The 2015 Churches of Christ in the United States, Part 1

image00121st Century Christian has just published the 2015 edition of The Churches of Christ in the United States. The book is not yet available on (The most recent version on Amazon is from 2012.) It’s not available in Kindle format.

The website for the book includes a free download of state-by-state statistics. I compared these stats with some stats earlier reported here, resulting in the above chart.

Here’s a table of the raw data:

Congregations Adherents
2003        13,155        1,656,717
2009        12,629        1,578,281
2015        12,297        1,519,251

Here are some additional stats of interest:

* Congregations have been declining since 2003 at a rate of 0.54% per annum.

* Adherents (members plus unbaptized children) have been declining since 2003 at a rate of 0.69% per annum, meaning we’re losing people faster than we’re losing congregations. This is an 8.3% decline from 2003 to 2015.

* Since 2003, the average congregation size has declined by about two members per congregation, that is, from 126 to 124 adherents per congregation. This is not reflective of the rate of overall decline. Rather, we’re closing enough congregations to nearly keep the surviving congregations the same size they were before.

* The Christian Chronicle reports that the same figures reflect a 7.8% decline in membership since 1990, reflecting about 100,443 souls. (Oddly enough, this is buried in a report on urban ministry.) This is less than the 8.3% decline in adherents from 2015 to 2003. The 1990s were a time of plateaued growth of something like 0.5% over 13 years — essentially flat, even though it was a time of rapid population growth.

Notice that “membership” excludes unbaptized children. This is probably about 129,000 adherents, that is, members and unbaptized children — which is how most Churches of Christ think of membership.

* That’s a pace of 4,018 members and 5,159 adherents per year since 1990.

* Since 2003, the rate is 11,456 adherents per year lost to the Churches of Christ.

* Yes, the rate of decline is accelerating. A lot. The average rate of decline in members from 1990 to 2015 is 0.31% per year, that is, about half the current rate of decline. The loss of members, adherents, and congregations is picking up pace, doubling roughly every 15 to 20 years. I’ve not bothered to project those results into the future.

* During this same period, the population of the United States has grown from 249,438,712 in 1990 to 322,583,006 in 2015, an annual growth rate of 1.17%. That is, the nation is growing at twice the rate at which the Churches of Christ are declining.

* According to the Huffington Post,

The U.S. birth rate now is 1.9 births per woman over her lifetime, when 2 births per woman is necessary to sustain the population on its own. Because of immigration, the population is still growing, but the birth rate has been plunging since the recession started in 2007 and fell below population-sustaining levels in 2010. It’s projected to fall to a 25-year low this year and not recover to pre-recession levels anytime soon, according to the consulting firm Demographic Intelligence.

In short, we used to expect to grow congregations purely by keeping our own children. We now aren’t having enough children to replace our dying members.

* In fact, previous studies show that we’ve lost adherents faster than members, that is, we’ve lost more families with children than families without children — with obvious long term consequences. And this is doubtlessly why the pace of decline is accelerating.

Yeakley reports that, as of the early 1990s, only 55% of children growing up in a Church of Christ remain affiliated with the Churches of Christ after they leave home. Of the 45% who leave, 33% never return. The remaining 12% leave but return, generally when they marry and have children.

A more recent study focuses on those graduating from high school from 1997 to 2006. Of these, 58.2% remain members of a Church of Christ; 21.1% have transferred to another denomination; and 20.7% have no church affiliation at all.

Given that some of these graduates may yet marry, have children, and return to church, the numbers are fairly consistent with the earlier study.


In the recent past, reports such as this have been met with the following responses:

— My but aren’t the “progressives” gleeful about all this!

No, no one is happy about these numbers. They do validate the concerns of many in all factions of the Churches of Christ that something is seriously wrong. But no one is happy that things are so bad.

— Talking about this stuff only makes things worse! All this bad news is killing us!

There’s no sense in blaming the messenger, and our numbers were badly negative long before the studies revealed this truth. Denial is no solution. Blaming others for our own problems is no solution.

— Well, at least we’re doing better than [name a denomination].

True enough, I suppose, but our children are leaving Christianity entirely. How is 20% of our children having no church affiliation at all acceptable? How does the fact that others have worse problems make our losses acceptable?

— It’s all the criticism from the “progressives” that’s driving our children away!

You’re confusing cause with effect. We were in decline before there was much of any “progressive” movement in the Churches of Christ. And if you’d bother to speak to your congregation’s children who left to ask them why they left, they’ll tell you. And it won’t be because of progressive criticisms.

Flavil Yeakley, one of the Churches’ leading statisticians, who is quite conservative in his theology, took the trouble to do this, and the reasons are reported in his book Why They Left: Listening to Those Who Have Left Churches of Christ published by the Gospel Advocate — hardly a bastion of progressivism.

— I don’t believe these liberal statistics. Who made these things up anyway?

Well, these come from some of our more conservative institutions, from statisticians who are not among the “progressive” Churches.

— Maybe these stats are distorted by congregations that no longer consider themselves Churches of Christ.

A little bit. But 21st Century Christian continues to treat Churches of Christ with instrumental services as Churches of Christ. And only a handful of former Churches of Christ no longer consider themselves part of the denomination.

— Well, “God gives the increase!” If we’re not growing, it’s because God has chosen not to bless us with growth.

I read this passage to say that if we plant and water, God will give the increase. God is faithful to his promises. If we’re not growing, it’s because we’re not planting and watering
— or else because we’re planting the wrong seed.

Toward a solution

What’s the solution? Well, we’ve covered this before. But we have to start with —

* Being courageous enough to accept the facts as true and to deal with them as they are. We have to get over our denial and blaming of others.

* Being courageous enough to ask whether we’re really as right on our doctrine as we’d like to think. Obviously, we aren’t persuading our own children.

Of course, this isn’t essential. Wait a few decades and our church buildings will all be owned by church plants from other denominations with very different theologies. We can stay the same and be replaced — or we can do some honest self-examination.

