Are There Differences Between Churches Of Christ?
Yes, divisions have occurred just like they did among some of the churches in the first century (cf. 1 Cor. 1:10-13; Gal. 1:6-7). We are saddened by this division just as God must be (1 Cor. 14:33), and we continue to work that the unity for which Jesus prayed may exist (cf. John 17:20-23). However, the Bible predicted that some would "depart from the faith" (1 Tim. 4:1) and would "not endure sound doctrine" (2 Tim. 4:2-4).
Different attitudes toward Bible authority is the basic cause for all religious division. "Let us speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where the Bible is silent" is to some only a slogan and not a commitment. When people cease demanding Bible authority for all that they do religiously, they will soon depart from the faith and will adopt ways that please themselves (cf. 2 John 1:9; Matt. 7:21-23; Matt. 15:7-9).
The most easily recognized difference is that:
1. Some "churches of Christ" play an instrument of music in their worship. We reject instrumental music because the Bible is silent about any use of them when Christians worshiped. Singing is the only kind of music authorized by the New Testament (cf. Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16).
2. We are also different from some churches which make a plea for "grace" and "unity" but who in reality seek compromise. Many of the words they use sound Biblical, but the message they preach is non-distinctive. "Union" - not "unity" - is the result of this spirit of open fellowship of all kinds of different doctrines. Unity must be based on doing God's will in God's way, not just on pleasing the majority (cf. Eph. 4:3-7; Luke 6:46). Christians must be of "one mind" striving for "the faith of the gospel" (Phil. 1:27; 1 Cor. 1:10).
3. This church is also different from some who talk about "total commitment" but who in their zeal to bring sinners to the "crossroads" of decision have persuaded newcomers to be committed to "prayer partners" more than to Jesus Christ. We repudiate this system whereby the "partners" gain control over new converts by insisting that they confess everything to them and then with cultish fervor motivate adherents to follow their advice. This kind of "total commitment" is perpetrated by a feeling of guilt rather than by the joy of forgiveness (Gal. 2:20).
4. Likewise we reject the practice found only among modern churches of promoting and subsidizing human institutions to do a good work in the name of the church (e.g., colleges, hospitals, benevolent institutions). Some have shifted the work of the church to a different "who" and have relegated the church to the role of being fund raisers to subsidize these self-governed institutions. While charitable and educational businesses may do much good, they are an unscriptural addition to God's arrangement when they become an extension to the Lord's church. God designed the church and made it sufficient to accomplish its own work in evangelism, edification, and benevolence (cf. Acts 6:1-7; 1 Peter 5:2-3).
What must one do since there are these differences? No headquarters exist on earth to tell us where to work and worship as a Christian. Nor is there an official council to enforce its creed or withdraw from and expel a congregation. Therefore individual Christians need foremost to search the scriptures for themselves to learn God's pattern for the Lord's church (1 John 4:1). Then they need to search until they find a church whose leadership is committed to following a "thus saith the Lord."