Our History and Heritage

The Greenville Oaks Church of Christ began with seven families in July 1986. Those families envisioned a church, with solid Biblical foundation, where Allen area families would experience real, authentic relationships with God and each other. It would be where people come and find hope and salvation in Jesus Christ.

They first met in members’ homes and soon moved into a day care center and then into a storefront facility. A church building was purchased in 1989 which served as the church’s home until 2001 when the first phase of the current building was built at 703 South Greenville Avenue in Allen. The second phase, which was completed in early 2006, doubled the size of the building.

That original group of seven families and one Lord has grown to a congregation of more than 400 families with around 850 people worshipping, praying, studying and serving together.

As we minister in the 21st century we are strengthened by our deep roots and firm foundation, standing firm on the solid rock of the redemption and love of Jesus Christ our Lord. We are excited as we face the future with hope and pledge to keep the faith, to honor the trust of our heritage while reaching out to touch our neighbors in our time.

A Brief History of the Churches of Christ

Every great religious movement has a cultural and historical setting that helped to shape and define its character and personality. This is certainly true for the American Restoration Movement of the early 1800’s that gave birth to the churches of Christ. This effort to bring religious unity by restoring the doctrine and practice of the New Testament church has three major roots:

1. The Great Awakening. The first religious revival in America took place in the 1730’s and 1740’s. The second great revival began in the late 1700’s in Tennessee, Kentucky and Ohio. This renewed interest in religion led many new believers searching for a church they could join. Often their frontier location did not offer them a church like the one they had belonged to back east. Therefore, they were open to investigating the Bible in order to find a church like the one mentioned in the New Testament. One of the leading revival preachers was Barton W. Stone, a former Presbyterian minister in Kentucky. He became one of the founders of the Restoration Movement.

2. The American Experience. The early 1800’s were the years of triumph for America and democracy. The Constitution was ratified in 1789 and produced the unity needed to save the nation from what would have been certain disintegration and failure. Much of the religious journalism of the early 1800’s compared the Bible to the Constitution. What the Constitution had done to unite bickering states, the Bible could do to unite the various denominations and churches. Such an orientation to the Bible opens the door to a legalistic, rational approach to religious unity.

3. Age of Reason and Enlightenment. The 1700’s are known as the Age of Reason. The scientific method had shown that the universe operates according to unalterable laws and logical patterns. It was during this period that the Scottish philosopher, John Locke, wrote his essay, “The Reasonableness of Christianity.” He claimed that religious unity could be achieved by logical reasoning and agreement on the essentials: that Jesus was the Messiah and that we must obey His clear commands. One of the leaders of the Restoration Movement, Alexander Campbell, was a student of John Locke. Under the influence of the Age of Reason the Bible became more mechanical, more impersonal and less mysterious.

4. The Birth of the Restoration Movement. It was this background that gave birth to the Restoration Movement. This movement was led by Thomas Campbell and his son, Alexander. They were Presbyterians (Old Light, Anti-Burgher, Seceder variety). Another leader in this unity movement was Barton W. Stone, a Presbyterian from Kentucky. This movement encouraged Christians to drop their denominations’ names: “We are Christians only, but not the only Christians.” The leaders of the Restoration Movement believed that by a rational approach it would be possible to discover the exact patterns of the church of the first century and then duplicate it here and now. Their theme was “We will speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where the Bible is silent.”

By the 1850’s the plea for unity of believers on the basis of the Bible alone had captured the imagination and allegiance of several hundred thousand Christians from Maine to Texas and they were one of the fastest growing Christian groups in America. Soon after the Civil War the unity movement divided into three major factions: 1) The Disciples of Christ, concentrated in the North, 2) The Christian Church, which used instrumental music in the worship assembly, and 3) The Church of Christ that used a cappella music.

Our Positive Heritage from the Restoration Movement

1. The Freedom to Restore. Alexander Campbell took a courageous stand to view the Bible without the distorting glasses of tradition and culture. As he and his followers discovered biblical truths they obediently followed the truth they had discovered. Campbell wrote: “I have endeavored to read the scriptures as though no one had read them before me and I am as much on my guard against reading them today, through the medium of my own views yesterday, or a week ago, as I am against being influenced by any foreign name, authority, or system whatever.” We are fortunate to be the heirs of a religious group that demonstrated such courage and conviction.

2. Priesthood of All Believers. One of the constant themes of the restoration message was that the average person on the pew could read and understand the Bible. The clergy were denounced as “tyrannical oppressors.” Just as Americans had learned that “a nation can exist without a king on its throne, so they should see that a church could exist without a clergyman in his sacred desk.” At Greenville Oaks we uphold this important biblical principle and encourage each member to be a minister.

3. Importance of Bible Knowledge. The pioneers of our heritage insisted that people must do more than simply respect the Bible—they must learn its contents and obey its instruction. Greenville Oaks emphasizes the Living Word. God’s message is designed to do more than inform us—it is designed to transform us.

4. Congregational Autonomy. Since there is no central office or headquarters, each congregation makes its own decisions. This allows local congregations to make changes that might not be possible otherwise.

At the Greenville Oaks Church of Christ we are serious about following the Bible and its teachings. However, our ability to logically figure everything out is not the basis for our acceptability before God. Our salvation is based on what God has done for us through Jesus Christ. This grace motivates us to be diligent in our efforts to follow what God instructs us to do. The restoration process is a never-ending one and we are open to follow the leadership of God as He directs us. The task of closely following the Bible and eliminating human tradition and other corrupting influences is a difficult one. As early as 1836 Barton W. Stone issued a warning: “Some among ourselves were for some time zealously engaged to do away with party creeds, and are yet zealously preaching against them—but instead of a written creed of man’s devise, they have substituted a nondescript one, and exclude good brethren from their fellowship, because they dare believe differently from their opinions.”

The need to be in touch with our history and heritage is summed up by Leonard Allen in his book The Cruciform Church (p.14):

We never quite rid ourselves of the past. We can try, but we will still carry our past with us in ways we do not fully perceive. One may spend one’s life renouncing a heritage but—mark it down—even that renunciation will be shaped by the very heritage it seeks to renounce. Accepting what has been given us from the past is mark of our finitude, of our creaturely limits.

Acceptance of a past, however, should not mean undue reverence for that past or an easy compliance with its orthodoxies and strictures. For as the early pioneers of our movement saw so clearly, traditions easily become absolute—and thus make idols of—their own limited perspective and pronouncements. Therefore, accepting one’s tradition (or heritage) means in part caring enough about the tradition to engage it critically, thereby helping preserve and correct the ideals that have sustained it over the generations.