I’m not suggesting that we should practice and teach what we should consider error just to hold onto our numbers. But neither should we remain the same just because it’s easier.

Change is coming. The question is whether we want to be part of it.

PS — At a reader’s request, here’s the above graph scaled from zero to the numbers shown:


The drop in adherents from 2003 to 2015 is 8.3%, regardless of the style of graph used. We’re about 1/12th of the way to zero, and declining at an accelerating pace.

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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84 Responses to The 2015 Churches of Christ in the United States, Part 1

  1. Joe says:

    Jay I will be brief. I thought about this on the way up to AR this weekend. The root of our problem is theological.

  2. John says:

    A couple of observations. First of all, the message given by most studies within imply that people who leave the Church of Christ are no longer interested in things spiritual; that they do not leave us to go elsewhere. This still shows me that the CoC is still in that competitive mode, the mindset that says, “Surely, anyone who loves the truth could not forsake us for another”.

    Secondly, there is problem of most Churches of Christ being cells of the political and social Right Wing, even among many who consider themselves “progressive” simply because they now accept people of a few other conservative denominations as Christians. Indeed, there are some progressives within who desire a greater message and practice of social justice. But there is still much to be changed.

  3. Mike Tune says:

    It Seems to me Jay at least one thing is lacking in your solution: being and making disciples. We aren’t sharing our faith much. Perhaps it’s because we’ve not much faith to share.

  4. Jay Guin says:

    Mike Tune wrote,

    Perhaps it’s because we’ve not much faith to share.

    I agree. It’s easy to say that we aren’t evangelizing as we should. It’s true, I’m sure. But that answer fails to explain why we aren’t.

    The answer differs depending on your segment of the Churches. For those among the most conservative, their legalism reflects a vision of God as someone anxious to damn and who treats the assembly as a chance to catch mistakes to damn his own children. Obviously, such a vision doesn’t motivate to spread the gospel to friends, except out of fear — which is not going to be very effective in contemporary America.

    But among the more progressive Churches, there’s a much healthier image of God and much more true gospel. But there is still precious little evangelism. Part of this is recognition that those we used to “evangelize” are already saved. And I think we’ve never really been taught how to speak about Jesus and our salvation in a grace-filled church. We just don’t know how. We only know how to invite churched friends to visit our higher quality children’s and teen programs. We can only sell church to church shoppers. It’s very American but doesn’t help us communicate with the truly lost.

    Mark Love has posted a series of very helpful articles that we are reposting at Wineskins. The first two are up: and

  5. Jay Guin says:


    I entirely agree with the problem that arises from connecting politics with the church. It immediately runs off those with differing political views. And so white churches, by being Republican, become unattractive to black Christians and visitors. And it’s not a question of whether being Republican is good or bad, but whether it’s what the church is supposed to be about. I have trouble with the idea that the church is supposed to have a position on the Second Amendment.

    Regarding those who leave, the problem progressive Churches have is that their children grow up, move away, and join non-denominational community churches — which tells us what we’re teaching our children to believe. Evidently they’re opposed to denominationalism and in favor of small groups and community service. Non-denominational community churches are one of the few segments of American Protestantism that are growing — largely at the expense of CHurches of Christ, Baptists, and other conservative denominations that insist on clinging to their denominational distinctives.

    I think it’s not so much the name as the attitude that we must be true to our denominational roots and cannot be Christians only but not the only Christians.

  6. Zackary says:

    No way do I deny that there are serious theological problems in the restoration churches today. However, there are folks in Africa and Asia who are still preaching the same message as the more hard-line churches who are still winning souls and growing exponentially, just as was happening in the US not so long ago. Further, I am personally aware of at least one of the more hard-line American congregations today that is making and keeping disciples, as well as some successful churches who are not as hard-line. God has used sectarian tainted seed to win authentic disciples , and he’s used liberally tainted seed as well. I’m suggesting this decline indicates at least as much to do with changes in culture both outside and inside modern churches (an American problem) that has kept us from sticking to the mission rather than that God is finally spanking churches of Christ for not getting it. But maybe we are entering a period in American culture where the dross just ain’t gonna cut it anymore… but if so the problem belongs to all those Christians among the denominations in America, not just us. We’re definitely not the sole proprietors of dross. Maybe when it’s all over we’ll all be one. Maybe when it’s all over we’ll be like Europe -there will be almost none.

  7. Jay Rollmann says:

    If we would love more and judge less we would return to the teaching of our Savour Jesus Christ! GOD is love!

  8. Jerome Hughes says:

    This is a beneficial article, and I was added to the church in a time of it’s decline. How can I share this information with the elders of the congregation with whom I worship? How can I remind them that we can still teach sound doctrine in a different and simple manner, while remaining conservative? I don’t want to come off as “arrogant” and a young man who wants to take over.

  9. John says:

    Jay, good point about black Christians not wanting to join themselves to white churches. It is more than a difference in worship styles. Many black Christians believe they do not have to subject themselves being put to the test by whites who feel the can “speak their minds” in criticizing the Civil Rights Movement and other areas of progressive politics. And the sad irony is that when whites do so, they claim to be exercising their rights; whereas, if blacks speak out for Civil Rights, voting rights, etc., they are accused of “reverse racism”. I am a sixty five year old white man, and never, never have I suffered from racism when African Americans chose to speak up for what makes their lives better. It is time for many white Christians to grow up and stop the whining.

  10. John says:

    One more thought. It is difficult for people who have grown up in the Church of Christ to break out of the mentality that says, “We are so unique. When people become one of us or leave us, its different than with other churches. And when those who leave us come back, that simply proves how ‘right’ we are”.

    But the truth is, people travel back and forth across denominational lines all the time. It is not uncommon at all for a person who changed churches as an adult to, later on, go back into the church of their youth. And the foremost reason is, trying to find once again that feeling of innocence, rather than looking for the one and only church.

