Bella Vista Church of Christ



Dan Bouchelle

Dallas/Ft. Worth TX


Spiritual Heirlooms


  For over thirty years, I’ve been hearing that Churches of Christ have an identity crisis. I’ve heard endless self-critiques. I’ve added to them myself. We’ve explored our weaknesses and their origins obsessively. It is not hard to find defenders or critics of our heritage. But wise self-awareness - that is more elusive.


  Defensive denial is childish. Self-loathingis adolescent. Both are harmful. Having a healthy sense of both your strengths and weaknesses is mature and helpful. While I don’t think I am naïve about the flaws of my spiritual ancestry, I believe it is important to affirm the good that has been passed down to us. Here are some heirlooms from my heritage in Churches of Christ for which I am thankful and that I wish to preserve regardless of what comes next.


  A High view of Scripture:  While most Christian groups claim a respect for scripture and speak of being “biblical,” Churches of Christ have been unusually concerned to follow scripture as our guide in all things. While we may not have always had the best methods of Bible interpretation, we have consistently trusted that the Bible is the inspired, authoritative, reliable, and true Word of God for the church in every age. We’ve done that while managing to avoid divisive arguments about “infallibility” and “inerrancy.” Our habit of “using Bible words for Bible things” has served us well. In addition, we have believed that the Bible was understandable to the common Christian and that every believer should know and live out the message of scripture.


  Sacramental practice of Baptism andCommunion: We have placed great emphasis on Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. No doubt, at times, this has reflected little more than conformity to a presumed pattern. But there has also been a sense that God was actually doing something in our rituals. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper don’t just dramatize an inward “spiritual” reality, they are practices in which we encounter God. They are communal and participatory. They require bodies and presence.


  A High view of Church:  In a western world of excessive individualism, with an emphasis on a “personal Lord and Savior,” Churches of Christ have maintained an unusual emphasis on being “members of the church.” God shows up when we gather. Participation matters. We’ve expected the church to be distinct from the culture. We’ve expected to care for each other and to be family. We have historically valued the local church. Each church is theoretically free to follow God’s leading directly. The local church is the expression of God’s people that matters most, not some higher ecclesiastical body, theological elite, or clergy class.


  The priesthood of all believers: This common value of all protestant churches took on even greater emphasis among Churches of Christ. Not only did we believe that every disciple could talk directly to God, but we’ve also affirmed that every baptized believer is called to be a priest and minister of reconciliation and mission.


  Unity of Believers: Churches of Christ are products of a movement that began with a concern over division in the church. We have affirmed there is only one church comprised of all God’s children, known completely only to God. We have rejected denominationalism as out of step with God’s plan for the church. While our practices ironically led to needless and disastrous divisions over what constituted a “faithful” church (for which we must repent), underlying all of the unfortunate debates was a belief that there is only one church which should be united in Christ. We will never achieve uniformity of practice, but the value of the greater unity of God’s people, and a passion for oneness among believers, needs to be reclaimed as we overcome sectarianism.


  Restoration: Churches of Christ have preferred the word “restoration” to “reformation.” In our view, the church needed more than modest reform. It needed a complete overhaul according to God’s vision. In our better moments, we claimed that every generation needs to start with God’s purpose and vision for the church and not just make minor modifications to what we have inherited. In the future, we need to look to God’s purposes for the culmination of history more than just the recovery of a pattern from the first century. But restoring God’s vision for the church is still a healthy impulse.


—Adopted from a blog by

    Dan Bouchelle

    Dallas/Ft. Worth TX