It’s Thanksgiving! Three Church of Christ Practices I’m Grateful For

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Even better than Christmas. It takes much less preparation — but yet it requires some serious investment of time. Families travel across continents to be together on Thanksgiving — even if they don’t much like each other. It’s hard to appreciate a holiday that doesn’t cost some effort.

The credit card bills for Thanksgiving are much more manageable. The crowds to buy turkeys are nothing like the Christmas crowds. It’s not nearly as commercialized.

And you get an automatic two days off tacked on to a weekend. And so it’s never on Sunday. I mean, this year Christmas is on a Sunday, and in the Churches of Christ, we take communion every Sunday. Skipping is unthinkable. Moving it to Wednesday is unthinkable. But church on Christmas morning? Right after the kids have opened their presents? Not a good combination!

Oh, and Thanksgiving food is better than Christmas food. And there’s more of it. And there’s football. And the only parade is on TV — so you don’t have to shiver in the cold to watch it.

It’s the perfect holiday.

So I’ve been thinking about what to say about Thanksgiving. I thought maybe I’d express my thanks for the Churches of Christ. I mean, this blog is largely a corrective to problems I see in my beloved Churches of Christ. And correction is necessarily negative. Every once in while, we need to take a moment to reflect on what’s good about the Churches of Christ. If we love them, what makes them lovable?

So here’s a start, and I encourage the readers to add their own. (And you may not be snarky or vent your anger at the Churches. It’s Thanksgiving.)

* A cappella music. I love a cappella music. I also love instrumentally accompanied music. I also love pure instrumentals. I love music. But the Churches of Christ are about the last place left to worship a cappella, and so far, that remains my personal preference — even though I’m a Baby Boomer and grew up on Motown and what is now called “Classic Rock,” a euphemism for “rock as it was meant to be.”

I see no doctrinal basis at all to insist on a cappella music, and see plenty of biblical reasons to refuse to let instrumental music be a test of fellowship. But being opposed to condemnation and division over the instrument does not make me opposed to the practice of a cappella music.

Now, I’m spoiled. I’m a member of a church of 600+, with great praise teams and worship leading, and we do a cappella very well indeed. And I attend the occasional lectureship where there are thousands very well led. These have been some remarkable times of worship.

But you don’t have to have huge numbers and rarely gifted leadership to do it. I’ve participated in some powerful singing in much smaller, less professional venues. A cappella can be done, and often is done, extraordinarily well. And I love it.

I would hate to see our a cappella tradition die. It shouldn’t be our identity. Our identity should be in Jesus. Nor should it define us. We should be defined by Jesus. It certainly shouldn’t define the boundaries of who is and isn’t saved or even part of “the Lord’s church.” The boundary is (you guessed it) Jesus. But I think it’s a wonderful practice. I’m glad my own church sings a cappella. And I’m glad that so many others do as well. (We just need not to turn it into a salvation or fellowship or identity issue.)

* Weekly communion. The early church took communion weekly — even daily — because communion defined their community as body. It was a chance to be with each other, to encourage each other, to welcome each other into an egalitarian society where sometimes slaves were elders overseeing their owners. It was a chance to remember why the persecution was worth it.

There’s a mystery in communion that we’ll never fully fathom. It’s a time of mourning and celebration, to remember Jesus on the cross and Jesus resurrected and living through his body on earth. We discern his body on the cross and his body in the room.

But we sometimes shamefully disrespect the communion service, treating it an interruption in the true purpose of the service — to hear a sermon culminating in an invitation. But the sermon is just not the main reason we assemble.

Indeed, to me, the beauty of the weekly communion is that it pushes us to reflect weekly on why we’re there. It imposes a certain discipline on the service. You can never get too far removed from Jesus and his sacrifice, because we celebrate that sacrifice every week in the middle of every service. Even if the preacher has another agenda, Jesus will be remembered. And that’s nothing but good.

* Wednesday nights. Many churches have de-emphasized Wednesday nights. They are plainly not scripturally bound. No one even remembers how the practice started. Fewer and fewer people attend.

But if you ask those who attend why they attend, most will say it’s “to recharge my batteries” or “to be with friends.” You see, church is, among other things, community, and if you love each other, you want to spend time with each other. And time spent together builds community.

The modern trend is to minimize attendance burdens to make room for more service opportunities — which is great and proper if we actually take the time for service and do it with each other. But I think most actually give that time to baseball, ballet, and TV.

