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churches of Christ History

     After the apostles death, many particularly independent congregations had to conceal themselves from view, who applied the directives from the new testament, having not a religious centralized hierarchy.  

Elijah 850 B.C. an example how God concealed men, Elijah a Prophet of God mind you, thought there was no one serving God in his day instead they were concealed from view.

Rom 11:2-5
2 Or know ye not what the scripture saith of Elijah? how he pleadeth with God against Israel:
3 Lord, they have killed thy prophets, they have digged down thine altars; and I am left alone, and they seek my life.
4 But what saith the answer of God unto him? I have left for myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to Baal.
5 Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace.

Centralized Hierachies Power Seekers, Terrorism

    In the old world (Europe), began from 312 A.D. till 1776 birth of the United States of America, a legacy of governments made laws respecting two particular religious centralized
hierarchies. Catholics formed in 312 A.D. and Protestants formed in 1517 A.D. The terrorism of religious centralized hierarchies (small group of men with absolute power over all congregations beneath them, aligned with governments, world super powers), upon the people in the independent congregations who were oppose, was banishment, torture, murders, roasting men alive at the stake, their ashes thrown in the river, people's bones dug up, burned, their ashes thrown in the river.



     A particular people among the religious, obscure to many today, non charismatic individualists, independent congregations, their mental disposition to be free from centralized religious hierarchies, wherever they exist. Reason is religious centralized hierarchies would set up church sessions, presbyteries, synods, general assemblies focusing power in the hands of a few. These would lord over upon multiple congregations, whoever gain control of the centralized religious hierarchy, the ultra left or the ultra right (having then absolute rule over all the congregations), would in a matter of time expel not only their opponents but also the centralist. That's if there were any centralist in the first place, because the whole concept of having a centralized religious hierarchy had no biblical directive from Jesus or the apostles to set up, when after the apostles deaths. It was only a matter of time they would if not even in its infancy of having a centralized religious hierarchy, would deviate from Christ teachings in many matters of new covenant (arrangement) parameters of the spirit (mental disposition) of Jesus and his apostles.
    Since the Apostles deaths to the 1600's, people possess and read the bible, greatly discourage and forbidden to possess at times, by persecution and laws enacted through religious centralized  hierarchies aligned with governments. The people who possess the bible, searched diligently within, leaving post biblical conjured up religious teachings and traditions of man aside, were persuaded by the two particular statements existing of Jesus. First Jesus says to Peter:

Matt 17:19 I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

    Then Jesus gives authorization to his disciples, eyewitnesses, known as apostles (messengers), to have authority through the Holy Spirit, to “bind and lose” constituting his spiritual kingdom, the church, for after Jesus' death.

Matt18:18 Verily I say unto you, what things soever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and what things soever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

    Paul writes about division, people claiming their of certain people, not of Christ. Paul nips it in bud the first signs of people dividing claiming a leader, using the leader and his name equal with Christ.
I Corintians 1:10 Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.11 For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you.12 Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. 13 Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?

Non-denominational Independent Congregations
   The form of government in the apostles writings, new covenant (arrangement),
for after their deaths of the apostles, was congregational, standards for choosing, electing able men of the congregation, by the congregation, and “only” for within the congregation. These standards were for two types:

A) Elders-bishops-overseers: different names meaning the same, that describe men who oversee "only" their local congregation, that the parameters of the spirit (metal disposition) of Christ were being applied.

1 Timothy 3:1-7 1 This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. 2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; 3 Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; 4 One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; 5 (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) 6 Not a novice, F3 lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7 Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.
B) Deacons: were hands on, taking care of the immediate needs of the local congregation

1 Timothy 3:8-13 8 Likewise must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre; 9 Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience. 10 And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless. 11 Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things. 12 Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. 13 For they that have used the office of a deacon well purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus
    Their was no directive by Jesus, Peter or the other Apostles, for Elders-bishops-overseers, to form a religious centralized hierarchy when after the apostles deaths, in the hands one or of a few, a small group having absolute power,  to rule over multiple or all congregations.
    Independent congregations, churches of Christ, after the deaths of the apostles, were bound to their Lord Christ Jesus and his Apostles words in the new testament alone, who spoke and written by the infallible Holy Spirit of God. Some congregations will fall to the ultra right, some to the ultra left, but being all independent their will always be centralist congregations remain on the narrow path.
    When a religious centralized  hierarchy (a small group of men in power having absolute power) is form, to rule over multiple congregations, whenever the ultra left or ultra right once gets control of the hierarchy through hostile or even devious means, wanting absolute power, they can wipe out through LAWS, edicts, all centralist congregations following the narrow path of Christ and his Apostles teachings. This is the inevitable doom of all religious centralized hierarchies established since 312 A.D., where ever they exist.

