What Is a “Church of Christ”? A Supplemental Directory

In a comment on the last post, Matt Dabbs said,

I will even put a post on my blog or create something online as a supplement to the directory to inform people of the contact information of those churches because let’s face it, people do want to know how to contact those churches to ask for support or to visit when they travel.


I 100% agree. There are countless fundraising needs in the Churches of Christ: missionaries, disaster relief agencies, universities, foster care agencies, orphanages … They all need access to mailing lists. The omission  also places a serious burden on those who need to raise support or who want to invite churches to lectureships, youth rallies, and the like.

What would motivate anyone to put a burden on missionary and disaster relief fundraising? (Oh, right, “accuracy.” I forgot.)

PLEASE prepare the list and keep it maintained. I’ll help anyway I can.


Please send Matt, http://mattdabbs.wordpress.com/, contact information on any partly instrumental churches you know about. 

Now, to completely undo the damage done by 21st Century Christian, I suppose we should notify the U.S. Census Bureau that data provided by the compilers of Churches of Christ in the United States is incomplete. It is, as you mention in your comment, nothing but Completely A Cappella Churches of Christ in the United States. The compilers themselves say the distinction is not theological. They just prefer to deal exclusively with a cappella churches. I’m sure the Census Bureau will understand that this is not a denominational split, just an editorial decision made for accuracy in counting completely a cappella churches. How could they not understand something so obvious?

I can’t imagine that this might somehow lead to the listing of a new denomination. I’m sure they’ll understand. 

And we need to notify the World Almanac people and all the other organizations that compile data on denominations in the U.S. that this book does not speak for the Churches of Christ. Rather, they need to add the partly instrumental churches in. It shouldn’t be hard to be certain we’re accurately represented. After all, the instrumental churches were excluded for the sake of accuracy.

We need to tell the guys who publish the Handbook of Denominations in the United States that they shouldn’t list the partly instrumental music churches separately despite the fact that the people who compile the data they use have excluded the partly instrumental churches — for the sake of accuracy.

You see, it’s a mess. And it’s embarrassing. We’re being forced to present ourselves to the world as having split (again), and it’s even along the wrong fault lines! After all, the split that’s actually going on is between progressives and conservatives, and the split is over the scope of grace. Instrumental music is incidental. 

The colossal mistake the compilers make is to see the split as based on practices rather than theology. Those who leave my church to move to other parts of the country never ask for a recommendation for an instrumental or non-instrumental church. They don’t think in those terms. They want a progressive church, meaning a church that teaches grace and that has the sort of tranformative worship that only comes with grace. Instruments are beside the point.

Wrong issue. Wrong time. The compilers have missed the point entirely. It’s not about the instrument. Not even close.

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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6 Responses to What Is a “Church of Christ”? A Supplemental Directory

  1. This is one time I wish you were wrong. Unfortunately this is not the case.

  2. Weldon says:


    Carl Royster has posted a defense of the the decision to exclude "hybrid" churches on the 21st Century Christian blog. (http://www.21stcc.com/blog/blog.cfm)

    Repeating the theme that it's not theological, he offers the following analogy:

    "Permit me this illustration: Imagine that you were told to go down to the river to count all the boats that were floating. You see boats in the river, bobbing up and down. You also see boats that are in racks on the shoreline. You also see some boats that are pulled partially on the bank of the river – bow on land and stern in the water. Which boats would you include in your “floating” number? The question does not ask you to determine which ones are boats, but only which ones are floating. None of the boats seen would be disqualified from being boats, but only those floating would be included in this particular count."

    While he is clear to say that “none of the boats seen would be disqualified from being boats,” it seems that his analogy indicates the same qualitative distinction the directory did: it still leaves room for a distinction between “boats that are serving their intended purpose” and boats that are not.

  3. Jon Shelton says:

    I guess that would be ok if he were to peer into every boat to make sure that NONE of them had any water on board. Some boats would float even if they had water in them. We need to get someone that can examine very closely each boat to make sure that it has the "marks" of a boat.

  4. mattdabbs says:

    That is exactly what we need…more boat inspectors running around. Imagine if all we did was equip people to inspect boats and stopped teaching people how to build boats. I am very glad that there is a generation growing into its own right now that has a heart for planting churches and reaching the lost and will have nothing to do walking around with magnifying glasses to "boat inspect." God is at work and we better look out.

  5. mattdabbs says:

    When I heard Mac Lynn was no longer going to edit the book I thought about tossing my hat in the ring to do an update. With 40+ hours of statistics under my belt and some on the doctoral level I may finally have to put it to use.

  6. Pingback: You can’t say that here! | Sheltons @ SIBI

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