Frequently Asked Questions
How can I know that God loves me?
By looking at what He’s already done for you. God sent His unique Son, Jesus, to suffer and die for you – and for me, and for everyone else. We’ve all messed up in one way or another; we’ve all rebelled against God, doing things that we knew in our hearts to be wrong. God gave His Son for us – Jesus was willing to die for us – even though we were leading lives that were opposed to everything He wants (and everything that is truly in our own best interests). He did this so that you and I can have a restored relationship with Him.
What if I’m not good enough to please God?
You’re not – and neither am I. No one is. That’s the whole point of Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf. God isn’t looking for perfect people – He knows us too well for that. He’s looking for people who’re willing to trust Him, and accept His love and forgiveness – not perfection, just whole-hearted allegiance.
Does it matter how I live?
Yes, of course. It pains God when we make a mess of our lives, when we rebel against Him, and when we hurt each other. We can’t very well tell God that we want to be on His side, and expect Him to believe us, if we aren’t willing to make any changes in our lives. But we must never make the mistake of thinking that God loves us because of how good we are, or how many good things we do – He loved us while we were still opposed to Him. God’s forgiveness and a restored relationship with Him are gifts that He gives us – we don’t earn them (we can’t earn them – that’s why Christ’s sacrifice is so important).
How do I become a Christian?
The Bible talks about different aspects of becoming a Christian in a variety of different places. The book of Acts provides the best practical guide, because it has examples of real people who became Christians during the very first years of the church. Taking these together, we find several common elements.
First of all, they heard the good news of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, and they believed it. Based on that, they resolved to change their lives – fundamentally, to transfer their trust and allegiance to Christ. They openly acknowledged their new faith in Jesus as the Son of God, and were baptized immediately.
Will God really forgive me? I . . .
Yes – whoever you are, and whatever you may have done, God wants you to come back to Him. He wants to forgive you – and Christ has already done the heavy lifting, by dying for us on the cross. There will be things in your life that God will expect you to change (this is something we all have to face). It will take time and effort, but He will give you the strength you need to build a life worthy of a child of God.
Where in the Bible are the examples you mentioned of people becoming Christians?
The book of Acts (short for “Acts of the Apostles”) describes the growth of the early church. Several detailed accounts are given of conversions to Christianity. These include Acts chapter 2, verses 14 – 41. Peter is preaching in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost (a Jewish festival), and about 3,000 people decide to become Christians that day. Acts chapter 8, verses 26 – 28 relate an encounter between a Christian named Philip and an Ethiopian royal official, and the official’s conversion. Acts chapter 9, verses 1 – 22 record the conversion of Saul of Tarsus, who we know today as the Apostle Paul. Acts chapter 10 tells us about the conversion of a Roman centurion named Cornelius (with an interlude in which God teaches the apostle Peter a lesson about racial prejudice). Acts 14, verses 19 – 34 talk about an occasion on which Paul and one of his associates, Silas, were thrown into prison on false charges – and ended up converting their jailer. There are others, including Acts chapter 18, verses 7 & 8, and Acts chapter 19, verses 1 – 7. But these are the most detailed examples, and will give you a good sense for how the people we read about in the New Testament actually went about becoming Christians.
What does the word “Christ” mean?
“Christ” is a Greek word (Χριστός – “Christós”) that was borrowed into English rather than translated. It means “Anointed One,” and is used many times in the New Testament to refer to Jesus of Nazareth. There’s a Hebrew word used in the Old Testament that has the same meaning: Messiah (מָשִׁיחַ – “Mashiach”).
“Christ” isn’t Jesus’ last name – it’s a title that helps us understand who He is, and why He came to earth. He’s God’s anointed one – the Messiah.
What is the church of Christ?
Christ established the church as part of God’s plan to redeem humanity. The idea conveyed by the original Greek word (εκκλησία — ekklesia) is of the assembly of the people of God. God adds to the church everyone who is saved through obedience to His Son. Christ paid for the church with His death on the cross, so it belongs to Him.
