The church that meets at Malaga is one of a number of independent, non-denominational congregations of the church of Christ.
The church of Christ is the church that belongs to Jesus Christ and that was established by him. Everyone who meets Jesus' membership criteria is a member of Jesus' church. Jesus' membership criteria are simple and can be found in the Bible. Read from the account called "Acts", chapter 2 verses 37-38 and verse 47, and chapter 8 verses 26-39.
In fact, the term "church of Christ" is not really intended to be a proper name at all. (That's why 'church' does not get a capital letter.) Rather it is intended to be a description of who we are and what we are striving to be. There are several other descriptions that we could use to describe ourselves such as "church of God", "saints", "the Way", etc. These are all terms that can be found in the Bible to refer to the body of believers. "Church of Christ" is just the description that seems to be most commonly used today.
The idea of a 'denomination' seems to be that of a named organisation that makes up a part of Christ's church where people believe the same thing as each other but something different from other 'denominations'. But Jesus established only one church, so where do all these groups come from? Denominations were never part of God's plan for the church. Read from the letter called "1 Corinthians" chapter 1, verses 10-13.
So what we mean when we call ourselves "non-denominational" is that we intend and strive to be a congregation of the church that Jesus built. Rather than seeking to 'denominate' ourselves to distinguish ourselves from others, we seek to be "Christians only"—people whose only spiritual allegiance is to God our Father and Jesus Christ our master, whose only creed is the teachings of Jesus and his apostles as found in the Bible. We strive to be just like the church that you can read about in the Bible.
Inevitably, our implementation of this is imperfect. We don't think that we have completely achieved being Christ's pure church exactly as he intended, but it is what we want and what we are working towards.
The pattern we see when we read about the first century churches in the Bible is one where each congregation is independent (in some senses) of every other congregation. In some senses the congregations are interdependent, with each caring about what happened in others and doing what they could to help, but there is no heirarchy, no "management structure" that spanned congregations. Rather, each congregation had its own leaders who were directly answerable to God for their leadership. The common thread that bound them together was the apostles' teaching and their common faith in a risen saviour.
So it is with us. We do have links from one congregation to another, but only in the same kind of ways as we see in the first century church.
'Independent' can also be taken to signify that we are not part of the heirarchical structure that forms "The Churches of Christ in Australia".
To some it may seem strange that we don't have a proper name for our congregation. But the pattern we see in the scriptures is that particular congregations are identified simply as the church of Christ, or some such description, at a particular place. We don't see "The Forum Church" or "The Mount Church" or "The Ithsmus Church", we see simply "the church in Rome", "the church in Jerusalem" and "the church at Corinth". So although it might be handy for us to have some catchy title that would look good on our literature and advertisements and on this web site, we're just sticking to the pattern we see in the first century and continuing to bear no name other than that of Jesus Christ.
Edit page (requires authorization)
7 March 2009, 03:06