    So, rather than preaching, “We’re different”, I believe local churches find health and wholeness by offering them to their neighborhoods in any loving way they possibly can. When offering a “cup of water”, you place it in the closest hand.

  11. Martin says:

    All of the platitudes we have, all of the, trust God / pray more isn’t going to address the fact that people are leaving because it doesn’t make sense to them anymore. Science, and rationality are trumping our Bible school teachings at almost every turn. There is a well educated young population that has access to a world of information at their fingertips. God had no problem in the old or new testament proving his existence. We are working at a disadvantage, as the education/socioeconomic level increases, as people become more aware, spirituality declines. Like a previous poster pointed out, look at Europe. This is not a simple problem (if it is a problem) and there are no easy solutions. [email protected]

  12. While the decline in membership is something that needs to be discussed, your chart overstates the case by truncating the Y-axis. For someone who does not read the labels on your graph—which, let’s face it, is going to be true of most people—it appears as though there’s been a catastrophic, > 50% loss of members in recent years.

    Even with that knowledge, I had to punch the figures into a calculator in order to see that there’s been an 8.3% drop since 2003, which is something that *ought* to be immediately visible from any chart of this nature.

    Would you consider adjusting the image so that the Y-axis starts at 0?

  13. Mark says:

    Europe more than the U.S. had Christian churches (including catholic) run by a select group of men

  14. Mark says:

    Who did not allow new, younger entrants into their ranks. The leadership bodies were self perpetuating and closed. Ideas did not penetrate that group of men. This led to people being told what to think, how to think, and that they could not contribute anything but money. Thus the people voted with their feet. The same is occurring now in the US.

  15. Rich says:

    There seems to be a strong correlation between the growth of the progressive movement among us and the decline in attendance mentioned here. I have heard many attribute the visible signs of the beginnings of the progressive movement to the late 80’s and early 90’s which is the same beginning of our decline.

    I have personally seen this play out in the town of my college alma mater. In the late seventies, the 15 or so congregations of churches of Christ experienced significant cooperation. There were yearly area wide workshops. It was common to travel and enjoy the gospel meetings in the area. Bowling, golf and softball leagues among us were common. Many would have 100+ baptisms each year.

    In the late eighties, the elders at one of the larger congregations visibly began the journey that we now know as progressive. The next two decades can be characterized as massive moment of members from one congregation to another as people sought to find a place that falls on the continuum that most suited them. Even the progressive congregation split as some moved to be even more extreme. Now, the congregations act more like separate denominations than anything else. Cooperation is minimal at best.

    In my opinion, the root issue is we no longer have an identity. We no longer feel connected to each other and are disappointed with ourselves and thus just don’t feel comfortable convincing others to join us when we don’t know who we are.

    I sincerely wish the intelligent minds and talent within the progressive movement would have focused their energy on better methods rather than attacking our theology. Our friends in denominations have the same American culture issues (splits and decline) regardless of their variety of theology.

    Theology is not the problem.

  16. John says:

    I find it interesting that no one mentions secularism as a reason for declining membership in churches of Christ. My own two sons were faithful Christians up until the age of about 30. Then, they slowly withdrew from active membership. The reason? It wasn’t the turnoff of legalistic congregations or aversion to traditional worship styles or a disgust at a lack of social justice outreach. The church had always been good to them. They had had no negative experiences. It was simply this: They no longer found the Bible very believable. The more they read it, the more far-fetched it seemed. Preaching sounded more and more hollow to their ears. Preachers droned on in pious generalities and seemed oblivious to passages of the Bible where God commanded genocide.

    What brought Christianity down in Europe nearly a century ago is slowly bringing Christianity down in the United States as well. It is the inability to reconcile things in the Bible with modern science (the fallout of Darwinism). It is the realization that Christianity didn’t really work well in bringing peace, justice, and stability when it was the dominant belief system (the fallout of World War I). It is the difficulty of believing in God when there is no compelling evidence that God exists (the fallout of philosophers like David Hume). It is the ever-increasing sensation that religion is simply wishful thinking.

    What also causes people to lose faith is the dawning recognition that the “gift of the Holy Spirit” is an illusion that doesn’t amount to much. It doesn’t keep preachers from running off with the church secretary or regular members from divorcing their spouses at the same rate the “world” does. Somehow, Christianity is not life-transforming, especially for people who have grown up as Christians. Much of the happy talk one hears in churches is empty. It makes us feel good about ourselves, but it doesn’t make us holier or more distinctive people. Christians supposedly “led by the Spirit” often can’t distinguish between Christianity and patriotic jingoism. The teachings of Jesus about loving enemies and non-violence fall deaf on their ears.

    In short, many people are leaving the church because Christianity has been weighed in the balances and found wanting. It has little to do with churches of Christ other than that they, as conservative, Bible-believing churches, are among the first to bear the brunt of skepticism about the Bible. Secularism can take place in stages: stage one is to find a more theologically liberal church that is open to gay rights, modern science, social drinking, and divorce; stage two is to become a mere church attendee who has little actual involvement; stage three is slipping away altogether or, at least, seeing your children or grandchildren slip away as you, yourself, continue to go through the motions for sentimental reasons.

    I’m afraid people miss the trend of history in highly-educated countries: the trend toward unbelief. Churches are growing in Africa and Central America because those peoples are culturally and educationally where we Americans were 100-150 years ago. The cure for secularism is not entirely clear, but “progressive” Christianity hasn’t worked all that well either here or in Europe. Populist religion that appeals to the masses because of its music, feel-good preaching, youth programs, social outreach, or communal warmth may last for a time, but when it is finally perceived as window-dressing for outmoded beliefs, it, too, will be abandoned. Change is coming. The question is whether we want to be part of it.

  17. Jay Guin says:


    Here’s a post that covers the national statistics re Christians in America. /2010/09/lies-about-christians-is-american-christianity-on-the-brink-of-extinction/

    Since then, the number of Americans referring to themselves as “unaffiliated” or not religious has grown, but at the loss of nominal Christians, that is, those who used to wear the name but not attend church, give, regularly pray, or otherwise evidence objective markers of a Christian commitment.

