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Community Church View

By E. Claude Gardner

religion, articles, christianity

By making a call to a Community Church, a person from that church confirmed some things I thought might be the case and what I learned is of major concern. It was begun by some brethren who wanted more "freedom in expression of worship."

There are "worship" services at 8:30 and 10:30. This includes a sermon, but it seems questionable not to have the Lord's Supper. At 9:30 there is a "praise service" which includes communion. At the "praise service" people can go to the front and state anything on their heart. Women may do this also. Sounds like this is what some call "sharing," or what some might call testifying. Women may pray aloud in small groups.

I was informed that at times there is a recorded song with instruments of music which is played and people sing with it.

Every person can decide on baptism and they do not believe they (church) have the only answer regarding baptism. It is evident they believe that the sinner is saved by faith only, and that baptism is not for the remission of sins.

The informant told me that the church is not a church of Christ. Hence, it is another denomination and is for all denominations. I was informed that Baptists, Methodists, and others are in the official membership. This is the Community Church concept.

Those who started it did not want it to be identified with the church of Christ, because people would be turned off by the teaching that if they did not believe it (the teaching) they would go to hell. Hence, they reject and are embarrassed with the descriptive title "church of Christ."

Their bulletins also provide other information. When the congregation was looking for a new minister the minutes of the "Small Group Minister Search Committee Meeting December 12, 1993," recorded there was a consensus that the new preacher could be from a denomination. The statement reads, "The group agreed that the search for the small group minister was not to be confined to churches of Christ. This had been previously discussed with the leadership group." Also, the committee wanted "a man who shares our small group philosophy and is committed to continuing and implementing it."

The church has small groups meeting during the week which they call "house churches." One survey of the members asked what priority they would give to this plan: "That we be a church that draws people from all over the state for a Sunday morning time of praise and celebration. These people can then go back into their respective communities and meet in 'house churches' on Sunday night and Wednesday night. We then take evangelistic teams into these communities periodically and present Christ to the lost and hurting." This is similar to the cultic Boston Movement. Although they deny being in the Boston Movement, one of their bulletins reported that a group would visit the Boston Church and give it a big boost.

One of their bulletins, a special issue, was devoted to the Holy Spirit. Rubel Shelly's book, In Step With The Spirit, was extolled and declared to be a must for reading. There is a strong emphasis on the influence of the Spirit.

In another bulletin an article argues that the church is not the kingdom. The conclusion reached: "That Jesus, the apostles and other evangelists preached the gospel, the Kingdom and Jesus, but they never preached the church."

When the group split from a faithful congregation, the preacher who is no longer there wrote: "We do not use instrumental music in our worship assemblies and have no intention of ever doing so." That was March 1, 1989, but instrumental music has been used by playing it over the public address system.

Likely there will be more and more use of instrumental music. No sermons will be preached on the sin of instrumental music. Sermons will not be preached on the essentiality of baptism to be saved. There will be little emphasis on obedience but a great stress on grace and faith only. The church-the one body-will not be exalted. There will be considerable emotionalism with much rain, rain, excitement, and emphasis on the Holy Spirit and how we are guided by the Spirit apart from the Bible.

Here are some important questions to be asked the proponents of the Community Church that will pinpoint beliefs and practices.

  1. Is the church of Christ a denomination?
  2. Do you believe that one should join the church of his choice?
  3. Can one be saved and go to heaven without being a member of the church, the body of Christ?
  4. Is one saved by grace at the point of faith before and without other works of obedience?
  5. Is baptism (immersion) essential to being saved?
  6. Is "Baptist baptism" in harmony with the New Testament?
  7. Are there many Christians in all denominations?
  8. Is it sinful to use instrumental music (either live or recorded) in worship any where or at any time?
  9. Are Baptists, Methodist, Pentecostals and others accepted in full fellowship and in the work of the congregation?
  10. Does the congregation participate in union services at Easter?
  11. Is it a requirement to sing without books and flash the songs on a screen?
  12. Is using a screen a way to allow swaying, permitting more clapping, and hope the Holy Spirit will come?
  13. Do you believe the Holy Spirit gives a Christian special directions and guidance in living and doctrine in addition to the Bible?
  14. Are you ashamed or embarrassed to use the name of Christ with the church? Is the Community Church a church of Christ?
  15. Do women give testimonials saying what is on their heart? Do women lead in prayer in small groups?

Published April 1997