“All I know,” said Richard Wilson, when asked about the Church of Christ and their beliefs, “is that they don’t have any music during the services.”
“It’s like Quakers?” That’s what Esmeralda Guzman thought of how members of a Church of Christ conduct worship services.
Even I’ve had quite a few misconceptions of what the Church of Christ was, how they conducted their worship, and what the issue is with instruments. Well, the lack of musical instruments during their services. So, following the advice of one who is wiser than I’ll ever be, I thought a trip out was in order.
I was able to meet with Pastor Donnie Martin, the preaching minister of the Montwood Church of Christ on El Paso’s Eastside. What I learned cleared up the confusion I had.
“The Church of Christ,” says Pastor Martin, “from a Biblical perspective, the Church of Christ, is the body of believers which has been saved through faith in Jesus Christ and have come into relationship with him and with each other.”
Pastor Martin went on to say that when someone becomes a believer and enters that relationship, then they are a member of a larger body, the body of believers. Most Christian denominations, except for a very few, tend to follow the same belief.
“The Bible teaches that when G-d saves someone,” says Pastor Martin, “He puts all of those saved people into one family, one spiritual location if you will, and the Bible refers to that place, among other things, as the Church of Christ.”
That belief may be traced to Ephesians, chapter two: “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.”
Or, you could say that it follows the words of Jesus in Matthew chapter twelve: “And stretching out his hand towards his disciples, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”
This is where the name, Church of Christ, originates, from scripture. But, just what are they, the Church of Christ as a whole?
“Some of the distinctive of Churches of Christ, for example, our history,” said Donnie Martin. “We are a Protestant movement. We come out of the Protestant reaction of Catholicism. We are a little further downstream, we are known historically as part of the Restoration Movement.”
At the time when the Church of Christ was being conceived, being founded as it were, many individuals were disillusioned with the state of the religious world. There were the Methodists, the Baptists, the Episcopal Church. Within each of these denominational movements, there were yet other divisions.
The Restoration Movement began in the early part of the 19 th century. Unlike the Reformation, which sought to reform the Catholic Church, the Restoration Movement sought to bring back Biblical perspective on worship, salvation, to go back to the primitive ideas and principals of the New Testament.
“Why don’t we go back to the Bible,” says Pastor Martin, recalling the line of thought that led to the Restoration Movement. “Rather than look at the creed that makes you a Baptist, or the creed that makes you a Presbyterian, why don’t we go back to the Bible and united on that.”
From this, these questions, and the beginning of the Restoration Movement, you now have a group of individuals who are looking to the Bible, to the New Testament, and how the Church functioned during the period described in Acts and began to pattern their practices and rituals to those found in the New Testament.
“So that’s a little bit different I think,” says Pastor Martin, “where some groups find their origin.”
Pastor Martin then identified the two major differences, from the Church of Christ as compared to other denominations, that others have pointed out in conversation to him: the emphasis they place baptism, and the lack of music during a worship service, using mechanical musical instruments.
What does he mean by “mechanical instruments?” I did notice, while we were sitting in the Church, that there was no piano or organ to be found.
“I make the distinction, and many of us within the Church of Christ make the distinction between mechanical instruments of music, which is your piano, your organ, your drums,” says Pastor Martin, “and what we call the natural, the organic instrument music.”
The music that comes out of a Church of Christ during Sunday worship is vocal. Pastor Martin says that, by and large, we are all blessed with the capacity of music.
“He’s given us our voices,” says Pastor Martin. “The Bible identifies our voice as an instrument that brings pleasure to G-d as we sing.”
(Author’s note: Ok, so I must wonder what G-d thinks of me and my singing. I sing like Jack Benny used to play the violin- I sound like a cat being stepped on by a horse!)
Several of the people I spoke with, like Richard Wilson whom I quoted at the start of this article, believe that the Church of Christ has no music at all.
“I think it’s like silent,” said Ruth Mendoza. “I think they go in, sit down, and the minister just starts his message.”
“I strenuously object,” said Pastor Martin. “The music we make is with our hearts, and with our voices. We use the instrument that G-d gave us.”
Pastor Martin uses, I discovered, the term “mechanical” to help distinguish the music that comes from a piano or a guitar as compared to the music produced in their hearts and expressed vocally. Another major distinction between the Church of Christ and other denominations is baptism.
“Baptism is a tricky and thorny question,” said Pastor Martin. “The typical sort of protestant, evangelical discussion of baptism centers around who is a candidate for baptism. Are adults only candidate for baptism or are children of believers be baptized as well.”
Who should be baptized is one half of the question. The other is how baptism should be carried out.
There is no shortage of belief in who and how one should be baptized. We have Baptist churches who believe in immersion. You have liturgical churches, like the Lutheran or Episcopal Churches, who believe infants can be baptized, and baptized by sprinkling the water and not immersion.
“For us, the question that we find important,” says Pastor Martin speaking of the Church of Christ and its members, “that we don’t hear a lot of other people asking, is what exactly is the significance of baptism?”
According to the Pastor, baptism is an affirmation of what you have already done, believed in Jesus Christ as your Lord, as your Savior. In fact, in the Bible we see a logical order: hear, believe, repent and be baptized.
“Baptism, in the Bible, is in fact connected with Salvation,” says Pastor Martin. “It’s typically viewed as something that takes place after you’ve been saved.”
There is a wealth of history, faith, and Biblical belief found within the Church of Christ. They are not outside of Christianity, but are trying to recapture, and express a Christian lifestyle, the belief that is based on scripture and as lived by early Christians.
My conversation with Pastor Donnie Martin, the preaching minister of the Montwood Church of Christ is one worth watching.
What did I learn during my conversation with the Pastor? I learned that there are those who sincerely wish to serve and worship G-d in a way that is authentic, based on scripture, and free from error. What the Church of Christ is trying to do, and I think succeeding at, is applying to Bible to their everyday life, as well as how they approach G-d in worship.
You can find the Montwood Church of Christ at 11845 Bob Mitchell, on El Paso’s Eastside. Or, click here to visit them online.
I am doing a series called A Year of Faith where I am visiting with different churches, ministers and denominations. If you would like to be a part of this series, email me at Steven@StillGoingSomewhere.com