If you have read any material by the agents of change who have gone out from us but who still claim to be part of us, or if you have heard any of their speeches, you know that one of the common mistakes they make is to associate the church of Christ with a movement rather than with The New Testament.
Liberals perceive the churches of Christ as one of three branches of the Restoration Movement. The other two, according to them, are the Disciples of Christ, and the Christian Church denominations. Some of those promoting this idea blame the churches of Christ as the culprit in what they see as a division in the movement, because, according to them, we have allowed human traditions to become part of doctrine, and thus alienated ourselves from the “brethren” in the other branches of the Restoration Movement.
Some of those who exalt the Restoration Movement above the church are willing to compromise points of doctrine, instrumental music for instance, to extend fellowship on the basis of an irresponsible unity in diversity. Others, who pay too much homage to the Restoration Movement, despite insisting that unity can only come based on the authority of the Scriptures, nevertheless argue that members of the Christian churches and the Disciples of Christ are our brethren who are caught up in some errors of doctrine and practice.
No. The Christian Church and the Disciples of Christ churches are denominations—nothing more and nothing less. Their members are not our brethren. Neither is the church of Christ a product of the Restoration Movement; it is the product of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Truth revealed in the New Testament, and begun to be preached on the first Pentecost after the resurrection of our Lord.
Jesus promised to build His church (Mat. 16:18), not a movement. Those who obeyed the Gospel at Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost were added to the church (Acts 2:47), not a movement. When the Judaizers stirred up trouble in Antioch, Paul and Barnabas did not go to Jerusalem where they were received by a movement, but by the church and the apostles and elders (15:4). Paul did not write the letters of 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, and 1 and 2 Thessalonians to a movement, but to the churches. The one body of Christ is not a movement, but the church of Christ (Eph. 1:22-23; 4:4). Paul did not write Timothy, so Timothy would know how to behave in a movement, but in the church of the living God (1 Tim. 3:15).
One of the things that are amazingly sad and perplexing is that some, who have long understood that the church of Christ is not a branch of the Restoration or any other movement, are now using the services of some who do not have that understanding. In the February 2006, Christian Chronicle, Phil Sanders stated that he believes baptized believers in the Independent Christian Churches are his brethren. This writer’s alma mater, Memphis School of Preaching has long and correctly opposed that error. So, why is it that if one read the schedule of the March 28-April 1, 2010 MSOP lectureship, the speaker listed for the Wednesday, March 31, 7:00-8:00 p.m. slot was Phil Sanders?
It is not just a matter of how one looks at things; it is a matter of truth, that the Independent Christian Churches comprise a denominational body of man. That is true, because the church of Christ is not a product of the Restoration Movement. It is the blood bought institution of heaven. It is the church of our Lord, for which He died, and has promised to save. It is the church of the New Testament. Therefore, Phil Sanders is in serious doctrinal error, and the Memphis School of Preaching is guilty of extending fellowship to and inviting a false teacher’s participation in what was prior to 2005 a highly esteemed lectureship series.
It has already happened numerous times that when preachers and congregations began to view the church as a product of the Restoration movement, and the Independent Christian Churches and The Disciples of Christ as other branches of that movement, unauthorized practices such as instrumental music in the worship service did not lag far behind. Thus, brethren, we must stand opposed to characterizing the church as the product of a movement. If we fail, we are placing ourselves in the same position many others have already placed themselves, in a mindset that has led them to fall from their own steadfastness, of which thing the apostle Peter warns we must beware (2 Pet. 3:17).