Since the Protestant Reformation, a variety of separate churches have formed in the United States of America and all over the globe. Each church has a different story with specific individuals and unique occurrences that have shaped them into what they are today. This essay will focus primarily on three of these churches. The Lutheran church and Church of Christ’s doctrines, methods, and priorities will be compared and contrasted with those of the Baptist Church.
One of the founding fathers of the Church of Christ was Alexander Campbell who preached a new way of primitivism apart from any organized religion. Alexander followed in his father’s footsteps who had split from the Presbyterian Church because he felt it needed to be unified and focused more on the New Testament. Eventually, Campbell’s followers joined with followers of Barton Stone, but they only remained united for about one hundred years due to some arguments on theology and organizations.
The portion of the group that held primarily to Barton Stone’s beliefs is what is today known as the churches of Christ.
The Churches of Christ were formed with a goal to unify God’s people, but there have been many divisions within the Church of Christ due to varying beliefs. The Churches of Christ wish to speak where the Bible speaks and to remain silent where the Bible is silent; however, interpretation of the Bible varies among the people. One of the controversial beliefs is the idea that the use of musical instruments goes contrary to the teachings of the Bible.
Some divisions of the Church of Christ believe that scriptures in the Old Testament show that instruments are perfectly acceptable in worship as in the Baptist faith. Another division is on the subject of centralized funding for missions. The Baptists are unified on this subject. More recently, a division has developed within the Church based on the involvement of women in ministerial and leadership positions of the church. Most sections of the Church of Christ share the position of Baptists when it comes to the topic of women in ministry.
The most resent estimate of how many individual churches of Christ exist is 15,000 with a total membership of approximately 2,000,000. There are churches in all fifty states and in eighty other countries, but the membership is greatest in Tennessee. Much like the Baptists, the churches of Christ are autonomous.
Churches do; however, join together to support the orphans and the elderly. Unlike Baptists, there are no conventions, annual meetings, or official publications. They claim the only tie that keeps them “unified” is the loyalty to the common goal of restoration to New Testament Christianity.
The authority of the Church of Christ comes from the elders not from any preachers or evangelists. They claim this is based on 1Timothy 3:1-8 which gives guidelines for overseers and deacons. The Churches of Christ also have deacons, teachers, and ministers, but they are under the elders. This differs from the Baptist Church where the preacher is considered a democratic leader of the Church with assistance from deacons and laypeople.
The Churches of Christ have identical beliefs with Baptists when it comes to the authority and inspiration for the Bible. It is the only book of authority within the church and is considered God-breathed and infallible. The Church of Christ also shares the belief of Baptists that Christ was born of a virgin. Baptism by immersion only is another commonality between the Church of Christ and Baptists. The Church of Christ is non-creedal and does not practice infant Baptism with the belief that one must profess a faith in Christ before being baptized just as the Baptists believe. Members of the Churches of Christ do not confess to ministers or pray to saints which is like the Baptists.
The Church of Christ is different from the Baptist church in that they do not call for a tithe, but only a free-will offering based on 1Corinthians 16:2. They also differ greatly in their practice of participating in the Lord’s supper every Sunday. In regards to the essentials of Christian faith, the general beliefs of the Churches of Christ are in line with the distinctives of the Baptist faith.
The Lutheran church is a product of the “Father of Protestantism,” Martin Luther. Luther was a monk who discovered differences between the practices of the church and what the Bible said. Luther suggested that a theological debate should be held hoping that the church would reform. Instead of reformation, separation occurred due to the differences of opinion and passionate debate.
Followers of Martin Luther were referred to as “Lutherans” as an insult, but to them it became a term of endearment. The main belief that started the protest was that there is nothing man can do to earn salvation, but it is by God’s grace alone that man is saved.
In the United States alone, there are around twenty separate Lutheran groups. There are three major components of a Lutheran church. A Lutheran is one who subscribes to the authority of the Scriptures, the Lutheran Confessions and the three Ecumenical Creeds. The Lutherans, like the Baptists, are evangelicals and strive to obey The Great Commission. The chief difference between Lutherans and Baptists is the fact that Lutherans are a creedal church.
Another difference is that nothing is mentioned about Baptism on any of the organizations main websites. Some Lutheran groups such as the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America differ greatly from Baptists in that women are ordained, abortion is practiced, and a homosexual lifestyle is accepted. The essentials of the faith match up with Baptists. Lutherans believe in Heaven and Hell, Jesus Christ as the only way to Salvation, and God is the Creator of the universe.