Craig and Tara Jones were the typical American couple. They grew up in middle class families, met in college, and were married in their junior year. Neither of the two came from families who were, what one would call, churchgoers. Both had gone to the occasional holiday worship service with friends from school, and maybe a Vacation Bible School here and there. But, church was just not a big thing to them. Both were professional people, yet after a few years of marriage, they began a family, having a boy, and then a couple years later, a little girl. As the children grew to an age where they communicated pretty well, their parents began hearing how they picked up little words, very "adult" words, and would say them. At first it was a mixture between cute, and a little shocking, hearing such little ones saying words that they remembered their parents not letting them say. Before long they found themselves telling the little ones not to say words like that.
As the kids were still very young, they started considering all the options of things they could do for their kids that would give them the best chances in life. They looked at other families to see what parents were doing that seemed to give their children well-adjusted lives. Some homeschooled their kids, while others were heavily involved in the activities of their church.
Determining to do something unique, and perhaps what some would consider radical, they decided to educate themselves as much as possible about Christianity. They went out and bought some easy-to-read translations of the Bible. They set aside some time each night to read the Bible. After reading a section, they would discuss what they read together. Over the months they worked their way through the Old Testament. They found some of it a bit tough going, but they were committed. They were not going to stop. All along there were some things they were looking for, like the words "church," and "Jesus."
When they got to the New Testament, very quickly the life of Jesus began to unfold before them. It was very interesting. Finally, when they got to Matthew 16, they read that Jesus said He was going to establish His church, and that His disciples, the apostles, would be leading in it. By the time they got to the Book of Acts they were so impressed with all that Jesus endured. Some of it was so graphic! The resurrection was exciting and compelling. They were so drawn to Jesus.
During their read of the book of Acts, they saw how people were told what to do to be saved. They noticed that people were told to believe in one place, to repent of sins in others, but in every example they were all told to be baptized. The subject of baptism had come up back in the first four books, but now it seemed to be taking on its greatest significance, salvation! Until then, neither of them had considered salvation personally. They started thinking, "we have never been baptized." Perhaps that is something we need to do.
Further reading through the New Testament introduced them to letters to churches in ancient cities they remembered studying about in history classes in High School. Letters to Ephesus, Rome, and Philippi, were filled with some spiritual things that they had to re-read a few times to understand. The further they read, they found themselves connecting it to some of the things they had read earlier. They saw that the acts of the church were consistent, all being told to do the same things. There was consistency among all the churches. They gleaned from what they read that all the churches worshipped Jesus on the first day of the week. In different places they noted the things they did. Like in Acts 20:7, the church met on the first day of the week to take the Lord's Supper. They had recalled that Jesus had started that practice back before He was murdered, in Matthew 26. They saw that the church also had a treasury that each individual contributed to for the help of the work on that day, 1 Corinthians 16:1,2. They saw that when the church came together they sang psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, Ephesians 5:19, Colossians 3:16. They remembered reading the Psalms back when they were going through the Old Testament.
A further read through the rest of the New Testament caused them to be impressed with how the churches seemed to be organized to be self-ruled. Each church group was directed to do the same things without there being any hierarchy in place. Each church had elders, with deacons working under their oversight, 1 Timothy 3:1-13; Titus 1:1-9.
By the time they got to Revelation, the two were entertained by all the visions. Upon finishing it, they determined that they needed to read back through that one a few times to absorb it.
From the time they read the first mention of Jesus' plan to build His church, they wondered if such a church could be found today. There were so many out there, but as careful as they had been these last few months, they surely did not want to settle with just any church. It had to be a church that bore the marks of the church Jesus built.
So Craig said, "Tara, what if we get the phone book out, and start visiting churches. We have time. We will visit different ones. We can even visit the church our friends attend. And, we will work up a checklist that we can take from the Bible. I will run off copies and sit there in each church gathering, and check them off." Tara liked the idea, and the search began. For the next several months, they visited church after church. Some were friendly, and some were not so friendly. Some seemed to be stiff and formal, while others seemed more like going to a rodeo or a rock concert. Some churches did some of the things on the list from Scripture, while others left some out, but did others. A couple of times they found churches they really liked, the people were friendly, and had good programs. But still some of the things on the Bible list were missing. It was a little discouraging at times. They found themselves praying that God would help them find the right place, the place where all the things that the churches in the New Testament did.
One day, Tara said, "Craig, you know, we have not gone to church with our friends yet. They have asked us to come so many times. Why not visit with them?" Craig asked, "Where do they go?" She said, "I think they called it the Church of Christ." Their eyes met. "Did we not see that name in the Bible?" he asked. Grabbing the Bible, he flipped through the pages until he got to Romans 16:16. "There it is, 'The churches of Christ salute you.'" They determined to visit the following Sunday.
Upon arrival, they noticed that the people seemed to be friendly. They had classes for an hour before worship, and they were studying the Bible. "Impressive!" they thought. During the worship, they found themselves looking at one another, time and again, as they both had pretty much memorized the list they had made from the Scriptures months before. Time again, they checked off the things they had found. After the first visit, they determined to go again. They even had conversations with their friends about the way the church was organized. They had elders, deacons, teachers, and evangelists. They were self-governing, no hierarchy. "Have we found the church?" Tara asked one day. "I think we have!" was her husband's response.
The story above is fictitious. However, the concept of it has been lived out millions of times over the centuries. If you are visiting a church of Christ for the first time today, we consider you our honored guest. Learn about what we do, and why we do it. We seek to do Bible things in Bible ways. We stand ready to answer your questions concerning our commitment to be the church that Jesus built.