The Churches of God are now represented broadly around the globe, so whatever your own origin you will likely find people with a not-too-different background in a Church of God. Bible church principles are still working in a wide variety of cultural settings. A brief outline of our geographical expansion is provided below.
In our fast-changing 21st century, the Churches of God maintain first century Bible convictions while aiming to keep pace with the pulse-beat of modern society. We show below the historical path followed, which led to the current Churches of God. The result is close inter-dependency of cross-cultural churches in a unique worldwide Fellowship, which is a realisation in practical terms of the recorded prayer of the Lord Jesus Christ for His followers: “that they may be one”.
The purpose of the Churches of God is primarily to provide a biblically sound basis for believers to unitedly worship and serve God. If we achieve that primary God-ward goal it is considered reasonable that other worthy and necessary objectives, mainly focused on meeting spiritual, practical and social human needs, will also have a healthy environment for success. If these are important goals to you too, you should relate well to the people forming Churches of God today.
(items highlighted in red are key developments in tracing the source of current Churches of God)
|AD30-100:||Original churches of God in days of the apostles.|
|then||Departure from apostolic teaching results in lack of unity; they gradually lose the plot!
Then persecution drives Christianity “underground”.
|AD312:||Emperor Constantine adopts Christianity.|
|then||Ascendancy of Roman Catholic church; government of state and church combine|
|then||Introduction of doctrinal errors and wrong practices during the so-called Dark Ages|
|16th Century:||Reformation results in protestant churches, standing for salvation by faith alone.|
|then||Protestant Church organization largely follows the Roman Catholic model; errors ensue.|
|17th Century:||“Anabaptist” churches attempt to correct the error of christening babies, but are persecuted|
|18th Century:||Non-conformist churches (e.g. Methodists) emerge, seeking separation of church and state, and promoting the Gospel|
|19th Century:||Intensified religious activity spawns a variety of churches and sects (e.g. Mormons; ‘Jehovah's Witnesses’) claiming - not always truly! - to be ‘Christian’.|
|and||Brethren churches emerge to correct doctrinal errors in state-sponsored churches and sects|
|but||The “independent churches” organization model of Brethren churches proves unable to unitedly correct errors.|
|then||1892-94: Churches of God are formed by separation from Brethren churches in the U.K. and Africa (and soon after in North America too) to produce a biblical fellowship, united in doctrine and practice and with evangelical zeal.|
|20th Century||Pentecostal churches emerge to promote charismatic gifts and ‘holiness’; major existing denominations focus increasingly on social work rather than gospel preaching. Churches of God grow geographically (see below).|
|21st Century||Protestant churches typified by (1) decline in older denominations and (2) growth in independent evangelical churches; new/additional Churches of God commence in Canada, India, Kenya, Malawi, Philippines.|
From its inception the Churches of God have expanded into many regions, at present including:
• Africa (Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Nigeria)
• Asia (Burma/Myanmar; Philippines)
• Caribbean (Jamaica)
• Europe (Belgium; U.K.)
There were once also Churches of God in Germany, New Zealand and South Africa, but sadly these have ceased.
What Makes Us Distinctive?
There are many Bible truths and biblical practises that Churches of God share with fellow believers in other Christian groupings. Such truths include fundamental matters like the Trinity, the reality of Satan, the Fall, the inspiration of Scripture, salvation by grace through faith not works, baptism by immersion in water, etc. The “Basic Beliefs” section of this webpage provides a fuller list, though it is better to read the Bible itself, so we don’t suggest some form of creed be relied on instead.
Many believers in Christ seem satisfied to just attend “a church of their choice”. Defining which is the ‘right’ church for them is regarded as a matter of individual feeling and family needs for specific ‘programs’. “Aren’t all churches basically the same?”, it may be asked. However, if closely following the Bible’s statements – including its descriptions of the New Testament churches – is the correct measuring stick, then observers can say more precisely and confidently that some churches are right and others are wrong, in what they teach and practice. As in all logical analysis, opposite positions cannot both be right! So when we have reviewed different churches and set on one side the matters in which their teaching is the same, we are left to consider the importance of the things in which they differ.
