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Who are we?
The congregation at 5091 E. University in Pleasant Hill, Iowa has been gathering together each Lord's day since November of 1959. Charter members from the Dean Avenue congregation in Des Moines, Iowa started the congregation under the guidance of evangelist Eugene Suddeth until elders could be established.
The history of the church goes back much further however. It began in Acts 2 on the day of Pentecost in approximately 29 A.D. when the apostles were given the power of the Holy Spirit, and the church of Christ had its first gathering. These saints and apostles had been obedient to Christ's words, "To tarry at Jerusalem until this power comes upon you!". They listened to the Head of the church, the One who purchased it with His blood, and will continue to be its Head until He returns to receive his bride...the church! Christ established the true church and all saints who want to be saved should pattern their lives and worship services after Christ's teachings and the examples set forth by the apostles who were guided by the Holy Spirit.
We call ourselves a church of Christ, not as a denominational name or something of our own choosing, but because Jesus purchased us with His blood. Therefore, we meet as a body that wears His name. (Rom. 16:16, Acts 11:26) Individually, we are baptized believers working out our own salvation (Phil. 2:12) but collectively we are a church, "a spiritual house, offering spiritual sacrifices". (1 Pet. 2:5-9)
Test our Welcome
Sometimes it can be daunting to visit a church for the first time. If you are looking for a group to worship with, we would love to have you. We are a group of about 70 friendly people who have been forgiven and accepted by God by obedience to water immersion in the name of Jesus Christ. (Titus 3:5) If you visit us, you will see that we do not have a paid preacher. Male members are taught to instruct one another. (Rom. 15:14) Each 1st day of the week, we have Bible study groups for all ages. Our worship service will include readings from the Scriptures (1 Tim. 4:13), acapella songs of praise (Eph. 5:19), prayers (1 Tim. 2:1), a monetary offering from our members (1 Cor. 16:1-2), the Lord's table (Acts 20:7) and a message brought from the Word (Heb. 10:25). We believe this is worshipping in Spirit and in Truth and if you agree, we hope you will join us! (John 4:23)
What must a person do to be saved?
Considering what is at stake, it is of utmost importance to turn to the only authority on this subject; the Bible, the Word of Truth. This questions is asked several times, and although the answer varies somewhat, when all instances are explored, a complete answer is readily evident. As you will see, the answer varies because of the situation of the person asking this question, "What must I do to be saved?". This question is posed four times in the New Testament.
All of these individuals were given slightly different answers to the question. But that is because they were at different places on the road to salvation. From the examples above, we see that we must believe, repent, confess, be baptized and then live a Christian life. Obedience to these commands allows us to go to God in prayer for strength, solace, encouragement, and forgiveness. When we stumble and fall, this avenue to God allows us to repent and ask forgiveness enabling us to struggle on in our walk with God.
How is the church of Christ organized?
Christ's church is a benevolent dictatorship. He is the supreme head. (Col. 1:18) (Eph 1:22-23) Shortly before Christ ascended to the right hand of God, he informed his disciples that, "All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth." (Matt 28:18) Christ has all authority.
Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit to the apostles to guide them in establishing the church (John 14:26) The teaching and testimony of the apostles would be sanctioned by God, for "whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." (Matt 16:19)
Each congregation is autonomous, which means that there is no predominant congregation or any supreme elders. Each congregation is shepherded by their own elders. The Holy Spirit taught that "elders be ordained in every church." (Titus 1:5) In Acts 20:17 we read that Paul "called to him the elders of the church". In each congregation there is to be a plurality of elders. Congregations may also have deacons as noted in the example cited in Acts 6:1-6. The qualifications for elders and deacons can be found in I Timothy 3 and Titus 1.
Church organization is simple, but the divine plan has been greatly abused. Every attempt to "improve" God's plan has resulted in apostasy.
Why do we partake of the Lord's Supper each Lord's day?
The church of Christ observes the Lord's Supper as a poignant, yet simple memorial. Paul declares, " For I received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which he was betrayed, took bread; and when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, This is my body, which is for you; this do in remembrance of me. In like manner also the cup, after supper, saying, This cup is the new covenant in my blood: this do, as often as ye drink it, in remembrance of me" (I Cor. 11:23-25) "In remembrance of me" is mentioned twice above and once in Luke 22:19-23. It is in his memory that we take of the supper.
Whenever we partake of the Lord's supper we are compelled to remember Christ's death and what it did for us. (I Cor. 11:26) In like manner, our remembrance serves as a reminder to the world that Christ died for them.
