Independent Baptist vs Church of Christ – What’s the Difference?

Independent Baptist vs Church of Christ – What’s the difference?

First, this video is about churches that are grouped together as the Church of Christ, which is a different set of churches than the United Church of Christ, which is extremely different, and also from the Christian Churches Disciples of Christ, which was at one point the same group before they split.

Like Independent Baptist churches, Church of Christ congregations are independent and not subject to any denominational hierarchy. However, they hold to several major differences.

Churches of Christ, like Baptists, teach that a person must be born again – they must have a salvation experience to go to heaven. Baptists however teach that the only thing necessary to be born again is faith in Christ, but Churches of Christ teach that a person must be baptized to go to heaven. David Hersey of the Granby Church of Christ in Granby, MO says the following:

“…in order to understand how this new beginning takes place, we need to take notice of the reference to “washing of regeneration”.   Washing is done with water.  The connection between washing and the rebirth of water and of the spirit cannot be ignored.   Water and washing are a part of the rebirth, regeneration, new beginning process.  And Jesus said that unless one is reborn he or she cannot enter the kingdom of God.”

“…Those who have been baptized are buried with Jesus into death. And when they are taken up out of the water of baptism, they are raised to walk in newness of life. This newness of life is the new beginning. The rebirth. This resurrection from the watery grave of baptism is the point at which one is born again.” [1]

This doctrinal difference is likely the biggest difference between Independent Baptists and Churches of Christ. Independent Baptists say that including baptism as part of salvation is “works salvation.” Another major doctrine relating to salvation is the doctrine of “falling from grace.” Churches of Christ believe that a person is not “once saved always saved”, while most Independent Baptist churches do hold to this doctrine of Eternal security.

Most Churches of Christ hold to a hermeneutic, that is, a method of interpretation of the scripture, that affects all their other doctrines. This hermeneutic goes by the acronym “CENI,” which stands for Command, Example, and Necessary Inference.

This hermeneutic builds off of another principle, John Calvin’s Regulative principle of Worship, which contends that God has given specific instruction for the way public worship is to take place within New Testament Churches, and thus any other method of worship is unauthorized. In other words, silence on a matter is prohibitive. Some of the early leaders of the restoration movement of the 18th and 19th century, such as Thomas Campbell, were previously Presbyterian ministers, and brought many of the Calvinist teachings, such as the Regulative principle with them, while rejecting others. Because of this early tension, Churches of Christ are generally anti-Calvinist today.  Churches of Christ hold to the regulative principle, but have expanded it with CENI. First, the expansion has moved from simply a discussion of public worship, to all forms of church activity. The church is not allowed to do anything unless there is, within the Bible, a command, example, or necessary inference that demonstrates that such a practice is allowed.

Because of this, nearly all Churches of Christ, unlike Independent Baptists, prohibit the use of instruments in church services. Finding no New Testament use of instruments in a church service, the practice is prohibited. In 2007, the largest Church of Christ in the United States, Richland Hills Church in Texas, which had 6,400 members at the time, added instrumental music. This prompted widespread condemnation from other churches of Christ, including a 160-page book that was written titled “Richland Hills & Instrumental Music: A Plea to Reconsider”[2]

Churches of Christ have formed many other doctrines based on CENI. Because they only find reference to the Lord’s Supper being done on a Sunday, most say that it can only be done on a Sunday, and many say it must be every Sunday. Independent Baptists don’t hold this belief. Although you won’t find many of the following things written down, you will find that every Church of Christ will believe at least some of these things, and teach them. For example, some teach that in the Lord’s Supper, there should only be one cup shared by all, because that is the way Christ did it. Others also say one piece of bread too then, for the same reason. Some churches have women wear a head covering. Some say that it is sinful to eat within the church building. Some say it is sinful to use non-fermented wine in communion. Some Churches of Christ believe that it is not permitted to hold separate Sunday School services, but that all the people must meet together.

Churches of Christ are mostly are amillennial, believing there is no literal 1,000 year Millennium, while most Independent Baptists are premillennial.

Some independent Baptist Churches hold to Baptist succession, that Baptist churches have always existed under different names, and that modern Baptist churches were founded out of those other groups, such as Waldenses, Paulicians, and other Anabaptists. Similarly, some churches of Christ don’t view the Restoration movement as being their beginning, but that their churches come from an unbroken line, often putting the same groups that Baptists claim into their lineage.

Many independent Baptists are not creedal – meaning that although they don’t necessarily disagree with historic Christian creeds, they don’t hold to them because of a view of “scripture alone” as the authority. However, among these, most still have statements of faith for their particular church. Churches of Christ won’t even do this, rejecting doctrinal statements and statements of faith as unscriptural.

Churches of Christ believe that the minimum number of elders in a church is two, based on the mention of a plurality of elders in the New Testament. The elders are not necessarily synonymous with the minister or preacher. Instead, the board of elders has the oversight in the church, not the minister. Most Independent Baptist churches are led by a singular pastor, though many have multiple pastors.

Virtually all Independent Baptist Churches and Churches of Christ agree on the Inerrancy of Scripture, a literal hell, literal devil, and the necessity of evangelism.

One final note is the question of what categories these two groups of churches fall into. Independent Baptists are generally Evangelical or Fundamentalist, and Churches of Christ are Restorationist. They look similar to fundamentalists and evangelicals, but the main difference is their belief in the necessity of Baptism for salvation, which is against the Evangelical view.

[1] Hersey, David “Born Again”, //churchofchristarticles.com/blog/administrator/born-2/ (Accessed 12/1/2018)

[2] The book can be found at //www.richlandhillsandinstrumentalmusic.com/

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