Many have spoken of late about the so-called identity crisis within the Churches of Christ. We no longer know who we are, why we exist, or where we are going. There was a time when we knew exactly who we were—the church in the wilderness contending for the faith.

The setting was the western frontier, the enemy was denominationalism, and our ammunition was propositional truths about God, the Bible, and the Church. Our sermons were penetrating, rational, and hard hitting. Our invitations called for people to come forward, renounce human creeds, and become members of the true, non-denominational church. The vision is worthy, the plea valid, and the dream noble.

Times have (as they always do) drastically changed. Many denominations have given up their creeds, ties to hierarchy, and even their former names. In this religious chaos it is harder and harder to identify “the enemy.” Given our heritage it is difficult for many to maintain a clearly defined identity in the absence of a clearly defined enemy.

I want to say that again because it is important. Reflect on each portion of the statement:

  •  Given our history (given the fact that for most of our existence—certainly during the formational years of our movement—we have defined ourselves in relation to our identification of the denominational enemies all around us)
  • It is difficult for many of our people to maintain a clearly defined identity (and, I am quick to add, a clear sense of mission, purpose, and direction)
  • Now that the enemy is no longer so easy to identify (many denominational ministers are now talking about baptism in much the same way we talk about it[1]).

Many bemoan the fact that our preaching “has gone soft.” We no longer attack the enemy as we once did. In an effort to maintain an identity, many make it their religious aim to seek out the enemy—both from within our fellowship and from without. And who can blame them? This is what we have learned; it is a part of our collective DNA. We define ourselves in relation to our identification of the enemy.

My view is that we still have the same enemy we have always had—sin. The setting is not the wild, western frontier but, rather, the wild, rebellious, human heart. Our ammunition is not propositional truths ABOUT God but, rather, Truth that brings human beings into a relationship with God.

Navigating the religious confusion of our time requires a steady course and a clear purpose. We are not about making converts to our particular slant on disputable religious matters; we must be about making disciples of Jesus Christ—followers who will renounce sin, turn to God, obey Him in all things, and submit to Him for transformation through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Who are we? People redeemed by blood. We are, and always have been, the church of Christ.

[1] See Thomas R. Schreiner, Romans (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998). Dr. Schreiner is a Baptist and teaches in a Baptist Seminary yet his discussion of baptism and its role in the conversion process would be welcome in most of our circles. Another example is Francis Chan. Go watch the DVD study series on his book Crazy Love. At one point Chan challenges the widely accepted evangelical practice of “asking Jesus into your heart” as the way to become a Christian. Again, Chan himself would probably not be welcome within our fellowship but his view of conversion certainly would.