Author: Ron Graham
We can better understand what something is, by being aware of what it is not. To better understand the church, let's consider what it is not.
“Inter-denominational” means that each denomination keeps its distinctive name, creed, and practice, but takes a neighbourly view of other denominations. Walls aren't broken down, just reached over for a handshake. Paul commanded that "there be no divisions among you, and that you be perfectly united in mind and thought" (1Corinthians 1:10-13). The church of Christ assumes that this command applies not only to unity within the local church, but right across the Christian brotherhood. The inter-denominational way is a compromise that falls short of true unity.
A “new denomination” would have to be different to what has gone before. Churches of Christ have existed since the inauguration of the first church of Christ in Jerusalem circa AD33 (Acts 2). The church of Christ is neither a new denomination nor an old denomination, because it started before any Christian denomination whatsoever.
God’s word is a "seed... imperishable... living and enduring" (1Peter 1:23). Plant that seed in people's hearts today, and if the heart is good soil (Luke 8:4-8) it will produce the same kind of Christian, and the same kind of church, as it did in the first place in Jerusalem circa AD33. God’s word still reproduces after its kind. It does not produce denominations. It produces the same church that existed before any denominations came into being.
Many churches today are being established outside of the “mainstream denominations” as a reaction to the establishment and a break with tradition. The church of Christ however follows and adheres to the oldest Christian tradition of all —the original teaching of the church in the time of Christ and his apostles. We believe there is no alternative —only the original gospel will do (Romans 1:16).
The term “sect” nowadays applies to churches that abuse their members with tyrannical rules and restrictions. They take control of people's minds, bodies, possessions, money, time, and relationships. A sect intrudes into the privacy of people's lives and sets up a guilt-driven regimen which its members must follow or be punished. A sect practices “shunning” and various forms of harrassment upon people who try to leave and go their own way.
A true church of Christ does none of these things. It leaves people free to run their own lives, and to make their own application of God’s word, as personally accountable to God. Those who set their hearts on doing that, will find a warm welcome and gentle shepherding without duress. At all times they give and receive entirely by the exercise of their own free will. The law of Jesus Christ, and nothing more, is the only burden laid on members of his church. (1John 5:3).