the Lord's table except the bread and fruit of the vine. And yet the Lord did not say not to do so. They respect the plan of the Lord on these points. Then, why not do the same in the matter of music? But in taking the position that we may have anything in worship which was not expressly prohibited, the Christian Church let down the bars for many other departures, and those departures have come.

Another fruit of the above position, and point of difference, is what is called "open membership." That is, churches of Christ teach, as does the New Testament, and as did the Christian Church people before they left us, that one becomes a member of the church only by faith in Christ, repentance of sins, confession of faith in Christ, and being buried by baptism into Christ. (Mk. 16:15-16; Lk. 24:27; Rom. 10:9-10; Rom. 6:3-4) Many — though not all — congregations of the Christian Church practice "open membership" — accept people on immersion, sprinkling, pouring, or no baptism. This is not known among all people and the more conservative, God-fearing people in the Christian Church object to the practice. But what can they do to prevent it? Nothing, as long as they have their present policies of catering to the world, and the only way they can please the Lord is to come out of Baby-Ion.

The Christian Church practices the foregoing because of another error they hold; in growing numbers they recognize all sects, or denominations, as being in the New Testament Church, while the churches of Christ do not so recognize them. Christ had the apostles to found His Church in Acts 2. Denominations started hundreds of years later. Since the Father did not plant them, Christ said that they would be rooted up. (Matt. 15:13) They divide; Christ prayed for unity (Jno. 17:20-21) and Paul even commanded us to avoid things that divide. (Rom. 16:17) Although thousands of good people are in them, these people do not know that such sects exist in rebellion against the will of Christ, that they worship according to the commandments of men; and Christ said that such worship is vain. (Matt. 15:9) But the Christian Church is "broad" enough to ignore the Word of Christ and recognize sects as part of the Church, when the New Testament does not. Neither does the church of Christ. But accepting members on no baptism or anything called baptism is naturally a result of recognizing all sects as being in the New Testament Church.

Another difference between the two groups consists in this: in Gal. 4:10-11 Paul rebuked some fickle, worldly churches for celebrating special days, or seasons; whereas, the only day the Lord authorized the church to celebrate was the first day of the week, when the Lord's Supper was to be observed. (Matt. 26:26-28; 1 Cor. 11:23-27; Acts 20:7) The Christian Church follows the practice of all denominations in observing all special days which they celebrate. It makes no difference why the Lord did not authorize all such and why the Spirit even had Paul to condemn such observance of special days. The fact remains that Paul condemned it, and "we walk by faith" (2 Cor. 5:7) which comes by the word of God. (Rom. 10:17) The Christian Church goes in for all such special days; the church of Christ does not. And, incidentally, the Christian Church will even observe the Lord's Supper upon special occasions on days of the week other than "the first day of the week," as we are told to do. (Acts 20:7) Is not that "teaching a different doctrine." (1 Tim. 1:3) and "going beyond the teachings of Christ"? (2 Jno. 9) But, they have let down the bars, and error comes trooping in.

Another point of difference is in raising money for the church's work. The New Testament plan is for the members to give personally, on the first day of the week, as they are able, as they purpose, and cheerfully. (1 Cor. 16:1-2; 2 Cor. 9:7) The churches of Christ follow this plan. But the Christian Church follows the plan of the world in using many worldly schemes to raise money for the church — by the giving of all sorts of parties, suppers, shows, entertainments, etc., and thereby begging the public for money. This is not the New Testament plan, but is the logical fruit of their policy of leaving the New Testament standard and catering to worldly plans.

Then, the Christian Church specializes in choirs, special programs, solos, special numbers of all sorts, elaborate ceremonies. The purpose of all such is to draw a crowd by entertainment. Churches of Christ follow the simple New Testament worship, centered around Christ, as a means of drawing people. (Jno. 12:32) Display and entertainment are the main drawing cards of the Christian Church, Churches of Christ on the first day of the week assemble "to break bread." (Acts 20:7)

Finally, there is the difference of the name. Early congregations were called "churches of Christ." (Rom. 16:16) This is not the only name by which they were known, and we should keep that in mind. But never did the New Testament call the church the "Christian Church."

We are under orders to call Bible things by Bible names. (1 Pet. 4:11; Col. 3:17; Heb. 8:5) Churches of Christ use Bible names for the church. The Christian Church uses a name which the New Testament nowhere assigns to the church. Of course, they can see no harm in it, as they have surrendered the New Testament plan, and go on the policy of following the world. But the Christian Church wears a church name which it cannot do "in the name of Christ" (Col. 3:17) for He nowhere authorized that name for the church.

In the final analysis, the Christian Church has become just another denomination among sister denominations. It has nothing distinctive; has left the original ground of "speaking where the Bible speaks:" and is drifting further from the truth all of the time. We present the answer to the question. "What is the difference between the Christian Church and the Church of Christ." with no thought of animosity toward our departed digressive one time brethren. But these facts are presented for the information of the non-partisan. unprejudiced, who will investigate for himself, and that good people may not be deceived when they hear someone say that "there is very little difference between the two groups."

The Church of Christ stands where it has always stood — on Bible ground. The Christian Church people once stood there, but they left it. They are drifting hopelessly with the tide, are losing ground with their conservative members and preachers coming back to the Church of Christ in substantial numbers. There is no hope for that Church as a whole to return, but individuals may return to the original New Testament ground, and to that ground they will he welcomed by the churches of Christ as they continue their steady growth.

Many good, sincere, conservative people in the Christian Church will freely say: "We do not believe in the extremes of the liberals in the Christian Church and we conservatives believe just about as you in the Churches of Christ believe. We see no harm in staying in the Christian Church if we do not endorse its extreme liberalism." Such good people need to read Amos 3:3: "Shall two walk together, except they have agreed?" Again: "No man can serve two masters." (Matt. 6:24) Again; "Mark them that are causing the divisions and occasions of stumbling, contrary to the doctrine which ye learned, and turn away from them." (Rom. 16:17) Again, speaking of the line of separation between truth and error, Paul said: "Come ye out from among them and be ye separate." (2 Cor. 6:17) These passages teach that you cannot remain in error, or even worship with and fellowship error, and render acceptable worship to God. (Matt. 15:9)