What follows here are twenty significant distinguishing features in united beliefs and practices of ALL churches of God (which we regret are matters that are not necessarily shared by all evangelical churches). Some things would be quite visible to anyone attending a meeting of a Church of God; others are just as important and real, though they are to do with matters that must be appreciated spiritually from Bible reading rather than visibly. So even if you are not familiar with some items in this list, or they seem a bit theoretical, please don’t dismiss them; just weigh them up by comparison to what the Bible says (footnotes are provided as starting points for such study):
1. Once saved, a believer cannot be lost again1.
2. Baptism of believers by immersion in water is not required for their salvation, but is required before they may join a church of God2.
3. Baptism in the Holy Spirit takes place once, at the time of salvation, resulting in membership in “the church, which is the body of Christ” (which is often abbreviated to “the Church the Body”, or simply, “the Body”); speaking in tongues was never a required evidence of this baptism, nor is speaking in tongues now practised at all in Churches of God3.
4. Continuity of one’s place in a church of God is based on obedience to Scripture; disobedience may even result in excommunication (“putting away” from the church), but restoration is possible after repentance4.
5. Being put away from a church of God does not affect continuing membership in the Body5.
6. Churches of God are many in number but exist only on earth, whereas the Church the Body is a singular entity and comprises ALL believers, including those now with Christ in heaven. This is viewed as a key distinction in different biblical uses of the term “church”6
7. There are no ‘clergy’ or ‘ordained’ (i.e. specially trained, and paid) ‘pastors’, and no title for leaders (like “Reverend” or “Minister”) other than the biblical designations: overseers; shepherds; elders; which are viewed as different descriptions of the men in the leadership role in the churches after the time of the Apostles7. Full-time evangelists and pastors/teachers are sent out for service globally, based on recognized spiritual gift8; they are sustained financially from voluntary gifts from all churches able to give9.
8. No single elder leads and governs any local church, there is always more than one for each church; deacons are appointed if needed10.
9. All local elders also form part of the respective district, and global, elderhood (the “presbytery”)11.
10. Local disagreements on doctrine or practice are resolved by binding decisions of the next wider (geographic) circle of elders (all acting as equals, with no individual being superior); this process is a key means of achieving and maintaining unity across all the Churches of God12.
11. Charismatic gifts from the Holy Spirit to believers are not seen as supplementing or overriding Scripture, or likely to produce actions not witnessed in the life of Christ. Christ-likeness is the Spirit’s objective 13; prophetic gift does not now add to scripture, but explains it; God initially used miracles to affirm as true what His messengers were saying14, but now we have the complete Bible God does not need anymore to demonstrate its validity by giving the ability to people to do miraculous healings, etc15.
12. Gender-based roles determine proper use of spiritual gifts in formal church activities16; gender is based solely on physiology not one’s personal idea of identity17; only heterosexual unions are permitted for those in Churches of God18.
13. Men taking part in prayer, praise or teaching in meetings of a Church of God must not cover their heads, and conversely women must cover their heads when they form part of a Church of God that is engaged together in such activities19.
14. Marriage of those in a Church of God should be between believers in Churches of God20.
15. Worship by the church is viewed as actually involving them spiritually drawing near to God collectively in the holy place in heaven21 (not simply Christ being “in their midst” in a purely earthly activity). See Seven Core Actions for more on the key activities of all Churches of God, and the informative answer to an FAQ on What Can You Expect at our Worship Service?
16. No musical accompaniment is required in the worship of the church22, nor is there a need for a formal liturgy as the Holy Spirit should be allowed to direct what is said in each church meeting23.
17. All in Churches of God are, together, viewed as being blessed in forming one global “fellowship” that belongs to Christ24.
18. All in Churches of God are blessed in together forming a holy and royal priesthood; all born-again believers have the right individually to be priests, but activity as a priesthood is a collective activity and therefore requires a collective setting, for which the New Testament uses the term “church of God”25.
19. All believers in Churches of God are blessed in being built together as God’s house, and are also are seen as His holy nation, His kingdom, Christ’s flock26.
20. The blessings of the people of God under the new covenant (other than the unconditional and eternal forgiveness of sins for each individual) require their ongoing obedience to Scripture. Such obedience demands the highest standards of morality and holiness, and requires the people of God to serve Him without compromise and without sharing in the activities of other groups who are unwilling to accept what the Bible teaches, including what is expressed briefly in these distinguishing features of Churches of God27.