    The Church of Christ stats aren’t entirely driven by national trends, although there are some commonalities. Like many other denominations, we’re losing members to non-denominational community churches. But our most conservative churches are finding their children (something like 40% of their children) are leaving organized Christianity altogether. In the more progressive Churches, the children largely continue to attend church but they often attend a non-Church of Christ.

    For progressives, the result is that the market they are trying serve is disappearing. That is, many Churches of Christ try to be a more grace-filled, less condemning CHurches of Christ that teach sound theology but preserve traditional practices, esp. a cappella music. They serve as a way station for those who can no longer bear the old legalism but who can’t bring themselves to leave the denomination.

    The problem is that this was once a large segment of the Churches of Christ, but one or two generations later, the loyalties to the name brand are eroding, and our children and grandchildren no longer see a need to compromise. They attend whatever church in town they think is most effective, esp. those churches that convert many and that serve the needy. THese are often nondenominational community churches with excellent preaching, strong small group programs, great teen and children’s programs, and contemporary Christian music.

    This leaves progressive Churches increasingly without a natural membership base. From a Kingdom standpoint, good things are happening, but progressive congregations increasingly struggle to find a niche. After all, although they may no longer feel the need to preserve a cappella music, they still want to practice weekly communion and believer baptism by immersion for remission of sins — meaning that can’t just merge with the local “nondenominational” church that is Southern Baptist in theology.

    Add to this American consumerism, and churches find themselves being shopped based on the preacher and the teen program rather than denominational identity or even theological commitments. And so, while the decline of denominationalism is good, it’s hard for a church to grow when its members treat church choice like Outback vs. Longhorns — just a question of taste and convenience. And so we see churches adopting American retail models. A multi-city, multi-site church that chooses nothing but upper middle class neighborhoods behaves just like Texas Roadhouse Restaurants. Standardized fare designed to appeal to a wealthy demographic. A real church would find its target market among the poor as much as with the wealthy.

    So we have a mess, and it’s not just Churches of Christ. I think there’s yet another Great Awakening coming in rebellion against consumerist models, and Christians will select churches on how well they follow the teachings of Jesus rather than how energetic their youth minister is. The beginnings of such a change are starting to appear, and when the next generation steps into leadership, we’ll see how very modest the changes of the CoC progressive movement were.

    That is, we’re headed toward an era where congregations are defined by praxis rather than theology — do you live what Jesus preached? And the transition will be very difficult for those raised in an era when it was all about having the right answers on theology.

    Theology will matter, of course, but mainly as it defines sound praxis.

  18. Joe Kennedy says:

    The Hypocrisy of the Church rots it.

  19. Jay Guin says:


    First, thanks for pointing out that the loss is 8.3% from 2003 to 2015. The Chronicle reports a 7.8% loss from 1990 to 2015, which is surely true but understates the rate of decline. The Churches evidently grew from 1990 to 2003 (8.3% – 7.8% = 0.5% cumulative growth in 13 years, which is statistically flat, really) and then began a fairly precipitous decline.

    Second, I have no idea how to produce the graph you ask for. I made the graph I posted in the latest version of Excel Friday night around midnight. I could not find a way to adjust the truncation then nor can I find it now. I’m sure it exists, but it’s far from obvious.

    To avoid exactly the complaint you make, I made certain the data points were labelled, posted the raw data in a table, and gave the actual rates of decline in detail in the text.

    Tell me how to alter the graph, and I’ll see what I can do.

  20. Dwight says:

    I’m not sure about praxis, but I am the axis, “Jesus is the Son of God” and yet divisions beyond that exist. The problem I see is that the certain groups have a proprietary position. This is sadly the case in the conservative churches where the one-cupper, the no classers and the others each hold the basic same structure, but don’t communicate with each other on any basis. There are too many niches and not enough points in reaching out to others by all groups and worse is that we become vested in our group size and not in the size of the kingdom in general. The church I go to has grown, but only because people have moved into the area and like the vibes put off, but there are really very few new converts and this is sad. We are too caught up in the differences than the point of focus on Christ.

  21. Jan says:

    Are you suggesting that our young women need to be having more babies?

  22. Jay Guin says:


    I’m suggesting that a church built solely on existing members and their children will slowly die. Evangelism is not only commanded but essential for any church to survive. Evangelism was once thought of as a means of growth. It’s now a requirement for continued existence.

  23. Joe B says:

    Theology is the problem. First of all the churches of Christ increased in number in the middle part of the last century by convincing our religious friends that their method of doing church was wrong. I did some research and had to go several generations back to get to my ancestry that is was not cofC. They all came from Methodist, Baptists and Presbyterian back grounds. Ironically many of them switched to the cofC after attending a gospel meeting and being confronted with a supposed doctrinal error that would damn them so they joined up at the good ol’ cofC. This was usually the case until the end of modernity in America which ended in the mid-80s. Now the average unchurched person doesn’t come from a previously Christian religious background or any modern back ground for that matter. So the typical gospel meeting is completely irrelevant to the questions they are asking. Now the problems emerging generations have with our theology are as follows. First we are unwilling to even think about re-studying it with a brutally honest approach without pre-supposed ideas. So they think we are more pre-occupied with the emotional security of being “right” rather than a search for truth. Next because of our pre-supposed ideas we have produced a legalism that would rival that of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Doctrinal perfection is what we think is most pleasing to God. Lastly they examine claims to truth more through the results of the lives of those who claim to believe the ideas rather the actual Rhetoric and polemics of the ideas themselves. They don’t see real spiritual fruit in our lives just mostly keeping up appearances, brand institutionalism and religious arrogance. The “progressives” I hate that term, I would prefer “spiritual reformist” did not think a mere adjustments in methods would solve the issue of major theological flaws.