What about the regularity of partaking? In Acts 2:42 the Church at Jerusalem continued steadfastly in the apostles' teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and the prayers. This indicates a regularity and frequency and not an occasional custom.
The church at Troas came together on the "first day of the week" for the purpose of breaking bread. (Acts 20:7) The church at Corinth partook of the Lord's supper when they came together. (I Cor. 11:20) and they came together on the first day of the week (I Cor. 16:2) Does this mean every first day of the week? A universally, understood commandment from the Old Testament can answer that question. God said, "Remember the Sabbath, to keep it holy". That was and is today understood to be every time the Sabbath rolled around- Every week!
Only members of Christ's church can partake of the Lord's supper. Luke 22:29-30 says, "And I appoint unto you a kingdom, even as my Father appointed unto me, that ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom." Are you partaking "unworthily" if you are a sinning member? Considering that there was only one who had no sin - Christ Jesus the Righteous - we as humans, who are prone to sin and failure, must (despite our condition at any given time) do as commanded. This is not an option. "Unworthily" is a term that refers to the mindset of the participant at the time. We must think of Christ and His sacrifice (worthy thoughts indeed) as we commune with him.
Why do we wear the name church of Christ?
In the New Testament the church is spoken of in the following ways:
In the New Testament members of the church of Christ are referred to in the following ways:
Isaiah 62:2 says, "And the nations shall see thy righteousness and all kings thy glory; and thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth of Jehovah shall name." After the conversion of Cornelius and the Gentiles we read in Acts 11:26 that "the disciples were called christians first in Antioch."
"And in none other is there salvation; for neither is there any other name under heaven, that is given among men, wherein we must be saved!" Acts 4:12
Why don't we have instrumental music?
Music has always held an important role in the worship of God's people. In the Old Law, the people were commanded to use various musical instruments in their service to God. However, in every instance involving songs, hymns, or praise in the New Testament church, musical instruments are never mentioned. The change from instruments of music in the Old Law to the human voice as noted in the New Testament is one that makes a significant statement about the nature of worship required in the New Testament church. Complete obedience, love and praise abounding from the heart of man and expressed by the lips is the only musical contribution acceptable to God as noted in the New Testament scriptures below:
Many of us enjoy instrumental music and many of us can play instruments. But like Cain, we shouldn't offer to God something that He didn't ask for. And we should be thankful that God didn't ask us to worship Him with a method that he didn't equip us all with. We might not all have equally talented voices, but we all have voices. Those who have added instrumental music to the worship service have done so without any scriptural authority.
Why don't we have a paid preacher?
From the noble believers of Berea do we find a standard of practice required of any Christian. For, at Berea, they found favor in the eyes of God because, "they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so" (Acts 17:11). These brethren may have been on the mind of Paul when he encouraged the Thessalonians to "Prove all things; hold fast to that which is good" (I Thess. 5:21).
The church bought by the blood of Christ shall never be fearful of man's eye of criticism. The kingdom of God on earth, when faithfully adhering to God's ordinances and commands, shall never step down from being tested against the Word of God. Such should be the men and women contained within the walls of Christ. We should always eagerly anticipate a question or challenge of our faith and our practices. In fact, Peter demands we prepare for such opportunities. (I Peter 3:15)
Of numerous practices and beliefs we stand firm; ready for the world's onslaught. Water baptism, musical instruments, local autonomy, and eternal judgment are studied and studied again knowing the present world's disagreements and misconceptions. Yet, many other aspects of our beliefs and practices go unchallenged. Almost grand-fathered into acceptance over time. Shall we consider these, as well? Shall we apply the same standard of truth?
To this end we cast a watchful eye towards local church government. The center of the original apostate movement (Acts 20:29, II Thess. 2:3-4) the corruption of leaders within the church guided the believers into despair. Have we, as the modern host of the Lord's army, made the same mistake and set a course towards spiritual erosion?
The question at hand is the authority we have to hire a single man for the "office" of a preacher. Do we have the authority within the pages of God's Word to limit the public preaching of the Bible to a few? Thousands of churches of Christ adhere to such a practice. For those who veer from what they term as a "one-man pulpit system," it is a matter of scriptural authority.
The Roman Catholic church begat the clergy-laity relationship when it gradually removed certain practices from the hands of the unordained. Baptism, communion, and other "holy rites" were deemed too sacred for the average man to administer. Only those of the cloth, being given some unknown "authority," could do such things.
