History of Northwest Church of Christ

Northwest Church of Christ invites you to join us in fellowship as we continue to grow. Generations have grown with us, there is something for everyone- whether you are a college student, newly married, or young at heart. We would love for you to become a part of our church family.

Since 1978, John E. Branch has served as the minister for Northwest Church of Christ. The congregation currently consists of 180 members and is active in local and foreign ministries. Northwest is currently an active supporter of AGAPE of North Alabama, Southwestern Christian College, Forkland Church of Christ, and three churches of Christ and one school in Monrovia, Liberia. Also, it has an active prison ministry at Limestone Correctional Facility in Harvest, Alabama.

What To Expect

We want you to feel comfortable, but we know an unfamiliar place can be a little
uneasy.  So, let us tell you what you can expect when you honor us with a visit.

Bible classes are offered for all ages.

This gives everyone an opportunity to study the Bible from Kindergarten and beyond. Only the Bible and Bible subjects will be taught in these classes. Our worship services are held in the auditorium. There are no reserved seats, so feel free to sit anywhere you choose.  Many of our members will come and introduce themselves to you and welcome you at our services.

What do we expect from you?

Nothing at all!  You are welcome to participate, but don’t feel obligated to.  Just observe if that is your choice.  You may be asked to fill out a Visitor’s Card.  This simply provides information so the church can write or call to thank you for your visit with us.  Supply the information if you are comfortable doing so.  Feel free to decline this request if that is your preference.

There will be prayers during the service.

And, there may be prayers for specific needs and requests.

You will notice that the preacher doesn’t have a title.

He will not be referred to as “Pastor” or “Reverend.” He may be addressed as Dr., but only if he has earned that academic credential, but most likely you will probably find him referred to as brother, or just by his name.  He won’t be wearing any ecclesiastical clothing, which set him apart.  Because 1 Peter 2:9 says, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light,” we believe in the priesthood of all believers.  All of us are equal as Galatians 3:26- 28 tells us, “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.  For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”  Plain Bible teaching is the purpose of each sermon.  You will be able to sit quietly and follow in your own Bible as the lesson is presented.  We believe the scriptures are sufficient for all teaching and we do not appeal to human creeds because 2 Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for corrections, for training in righteousness.”  The sermon will likely be from 30 to 40 minutes.  We think you will find it refreshingly Bible-centered.

At the close of the sermon, the preacher will “extend an invitation.”

This is simply an expedient time to invite those who are moved to do so to make a commitment or request prayer support.  He will encourage those who wish to “respond” to come to the front of the auditorium while the congregation sings a hymn.  Don’t feel ill-at-ease during this invitation.  You will not be singled out in any way.  There may be several who respond, or none at all.  Some may respond for baptism, or some to confess sins, or some to ask for prayers for a specific need, or some to “identify” or “place membership” with this church.  If anyone responds for baptism, you may witness the baptism during the service.  The baptism will be by immersion, and it will be for the remission of sins as Acts 2:38 teaches us, “Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

What kind of people can you expect to find?

Pretty much the entire spectrum, as in any group. You will find people with various personalities, and from different backgrounds.  There will be people of different races.  Friendly people – and unfriendly people.  Loving people – and cantankerous people.  People who are babes in Christ – and those that have been Christians for a long time.  You get the picture.  We’re a diverse group, at different stages of knowledge and spiritual growth.  We don’t know everything.  We don’t do everything right.  We don’t always treat each other as we should.  We haven’t arrived – we’re just on the journey.

But, you see, we were not brought together by an illusion of our perfection or righteousness.  We were brought together by our recognition that we are sinners in need of the cleansing blood of Jesus, as Jesus said in Mark 2:17, “And hearing this, Jesus said to them,” It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.””  That’s the reason we can worship together, stick together, and, with God’s help, accomplish some things that make a difference.  You won’t have to look very far to find our failures.  But, bottom line, you will find people who love Jesus and love the Bible.

There is not a choir or instruments.

One of the unique things about the churches of Christ – and something you may find strange – is that the music is “a cappella.”  That is, we sing without the accompaniment of musical instruments.  This is a conviction with us, not just a preference.  We are seeking to worship according to the New Testament pattern. Since the New Testament leaves instrumental music out, we simply believe it’s best to exclude it as well.  We think you’ll find the singing meaningful, with everyone being invited to participate. – In a bookrack on the back of the pew in front of you, there will be a hymnbook for your use.  When the song leader announces a number, you can turn to that page number in the hymnbook to find the words and music. It will also be displayed via projector.

 

Ephesians 5:19 states, “Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and
spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord.”

 

The Lord’s Supper.

