Josh Graves has been generous with his time and has offered an addition to our ongoing series on “Why I’m a Member of the Church of Christ.” I appreciate his time and perspective.
I am A Member of the Churches of Christ. I am a minister in a Church of Christ (though some Churches of Christ might not claim us). For the record, I love the Churches of Christ.
We are a tradition in the broad sweep of Christianity much like the Methodist, Baptist, Episcopalian, and Presbyterian traditions are traditions: we have our own language, inside jokes, denominational gatherings, print publication, online watchdogs, schools/colleges, regional nuances, doctrinal sticking points. Most churches that claim to be non-denominational are either a) in denial or b) about to become a denomination. Churches of Christ have some beautiful, worth-copying traits. And, we have some things we’re still trying to let go of, improve, and be honest about.
We’re like any American family in that way. We have so many good things. And we have some secrets we don’t want to go public. I know some who only want to talk about the good (naiveté) and those who can only see the bad (cynics) . . . I don’t think we get to choose. Here are my reasons I’m still in the Church of Christ.
- I met my wife. If you are keeping score, this is at the top of the list.
- I was born into the Churches of Christ. This is as close to a Calvinist as I’ll ever get. I believe God was somehow in the mix as he brought me into the world.
- I was raised in the Churches of Christ. I think there’s something to the notion of “bloom where you are planted.” The Church of Christ is the space and place (because of my family) in which I was introduced to the person of Jesus. I was nurtured and nourished by beautiful people who lived the love of Jesus in compelling and often dangerous ways.
- Almost all of my memories are healthy, positive, and life-giving. In fact, I can’t come up with one singular large “beef” I’ve had.
- I met hypocrisy in the Church of Christ. Hypocrisy is not failing to live up to a desired standard. That’s being human. Hypocrisy is the denial of not living up to a standard one claims to live up to. I’m thankful for this for it allowed me to recognize my own hypocrisy and inconsistency.
- I met deep thinkers in the Church of Christ. Sisters and brothers who introduced me to the classic Christian thinkers of the 20th century as well as the important voices in church history.
- I encountered my calling in the Church of Christ. God speaks primarily to me through people (in addition to scripture, music, and creation).
- I now appreciate other denominations and their leaders because of my time in the Church of Christ. Other denominations have just as many beautiful and toxic elements-but you have to be in one to recognize this in others.
- I met my future. I was introduced to the kingdom of God, the future, Jesus as the embodiment of God’s intent for humanity (what Christians call heaven).
- I believe in the best of the Church of Christ–autonomy, primacy of scripture’s story, Anabaptist position on government, sacraments of baptism and Lord’s Supper, etc.
- I’m aware of the worst–sectarianism, boys club tendency, racism, bad theology, isolationism, etc.
I love the Church of Christ the same way I love being an American. I love her enough that I’m going to brag about the best and confess the worst. I hope we all do this regarding our own personal lives.
I am more interested in being a part of church that is engaging the Muslim, Baha’i, Buddhist, Jew, and Agnostic persons of a community than I am “patting ourselves on the back” because the Baptists, Methodists, and Church of Christ ministers had lunch together. It’s a new day. We need courage.
People often wonder if the Church of Christ will exist in 50 years. 100 years? I have no idea. I know this; the kingdom of God will still exist. And the churches that get in line with the kingdom of God-in all of its complexity and genius and generosity–these churches will continue to flourish, and do the behind-the-scenes-work-of-God the church universal has been doing for two centuries and counting.
Josh Graves is the teaching minister for the Otter Creek Church of Christ in Nashville. He is the author of The Feast (2009) and Heaven on Earth (2012). Josh holds a doctorate degree from Columbia seminary, blogs at joshuagraves.com. You can follow him on twitter @joshgraves.