Catholic Centralized Hierachy

From the website Traces of the Kingdom

In 422 the Catholic Bishop Germanus complained of the British church that it practised believers baptism and rejected the authority of the pope and other Catholic doctrines.  The Edict of pope Innocent 1 had made infant baptism (by immersion) compulsory in 407.

From around the late 500s starting in the east a sect of Christians who were called Paulicians, because of their ability to defend their doctrine from the New Testament, particularly from the letters of the apostle Paul came to the notice of the authorities.  They said that they were “Christians who were chosen of God” and called each other “brother or sister”.  They had rejected the infant baptism of the Catholic church teaching that faith is required before baptism. 

It would seem on examination that these were Christians holding to the pattern of the New Testament.  They are also known elsewhere as Publicans particularly in England (Publicani from Paulikanoi from Paulicians).  Their teachings quickly spread throughout Europe.  The Irish/Scottish church of this time still practised believers baptism and generally rejected Roman Catholic teaching.  It can be assumed that contact was made as the Celtic church at this time was working effectively in Europe.   After severe persecution the Paulicians ended up in Bulgaria and other Balkan countries and there they assisted the French church during it’s persecution in the twelfth century when they became known as the Bougre (in middle English ‘Bugger’).  We can establish with some certainty that New Testament Christianity was being propagated through out Europe and the east by the end of the eighth century.

The teachings Gundulphus (also known as Gundulf) were examined by the Bishop of Cambray (Cambrai) and Arras, northern France, in the year 1025. Gundulphus was opposed to the doctrines of the Catholic church and taught against infant baptism, ‘Because to an infant, that neither wills nor runs, that knows nothing of faith, is ignorant of its own salvation and welfare’. Gundulphus it seems was a itinerant travelling evangelist who established and strengthened congregations of the Lord’s people throughout northern France and Belgium.

Berengarius was followed later by Pierre de Bruis and Arnold of Brescia who were opposed to many Catholic teachings including infant baptism, the Mass, church buildings and altars (because any place is suitable for prayer and meeting), prayers for the dead, veneration of the cross, celibacy, good works and transubstantiation.

Pierre de Bruis was possibly a Priest who was certainly removed from office and began to preach in Dauphine and Provence, southern France. He seems to have been active from around 1100.  His followers were known as Petrobusians, although they referred to themselves as Christians.  They appealed for a return to the authority of the Scriptures and believers baptism quoting “Go out into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature: he that beliveth, and is baptised, shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” also he is quoted as saying, “But we await a time suitable to faith, and baptise a man, after he is ready to recognise God and to believe in Him, we do not, as you charge us, rebaptise him, because the man who has not been washed with the baptism by which sins are washed away ought never to be called baptised”.

Peter de Bruis was able to preach for a while under the protection of Earl Hildephonus.

A Papal Bull (formal papal pronouncement) was made against preachers who were teaching doctrines contrary to the RC Church by Pope Urban 11 in 1096 and the ‘second Lateran Council of 1139’.  As a result Bruis was burnt alive at St. Giles, near Nimes, southern France (about 50 miles from Marseille) by the local people infuriated by his teaching in 1140.

Pierre de Bruis is considered by Catholic and later Protestant historians as a heretic and it has been suggested by these historians that he rejected a large proportion of Scripture, against any evidence.

His associate ‘Arnold of Bresia’ who tried to reform the RC Church was executed (by burning) under the authority of the prefect of Rome in 1152/5 and his ashes were thrown into the Tiber.

In 1118 Gregory Grimm of Ensisheim, France died after being tortured, because he had been baptised by his grandfather who in turn had been baptised (by immersion for the remission of sins) by a travelling merchant from Venetia who was from the “only church of the saints”.  In 1143 a congregation of over 100 Christians was seized on the lower Rhein.  Under torture they confessed that such congregations were everywhere but in concealment.  Because there was no organised hierarchy (following the Biblical pattern) it was extremely difficult for the authorities to find congregations as each had its own Bishops and Deacons.

