"The Disciples were first called Christians in Antioch" (Acts 11:26)
"But if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not feel ashamed, but in that name glorify God" (1 Pet. 4:16).
The only name by which the disciples of Christ were called was the name Christian. They were "disciples" to be sure, but that was not a name; that's a descriptive word telling something about them. Like the word "saints." They were never spoken of as members of the Church of Christ; but they were spoken of as members of Christ, members of His body. They were never called "church members." They were not members of the church, they were the ecclesia of Christ! And there is only one ecclesia of Christ!
Peter says one who suffers as a Christian should not be ashamed. In fact, Jesus taught that they should rejoice and be exceedingly glad when such occasions arise. But Peter also says plainly that "in that name let him glorify God." In "that name," as a Christian, we can glorify God. Yet we seldom ever use that name or speak of ourselves as Christians. Why? Today we seek to glorify God as a "member of the church" or in the denominational name – Church of Christ.
We call ourselves "members of the Church of Christ." We "belong to the Getwell Church of Christ," for example. Never do we read of the disciples calling themselves or being called by such labels. The local Church of Christ organization, as we have it in corporate institutional form, was unknown in the days of the New Testament. Hundreds of years would pass before the corporate institutional church had its beginning and finally culminated in the Roman Catholic Church. That church is the "pattern" for what we have today, along with all other denominational churches.
Where have all the Christians gone? Have you ever noticed how rarely the word Christian is used when speaking of God's people? Listen for its use by our pulpit ministers. I rarely ever hear it used. We are far more concerned with getting people to become members of the Church of Christ than we are with teaching them how to become a Christian. The word is rarely used in our multitude of papers. Why is the word so seldom heard among us? Why do you never speak of yourself as a Christian?
"Church" is our precious word, used probably more often than the name of Jesus Christ. We want to take the "true" and "restored" church to the world. Herald of Truth brethren, and most others, are highly concerned about "the image of the church" and they want to teach on their programs and write in their publications so that "the Church of Christ" will be highly respected and recognized in a favorable way right along side all the other churches.
For years I have said that our preachers can't preach or teach five minutes without mentioning the church. Check it out for yourself. Check your own speech. If someone asks you what you are religiously, I suspect your answer is, "I am a member of the Church of Christ." (Some actually say, "I am a Church of Christ!") Why not say, "I'm a Christian." You reply: "Well, if I say, 'I'm a Christian,' they will say, 'I know you are a Christian, but what church do you belong to?'" The idea prevails that one must belong to one of the many churches or denominations. So you select one: "I am a member of the Church of Christ." Then they have you pegged and placed in that sect or segment, with a church brand or name.
We are no longer willing to be "Christians only, only Christians." Church or denominational identity is the way to go today. So, let's restate Peter's language: "If anyone suffers as a member of the Church of Christ ... in that name let him glorify God." We are indeed "Church of Christers" today.
Where did the Christians go? What happened to our use of that glorious word that while it identifies a people it features Christ, not the people themselves? – CAH