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5 Reasons Why I Don’t Criticize The Church Of Christ

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CriticismI don’t criticize the church of Christ. Why? Because I am head-over-heals in love with her. The church of Christ is the Bride of Christ (Eph. 5:25-27; 2 Cor. 11:2; Eph. 5:24), and as such He loved her enough to die for her (Acts 20:28). I want to see her as Christ sees her. Therefore the last thing I want to do is tarnish something Christ desires to “be holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:27).

The Bible likens Christ and His church to the relationship between a husband and wife (Eph. 5:22-33). Good marriages require hard work, but the principles that make them good are simple. For example, the husband who “cherishes” his wife (Eph. 5:29) loves her as himself and will never treat her in a way he wouldn’t want to be treated (cf. Matt. 7:12). This means:

  • A good husband never publicly criticizes his wife. In fact, he looks for opportunities to build her up.
  • A good husband understands that when constructive criticism is needed in a particular area, it should be given in private.
  • A good husband views the needs of his spouse as being more important than his own needs.
  • A good husband is mindful of himself because he knows that his actions reflect on his wife.

The same principles apply to the Christian and his relationship to Christ’s church. If I am critical of the church – if I force my opinions and preferences into the church – if I do not care how my actions and teachings reflect on the church – what does that say about me? I fear for the man who must stand before Christ in Judgment (cf. 2 Cor. 5:10) when on earth he was defined by his criticism of Christ’s Bride.

Here are five (5) reasons why I do not criticize the church of Christ:

I do not want to hurt her reputation in the eyes of the world.

The church is the “pillar and foundation of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15), and thus evil people will always hate her (Prov. 29:27). As such, enemies of the church already do a pretty good job smearing her reputation. The last thing the church needs is for me to publicly point out what I think are her problems.

The world shouldn’t be the place we go to for sympathy when venting our frustrations over doctrinal disagreements. Nor should the world be our sounding board when we are hurt or disappointed by other Christians. When we share our problems with non-Christians rather than bringing our concerns to the Lord and His Word (Psa. 55:22; 1 Pet. 5:7), we demonstrate a lack of faith and confidence in His care.

To avoid hurting the world’s image of Christ and His people, ask yourself, “When Christians and non-Christians alike are around me, does my influence help or hurt their image of the church of Christ?

I recognize that her problems are not her problems at all (rather, they are the result of the people that comprise her).

There is a big difference between the man who is critical of the church of Christ herself and the man who is critical of the sins and bad attitudes that sometimes plague God’s people.

I am highly critical of Christians who tolerate impenitent sin within the church. I hate it when Christians develop attitudes of laziness and indifference. I fume when Christians forget their identity as the New Testament church. But I will not confuse problems among individual Christians with Christ and His glorious Bride. Yes, the church is comprised of imperfect people (cf. 1 Cor. 12:12), but that doesn’t mean we comprise an imperfect church. God designed His church, and He did so perfectly. She is worthy of her Husband.

I want to build her up, not tear her down.

Like it did in the 1st century, I want the church to “grow in favor with all the people” (Acts 2:47). So let’s shout what we like, and whisper what we dislike. Let’s talk more about what is right about the church and less of what we think is wrong. Because if we actually think there is something wrong with the product of the “manifold wisdom of God” (Eph. 3:10), the problem lies not with the church of Christ, but with us.

The church already has enough finger-pointing, name-calling, bad attitudes, and negativity among her own. In this regard, the church doesn’t need you. What she does need, however, is for you to bring her more commendation and less condemnation.

I am not a wolf in sheep’s clothing (Matt. 7:15; Rom. 16:17).

There will always be the vocal few who actively promote revolution within the church. Like the Israelites of old who wanted to be like the pagan nations around them (cf. 1 Sam. 8:20), they want the church of Christ to be no different than the denominational churches that have already left their first love. They are like the husband who marries a woman because of who he wants her to be, not for who she is.

