I grew up in what would be considered as an evangelical church by men’s reasoning. We attended as often as the doors were opened. At age 12 I prayed what they called the “Sinner’s Prayer” and I was convinced I was “saved” at that point. I then was baptized many months later when they had a number of others ready for baptism. I was baptized into the evangelical congregation as a “sign of my salvation”. I was completely pleased with my spiritual life for several years. However that changed.
In 1978 I met a nice young lady whom I wanted to get to know better. (As a side note we married 1 year later and I have been blessed by her these past 32 years.) I was plainly told by her parents that IF I wanted to be with her on Sundays I had to attend church assemblies, for that was where she would be. I wanted to be with her, so I attended the assemblies of the Pond Creek church of Christ. At first I was more concerned with her than I was with the church.
My first impression was—“Don’t you have enough money for a piano or organ?” They answered by saying they sang without musical accompaniment. I then asked if the man in front was their preacher and their answer was that the various brothers shared the teaching responsibilities. Okay, then I turned my attention back to the young lady.
As time went on I began to take notice of the church I was attending and what they were teaching. I began to be bothered by some of what they taught. I learned they did not consider me to be a Christian, and I was not amused. They told me that the “Sinners Prayer” I had prayed was not in the Bible. I told them of course it was and I was determined to search the Scriptures for that prayer. I searched and searched but I could not find it. I finally admitted it was not there.
I began to realize that I had been deceived. In fact I began to realize that I truly was not a Christian as I had always been told and believed, especially when I considered the various examples of those who responded to the gospel in the book of Acts. Once I accepted that I had been taught wrong the scales began to fall from my eyes. I wanted to be part of the same church that was established by Jesus as testified by the NT Scriptures. I began to notice one thing after another that I had always been taught and accordingly believed fell by the wayside as false doctrines.
I came to understand that those in Acts responded to the gospel by repenting of their sins, confessing that Jesus was the Christ, and by being immersed into water in the name of Jesus for the remission of their sin. They then were added to the Lord’s body by the Lord Himself. There was no vote for acceptance or permission asked as many evangelicals believe.
I began to realize the church I had been brought up in never actually studied or taught NT doctrine. Yes we were taught the Old Testament stories, we were taught the gospels and the life of Jesus, and we spent an enormous amount of time studying Revelation. But it finally dawned on me that we very seldom studied Acts and the NT letters, especially the doctrines they contained, and I wondered why? I have since concluded they did not teach doctrine because they did not believe in doctrine. Of course I contrasted this to Acts 2:42 and 2 Jn 9 as well as the remainder of the NT Scriptures in which doctrine was absolutely important and vital. Over time I studied more and more and I came to the conclusion that it was through the NT doctrine or as it is described as the writings of the apostles and prophets that Christ actually rules over His church. (ie. Eph 2:19-22; 1 Jn 1:1-4; 2 Thes 3:6, 14; etc.) To be fair this understanding has come following years of studying and teaching, for I certainly did not come to these conclusions overnight.
Over the years I have come to better understand a number of the false ideas in man’s churches that are foreign to the actual text of the NT. I began to see how arrogant and even blasphemous it was to refer to mere men as “Reverends”. I came to better understand the true nature of the church was not in physical buildings or temples, but the true Temple of God is made up of His Christians. I came to understand there was no clergy/laity relationship in the church. I even came to appreciate the teaching of the individual congregations was to come from the various brothers, and it is wrong for churches to gather hirelings (Jn 10:12; 2 Tim 4:3-4) to do the work of the brothers. And that it is the Lord’s will we have elders to shepherd the flock in their care, not professional edifiers.
I had always been taught and believed that once a person was “saved” they could never lose their soul. I came to understand the NT taught the opposite as testified by the many exhortations to remain faithful unto death and by Paul’s statement in 1 Cor 9:27. I have since discussed this with my brother who faithfully believes this doctrine, and it has put him in a perplexing situation. He considers me to be a heretic because I believe one must respond to the offer of God’s grace through faith and obedience, but I was quote “saved” at age 12 through my praying that prayer. He since has concluded that I must not have been truthful in my original conversion. But I know I meant it at the time, so then by his reasoning I cannot lose!!!
As a point of note, one of the things that attracted me to the churches of Christ was their de-emphasis on collecting funds, especially when compared to the methods that man’s denominations use. The churches of Christ do so as described in the NT in a very simple fashion, they give once a week on Lord’s Day. (ie. 1 Cor 16:1-2) They do not give by tithing or other promises to men. In the church I grew up in we gave at “Sunday School”, in the Sunday morning meeting, in the Sunday evening meeting, in the Wednesday evening meeting. When we would have what we called a “revival” or a week-long meeting we had at least one collection each night. Sometimes they would actually count the funds collected and ask/demand more! To be fair there do seem to be some churches of Christ that seem to be emphasizing the collection of funds by methods that are not taught in the NT. However, most of the churches I work with are following the NT pattern.
If my passion and zeal is coming through maybe it is because I came to the Lord’s church from outside. I grew up in a church that claimed and thought it was of the Lord, but in reality through a study of the NT I am convinced they are not. I am reminded of such words of Jesus as in Mat 7:21-23; 15:7-9. Jesus is referring to those who worship the Lord, but their worship is in vain, for it is through their own traditions and teachings rather than through His.
In summary I am determined to be part of the Lord’s church, the body of Christ, the churches of Christ. The church Christ rules over as taught in Eph 1:22-23. The one that follows the NT doctrines. I am convinced the churches that are called evangelical churches are not the church Christ rules over. They are ruled by men and their doctrines and wisdom. (1 Cor 2:1-5)
Does this mean those who are part of those denominational churches will not be saved in the end? That is the Lord’s concern. Jesus will judge the living and the dead. That is not my place. With this said, will there be mercy at the Judgment? Probably, for God is both a God of mercy and Justice, for only He can make such. It is my guess there will be mercy at the judgment, but that mercy may extend to those who have not had the great advantages we have here in these united states.
Before I close this article I wish to make one final note. You will notice I do not consider the body of Christ as an “Evangelical Church”. That is a term of man’s reasoning and labeling. I prefer to label the church as the Lord does. His one church is not one of many as man’s denominations. It is His one true church. (Eph 4:1-6)
What is your response to this article? Don’t be angry, offended or bitter. Be as the Bereans in Acts 17:10-11. Search the Scriptures, in particular the NT Scriptures. Don’t search in man’s wisdom or books, don’t ask your “preacher” or “pastor”. Certainly do not depend on what you have always been taught and believed. Search the Scriptures yourself to see whether these things are so, for only in them can you gain eternal life. (2 Tim 3:14-17) May the Lord bless you in your search for His Truth.