Second, the Churches of Christ have accidentally established this identity of a “nondenominational denomination” because of its high priority on separating itself from denominations. Somewhere along the line the focus was deflected from being nondenominational Christians to being anti-denominational Christians.
Many people in the Churches of Christ have become prejudiced. They have already made up their mind on people they have never met. When they hear a person is from a Baptist church they make twenty assumptions about that person. They have judged them beforehand, prejudiced.
Not all Baptists hold the Baptist doctrine 100%. Not all Presbyterians believe everything the Presbyterian church tells them to. There are Christians in the denominations that are saying what we say, “We should just follow the Bible.” The distinct possibility is that some within their congregations are unspotted from their doctrines and practices.
In the church in Thyatira was a woman which Jesus calls “Jezebel” who claimed to be a prophetess and encouraged sexual immorality and idolatry (Rev 2:18-24).
[Rev 2:20 ESV] 20 But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols.
But within that congregation were some who had not defiled themselves with this false doctrine and sinful action,
… 24 But to the rest of you in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not learned what some call the deep things of Satan, to you I say, I do not lay on you any other burden.
In the church in Sardis Jesus calls them dead and in need of repentance (Rev 3:1-6),
[Rev 3:1 ESV] 1 “And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: ‘The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. “‘I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. …
But within that congregation were some who were still spiritually alive,
… 4 Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy.
It is important to note: Jesus did not tell these innocent people within the corrupt congregations to leave it and begin their own congregation.
NOTE: I am not saying we should fellowship denominational churches. Because an overwhelming majority of denominations come with false doctrinal baggage. I am not trying to change our practice; I am trying to change our perception: we must judge people (and congregations) on their own merits and not on the merits of others. We must forget the names and focus on their doctrine and practices. Usually the name of a church can hint at what their doctrines and practices are, but not always, especially on the individual level.
Our insistence to be purely Christian free from manmade corruption is good. The judgmentalism upon any who do not bear the name of “Church of Christ” is bad. We must welcome any and all who truly bear the “name of Christ” and our loyalty must be to him.
We must recognize that the Churches of Christ do not have a copyright on following the Bible alone and striving to be part of the church which Jesus built. We should recognize there are disciples out there who preach the Gospel fervently but need some assistance in understanding (Act 18:24-28) or need some guidance in getting close to the Lord (Act 19:1-7).
In Acts 18:24-28, Apollos preached what he knew and was competent in the scriptures but he didn’t know the Gospel. Priscilla and Aquila did not just condemn him or scoff at him with judgmentalism–they took him aside and taught him the Gospel. He needed assistance in understanding.
In Acts 19:1-7, Paul found some people dedicated to God. They were called disciples but did not know about the Holy Spirit or about Jesus. Paul did not just walk away–he taught them the Gospel because they needed some guidance in getting close to the Lord.
But to maintain this separation from any non-Church of Christ individual, especially when paired with judgmentalism, prevents our fruitful evangelism and any potential unity.
When we find ourselves being anti-denominational, then we truly become a denomination because it is then that our identity is no longer defined by God, instead it is defined by being the opposite of manmade organizations which is still a definition of human origin. A true nondenominational Christian doesn’t care about labels, even the label “Church of Christ.”
When we are anti-denominational, we are like the disciple John who told Jesus, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us” (Mark 9:38). John could not imagine someone who followed Jesus outside of his group, as if to have a copyright on doing the Lord’s work.
A nondenominational Christian and church seeks to obey God’s word and doesn’t care about the labels. “Are the Churches of Christ a denomination”—they shouldn’t care! Let people label us however they want! Call us a denomination, or conservative, or liberal, or evangelical, or whatever. All I know is that we should seek God’s word alone and seek to be part of the church Jesus built. Beyond this, it is out of our hands.
Like Priscilla and Aquila, if you find someone who loves the Lord but doesn’t understand it fully, teach them. Like Paul, if you find some people who are disciples of God but need help getting closer to the Lord, teach them. Just follow the truth and help others follow the truth as well. Lift up God’s word. Follow it. The Bible, especially the New Testament for New Covenant Christians is your path to being part of the church saved by God.