The church of Christ is, and always will be, the church you find in the New Testament. The day she changes will be the day she ceases to legitimately be the church of Christ. If you do not like who she is, then why are you still here? There are plenty of other churches out there.

  • Have a problem with the hierarchy of authority in the church (Acts 20:17,28; 1 Tim. 3:1ff; Tit. 1:5ff)? Then leave.
  • Have a problem with music in corporate worship that is exclusively a capella, reciprocal, congregation, singing (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16)? Then leave.
  • Have a problem with not being in spiritual fellowship with those who are not first in fellowship with God (1 John 1:7)? Then leave.
  • Have a problem with the restoration plea of simply following the New Testament (John 17:20-21Rom. 6:17-18; 1 Cor. 4:6; 2 Tim. 1:13)? Then leave.
  • Have a problem with viewing the Bible as the Word of God and thus authoritative in all matters of faith and religion (2 Tim. 3:16-17)? Then leave.

I love the distinguishing characteristics of the bride of Christ. I love her for who she is, not for who I may want her to be. I love her just as I find her in the New Testament. Who am I to place my opinions and ideas above the simple teachings of the New Testament?

I do not want to bite the hand that feeds me.

I am guilty of sin (Rom. 3:23), and deserve death (Isa. 59:1-2; Rom. 6:23). Because of His love, God has offered me salvation (Eph. 2:8-10). By His grace, has placed me in His church (Acts 2:38, 47). The church is the vessel of the saved (Col. 1:13). I cannot be saved outside of the church.

When I attack the church – my only hope for salvation – I attack the very gracious hand of God. There is a word for this: stupid.

(Your comments are welcome and encouraged, even if they are in disagreement. However, please keep your comments relevant to the article. For my full comment policy, click here.)

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18 Responses to 5 Reasons Why I Don’t Criticize The Church Of Christ

  1. Scott Shifferd Jr. July 30, 2014 at 2:12 PM #

    Excellent article. I keep thinking of 2 Timothy 2.14-15, “Remind them of these things, charging them before the Lord not to strive about words to no profit, to the ruin of the hearers. Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”

  2. Jack July 30, 2014 at 2:14 PM #

    Are there any differences between criticizing the church and reevaluating various teachings or traditions practiced? Not to suggest that our teachings have been wrong necessarily, but maybe things that were once expedient are no longer the most expedient option. I guess my question is is it possible to critically evaluate church practices without being a criticizer?

    • Ben July 30, 2014 at 2:36 PM #

      Jack, great question. Certainly their is a way to critically evaluate our practices – indeed we must! How else can we pursue the restoration of New Testament Christianity if we are not allowed to scrutinize everything we do in light of Scripture? But when it comes to the church’s identity, along with the teachings of Christ through His inspired apostles, we have no right to be negative. In all things we must be building up the Bride of Christ. In fact, we must evaluate our teachings and practices in such a way that we can better glorify the Bride.

      • Jack July 30, 2014 at 4:19 PM #

        Agreed. Great points about needing to evaluate in order to better restore the NT church and about us not having the right to be negative. Evaluation doesn’t have to be a negative thing (though it often is). Appreciate the post! Glad your writing hiatus is over.

  3. Tina July 30, 2014 at 5:37 PM #

    Loved the article!! I would like to suggest instead of saying bluntly “then leave” when you were talking about “wolf in sheep clothing”, may I suggest you say “may you read & learn”?? It just seems harsh to tell someone to just leave. Even though I totally agree if a person is there to disrupt peace in the congregation or to bring his/her own agenda, then they should leave.

    • Ben July 31, 2014 at 9:59 AM #

      Thanks Tina! I think you hit the nail on the head! Thanks for bringing even greater balance.

    • Jett Hamrick August 4, 2014 at 4:34 PM #

      Excellent suggestion Tina. I have bluntly said “then leave” myself. I will take your suggestion to heart.

