Religious denominations have central governing bodies, organizational religious creeds, and membership rolls. We have none of those characteristics. We call ourselves Bible Students because we study the Bible. Additionally, we usually preface the name with our locality. For instance, I attend the Chicago Bible Students meetings.
We try to hold as closely to the organizational structure of the early church as revealed in the New Testament. Consequently, we do not own a church building, preferring to spend our funds and resources in the spreading of the Gospel. We rent different venues, and we meet in our homes for weeknight studies.
We do not have a set of creeds one must believe in order to study with us. Therefore, we have no membership lists. The New Testament church didn’t have paid ministers (Paul was a tent maker), but all worked to support themselves and serve God as well. We follow that model. There are times when we may contribute to a visiting pastor’s travel expenses, but we never pay anyone to preach the Gospel. “Freely have ye received, freely give.” Matthew 10:8.
We, the congregation, elect elders and deacons annually according to the character traits specified in 1Timothy 3. Additionally, we have open business meetings and the congregation decides what we will study, which activities we will pursue, and how we will spend our pooled resources. We never “pass the plate” for offerings. If any chose to contribute, there is a small donation box in the back of the church where people may donate anonymously.
People may choose to stay and worship with us if they hold to certain doctrines. (Although, any may study with us, many depart because they feel more comfortable in different church settings.) These doctrines include:
- The Bible is the inspired word of God. (2 Tim. 3:16)
- Jesus provided the ransom sacrifice for all mankind. (1 Tim. 2:16)
- The first to receive of Jesus’ ransom merit are those called to follow Him (Heb. 10:20) since His resurrection. These people recognize their sinful condition, accept Jesus’ blood to cover their sins and then give their life to follow in Jesus’ footsteps. They are begotten with the Holy Spirit. The Church is the “temple of the living God” and it’s development has been in progress since Jesus’ first advent. (1Cor. 3:16, Eph. 2:20-22).
- The hope of the Church is that she may be like her Lord, “see Him as He is,” and be “a partaker of the divine nature.” They hope to share His glory as His joint-heir (1John 3:2, John 17:24, Rom. 8:17, 2 Peter 1:4).
- When the Church class is finished, they will receive the first resurrection, and the temple shall be filled with His glory. It shall be the meeting place between God and men throughout the Millennium (11Peter 2:4-9, Rev. 15:5-8).
- At Jesus’ second advent, He and his church will establish His peaceable kingdom on earth (Isa. 11:4-9, Isa. 35, Matt. 6:10) during which time all mankind will be resurrected (John 5:28, 29), be instructed in God’s ways (Jer. 31:34), learn to obey God’s ordinances (Isa. 28:17), and have the opportunity to live forever if obedient (Rev. 22:1-3).
- Satan, the fallen angels, and all willfully disobedient people will be destroyed forever (Rev. 20:10, 21:8).
- Then the kingdom will be turned over to God to His glory and honor forever (1 Cor. 15:28).