I am not a “church of Christer”. People often ask me what my faith is. If I say “Christian”, then they want to know what “kind”. If I say a “Christian Christian” or “simply a Christian” then they want to know what denomination of which I am a part. If I respond, “I attend the church of Christ” then they say, “Oh. You are a ‘church of Christer’”. Labels make people feel comfortable. Even if the labels aren’t real.
I don’t accept that label, and it’s not the only label I do not accept. Amongst “churches of Christ” there have been many schisms through the years. There is a spectrum ranging from “ultra-liberal” to “mainstream” to “radical fundamentalist”. There’s the “one-cuppers”, the “multi-cuppers”, the “institutionalists”, the “anti’s”, and the list goes on and on. One man’s conservative is another man’s liberal and vice a versa. What’s “my” label? Where I attend services; what’s “our” label? Depends on who you ask?
But as a Christian, my goal should not be to fit into labels of men, but to be a follower of Christ in all respects. As I live to be a true disciple (John 8:31), the Lord will know me as His own (John 10:14). As I practice authentic Christianity it will naturally follow that I will be an authentic Christian. If I were to accept a label, that would be the one I would choose. But what is that? What is “Authentic Christianity”?
“Authentic” has a few different definitions, but each one is applicable to who I strive to be as a Christian.
1. “of undisputed origin; genuine.” - It should be beyond dispute that the faith that I practice comes from Jesus Christ. In the great commission, Jesus told His Apostles “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you…” (Matthew 28:18-20) The Christianity that I practice did not come from the authority of men, but of Christ. As a church, that is what we strive for in all faith and practice as well. To those who study the scriptures and know them, it is evident that the origin of all that I believe and practice is from Christ. The same is not true for the Catholic, or Baptist, or Methodist, etc.
2. “made or done in the traditional or original way, or in a way that faithfully resembles an original.” - The Christianity that I practice faithfully resembles the original of the New Testament. My faith comes from the same seed and bears the same fruit. (Matthew 13:1-23) I believe that if the Apostle Peter of John or Paul were to interview me about my faith and practices, and observe me in my walk, work, and worship they would see that resembles all that they themselves practiced and taught (I Corinthians 4:17; Galatians 1:1-9; III John 3&4) The same goes for the O’Connor Road church of Christ. It is an authentic church of Christ only because it faithfully resembles the original. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for all that bear the name “church of Christ”.
3. “based on facts; accurate or reliable.” - something is not authentic because it feels authentic. It is only authentic if it is factually so. How many times have you witnessed on TV, or in life, someone who believes with all their heart that they possess a priceless antique, only to find out when examined by an expert that it is fake. This is one reason our faith must be based on the factual objective standard/truth of the word of God. I am not an authentic Christian if/because I feel I am. I am only an authentic Christian so far as I can factually, accurately, and reliably demonstrate that I am by the word of God. The same goes for any church as well.
4. “Though there are many synonyms to the word “authentic”, like “genuine” or “real”, “’authentic’ carries the connotation of authoritative confirmation that things or people are what they are or claimed or appear to be”. (Dictionary.com Unabridged) My “seal” or “certificate” of authenticity does not come from my feelings, or from the labels of men (who have no authority), but can only come from He who has all authority… the Lord. (Ephesians 1:20-23) “Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: ‘The Lord knows those who are His,’” (II Timothy 2:19)
May we ever work to be an authentic “church of Christ” made up of authentic Christians.