If you visit on a Sunday, the Lord’s Supper will be included in the worship service – because the churches of Christ observe this memorial every Sunday.  Again, the reason for this is our desire to follow the New Testament teachings.  The first century church celebrated this observance on the first day of the week, as Acts 20:7 says, “On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul began talking to them, intending to leave the next day, and he prolonged his message until midnight.” – During this memorial, plates containing pieces of unleavened bread will be passed throughout the congregation.  Since 1 Corinthians 11:23-24 tells us, ” For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “This is My body which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.””  Therefore, the bread represents the body of Jesus.  Each participating person will take a piece of the bread and eat it.  Next, trays filled with small cups will contain “fruit of the vine,” usually grape juice, symbolizing the blood of Jesus because 1 Corinthians 11:25 says, “In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.””  Each participant will drink the contents of one of the cups.  If you choose not to participate, don’t be embarrassed. Feel free to just pass the plate or tray to the person next to you. – Also, if you visit on a Sunday, containers will be passed around to collect the weekly financial offering.  In 1 Corinthians 16:1-2, Paul writes, “Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I directed the churches in Galatia, so do you also.  On the first day of the week each of you is to put aside and save, as he may prosper, so that no collections be made when I come.”  As our guest, you are not expected to donate or make an offering.  Feel perfectly comfortable passing the collection plate or container on down the row.

Church of Christ History

We welcome you to visit us at the Northwest church of Christ.  We want you to feel comfortable, but we know an unfamiliar place can be a little uneasy.  So, let us tell you what you can expect when you honor us with a visit.

Who are the churches of Christ and What Do They Believe In? by Batsell Barrett Baxter

It is primarily a plea for religious unity based upon the Bible. In a divided religious world it is believed that the Bible is the only possible common denominator upon which most, if not all, of the God-fearing people of the land can unite. This is an appeal to go back to the Bible. It is a plea to speak where the Bible speak and to remain silent where the Bible is silent in all matters that pertain to religion. It further emphasizes that in everything religious there must be a “Thus saith the Lord” for all that is done. The objective is religious unity of all believers in Christ. The basis is the New Testament. The method is the restoration of New Testament Christianity.

The Historical background of the Restoration Movement

One of the earliest advocates of the return to New Testament Christianity, as a means of achieving unity of all believers in Christ, was James O’Kelly of the Methodist Episcopal Church. In 1793 he withdrew from the Baltimore conference of his church and called upon others to join him in taking the Bible as the only creed. His influence was largely felt in Virginia and North Carolina where history records that some seven thousand communicants followed his leadership toward a return to primitive New Testament Christianity.

In 1802 a similar movement among the Baptists in New England was led by Abner Jones and Elias Smith. They were concerned about “denominational names and creeds” and decided to wear only the name Christian, taking Bible as their only guide. In 1804, in the western frontier state of Kentucky, Barton W. Stone and several other Presbyterian preachers took similar action declaring that they would take the Bible as the “only sure guide to heaven.” Thomas Campbell, and his illustrious son, Alexander Campbell, took similar steps in the year 1809 in what is now the state of West Virginia. They contended that nothing should be bound upon Christians as a matter of doctrine which is not as old as the New Testament. Although these four movements were completely independent in their beginnings eventually they became one strong restoration movement because of their common purpose and plea. These men did not advocate the starting of a new church, but rather a return to Christ’s church as described in the Bible.

Members of the church of Christ do not conceive of themselves as a new church started near the beginning of the 19th century. Rather, the whole movement is designed to reproduce in contemporary times the church originally established on Pentecost, AD 30. The strength of the appeal lies in the restoration of Christ’s original church.

How many churches of Christ are there?

The most recent dependable estimate lists more than 15,000 individual churches of Christ. The “Christian Herald,” a general religious publication which presents statistics concerning all the churches, estimates that the total membership of the churches of Christ is now 2,000,000. There are more than 7000 men who preach publicly. Membership of the church is heaviest in the southern states of the United States, particularly Tennessee and Texas, though congregations exist in each of the fifty states and in more than eighty foreign countries. Missionary expansion has been most extensive since the second World War in Europe, Asia and Africa. More than 450 full time workers are supported in foreign countries. The churches of Christ now have five times as many members as were reported in the US Religious Census of 1936.

How are the churches organizationally connected?

Following the plan of organization found in the New Testament, churches of Christ are autonomous. Their common faith in the Bible and adherence to its teachings are the chief ties which bind them together. There is no central headquarters of the church and no organization superior to the elders of each local congregation. Congregations do cooperate voluntarily in supporting the orphans and the aged, in preaching the gospel in new fields, and in other similar works.
There are no conventions, annual meetings, or official publications. The “tie that binds” is a common loyalty to the principles of the restoration of New Testament Christianity.

How are the churches of Christ governed?

In each congregation, which has existed long enough to become fully organized, there is a plurality of elders or presbyters who serve as the governing body. These men are selected by the local congregations on the basis of qualifications set down in the scriptures (1 Timothy 3:1-8). Serving under the elders are deacons, teachers, and evangelists or ministers. The latter do not have the authority equal to or superior to the elders. The elders are shepherds or overseers who serve under the headship of Christ according to the New Testament, which is a kind of constitution. There is no earthly authority superior to the elders of the local church.