During the severe persecution that took place during the burning of many ‘heretics’ across France and other parts of Europe, evangelists came to support the churches that were being forced out of existence, from the Balkans and in particular Bulgaria so that the term ‘Bulgare’ became the equivalent of ‘Heretic’.  Mutilation of the word ‘Bougre’ is still used as an insult (sodomite) and found its way into middle English and continues today as the word ‘Bugger’.  By 1146 Henry of Toulouse was preaching the same doctrine and evangelists were undertaking missionary work throughout Europe and into England.

In the year 1147, Bernard a Cistercian monk and abbot of Clareval wrote a letter to the Earl of St. Giles complaining that he was harbouring ‘Henry of Toulouse, a heretick’ who practised believers baptism and denied Catholic teachings.  He was also opposed to the clergy.

Bernard said in his letter “The churches are without people, the people with out priests, the priests without honour, and Christians without Christ.  The churches are no longer conceived holy, nor the sacraments sacred, nor are the festivals any more celebrated.  Men die in their sins, souls are hurried away to the terrible tribunal, without penitence or communion, baptism is refused to infants, who thus are precluded from salvation”.

Henry managed to avoid capture but was later arrested, and sent in chains to the bishop of Ostia, under whose orders he died.

Everinus wrote to Bernard in 1146 complaining of a ‘sect’ who had rejected infant baptism in favour of Believers Baptism, they had formed a ‘church of Christ’ separate and apart from the Catholic church.  Their Elders offered to debate with the Catholic Church their beliefs in light of the teaching of the Scriptures.  This was rejected and instead they were burnt at the stake and the congregation was destroyed.  Bernard was involved in oppression against ‘hereticks’ throughout Europe and many died under his instructions.  Today he is revered as a saint in the Catholic church.

This French picture circa 1415 shows the expulsion of the 'Albigensians' from Carcassone in 1209.  What is forgotten today is that the first crusades were against Christians who had separated from the Catholic Church in Europe.

First LightvSeparatist in America

    The first light, separatist in America. A few having a separatist mental disposition left for america. The Pilgrims (1620) separatist (separate from the government aligned religion church of England, pilgrims more tolerant of others), few years later the arrival (1628) of the Puritans not separatist (non-conformist, trying to purify the church of England within, less tolerant of others), each congregationalist, having independent local churches. However there was no civil government in place in the new world as the old world, the venture into civil governing, resulted in a theocracy after old covenant (arrangement). Resulting in the mixture of religious worship ( reverence towards God, etc.) laws and civil laws being combined.

Religious Freedom Beginnings

Roger Williams was banished by the Puritans for liberty of conscious, a separatist in three regards

1) separate from church of England

2) separate from centralized religious centralized hierarchies within the church (congregationalist)
3) seek separation from religious worship laws (particularly laws for reverencing God, mandatory infant baptism laws, forbidden religious sect laws, mandatory oaths, etc.) within the magistrate government, contrast to laws from the bible particularly for civil order.

  Banished, shunned, freed from all centralized religious hierarchies over him, Roger Williams began the venture of governing, allowing liberty of religious conscious. Those friendly to his cause joined him, he began the first colony in the new world, where religious liberty was granted to all, allowing the practicing one's religion as one's conscious leads him.

Preservationist of Christ Teachings in America

  As persecution very slowly lessen in other colonies, separatist expanded, people freed themselves of centralize religious hierarchies, from Baptist Associations, Methodist, Presbyterian (centralized hierarchies) and formed independent congregations.

The word “baptist” (a name at first more to distinguish them who refuted infant baptism) 1600's and onward, described them who practice believers (baptism) water immersion. There were different types of baptist, some who:

A) practiced believers baptism (water immersion) is  the moment one is forgiven of their sins
B) practiced believers baptism (water immersion), as after the moment one is forgiven of sins, as a sign only.