  24. Rich says:

    Joe B.,

    Thanks for the feedback. You are right on that our evangelism methods are very antiquated. Our focus to convince denominations rather than the secular unchurched needs a total revamp. The secular community is heading in one of two directions. Either all religious institutions are evil or all are equally good. Anything that smells like exclusiveness is discounted as manmade hogwash. The difference between traditional cofC and progressives is just a small blip on the radar screen of the typical secularist. Any of us demanding Christ to be followed have an uphill battle to prevent the trends of Europe.

  25. Joe says:

    Thanks Rich. Look up Hollands post secular culture and see that more Christians meet in homes now rather than the building of an established mainline Christian group. Also see how they meet for prayer on their lunch break and invite their unchurched friends to pray with them. Also see how they work in orphanages and feed the hungry together. Institutional religion will go the way of the dodo bird here just like it did in Europe there is nothing that can stop that but we can embrace a post secular Christianity like they did.

  26. Grace says:

    From someone not from the CofC denomination and has friends at church who left the CofC denomination, there are three statements among the comments that really stood out.

    Johnny said, “Do I agree with them on all doctrines, well no; but they love Jesus they love the community”

    According to Jesus, they pretty much get it, Matthew 22:37-40 “Jesus said to him, You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

    Pablo said, “They are not worried about the esoteric religious discussions/arguments about theology and who’s in or out that goes on in the States. They just want to please God in their worship and lives, spreading the good news to their neighbors and fellow field-workers.”

    Joe B said, “First we are unwilling to even think about re-studying it with a brutally honest approach without pre-supposed ideas. So they think we are more pre-occupied with the emotional security of being “right” rather than a search for truth. Next because of our pre-supposed ideas we have produced a legalism that would rival that of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Doctrinal perfection is what we think is most pleasing to God. Lastly they examine claims to truth more through the results of the lives of those who claim to believe the ideas rather the actual Rhetoric and polemics of the ideas themselves. They don’t see real spiritual fruit in our lives just mostly keeping up appearances, brand institutionalism and religious arrogance.”


  27. Dwight says:

    Circling the wagons is a good analogy. There is much protectionism of old traditiional ideas and concepts going on instead of looking at the same thing from different angles and deciding what works and what does’t.

  28. Randall says:

    saw this today on Facebook:


  29. Joe Wheatley says:

    Don’t follow the link to Truth for the World if you value your sanity. If the church is headed in that direction we deserve to dwindle away to nothing.

  30. Royce Ogle says:

    The average coc congregation is between 120 and 130. My guess is that most of the decline is happening in those smaller churches. In fact scores of those churches will be out of business in the next 10 years. Why? The message is not the good news about the person and work of Jesus. The message is us vs them, do this and God will love you, do that and God will not love you as much. Many coc preachers don’t know what the gospel of Christ is, much less preach iI. Thus no lives are being redically transformed through the ministries of most churche . Those places (without regard to label) where Christ is faithfully preached and the superiority of the coc is not preached, new adult disciples are being made. Contrary to traditional practice, fear does not motivate believers to live holy lives and to love their neighbor . The grace of God will produce disciples who say no to unrighteousness. Peter’s desire that believers should grow in grace and the knowledge of Jesus Christ should be ours as well.

  31. Larry Cheek says:

    I clicked on the link for Truth for the World, and found all the answers to every bodies questions, except mine. I believe if they would ask us what our questions were they would have to come up with different answers. There is no wondering why they will not allow a two way communication. I would guess that the church being just a bride is not important enough for its name or identity to be a capitalized noun. Surely the church that God adds the saved to would an important enough to be identified with a capitalized name.

  32. Pingback: links: this went thru my mind | preachersmith

  33. Mike Parks says:

    As the church moves to a more liberal state, away from the bible, it becomes more like a denotation and has more completion from other buildings with luke warm “christians”. This has to change!

  34. Joe Wheatley says:

    I don’t think progressives are moving away from the Bible but they are moving toward a better understanding of the Bible based on a better hermaneutic (not CENI) and current scholarship rather than on our traditions. Paul did not use the KJV and it is not a sin to re-examine doctrines that have always defined us.

  35. Dwight says:

    I tend to move away from those publications, etc. that use the word “truth” in thier title, even though I would have many years ago. There is only one truth and it is scripture and anything we write or publish or speak may or may not be the truth the point we understand it. This isn’t to say we don’t many times speak or write the truth, but we aren’t equal with it.

    Now I wonder if they allow “Hallelujah” or “Praise God” and the irony is that none of the prayers in the Bible end with Amen or “In Jesus Name” and yet I bet they say it. The men problably don’t raise thier hands when in prayer. They err in their own estimation of what is correct and lawful.

  36. Monty says:

    The conservatives have been criticized(rightly so) for not being able to make a concrete list of teachings that everyone( all conservatives) can agree on. But neither have progressives from what I can tell. It would appear from my reading that progressive are not willing to place any stake in the ground or draw any lines in the sand other than Jesus came in the flesh. What is agreed on today, may very well be eroded and washed away by the current of culture tomorrow among progressives. For example. Homosexuality. Whose to say that in 10 years from now, progressives won’t end up where the United Methodist Church has? I think more conservatives would move toward progressivism, if they knew exactly(where is the progressive list) where progressives stood and that they were willing to stay there, and not go off the slippery slope. But since there is no real systematic teaching among progressives, many conservatives stay put, sort of, in limbo land.

  37. Randall says:

    @ Royce Ogle: Well said Brother, well said.

  38. Will Ray says:

    The CoC is declining because they are not rightly dividing the word of God. Genesis to Revelation is the word of God, but CoC claims that the old testament is not profitable for doctrine. I hear Col 2:14 quoted as “the old law was nailed to the cross”, when the word “law” (nomos) is not contained in the verse (or “old” for that matter). The “controversy” was already settled in Acts 21. When confronted about throwing out the law, Paul submitted to the oath to affirm the law – case closed.

