The title “church of Christ” is a scriptural name. In 1 Thessalonians 2:14, the Spirit cited “the churches of God.” However, when he wanted to speak of one specific church, he spoke of “the church of God” (1 Corinthians 1:2). Thus, the singular of “churches of God” is “church of God.” In Romans 16:16, the Holy Spirit mentioned “the churches of Christ.” Since the singular of “churches of God” is “church of God,” what is the singular of “churches of Christ”? Over the years, some have said it would be best if we stopped putting “church Of Christ” on our church buildings. Various reasons have been given: “It’s confusing;” “people with a negative view of the church will not attend when they see the name;” and “it’s too traditional.” Are these objections valid?
If we drop the name “church of Christ” and replace it with “Christians meet here” or “Loop 287 Church,” we will confront the same set of problems and objections. The name “Christian” and “church” is confusing. When we use it to tell people what we are religiously, many wonder “what kind of Christian” we are (i.e. Baptist, Methodist, Catholic, etc.). Others have a “negative view” of the name (cp. James 2:7). Since the name “Christian” is greatly abused and misunderstood, should we stop calling ourselves “Christians”? The same objections would apply to the word “church,” so should we stop using that too?
Should we quit referring to “elders” because certain people may link us with the Mormons and their “elders”? Obviously, we dare not call our elders “pastors” because that would definitely confuse people. Should we drop references to “baptism” since it is a traditionally used and often misunderstood term? “Baptism” makes some think we approve of sprinkling because that’s their concept. Therefore, they are misled about what we believe. We also can’t speak of being “born again” because that designation would identify us with Protestant churches. Obviously, we dare not speak of the Holy Spirit or “Holy Spirit baptism” or “tongues” because those are “buzz words” of faith healers in particular and Pentecostalism in general. Of course, we absolutely must not even breathe the word “miracle” because everyone knows what would be assumed of us.
If we have to stop callings ourselves the “church of Christ,” to be consistent we have to do away with these other terms. However, the truth is that we don’t need to get rid of any of them. Instead, without shame or apology, we need to teach the world the truth and show the distinction between the words of men and the word of God (Acts 17:23; 1 Peter 4:11).
Adapted from Larry Ray Hafley