Churches of Christ are autonomous Christian congregations associated with one another through common beliefs and practices. They seek to base doctrine and practice on the Bible alone. They teach that they are the church written in scripture. They teach that any individual, from the time that the Church began to now, can become part of that church by hearing the truth, believing the truth, repenting from your ways to God’s ways, confessing that Jesus in the Bible is Christ, and being baptized to be added to the Church. Historically, Churches of Christ in the United States have roots in the American Restoration Movement, and were recognized as a distinct religious group by the U.S. Religious Census of 1906. Prior to that all congregations associated with the Restoration Movement had been reported together by the Census Bureau. The Restoration Movement began on the American frontier during the Second Great Awakening of the early 19th century under the leadership of Thomas and Alexander Campbell, Walter Scott, and Barton W. Stone. Those leaders had declared their independence from their Presbyterian roots, seeking a fresh start to restore the New Testament church, and abandoning creeds. They did not see themselves as establishing a new church. Rather, the movement sought the restoration of the church and “the unification of all Christians in a single body patterned after the church of the New Testament.” The names “Church of Christ,” “Christian Church” and “Disciples of Christ” were adopted by the movement because they believed these terms to be biblical. A division occurred between those who used musical instruments in worship (now usually known as the Independent Christian Churches/Churches of Christ) and those who chose to sing a cappella because the use of instruments is not mentioned in the New Testament. The congregations in the a cappella tradition are the subject of this article. While the most visible distinction between the two groups was the rejection of musical instruments in the Churches of Christ, other issues also contributed to the separation. One was a disagreement over the appropriateness of organizational structures above the congregational level such as missionary societies. Another was a difference in the underlying approach to Biblical interpretation. For the Churches of Christ, practices not present in accounts of New Testament worship were not permissible in the church, and they could find no New Testament documentation of the use of instrumental music in worship. For the Christian Churches, any practices not expressly forbidden could be considered. Though officially recognized as distinct movements from 1906, the actual separation of the Churches of Christ from the Christian Churches had already been taking place gradually for decades. The Restoration Movement was not a purely North American phenomenon, and active mission efforts began in the 18th century. There are now Churches of Christ in Africa, Asia, Australia, South America, Central America, and Europe.
Church of Christ
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