For those who would like a more detailed review of the background of Churches of God, literature is available, so just use the Contact link above to obtain copies.
- Jn 10:27,28; 1 Cor.3:12-15; 1 Jn 5:11-13; souls are eternally saved, but opportunity for a life of serving God may be lost as repentance is a divine prerogative e.g. 2 Tim.2:25; Acts 5:1-10; 1 Cor.11:30; Heb.6:4-8.If you would like to review a Powerpoint presentation on this subject, and the related issue of the fairness of eternal punishment for wrongs done in this short life, here is a DropBox link for you to use: “Eternal Salvation” Open the Slideshow in PowerPoint on your device (download first if needed) and it will play automatically
- Acts 10:44-48 (Gentile conversions; contrast with Jews baptized earlier with John’s baptism, prior to salvation Acts 19:1-7; Acts 2:41-42 baptism before addition to the church)
- 1 Cor.12:12,13; Matt.3:11; Jn 1:33; and 1 Cor.12:30 re not all speaking in tongues
- 1 Cor.5:12,13; 1 Cor.6:9-11; 2 Cor.2:5-8; Matt.18:15-22
- This is the logical consequence of combining facts noted in footnotes (1) and (4) above
- plurality of churches of God: e.g. 1 Cor.11:16; Gal.1:2; 1 Thess.2:14; One Body: Rom.12:5; 1 Cor.12:12-13,20; Eph.4:4.
- Matt.23:8; 1 Tim.3:1,8; Tit.1:5-9; 1 Pet.5:1-4
- Acts 21:8; Eph.4:11-13
- 2 Cor.8,9, esp.8:12; 1 Tim.5:17-18
- See footnote (7), esp. Tit.1:5 “elders (plural) in every city…”; see also Acts 20:17,28
- e.g. 1 Pet.1:1 linked to 1 Pet.5:1; see also Acts 16:2 linked to 1 Tim.4:14; Acts 15:4
- Acts 15 provides the scriptural principle
- See Rom.8:27-30. The Holy Spirit’s knowledge of the will of God for us results in Him helping us to be conformed to Christ, so if we want to know whether a practice is from the Holy Spirit we should ensure we first see Christ displaying it (as recorded in Scripture), and this will help us avoid attributing to the Holy Spirit ideas that are just from our emotions, and perhaps not Christ-like.
- Note the development from earliest days of the Apostles’ witness through to later times when churches were increasingly led by elders. E.g. Mk.16:20; 1 Cor.13:8-10; 1 Cor.14, esp.v19; 1 Tim.3:2 where ability to teach, not prophesy, is key; 2 Tim.2:2,24
- 1 Cor.14:23 note, whole church assembling; instructions that follow are directed to males (“each one” in v.26 translates a masculine noun, as does “prophets” in v.29), then to females: v.34; 1 Tim.2:11-12.
- Mk.10:6; Rom.1:26-27 “against nature” implies “contrary to birth”
- 1 Cor.7:2; 1 Cor.6:9-10; Paul, the writer of 1 Cor. Would have been very familiar with Lev.18, which provides an outworking of divine principles regarding acceptable and unacceptable sexual unions
- 1 Cor.11:1-16
- 2 Cor.6:14; 1 Cor.7:39
- Heb.10:19-22 contra Matt.18:20, where the context is judgment among disciples on earth
- 1 Cor.14:26-33; Acts 4:31
- 1 Cor.1:9 (a literal translation is “…into fellowship of the Son”)
- 1 Pet.2:5-10 and see Acts 12:5 as an example of joint prayer by a “church” which is elsewhere called “the church of God” (compare Acts 9:21 with 1 Cor.15:9 and Gal.1:13)
- 1 Pet.2:5-10; Heb.3:6; Lk.12:31,32; 1 Cor.6:8,9, which corrects the wrong behaviours of those in the church of God in Corinth (1 Cor.1:2) who were supposed to act in a manner consistent with their inheritance in the kingdom of God.
- 2 Cor.6:14-7:1; Ps.1:1-3; 1 Tim.5:22; 1 Thess.5:21,22; Ex.24:3-8; Heb.10:16,17