    Any quote from Galatians (all about circumcision, not the whole law) or Ephesians (about the former separation of gentiles, not the whole law) has to be taken in light of Heb 8:10 and Heb 10:16 – that says the law will be written on our hearts, not “nailed to the cross” and those are just repeating Jer 31.. Read Psalm 116 and tell me with a straight face the law was done away with. It states the law is eternal, and the law is good. We are saved through grace, but the law remains.

    CoC is diligent about taking all the various salvation verses together to reveal the salvation plan, but they elevate Col 2:14 and ignore Luke 16:16-17 and Matthew 5:18 when dealing with the law. There is no way you can twist “fulfilling” the law into meaning “abolish”, and Luke has no such wording, the only thing a CoC adherent can do is emphasize the word “until” in Luke 16:16, but emphasizing “until” doesn’t change the fact Jesus said the law would stand until heaven and earth passed away.

    Again, read psalm 119. Basically a love letter to the law. Read Psalm 119 and then tell me the law is fulfilled and passed away. When CoC rightly divides the word, they will expand and not contract.

    By the way – this isn’t directed at Mr Guin, Just ranting. God bless.

  39. Dwight says:

    Actually, Monty the opposite is true to being a detriment. The consrvative coC has its boundaries and doctrine stated almost all of the time from the pulpit in some form, and if not, then you kind find them in pamphlets in the rack by the door, but many of those rules don’t actually exist in the scriptures. Many people see through this, even though we don’t ourselves. They are often welcomed by people at the door, but they often don’t see people who live Jesus in their lives.
    Stating beliefs or creeds don’t make people flock to other people. People who care and show it create an atmosphere of acceptance. Many people go to church, but many people don’t act like the church.
    In reality the only creed we need is the scriptures. The early apostles didn’t put forth a list of core beliefs, but had one core belief- “Jesus is the Son of God and savior”, which everything was built upon. What drives many people away is that we don’t teach and live the core, we teach the peripherals and condemn those who don’t meet our expectations.

  40. Monty says:


    My post was in regards to Jay( at times) has questioned those on the right to produce the definitive list of core teachings that we are to all supposed to go by and be “scriptural” but no one when questioned can do so. Yes, there is a sort of understood few things you can find in a track rack, but once you get past baptism and the Lords supper and accapella, things get dicey. One cup or not? Bible class or not? Eat in the building or not? And so there is all this disagreement. Question a church of 200 COfC members with 50 or so hard questions and you will see a lot of different answers. However, insert a different set of 50 questions to a 200 member progressive COfC and you may end up with as many divergent answers as the conservative group. I guess my point is this: I know of many that attend mainstream CofC’s who in their heart don’t adhere any longer to what the preacher or Bible class teacher is espousing, but they- a) don’t have a progressive option near-by (so some leave and attend the “happening” group in town). Or b) I believe there are others who would gladly move in the direction of progressivism if they were more sure where that was taking them. WHere are the boundaries? It’s just too trite to say, “whatever the scripture teaches us.” Every group makes that claim.

  41. Dwight says:

    I figure that has been our issue is that we make it one way or another without allowing the differences to exist and then us existing with the differences and still recognizing others and communicating with them. It shouldn’t be the differences that seperate, but Christ who unites.
    Among the coC there are ultra-conservative and conservative- (multiple cups, one-cuppers, no class, etc.), semi-conservative, then liberal, then semi-progressive, then progressive, etc.and they all have thier own way of thinking in regards to things.
    You are exactly right in your scenario, but there are more choices. In my own church many members do not believe everything the preacher says, but c.) people like the other people and are unwilling to make a big deal out of what the preacher says and nobody wants to divide the assembly or go elsewhere. Comfort and/or wanting to be peaceful trumps making waves.
    Many don’t know where to go or think that going would separate them from the people they know and love. Many are somewhat progressive with a conservative representation and vice-versa.

  42. Thanks for sharing. The conclusion might be that we’re not watering enough.

  43. laymond says:

    The hypocrisy of the “Progressives” who started in earnest to tear the church down from within the walls, in the 1980s, are crying, “what has happened to the Church of Christ?” Just as Paul predicted, in the end “ear tickling” will replace the truth that Jesus spoke. and as it is written the way is narrow and few will find it. When you set out to destroy a congregation from within, don’t act surprised when it happens.

  44. Kevin says:

    From the hand clapping link:
    “When we worship God, we must simply follow that which He has revealed to us in the New Testament. Hand clapping as an act of worship is not revealed in the New Testament. Therefore, in order to please God, we must leave it out of our worship! God demands respect for His Word. To add to it or to take away from it is to incur the wrath of God. It will result in one’s being kept out of the Holy City (Heaven) (Revelation 22:18-19).”

    This is the sort of asininity that is hastening the irrelevancy of churches of Christ as reflected in the initial post. The absence of logic is bewildering. Unfortunately, this guy is not alone in his thinking.

  45. Dwight says:

    Laymond, Alexander Campbell was accused of destroying the church, even while trying to bring the different groups closer together. This was before the groups that A.C. formed later formed the groups of the Disciples of Christ and the Church of Christ and isolated themselves in the “truth”, which was in direct opposition to what Alexander Campbell taught. A.C’s argument was to not seperate on things that are not commanded “be silent where the bible is silent”, because silence is not commands, while the later groups did just the opposite.
    Although I don’t agree with everything the progressives do, they at least question even thier own long held beliefs. Once you have settled on yourself as right, you are self-righteous. Once you make commands, where no command was before, you are what Jesus taught against in placing human traditions over God’s commands.
    I have been accused of false teaching when I presented an article that went against some long held beliefs, but they refused to read and address the article itself and it wasn’t even that different, but just different enough when breifly scanned and this was when I approached a preacher to critique it for me. The truth didn’t matter, only putting down and correcting another so the possible truth wouldn’t have a voice. It is like the man who saw a platypus and said, “It is neither a duck nor a beaver, so it must be a mistake” and he killed it before trying to understand it.

