It is no secret that there are many apostate churches in this world. The apostle Paul warned us that many will depart from the faith (1 Tim. 4:1). Even within Churches of Christ there are many congregations that have departed from the truth. Brethren are quite aware of those churches that no longer seek Biblical authority for all their practices though they still consider themselves a church of Christ.
In the course of discussion, I’ll refer to congregations in the Lord’s one true Church as a “sound” church. I seek to draw a distinction between churches of Christ that follow the New Testament pattern and those which do not. A sound church will abide in all that is written in the scriptures (2 Tim. 3:16-17). An apostate church will not care if they operate with or without authority.
I could as easily call such digressive congregations “liberal.” However, that gives credit to those congregations as abiding in God’s word but without a strict adherence to it. In reality, any digression from God’s word is enough to jeopardize a soul no matter how liberal a church might become. “Liberal” certainly describes an undesirable attitude toward God’s word.
A sound church is fundamentally solid. It is like a building that is well constructed and remains solid through the years. If the building develops a crack in the foundation we would no longer consider it sound. Without repair (i.e. repentance) even a building inspector (i.e. Christ) will eventually condemn the structure (i.e. the congregation). Christ told the church at Ephesus, “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lamp stand from its place – unless you repent” (Rev. 2:5). A building may continue to stand, but that does not mean it is sound.
Paul and Titus both referred to God’s word as “sound doctrine” (1 Tim. 1:10; 2 Tim. 1:13; 4:3; Titus 1:9; 2:1). They also referred to those who abided in God’s word as being sound in mind, speech or faith (2 Cor. 5:13; 2 Tim. 1:7; Titus 1:13; 2:2, 8). It is not a stretch to refer to congregations that abide in God’s doctrine; composed of brethren who are sound in mind, speech and faith as being a “sound church.” If a congregation fails to abide in God’s doctrine that is enough evidence to know it is not a sound church.
A sound church would not try to justify kitchens and dinners supported by church funds when the apostle Paul condemned mixing social events with the work of the church (1 Cor. 11:22, 34). A sound church would not pay organizations or institutions to do their work (Matt. 25:36, 43; Acts 15:36; Jas. 1:27). A sound church would respect what the scriptures authorize and not try to justify what it does not authorize (Lev. 10:1-2; Matt. 19:9; Eph. 5:19; Heb. 10:26-27; etc.). A sound church would not seek to establish a hierarchy nor positions not found in scriptures (Eph. 4:11-12). These things cannot be done by faith (Rom. 10:17). “Whatever is not from faith is sin” (Rom. 14:23). Yet, all these things can be found in apostate churches of Christ.
Some brethren will argue in ignorance that churches of Christ have always practiced the things just mentioned. Jeffrey Hamilton wrote an excellent and well documented article on this very topic entitled “Slip Sliding Away.” I would encourage anyone living under that delusion to read the article. It can be found on the web at:
The Apostle Paul said, “Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle” (2 Thes.2:15).By Steve A. Hamilton firstname.lastname@example.org