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Disciples of Christ

What Do Disciples Believe?

It is no simple task to summarize what members of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) believe. In his book We Call Ourselves Disciples, General Minister and President Emeritus Dr. Kenneth Teegarden explains:

"Disciples always have opposed...the use of creeds to exclude persons from the church. It was (the) use of creeds as 'tests of fellowship' that the Disciples' founding fathers fingered as the major cause of division among Christians...(So) unlike most other churches, we Disciples do not have an official doctrinal statement we can refer to when someone asks, 'What does the Christian Church believe?'"

For many years, The Christian Evangelist,a forerunner of our present journal The Disciple, carried a maxim in its masthead: 'In essentials, unity: in nonessentials, liberty; in all things, charity.' It expresses the cherished conviction that liberty should be allowed in the nonessential areas into which most creedal statements roam.

A widely-known slogan among Disciples claims "No Creed but Christ." That conviction is borne out in the manner in which persons come to be a part of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Dr. Teegarden goes on to say:

"Standing before a congregation of Disciples to confess faith in Jesus Christ and become part of the church, a person is asked only one question. It is usually phrased, 'Do you believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, and do you accept him as your personal Savior?' The person who responds, 'I do,' might have recently completed a church membership course. If so, the instruction will not have been to transmit a system of doctrines. In fact, a person who is comfortable with a dogmatic approach would be disappointed in the Christian Church."

We Disciples have beliefs and practices in common with all sorts of Christians. These apparent similarities sometimes are superficial, sometimes fundamental. We baptize by immersion, so we look like Baptists. We have Communion every Sunday, so we look a bit like Roman Catholics.

We stress the ministry of the laity, so we look a little like Quakers. Our congregations call their pastors rather than accepting assigned ministers, so in that respect we look like Presbyterians.

We rely heavily on preaching and teaching, so we look somewhat like Methodists. We have congregational government, so we look a lot like the United Church of Christ.

While the above quotes may make it sound like being a member of the Disciples of Christ means there is a moving target.  Below are the four main tenets of the denomination:

  1. Freedom of Belief:  Disciples are called together around the belief in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  Persons are free to follow their consciences guided by the Bible, the Holy Spirit, study and prayer and are expected to extend that freedom to others. We hold the centrality of scripture, recognizing that each person has the freedom and the responsibility = to study God’s Word within the community of the Church.
  1. Baptism by Immersion:   In Baptism the old self-centered life is set aside, and a new life of trust in God begins.  Although Disciples practice baptism by immersion, other baptism traditions are honored
  1. Belief in Oneness of the Church:  All Christians are called to be one in Christ and to seek opportunities for common witness and service.
  1. The ministry of all believers:  Both ministers and lay persons lead in worship, service, and spiritual growth.  We affirm the priesthood of all believers.  Rejoicing in the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  – which include the gifts of leadership – that God has given for the common good.

For more information on the Christian Church Disciples of Christ visit: www.disciples.org