I was in my office one day when the telephone rang. When I answered, a lady inquired if a certain person was there. I replied in the negative. She asked, "Is this the Church of God?" I answered, "This is the church of Christ." She replied, "Oh, I have the wrong number." I then said, "I want to assure you that this is the church of God."
This short conversation made me realize once again how denominationalism has really confused matters regarding biblical terms applicable to the church of the Lord. In fact, it made me feel uncomfortable to answer the lady in the manner I did. While I did not deny that this was the Church of God, realizing the confusion this would cause, I answered by saying this was a church of Christ. I knew if I answered in the affirmative to her question, she would not understand as to why the party she was asking for did not work here. What would you say if someone asked you if you were a member of the church of God? Now, think before you answer. And, why would you answer in the way that you would. Could it be that you would not want to be associated with another religious group? Would you be truthful and unashamed by answering in the positive? Several years ago, I preached a sermon relative to the undenominational nature of the church of Jesus Christ. I emphasized the scripturalness of using all the biblical terms for the body of Christ. Of course, I mentioned that the term "church of God" was scriptural (See I Corinthians 1:2; Acts 20:28 KJV). After the assembly that evening, one very fine Christian lady was heard to say, "I will never call us the church of God." Herein lies a deep-seated problem among many brethren.
There has evolved within our brotherhood the notion that the term "church of Christ" is the name to be worn to the exclusion of all other terms found in the Bible. Please understand the term "church of Christ" is scriptural (the singular of "churches of Christ", Romans 16:16). But, the Lord never intended for us to make this the official name of the church. Actually, the term "church of Christ" is not a name but a biblical term that denotes ownership. Jesus said in Matthew 16:18, "I will build my church". That is possessive in nature. The church belongs to Christ. We often speak of the Lutheran Church, the Presbyterian Church, and the Church of Christ in the same manner. Of course, our religious friends consider us to be just another denomination. The sad fact is, by our attitude and the improper usage of biblical terms, we may contribute to the confusion. Brethren are often heard to say, "the church of Christ teaches", "he is a church of Christ preacher", "he is a church of Christ person", "church of Christ church", "church of Christ college", "church of Christ literature" and even a "church of Christ ball team".
The fact is we should not use one term to the exclusion of other biblical terms regarding the church. If we do, we have denominationalized a scriptural expression. Study the Bible and observe the other terms that can be used in regard to the body of Christ, It is right to refer to the Lord’s church as being the "church of God" (I Corinthians 1:2), "church of the First-born" (Hebrews 12:23), "church of the Lord" (Acts 20:28 ASV), etc. The term used the most in the New Testament; especially in the book of Acts is "the church". Let us become more aware that the expression "church of Christ" is not a proper name per se but a term denoting ownership; and that by using other scriptural terms regarding the body of Christ, such would help in clarifying the undenominational nature of the New Testament church of our Lord in the thinking of others.