Despite God’s desire for His people to be united, however, Christians have been divided for centuries. Some of these divisions involve serious disagreements over the nature of God and His will for us. Far too many have been the result of disputes over church hierarchy and power. Other differences between groups of Christians involve superficial issues such the style of worship and the use of distinctive clothing for church leaders.
Many independent, non-denominational congregations with historical roots in the Restoration Movement, such as ours, identify themselves as churches of Christ. We share a common strategy for seeking Christian unity. This strategy is to base everything we do and teach on the church of the first century, as described in the New Testament. If something isn’t found in the Bible, then we don’t teach it. While people can (and do) disagree over the meaning of some things in the Bible, this goes a long way towards eliminating theological divisions over the nature of God, the work of Christ, and how God wants us to live.
This strategy also provides a basis for agreement on many superficial issues. For instance, should those who lead the congregation in worship wear robes or other special clothing? As best we can tell, early Christians wore regular street clothes to worship – so that’s what we do.
Our firm conviction is that the only way to bring unity to God’s people is by leaving our own personal preferences and religious speculations behind, and agreeing to “speak where the Bible speaks, and be silent where the Bible is silent.”
What do you mean by “independent” and “non-denominational?”
A better, but perhaps less familiar word than “independent” would be autonomous. By this we simply mean that each local congregation is self-governing. There is no formal church hierarchy above the local congregational level to tell us what to do or teach. Our congregation is not a member of any conference, synod, association or other denominational organization. We do not have any formal creed or statement of faith. Our only allegiance is to God and His Son Jesus Christ, and our only standard is the Bible. We want to be “Christians” and nothing else.
Why the name “church of Christ?”
Because it is Biblical – this is one of the terms used in the New Testament to describe the church. It places the emphasis where it should be – on our Lord Jesus Christ. It’s also non-denominational, in the sense that it does not identify the congregation with any particular church organization, prominent church leader, or theological system. It was Christ who died for us – no one else. On a practical level, the name is one that has been used for many years by independent congregations that share this strategy for finding unity in Christ. Using the term “church of Christ” allows Christians to find other congregations that share this approach when we travel or relocate. It also makes it easier for congregations to recognize each other. While there is no denominational hierarchy, congregations will often cooperate with each other on a voluntary basis. When that is done, the effort will always be under the direct supervision of a specific local congregation, rather than that of a central church hierarchy.
Is there anything about your worship services that I might notice as different?
Our services contain all of the key elements that you may be familiar with from other religious groups: prayer, teaching, singing and communion. They are non-liturgical – we do not have a formal set of pre-written prayers or blessings that are read or recited. You may notice that we observe communion every Sunday. As best we can tell, this is what the New Testament church did. Also, our congregational singing is a cappella – without the use of a choir or instrumental accompaniment. Again, as best we can tell, this was the practice of the first century church.
Based on our understanding of the early church, we value simplicity in our worship, and carefully avoid adding any element that isn’t found in the New Testament.
Are you Protestants?
No. What we say and do may remind you more of groups that define themselves as Protestant than they do of the Catholic Church. But we aren’t protesting anything, and we don’t define ourselves by what we’re against. We just want to be Christians – nothing more, and nothing less. Our focus is on Christ – not on a sixteenth century ecclesiastical dispute (important as that dispute may have been at the time). By consciously striving to model what we do and say on the New Testament church, we are doing our best to move beyond questions of denominational allegiance – and we invite you to join us in this effort.
Why haven’t you capitalized the word “church” in “church of Christ” in these FAQs?
It’s a habit some of us use to remind ourselves that we’re not out to build yet another church hierarchy. It’s the difference between a formal title (for example, the “House of Lords”) and a simple statement of ownership (for example, the “house of Benjamin Franklin”). How important is this habit? Not very – it’s just a reminder. Proper capitalization has to be fairly low on God’s list of priorities for His people. What is important is to remember that the church belongs to Christ – not to us – and that His will must always come first.
How can I learn more?
Just ask! We’ll be glad to help you explore God’s word with you, and what it says about His will for us. We’ll also be glad to answer any questions you may have about our congregation, what we do, and why we do it.