The solution isn’t to rail against and damn those who fail to make the mid-week meeting, but to —

* Encourage other opportunities for the members to be together, to build community and to serve others. Be more flexible. Encourage accountability groups, small groups that meet throughout the week, maybe women- or men-only groups that meet over lunch or breakfast. You get the idea.

* Don’t kill Wednesday nights — not yet, not unless and until the community formation role of the meeting is better served other ways. (Ideas?)

You see, the nature of modern life is to pull us away from each other. We meet once a week, spend 5 minutes talking football, shake hands, read announcements about people we barely know, and then go hundreds of different ways. Modern society becomes more lonely every day.

We replace the thrill of being with our family of believers with the thrill of extraordinary preaching and worship leading. It becomes an experience, a concert (even if a cappella), and not a gathering of family.

Thus, one of the beauties of Wednesday night is how very unprofessional it is. The preacher may not even teach Bible class. The members minister to each other. Wednesdays are very horizontal and, hence, community building.

(Test this hypothesis: Those who attend regularly on Wednesday nights are more committed to their fellow members and their congregation than those who don’t. I think that’s plainly true. Is it cause or effect? I think it’s both.)

Adults get used to the loneliness of modern life, but I think our true natures are revealed in our children, who delight in being with friends on Wednesday nights. Teen and campus ministries often have their best attendance on Wednesday evenings.

But adults learn to suppress their relational needs — for children, for work — and so we adults could all use a little more discipline in our lives about being with those we’re supposed to love as family. And leaders, accustomed to a theology that builds salvation on doctrinal perfectionism — a purely intellectual pursuit — forget that the church is about much more than Bible class.

Yes, it would be even better — much better — to do service together instead. And some do. But most do not. And until we figure out how to get as many members involved in weekly service projects together, I’m for keeping Wednesday nights on the schedule. But not as obligation. As privilege. As opportunity.

We can be more creative and thoughtful about how to do Wednesday nights. We can think a lot harder about why we’re really there. We can avoid the temptation to schedule things just to get the numbers up, without regard to the purpose of the gathering.

In fact, we might even decide it’s okay for the parents to drop off their kids in the children’s wing and spend an hour sipping coffee and talking. Some of those hallway conversations just might be of more service to the kingdom than our classes.


And so, dear readers, what is it about the Churches of Christ that you’re thankful for? (For certain readers I will not name, I’ve left some obvious ones to the readers. Read nothing into the fact that this list omits your favorite.)

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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13 Responses to It’s Thanksgiving! Three Church of Christ Practices I’m Grateful For

  1. laymond says:

    Mat 16:18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

    (I am thankful, that Jesus left a place where we can go to be safe from evil)

    Jhn 3:5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and [of] the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

    (I am thankful that the CoC still believes in baptism, how much longer, who knows)

    Jhn 10:9 I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.

    (I am thankful that the body of Christ remains on earth in the form of the Church, and that there is room for us all, if we so desire)

  2. R.J. says:


    I’m thankful that both the Independent Christian Churches and the Acappella Churches of Christ don’t have a centralized government but maintain that each church is free to run it’s own affairs without conforming to arbitrary rules from a national synod.

  3. aBasnar says:

    A capella sound also nice in a house church of 10 or 15 people, Jay – it’s the hearts that makes the tone. And this I like, also the tuesday nights or thursday nights or whenever we meet midweeks. But most I cherish the fact that we are Spirit driven and not tradition bound. The word is our guide, and we may make changes accoring to deepened understanding. Church autonomy is a great help for this, granted it provides mutual respect to each church’s growth in their understanding.

    I cherish the fellowship among the German, Swiss and Austrian churches, the annual men’s retreats and the joint efforts in helping each other and churches acroos the world.

    And I like visitors from the US in outr assembly – we even has a guest from Quail Spring (insioders know what I mean) in our assembly, and this was neat 🙂 (we still left the piano in our rented room untouched).


  4. I am thankful for our traditional commitment to the Scriptures as our guide. I regret that sometimes we allow the tradition to trump the active leadership of the Holy Spirit. Yet, where the tradition of respect for the Scriptures is vibrant, the Spirit is very active.

    I am thankful for the example of great men who gave up their traditions to follow where the Scriptures (and the Spirit who inspired them and who lives within every child of God) led them – men like Barton Stone, Thomas Campbell, Alexander Campbell and many others. Their doctrine was not perfect – yet their principles moved them toward increasing perfection in the Lord Jesus. My regret is that some have lost their impulse toward movement upward and seem to prefer to maintain a traditional status quo instead of following the tradition of continuous change in an upward direction.