Their were also

A) separatist baptist, not having a centralized hierarchy, sometimes referred to themselves also as churches of Christ.
B) regular baptist, had associations (centralize hierarchies)

    The separatist "baptist", which many were practicing believers baptism (water immersion) is the moment one is forgiven of their sins, existed up until the more widely known restoration movement with its pioneers Barton Stone and Thomas Campbell, and renowned proponent Alexander Campbell. These baptist  were saved according to the scriptures. They by the thousands in the early 1800's welcomed fellowship with pioneers Stone and the two Campbells, the people merging together, and welcomed putting off the name baptist and referring to themselves as disciples of Christ, churches of Christ, Christian Churches more in keeping to the biblical names, not names of particular people, which Paul forbid, or particular biblical practices.

1776 Ending of a Religious Centralized Hierarchy Aligned with Government

Government is constituted in America, ending of a religious centralized hierarchies aligned with government.

Preservationist, Separatist,  Restorationist

People in general, not prominent but who were were independent, non charismatic, seeing baptism as essential for salvation.

Some descendants of Shubail Starnes and James O'Kelly practiced believers baptism for forgiveness of sins.

Shubail Starnes raised a congregationalist, becoming a separate baptist, a preacher who moved from Boston, then through Virginia for brief time, and then in North Carolina in 1754 established a congregation. Starnes persuasion entered Kentucky in 1785 by three preachers establishing separatist congregations, that took the bible alone of persuasion and practice, calling themselves separatist baptist and churches of christ.
Another preacher James O'Kelly a friend of Thomas Jefferson, one writer says: "James O'Kelly had long lived on the border between Virginia and North Carolina as a circuit preacher and presiding elder. In Powhatan county, Virginia, on Dec 25th 1792 James O'Kelly and one half of those in attendance walked out of a central religious Methodist conference.
Pioneer Barton W. Stone on January 4, 1804 was author and signed the document “Last Will and Testament of the Springfield Presbytery“ and established independent congregations in Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Ohio, and Southern Indiana, Illinois, and Missouri calling themselves Christian churches, practicing believers baptism for forgiveness of sins.
Another group on Sept 7,1809, members of various denominations called themselves the Christian association of Washington Pa, led by the pioneer Thomas Campbell a recent immigrant, influence by independent congregations in the old world and in-depth studies, adopted a “Declaration and Address“ which on May 4, 1811 constituted themselves as a independent local congregation, establishing congregations calling themselves disciples of Christ-churches of Christ, practicing believers baptism for forgiveness of sins.
The renowned expounder of the day was non charismatic Alexander Campbell, son of Thomas Campbell. Ever expanding of independent local congregations, there began an era of debates 1820-1843, one particular issue, “infant baptism vs believers baptism (water immersion).  After the debate, a large company requested to be immersed, they besieged Campbell with requests to remain in Kentucky to preach at the most prominent Baptist pulpits. The remainder issue, is believer's baptism (water immersion) essential to salvation? Alexander Campbell persuaded many, preached on the side of believers baptism (immersion) is essential to salvation.

Merging Preservationist, Separatist, Restorationist

   The early 1800's, different pioneer origins of separatist, preservationist, and restorationist, received each other in fellowship, opposing setting up any headquarters, centralize hierarchy, over them. All congregations were autonomous, self ruled according by scriptures, having elders as overseers, their constitution the scriptures, their evidences of persuasion the scriptures, their practices the scriptures.

  • People in general, not prominent who were were independent, non charismatic, seeing baptism as essential for salvation,
  • Persuasion of Shubail Starnes, (10,000 majority of separate baptist in Kentucky),
  • Partially descendants of James O'kelly
  • People of Barton Stone,
  • People of Thomas Campbell, 

   The remainder baptist, who seen baptism as non essential (not the moment when sins are forgiven, sign only), remained with the name Baptist, which draws many people thinking they teach a baptism found in the bible, but instead teach and practice a non scriptural baptism ( not to forgive sins,  a sign only). Which today the word Baptist, defines mainly them who have water immersion but don't believe, practice or teach it saves. With exceptions to a few separatist congregations or a few individuals holding to baptism saves, still retaining the name baptist, a reminder of  when a similar so named separatist baptist,  by the thousands merge and welcomed a more biblical name disciples of Christ- churches of christ, christian churches, christian only other then a person or particular practice.

  Believers baptism (water immersion) essential for salvation, became the main dividing line, which to this day, many have taking the position as non-essential vs it as essential for salvation, churches of Christ and Christian churches -3,600,000 members, 13,000 independent congregations USA. Having the second largest growth 47 percent, from 2001, 2004 Est. Total Population.

4/03/2003 "Preservation"
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