  4. Christine Skelly July 30, 2014 at 6:42 PM #

    Dear Ben,
    According to my studies I have found that salvation is a matter of being “in Christ.” I would like to know where you find the following teachings in Scripture:

    “The church is the vessel of the saved (Col. 1:13).” – Colossians 1:13 is referring to God’s Kingdom and does not refer to the church as the vessel of the saved
    “I cannot be saved outside of the church.”
    The church is “my only hope for salvation.”

    • Ben July 31, 2014 at 10:28 AM #

      Christine,

      Thanks for the comment and allowing me to elaborate. You are absolutely correct that salvation is a matter of being “in Christ” (cf. Eph. 1:3-14). And how do we get “into” Christ? By submitting to the Gospel through repentance and baptism (Acts 2:38; Gal. 3:27).

      It is also true that one cannot be saved outside of the church. Our Lord only established one church (Matt. 16:18), and those who are saved are automatically added to His church (Acts 2:47). When we are baptized, we are added to His body (Col. 1:18; Eph. 4:4; 1 Cor. 12:13), which of course is the church (Eph. 1:22-23). Yes, in a sense, the church is my only hope for salvation in that if I am not in the church, I am not saved.

      The “kingdom” in Colossians 1:13 specifically refers to Christ’s present role over heaven and earth (cf. Matt. 28:18). What Colossians 1:13 teaches is that the kingdom is a present domain, not just a future enterprise. What does this kingdom look like now? Christ used the words “kingdom” and “church” interchangeably (Matt. 16:18-19). When someone’s sins are forgiven, he is delivered from the realm of Satan and transferred into the kingdom of Jesus. This happens when one is baptized/immersed (Acts 2:38; 22:16), being born of water and the Spirit (John 3:5; Acts 8:12).

      I cannot be saved outside of the church that belongs to Christ, and I cannot be saved outside of the kingdom that belongs to Christ.

  5. Rick July 30, 2014 at 8:11 PM #

    So I have to ask… Is it really your contention that not agreeing with some of the tenants of the COC really identifies one as a “Wolf”?

    The reason I ask is according to the NT, the “wolves” are people who either are intent of dividing the Body for personal gain, or are flat not saved.

    Is that what you mean? That criticizing that with which one does not agree means that person is one of those two options? OR, they simply should leave?

    I am not sure how your paradigm is reflected in the NT.

    • Ben July 31, 2014 at 10:37 AM #

      To disagree with anything Christ and His New Testament teaches places one’s salvation in jeopardy. Christ’s words give life (John 6:63), thus failure to obey His Will (John 8:51; 14:15, 23) will result in being lost. No saved person can disagree with Christ’s design for His Church as found in the New Testament.

      Yes, someone who wears the name “Christian” while disagreeing with what the New Testament clearly teaches about His church is a wolf. Their aim is convince people that they are in right standing with the Lord while trying to convince them that the Lord’s church is wrong.

  6. janetkrayJanet Ray July 30, 2014 at 11:57 PM #

    The faux-helpful suggestion of “you can leave if you want, there’s lots of other churches out there” says “We know everything there is to know. Our interpretation of scripture is infallible.”

    It is sectarian and pretentious to claim that our tradition, our interpretation of how to “do church”, our little tribe has a monopoly on being the “bride of Christ” and that those outside our tradition are not a part of the church universal – the dear and glorious bride of Christ.

    • Terrie July 31, 2014 at 1:55 PM #

      Janet, this is such a good question, one that a lot of people say about the church of Christ. Once my best friend, a Baptist, said; ‘Doesn’t the church of Christ believe they are the only ones going to heaven?” That is an very old and bad reputation that the church of Christ has enveloped over the past years. Since I’ve heard it said about other churches also, ‘that they are right and everyone else is wrong.’

      Each body of the church of Christ is individually governed within it’s own, there is no man made hierarchy telling us how to ‘do church’ or how to conduct our ‘worship.’ Traditions? yes I have to confess it is easy to fall into traditions and make them scriptural in our own minds. but that is wrong, we study diligently to know we are worshiping in Spirit and in Truth and not traditional or man’s interpretation.