What does the church of Christ believe about the Bible?

The original autographs of the sixty six books which make up the Bible are considered to have been divinely inspired, by which it is meant that they are infallible and authoritative. Reference to the scriptures is made in settling every religious question. A pronouncement from the scripture is considered the final word. The basic textbook of the church and the basis for all preaching is the Bible.

Do members of the churches of Christ believe in the virgin birth?

Yes. The statement in Isaiah 7:14 is taken as a prophecy of the virgin birth of Christ. New Testament passages such as Matthew 1:20, 25, are accepted at face value as declarations of the virgin birth. Christ is accepted as the only begotten Son of God, uniting in his person perfect divinity and perfect manhood.

Does the church of Christ believe in predestination?

Only in the sense that God predestines the righteous to be eternally saved and the unrighteous to be eternally lost. The statement of the apostle Peter, “Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons, but in every nation he that feareth Him and worketh righteousness is acceptable unto Him”(Acts 10:34-35.), is taken as evidence that God did not predestine individuals to be eternally saved or lost, but that each man determines his own destiny.

Why does the church of Christ baptize only by immersion?

The word baptize comes from the Greek word “baptizo” and literally means, “to dip, to immerse, to plunge.” In addition to the literal meaning of the word, immersion is practiced because it was the practice of the church in apostolic times. Still further, only immersion conforms to the description of baptisms as given by the apostle Paul in Romans 6:3-5 where he speaks of it as a burial and resurrection.

Is infant baptism practiced?

No. Only those who have reached the “age of accountability” are accepted for baptisms. It is pointed out that the examples given in the New Testament are always of those who have heard the gospel preached and have believed it. Faith must always precede baptism, so only those old enough to understand and believe the gospel are considered fit subjects for baptism.

How often is the Lord’s supper eaten?

It is expected that every member of the church will assemble for worship on each Lord’s day. A central part of the worship is the eating of the Lord’s supper (Acts 20:7). Unless providentially hindered, each member considers this weekly appointment as binding. In many instances, as in the case of illness, the Lord’s supper is carried to those who are hindered from attending the worship.

What kind of music is used in the worship?

As a result of the distinctive plea of the church – a return to New Testament Faith and practice – acapella singing is the only music used in the worship. This singing, unaccompanied by mechanical instruments of music, conforms to the music used in the apostolic church and for several centuries thereafter (Ephesians 5:19). It is felt that there is no authority for engaging in acts of worship not found in the New Testament. This principle eliminates the use of instrumental music, along with the use of candles, incense, and other similar elements.

Does the church of Christ believe in heaven and hell?

Yes. The statement of Christ in Matthew 25, and elsewhere, are taken at face value. It is believed that after death each man must come before God in judgment and that he will be judged according to the deeds done while he lived (Hebrews 9:27). After judgment is pronounced he will spend eternity either in heaven or hell.

By what means does the church secure financial support ?

Each first day of the week the members of the church “lay by in store as they have been prospered” (1 Corinthians 16:2). The amount of any individual gift is generally known only to the one who gave it and to the Lord. This freewill offering is the only call which the church makes. NO assessments or other levies are made. No money-making activities, such as bazaars or suppers, are engaged in.

Does the church of Christ have a creed?

No. At least, there is no creed in the usual sense of the word. The belief of the church is stated fully and completely in the Bible. There is no other manual or discipline to which the members of the church of Christ give their allegiance. The Bible is considered as the only infallible guide to heaven.

How does one become a member of the church of Christ?

In the salvation of man’s soul there are 2 necessary parts: God’s part and man’s part. God’s part is the big part, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift if God; not of works, that no man should glory” (Ephesians 2:8-9). The love which God felt for man led him to send Christ into the world to redeem man. The life and teaching of Jesus, the sacrifice on the cross, and the proclaiming of the gospel to men constitute God’s part in salvation.

Though God’s part is the big part, man’s part is also necessary if man is to reach heaven. Man must comply with the conditions of pardon which the Lord has announced. Man’s part can clearly set forth in the following steps:

Hear the Gospel
“How shall they call on him whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe him whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?” (Romans 10:14).

Believe
“And without faith it is impossible to be wellpleasing unto him; for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that seek after him”
(Hebrews 11:6).

Repent of past sins
“The times of ignorance therefore God overlooked; but now he commandeth men that they should all everywhere repent.” (Acts 17:30).

Confess Jesus as Lord
“Behold here is water; What doth hinder me to be baptized ? And Philip said, if thou believeth with all thy heart thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God” (Acts 8:36-37).

Be baptized for the remission of sins
“And Peter said unto them, Repent ye, and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38).

Live a Christian life
“Ye are an elect race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, that ye may show forth the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).