  46. laymond says:

    Of course you are right Dwight, you will always find someone who won’t accept any change in what they believe, but now days you find many more who fight hard to change what the bible says to fit their “new belief” , I am willing to listen to any or all beliefs, but it takes more proof than just saying something to convince me they are right. When someone starts teaching things that are not in the bible, and replace bible verses with “church father’s” words they pretty much lose me and brother Paul as far as I can discern. We could all worship a “white Buffalo” as god and it would be god, but as Paul said as for us Paul and I there is but one God, and that is the God taught in the bible. When one argues religion from books other than the bible, I listen, but I don’t believe. As for the progressives they seem to believe they can change God instead of letting God change them. God is always God. they don’t understand what the “grace of God” means. they think it means individual attention, instead of an act of grace , the giving of his Son “free” for everyone who wants the gift and accepts the true God as theirs.

  47. Dwight says:

    Laymond, this is perhaps my worst problem I have with the liberal and progressive movement is that they rely too heavily upon the writings of others often quoting someone who said something about the scriptures when they could have went to the scriptures itself. I hate it when people quote from Josephus on scripture, instead of just quoting scripture, as usually they are trying to prove a point that isn’t made in the scriptures.
    I also agree that the grace of God is wrapped in Jesus, but there must be a portion of graced assigned to the children of God when they follow Jesus as well, even when we sin at times. Otherwise Rom.6:1 makes no sense, “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?” and yet we are not to sin and we are to gleam the scriptures first and always.
    One things I do note is that if we look at scripture the same way, then we will never be changed, as it has more to say, than what we often allow. God is God, we are not and we must be humble & changeable within the context of the scriptures, even sometimes changing our long held beliefs.

  48. Joe Wheatley says:

    The problem with “just quoting scripture” is that the Bible was written in languages that we do not speak, in cultural settings that we do not understand and in literary genres that affect the meaning in ways that we do not understand. Reading the patristic writers can help us understand scripture. There is also the problem caused by different ancient versions of scripture. As new manuscripts are found we have to compare them to previously known manuscripts. The textus receptus used for the KJV has been supplanted by older manuscripts. Our understanding of scripture is constantly changing.

  49. Alabama John says:

    As well as our misunderstanding of scripture is constantly changing.

    Our having a hard time understanding scripture exactly will be considered at judgment.

    Other wise God could of caused the bible to change instantly to be simpler, more plain, better understood by whoever was reading it. If they couldn’t read, it could somehow change to a vocal in their language.

    When God himself spoke to people what He said was very plain and simple and very hard to be misunderstood. Scripture should be also if we are expected to follow exactly.

  50. Dwight says:

    Usually our problems occur by what we add to rather than what we derive from. We read it from a bias or try to force our Western thoughts into the Jewish thinking. We interject us into the scripture, instead of interjecting scripture into us.
    I’m not arguing against using the patristic writers, but rather depending upon them, as even they read from their own biases. Josephus was a Hellinstic Jew, so he read from a Hellenistic Jewish standpoint…he was Jewish, but heavily influenced by Roman thinking.
    Scripture first, then other sources secondary and they must agree with scripture while providing more depth, otherwise, then what is the point.
    Even though we have more and newer older manuscripts, the general bulk of the text has changed very little. God is still love. We are to love God and others as Jesus loved. Etc.
    AJ is right, the scriptures aren’t complicated and God is very direct, plain and simple.
    We on the other hand make it more complicated than it needs to be.

  51. Larry Cheek says:

    Another point is that the scriptures were not written to us in our dialect or time frame. To understand the scriptures correctly we must understand what the message would have meant to the early Christians. Even then thinking about our ancestors, they did not have access to the multitude of information that we do, will they have any hope in the future life? If they can, we can also, even if we have a great misunderstanding of much of the Word.

  52. Jay Guin says:

    Monty asked,

    I believe there are others who would gladly move in the direction of progressivism if they were more sure where that was taking them. WHere are the boundaries? It’s just too trite to say, “whatever the scripture teaches us.” Every group makes that claim.


    Al Maxey famously likes to challenge conservatives to list the “tests of fellowship” or “salvation issues.”

    I like to ask them to tell me how, according to the Bible, they distinguish what is and what isn’t. If X teaching or practices must be gotten right to be saved, why not Y? Where does the Bible state the rule? This is the gist of the discussion Todd Deaver and I had with Mac Deaver, Phil Sanders, and Greg Tidwell.

    When they turn the question around, expecting us to produce an equally arbitrary and unstudied list, the response is “faith in Jesus.” Period. That’s the boundary. There are entire epistles in the NT that teach exactly that.

    Now, “faith in Jesus” breaks down into three components, just as a neutron breaks down into three quarks —

    * Accept Jesus as the Messiah (Christ)
    * Accept Jesus as Lord
    * Accept Jesus as Savior


    * Faith
    * Love
    * Hope


    Believing, Obeying, Trusting

    Take your pick.

    The Churches of Christ find this heretical (some do) because it says nothing of baptism — and yet is says everything of baptism. If baptism symbolizes anything, it symbolizes our new relationship with Jesus. And what does it mean to “die to Christ” but to believe he is who he says he is, trust him, and so obey him?

    So the problem isn’t with the meaning of baptism but with its necessity. And the fork in the road is simple enough. Either you believe in grace or not. If you accept and understand grace, then obviously, God will not damn someone with faith over an honest error in baptismal practice or theology. Obviously.

    But if you deny grace because grace would save those who use a guitar or organ when they praise God, then your kind of baptism is a graceless one — of course. And if you misunderstand God — who is referred to in the prophets over and over as having chesed (meaning grace) — then you don’t really know his nature and character — and so you misunderstand his commands, as you assume his commands must fit his misunderstood personality.

    So, you see, it’s like children called downstairs for Christmas …

    It’s about being so unaware of God’s nature that when someone says “it’s about relationship not rules” you have no idea what they mean.