      Now that each body is governed individually, as Christ as the head, and then by the leadership of the elders (also called, pastors, shepherds) You will find differences within each individual church body. Even within the individual church each member would have opinions on how to ‘do church.’ But Christ prayed that we be ‘ONE.’ Which is what we strive for.

      But you are so right about holding the deity of Christ as the most leading factor of everything we do in public worship, private worship, and daily worship.

      Only two laws really; “To love God and to love one another.” Jesus commanded and then said “If you love me you will keep my commandments.”

      I heard that if we make our worship and our lives to live by a lot of rules and laws, then this is not going to work, because it is about love and truth. God IS love, and Jesus said; ‘I am the Way, they Truth, and the Life.”

      The faux-helpful suggestion mentioned threw me aback also. I think he means that so many try to ‘find’ a church that fits what they believe instead of finding a church that fits what the bible says.

  7. Bill Keele July 31, 2014 at 9:16 AM #

    Ben,
    Thanks. For some, the mark of intellect is to point out flaws, magnify them, and create a thesis for rejection. For others, the mark of intellect is to do their very best to take the New Testament as God’s pattern for the church today and seek to preach it, teach it and live it. I do not belong to “Our Tradition” nor the “Old Church of Christ.” I belong to the church as described in the New Testament and seek to share that wonderful opportunity with others. It seems that is exactly what you are trying to do. Thank you.

  8. Ron July 31, 2014 at 9:56 AM #

    Great article, Ben! I am tired of people bashing Christ and His Church that he gave His life to purchase with His own blood. If someone has issues with the Church that belongs to Christ, then they have issues with Christ. If your church is doing things that you do not like, then correct them by going back to scripture to find the true way worshipers of God should live. Thanks again for this your views on this subject.

  9. Wendi Capehart August 1, 2014 at 2:53 PM #

    “A good husband never publicly criticizes his wife. In fact, he looks for opportunities to build her up.
    A good husband understands that when constructive criticism is needed in a particular area, it should be given in private.
    A good husband views the needs of his spouse as being more important than his own needs.
    A good husband is mindful of himself because he knows that his actions reflect on his wife.”

    You are not the husband. You are part of the bride.

    Jesus, the groom, criticized entire congregations in Revelation 2 and 3. The epistles are full of criticisms of churches of Christ.

    A desire to protect the church’s reputation from the world is what prompted the Catholic church to cover up child sex abuse for decades. It’s what has prompted a number of cover-ups in various institutions- the desire to protect the reputation of the institution. But silence about problems is more often what causes the biggest harm to the reputation of any organization.

    Yes, the Lord’s church is the product of the “manifold wisdom of God” but quite often the problem isn’t that somebody has a problem with the product of the manifold wisdom of God, but that they believe they see the church straying from that manifold wisdom and elevating the teachings of men over the teachings of God on various issues.

    • Ben August 6, 2014 at 10:19 AM #

      Thank you for your insight, Windi. The criticism Jesus gave to individual congregations of His Body in Revelation 2 & 3 were written to the Christians there who were departing from Christ’s Will for His church. He was not criticizing His church; He was criticizing what the Christians there were doing to His church. Many of them were in the processes of departing, and if they continued in their direction and did not heed His words, were to be cut off from Christ.

      That which is wrong needs to be addressed. But there is nothing wrong with the New Testament pattern for the Lord’s church. The Catholic church is a great example of how far one can pervert the teachings of the New Testament – the Catholic denomination doesn’t even resemble the church as found in the 1st century!

  10. Anonymous August 15, 2014 at 12:17 AM #

    This is a great post. I do want to add though, I’m not sure if you are aware, but it is still possible for people to worship with a church of Christ and use instruments, instead of leaving the church. There are many across that country that do. I don’t worship with instruments. However, I don’t think we should criticize people who do believe that Psalm 150 is not considered to be sinful. (If you aren’t aware of Psalm 150, here is the link: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm+150) I also don’t think we should encourage people to leave, but rather shower them with love and encouragement, of course, scriptures.

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