Unwittingly, the church of Christ may have allowed such influences of the world seep into the congregations creating a clergy within the church of Christ. The countryside church with its lack of an educated and an affluent preacher, may have felt ashamed when compared to much larger and more exquisite denominations boasting hired preachers. Into the trap of Israel we have fallen. For Israel said to Samuel, "make us a king to judge us like all the nations" (I Sam. 8:5). We had no hired preachers and thought we needed them. So we eventually hired them to be like the denominations around us.
Yet, we may have hired them contrary to the first century church's example. A careful examination of the New Testament is curiously silent about the single pulpit preacher system. Of elders and deacons we automatically turn to our passages of authority outlining various qualifications. Of the traveling minister and proclaimer of the gospel to spiritually barren lands we mimic the paths of Paul, Barnabas, Silas, Titus, and Timothy.
But where, O man of God, can we find the authority to limit public service preaching and teaching to one or two men of a congregation attended by hundreds? Where is the command, the example, or even the subtle necessary inference we demand of all other practices and beliefs?
A thorough examination of scriptures touching the edification, admonition, and education of the local congregations of the first century contradicts our current practices. Paul's epistle to Philippi was addressed to "all the saints...with the bishops and deacons" (Phi. 1:1). What about the all-important preacher? Perhaps Philippi lacked the funds to support a pulpit preacher.
While instructing the church at Antioch, it is recorded that Paul and Barnabas preached and taught the church, "with many others also" (Acts 15:35). Even the presence of an apostle of Christ and his fellow traveler did not remove the authority of teaching and preaching from the remaining brethren. Why aren't we following the example of Antioch?
Every indication from the scriptures points to a mutual sharing of public preaching and teaching in the local congregation. "And I myself also am persuaded of you, my brethren...able also to admonish one another" (Rom. 15:14). "From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love" (Eph. 4:16). "But exhort one another daily..." (Heb. 3:13) "As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God" (I Peter 4:10).
As if these verses, which are accompanied by many more, are not enough, the example of Paul should finalize the issue. Which congregation of Paul's establishment did he aid in the hiring of a "located" pulpit preacher? When he returned and ordained elders in every church (Acts 14:23) why is there no mention of a preacher? If the local paid preacher is an absolute necessity for God's flocks, why are only the elders of Ephesus called by Paul in Acts 20?
Some will counter that the elders have the right and authority to hire a preacher at their discretion. The elders are commanded to "feed the flock" and this is their means of fulfilling such a command. These are the same elders who never stood before the congregation to publicly preach the gospel. God never allows such actions. A Christian, small or great, can never fulfill a command by proxy. The actions of another shall never alleviate me of my personal responsibilities. If each man of a congregation is commanded to teach publicly and privately, no located paid preacher can relieve the men of their responsibilities.
Before us now lays a difficult example to follow. To unshackle ourselves from the single paid preacher system requires courage and patience; yet, there is no other system of preaching and teaching authorized by the New Testament other than one fully utilizing every capable male member. The sermons of the early church were spoken from the lips of numerous men in each congregation and so should ours.
The present located preachers should not consider this examination a challenge to their abilities. Countless sermons have echoed within each congregation's auditorium from their hearts leading countless to Christ. Most of us have never considered any alternative or even known of another means of public service. To share the pulpit requires relinquishing a power possessed for decades which may have never existed to start with.
If true that each capable man is to address the congregation to teach and preach, hundreds of us must leave the comforts of our pews and take action. Far more motivation is required to write a sermon and give it than to listen. We must avoid laziness and complacency and courageously accept the joy of spreading God's word.
Consider the benefits of mutual preaching and teaching. A multitude of perspectives will radiate from the pulpit. A single liberal preacher no longer can willfully deceive an entire congregation when countless men are able to publicly counter the views. Individual men will grow stronger and more skillful in the Word by preparing lessons and their families can only profit with them.
Oh, why have we not considered this before? Why have we blindly followed a path lacking the authority we demand of other practices? Consider the scriptures on this subject and remember the Bereans. It is a matter of scriptural authority.
What is scriptural baptism?
Who is to be baptized?
Teaching, faith, repentance and confession are all prerequisites for being baptized. No one can reverse this order. Infant baptism is to no avail.
What is the proper method of baptism: immersion, pouring or sprinkling? Below is the New Testament record:
The use of sprinkling for baptism was not "legalized" by the catholic church until 1311 A.D. It came about mostly to baptize the bed ridden.
Baptism is not just something that is good if you choose to do it. It is a command to all people who want to follow Christ. Christ, even though He was without sin, set the example by being baptized to start his ministry. He said the reason He was doing it was to "fulfill all righteousness". (Matthew 3:13-15) We too can not begin our ministry of a Christian life until we obey Christ by answering His call to be immersed into His name.