In all churches there is diversity in belief and practice, just as there are many features of each individual church that are shared by the whole church of Jesus Christ.
Below are key characteristics that sketch a picture of who Churches of Christ are. It is not an attempt to separate this family from the broader Church. Rather, it describes our place within the whole Church.
1. We Value Christian Unity
Love for God and others is at the centre of Christian faith. Our churches are united by faith in and the desire to follow Jesus. Our local churches are self-governed, which leads to a great deal of diversity.
Churches of Christ seek to love and honour anyone who has faith in, and seeks to follow Jesus, as well as the church of which they are a part. We believe that when the Church expresses unity, it makes a positive impact on the society around us. We are better together.
2. A commitment to Evangelism and Mission
Jesus said the greatest commandment was to love God and your neighbour as yourself. Loving and following Jesus is contagious. It inspires us to share the message of Jesus, and follow his example of love for everyone. Working for justice, mercy, aid and development, safety, equality and solidarity are also expressions of the love of God.
3. An Emphasis on the Centrality of the New Testament
Reading afresh the message of Jesus and interpreting his message for today, guide our faith and actions. We seek out the core message and context of the Scriptures and apply them in ways that honour the church’s rich history of grappling with a profound and timeless message, and also seek to make them relevant to all people.
4. A Simple Confession of Faith
“Do you seek to love and follow Jesus?” is the key question of the Christian life. For us, a living faith replaces doctrine and creeds as a way of defining who follows Jesus. These can be useful as a means of expressing faith – but not as a test of faith.
5. Believers’ Baptism
People who have reached an age where they can make their own decision about their faith can be baptised in Churches of Christ. Baptism is by immersion, symbolising being buried and raised with Christ.
6. Weekly Communion
The Churches of Christ believe in an ‘open table’, where all who love and follow Jesus are invited to break bread and share wine in memory of Jesus’ death for us all.
7. Local Church Autonomy
Individual churches are both families and communities. Our churches are self-governed, and vote to elect local leaders. This means Churches of Christ are diverse, as churches respond to their own local communities and contexts.
Local churches are connected to their State Conferences, who together make up the Council of Churches of Christ in Australia (CCCA). Decisions that most impact the local church are made at the local church level. State and national affiliation for churches allows them to partner together in theological training, ecumenical work, mission work (both internationally and in Australia), accreditation of ministers, and resourcing.
8. Involving the Whole Church Family
As a church family, all members of the church, men and women, contribute to the vision, leadership and mission of the local church. Women and men can be endorsed and set aside to work among their local church and its local community.
9. Diversity, Freedom and Liberty
Churches are free to explore beliefs and practices. This is what we mean by ‘In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, and in all things love’.