    In short, no, progressives do not have a list of damning issues. They have a simple, biblical standard —

    (Joh 3:18 KJV) 18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

    Stated many dozens of times in the NT.

    Now, as the early church councils in fact did, we can nitpick “faith” down to its bones and leave the topic nothing but a skeleton, but it should be as easy as —

    (Joh 9:35-38 ESV) Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 36 He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” 37 Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.” 38 He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.

    It doesn’t require a degree in Philosophy or 3 years of preacher school. Faith is simple enough for a child to be saved.

  53. Dwight says:

    Jay, I think you are right and while many in the conservative realm don’t leave out Christ, they almost make Him secondary as opposed to the things we must do. Or doing these things is the way to get to Christ, when in reality being in Christ makes us want to do these things. “If you love me you will keep my commandments”. Love Jesus, then keep commandments. We subvert the order of things. Kind of how the Israelites did.
    We don’t bring people to Christ any more we bring them doctrine and then lock them in to our version of it. And while doctrine is good, it isn’t the way to God, Jesus is.
    Larry, if many saw Jesus and the apostles around a table eating and drinking of the Lord’s Supper many would condemn them solely based on the fact that they aren’t doing it the approved of way. People coming to Jesus who healed them and then hearing the gospel would also be condemned as a bait and switch tactic. We don’t look through the eyes of the scriptures enough. We also need to think how the bible speaks as much as where it speaks.

  54. Joe B says:

    It is scary but the Pharisees and Sadducee thought they were doing what God wanted them to. They were sincere in the fact they not only believed the additional religious practices that taught but they thought it was their job to enforce them on everyone else and publicly castigate anyone who disagreed. Today we suffer from the same thing. Even though a significant portion of the NT is spent explaining to Jews that God wasn’t really concerned with circumcision or observance of days or festivals or animal sacrifices but rather a circumcision of the heart, the sacrifice of transformation. Today even in the middle of the road church you can hear sermons about how to dress and how you need to put your best on for God, then the emphasis on the days adamantly stating the Lord Supper is a Sunday only thing and any other day is displeasing to God when Paul specifically says it is a heart issue. Jesus says cleaning out the inside of the cup is important not the outside. The truth is if you follow all the religious laws we in the churches of Christ have come up with you can still be spiritually empty inside and believe me God is most displeased with this over any method or day or sacrament. To me the all the methods, days and sacraments are Godly when they produce fruit and ongoing transformation because that is whole reason the God came to us. I did not come to condemn the world but to save it. I did not come to the world to set up another religious systems of laws but to redeem it. Man was not created for the Sabbath but rather the Sabbath for man. Don’t you remember when David broke in an ate the consecrated bread? Neither the “traditionalists” (conservatives) nor the “spiritual reformists” (progressives) should be making lists. Because making lists turns Christianity into another rules based religion just like all the other major world religions. If the focus of the NT was really to set up another religious systems of laws then that is how it would be written. We wouldn’t have to use CENI or any other method to piece together a NT form for doing church. The truth is when we have an idea the nature of God and Christ is the litmus test. Let’s see put it to the test. Jesus came took the form a servant was tortured and crucified so that no one would ever use a mechanical instrument in a Christian assembly. UH.. that doesn’t fit. Let’s try again. Jesus came took the form a servant was tortured and crucified so that we could be free from sin and overcome it constantly through the process of transformation. Ding ding yes I think that fits. The real solution requires three things. Unlearning and re-learning who God really is in His nature, then changing the way we look at scripture based on that better understanding, and then responding to religious lawyers of our day the way Jesus did to the Pharisees and Sadducees in His day. I will tell you if the emotional security of having to be right or doctrinally perfect on every little thing is what drives us then we are no different than the Pharisees and Sadducees, and we will continue to do damage to ourselves and others in the Lord’s kingdom all under the delusion we are doing what God wants to. But this will not happen until many more people leave faith all together or move to churches that have a better understanding and practice of who God really is. It is the sad truth. But most will not listen just the way Israel didn’t listen to the prophets of old.

  55. laymond says:

    Jay, said; “It doesn’t require a degree in Philosophy or 3 years of preacher school. Faith is simple enough for a child to be saved.”

    Jay can you show me where you came across this idea that “faith is simple” and show me where it is said that a child has to even have faith in Jesus to be saved.

    My experience with children is that their “faith” comes from the faith of their parents. At least until they become old enough to form a belief of their own.

  56. nomorecofc says:

    From the age of 11, I was saturated in the Church of Christ. I went to Harding and “majored in Bible”. I served as a missionary overseas and as a children’s minister here in the US. I left the denomination in heart and mind due to a long list of theological reasons in the mid 2000s but stayed in the pew until 2013. What finally pushed me out the door was the 2012 election season. People at my church called President Obama the anti-Christ, a Muslim, and a communist. They called for active opposition to sensible gun legislation in the wake of the Sandy Hook gun massacre. Once I realized that we didn’t even share a commitment to common decency and respectful political discourse, I decided it was time to find a new denomination.

  57. Joe Wheatley says:

    I know where nomorecoc is coming from. We need to make the world and our own people realize that being a Christian does not automatically make a person a Republican and that some of us still relate to our now forgotten pacifist traditions. Even those people who support “just war” must realize that supporting reasonable gun legislation does not make one less of a Christian. I don’t want to start a discusion on politics or guns here (there is enough of that on FB already), I just want people to realize that we can disagree on politics and still agree on salvation issues. Matthew worked for the government and Simon the Zealot wanted to overthrough the government yet Jesus called them both.

  58. Abhinay Ch says:

    My Dear,
    i am bro. Ch. Abhinay from India. i am doing work in Church of Christ in India. according to The NewTestment the Church is one that is CHURCH OF CHRIST, this is the true Church. i think the Adherents do not need to this Church. Christ is the only Adherent,Savior,Owner,Founder e.t.c….
    in india The Church of Christ are Improving day by day by Lord Jesus Christ.
    please pray for Our Church and Me, my Family.

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