Vol. 7, No. 1
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It has been said in the religious world, "I believe one denomination is a good as another." I believe this statement to be true. "Ah," you say, "another heretic!" But before I am "marked," hear Harvey's proverbial, "rest of the story."
Wendell Winkler, who recently helped conduct a portion of a Gospel meeting just north of here, once quoted the inimitable N.B. Hardeman in a brief but resourceful class book entitled, The Church Everybody is Asking About. Winkler included a quote from the timeless volumes of Tabernacle Sermons, which were conducted annually for several years at the famed Ryman Auditorium, Nashville, TN (home of the Grand Ole Opry). In the 1922 series of lectures, Hardeman defined the word denomination, as such:
What is a denomination? It is a religious organization larger than the local church, smaller than the redeemed in the aggregate. Therefore, it comes in between, separate and distinct from the church of the Bible at both ends of the line. How is the church used? It is either a local congregation or it embraces all Christians. Now, a denomination stands between these, and, therefore, it is a thing unheard of and unknown in the Bible; and I say that cautiously, respectfully, and yet firmly (226-227 qtd. in Winkler 24).
As with many of Hardeman's biblical observations, this one is accurate as well. If a person would take a few moments and think honestly of the nature of denominationalism, the truth of this definition will be seen clearly. No denominations are intended or authorized in Scripture. Is this a "hard saying?" Yes, indeed, as millions are involved in the denomination of their choice, "a thing unheard of and unknown in the Bible."
Perhaps the reason many misunderstand the churches of Christ is because we profess no association with a denominational superstructure, which has become so familiar in our western culture. When we offer an invitation to a friend, we are not offering a "better denomination." We represent a biblically based body of believers, separate and apart from denominational ties, which are unnecessary for one to be a Christian. If people in the New Testament could be Christians without denominations, we believe we can do it today. If not, why?
Is one denomination as good as another? In fact, it is. None of them represent what the Bible teaches concerning the Lord's body. Is this harsh teaching? It is truth teaching, and only the truth will set men free (John 8:32). Entertain this one question, if one would pass a denomination on the highway Sunday in order to attend the "church of his choice," why not pass them all and find the body that best represents the Bible's teaching, rather than that which comes from man? Churches of Christ attempt to be nothing more or less. Loving hearts and honest seekers of truth welcome others to worship their God in spirit and truth (John 4:24). If its not authorized by the Bible, we refuse it, including denominational division, which fails to represent the unity for which Christ prayed (John 17:20-21).