    I am thankful for our principles that call for unity in Christ while also regretting our frequent departure from those principles.

    All in all, I love how we began as a reform movement and my only regrets are that some of us feel that we have “arrived” and need no more movement.


  5. Doug says:

    Lets see… When I went to the Episcopal Church, I sang many acapella songs as a member of the choir and they were the most beautiful music of the classical composers. I also celebrated communion weekly and attended church services on Wednesday nights. Maybe the CofC isn’t so unique after all.

  6. JMF says:

    Doug —

    “Your” church had an unscriptural name, so none of those things counted. 🙂

    COC things I’m thankful for:

    1) Reverence for scripture (I’m sure that is a result of the belief that the Word is the entirety of Spirit action). (And leave me alone, Laymond. I’m not offering to debate that subject. 🙂 )

    2) Autonomy

    3) Argument. I’ll explain: Jay’s COC background has likely made him to be a somewhat better lawyer than he otherwise might have been. I’ve got a friend that is a Sr. Manager at a national accounting firm, and when they have major legal issues, they have a saying: “First, try and hire the best Jewish lawyer you can find. If you can’t find a great Jewish lawyer, hire a Church Of Christ lawyer.”

    This fascinated me. I asked him why this was the case — the Jewish part is a common generalization, but the COC part is new to me — and he said it is because both (Jew and COC) are experts in legalism. The Jews follow the old Law, and the COC mines the NT for new law/pattern!

    All of that said, I’m not sure that we actually know more about the Bible than other denominations — I think it is just that we all had to memorize 5-10 verses when we were kids (Acts 2:38; Mark 16:16; 1 Pet. 3:21; Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16; Acts 22:16; etc.) — but our ability to argue our case exceeds that of our denominational brethren, IMO.

  7. Alabama John says:

    1) Lords Supper with three or more present knowing He said when you did he’d be present. (have it more than just at services and while Jesus there, tell Him your needs and wishes for your family and many others needs

    2) Singing the old harmonizing 4 part songs.

    3) More progressive churches and the opening up of thinking, ideas and speaking out without fear.

  8. Adam Legler says:

    I am thankful that the C of C actually still does bible class, however imperfect it might be at times. Thankful for the opportunity it provides to make relationships and learn how God works in the lives of others in my area.

  9. David Newhouse says:

    Reasons I am thankful for the Churches of Christ:
    (Most of these are generalities and do not apply to all CofC and some are in contrast to other Southern churches I am familiar with).
    1. Deep respect for the Bible
    2. Stress on honesty and good moral living.
    3.. Relatively early eradication of racial prejudice
    4. Autonomy
    5. Not carried away with fantastic endtimes theories
    6 . Christ’s ordinances of baptism and The Lord’s Supper have a place of importance.
    7. Good acapella music
    8. Mostly made up of good common sense people

  10. Larry Cheek says:

    I am very thankful for being able to see many Churches of Christ having great Elders that guide the congregation in a scriptural fasion. I remain very opmistic that some of the congregations that I have attended will someday have Elders and they will guide in a fasion that will change them to be more spirit-filled and become a light shinning for Christ to the community. I am very thankful for the work that Jay is accomplishing, and the comments that are posted here. Each of you when you present a different view than I have been taught or arrived at from my own studies challanges my thinking and causes me to study more intensly. I can hardly wait to read the new posts daily, sometimes it gets late when I get a chance, and if it is just impossible that day I sure miss it. I guess it is somewhat like that community that is called the Church that we desire to attend.

  11. John says:

    Doug…GOOD POINT!

    The CoC, as a whole, still has a long way to go until it realizes that you can have traditions that you cherish, yet, still not let them stand in the way of your relationship with other christians.

    I am thankful for those who DO undertand.

  12. Jay Guin says:

    Alexander wrote,

    we even has a guest from Quail Spring

    Marvelous. It is indeed possible for instrumentalists and non-instrumentalists to share fellowship, to worship together, and even share communion despite their disagreements. This is the essence of grace.

  13. guestfortruth says:

    I am thankful for God’s word that is our rule of faith. and all the conservative CoC that abide to the word of our living God and practicing the will of God every day. I am thankful for those who love the truth and holdfast the apostolic teaching (Acts.2:47) and walk by the same rule (phil. 3:16).

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