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THE CHURCH OF ELEVEN22: IS IT THE CHURCH OF THE BIBLE?
By Aaron Cameron
There is a relatively new church that has been growing rapidly in the city of Jacksonville. It has gotten nearly universal acclaim from its attendees. “I used to be an atheist, until I went to this church,” says one reviewer on Facebook. “I loved the music and the service!” another states. “Zero judgment,” yet another individual proclaims. This church is called The Church of Eleven22. Many attend there and speak of how great it is. However, it doesn’t matter how great we think something is – but it does matter what God thinks. With that, we ask the question: “The Church of Eleven22 – Is It the Church of the Bible?”
First, let us examine the name of this church. “The Church of Eleven22.” What does that name mean? According to their website, the name was randomly picked because they wanted to choose a name and service time people would remember. Did God randomly pick the name of His church, of His kingdom on Earth? Absolutely not. Through His Inspired Word, the Bible, God took the time to give the local, faithful, and Biblical congregation options for its name. “The church” (Acts 2:47), “the church of God” (Acts 20:28), “the churches of Christ” (Romans 16:16), “the temple of God” (I Corinthians 3:16-17), “the body of Christ” (I Corinthians 12:27), “the kingdom of His dear Son” (Colossians 1:13), “the house of God” (I Timothy 3:15), and “the general assembly and church of the Firstborn” (Hebrews 12:23) are all possible names given by God through the inspired writers of the New Testament. Does this list include “Eleven22?” The simple answer to that question is “no.” Nor should a church be named after men (Lutherans), Biblical terms (Pentecostal), or made up (Eleven22, Celebration Church, Community Church, etc.). If none of those names are acceptable, according to God, would a name fashioned after a time of day be acceptable? Certainly not!
Second, let us examine the leadership structure of the Church of Eleven22. According to their website, Eleven22 has several pastors, then some Elders, then some staff. Where is the disconnect from God’s Word? The disconnect is the apparent structure of the leadership not reflecting that, Biblically, Pastor and Elder mean the same thing. When one attempts to find Eleven22’s definition of an Elder on their site, they are instead led to videos where each man talks about himself. What is more beneficial for a person seeking a place to worship: a video of a man talking about himself, or a definitive explanation of the role of an Elder in the church backed up by Holy Scripture? The only person, in fact, in what appears to be a lead role at Eleven22 with a description, is their Preacher, or Evangelist, or Minister, who they refer to as a Pastor. However, we can see in the Word of God that preachers, or evangelists, or ministers, were never referred to as a Pastor. In fact, Pastor holds the same meaning as Elder, or Bishop. We see this in Acts 20, particularly in verse 28, where an examination of the original Greek shows both the root of “Elder” and “Pastor” used in the same context. Additionally, Paul makes further note of this in Ephesians 4:11, making a distinction between “evangelist” and “pastor,” meaning the two are not the same. The primary work of the preacher, or evangelist, or minister is to preach and teach the gospel. The elder, pastor, or bishop oversees the church primarily, filling in other roles where necessary. Additionally, some wisdom and age is required, according to I Timothy 3:6 (not a novice). With the roles of Pastor and Elder separated, and neither made truly clear, at Eleven22, is it the church of the Bible?
Third, let us examine the structure of worship. While Eleven22’s website does not specifically spell out the different aspects of their worship service, we can infer based on pictures and other places on their site one thing that can definitely be looked at: the use of instrumental music during worship. The usage of instrumental music in the worship is debated across several denominations. Even the church of Christ, in some areas, has given in to the usage of instrumental music in worship. Some will compromise, using acappella music in a “traditional” service and instrumental music in the “contemporary” service. Others justify the usage of instrumental music by saying that it’s what the people want to hear, or it is what draws more of a crowd, or it is more “beautiful” than just the voices of the congregation. We must ask ourselves, then, who is worship for? The Bible gives us that answer: “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23-24). What is the truth? The truth is God’s Word (John 17:17). Does, then, the Holy Bible lay out for us the acts of worship we are to include as Christians? The answer is yes: we are to partake of the Lord’s Supper (Matthew 26:26-29, Acts 20:7); pray (Matthew 6:5-15, Hebrews 4:14-16); preach and teach God’s Word (Matthew 28:19-20, Acts 2:42); give (I Corinthians 16:2, II Corinthians 9:7); and sing (Colossians 3:16, Ephesians 5:19). Is the usage of instrumental music commanded anywhere in the New Testament? No. Is the usage of singing commanded anywhere in the New Testament? Yes, in the above-referenced verses. Just because God does not explicitly condemn an action, does that make it okay? For example – God does not outright say that we CANNOT have instruments in the worship, so does that mean he approves it? The answer to that question is found in 2 Timothy 3:16-17: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” That seems to be a pretty clear example of God telling His worshipers that they should not add that which has not been authorized, and that with the Bible we are COMPLETE – meaning, everything we need as Christians, has been given to us from in the Bible. Worship is for the benefit of God, not man – and as such we are commanded to sing, and only to sing, praises to God. Now, the question comes – what are those who participate in a “worship band” to do with those talents? Did God not condemn those who squandered their talents (Parable of the Talents, Matthew 25:14-30)? The answer to that question is yes, God does command us to use our talents. However, some talents are not appropriate for the worship service. For example, would a surgeon perform a complex medical procedure in front of onlookers, and call it worship? Or would a lawyer give closing arguments in a murder trial during the worship hour? Is it appropriate for someone who is talented in the area of figure skating to show off their routine at the time the congregation is to meet? For all these examples, one would say, “Certainly not, that is an inappropriate time to use those talents!” Such is the same for many with musical talents. One could play the guitar, one the drums, and one the saxophone, but not use those talents in worship (although they could use other talents, such as participating in the communion, preaching, teaching, or praying). However, they could use their relationship as members of the church to form a band, make song choices they are all comfortable with, and study together and find ways to evangelize and bring people to God that others may not have considered. With instrumental music during the worship hour, is the Church of Eleven22 the church of the Bible?
Fourth, let us examine the road to salvation. On its website, Eleven22 states that they “celebrate believer’s [sic] baptism a few times a year.” Additionally, individuals “need to attend one of our upcoming baptism classes.” In their “statement of faith,” it is seen that Eleven22 believes, “[s] alvation, the free gift of God, is provided by grace alone, through faith alone, because of Christ alone, for the glory of God alone. Anyone turning from sin in repentance and looking to Christ and His substitutionary death receives the gift of eternal life and is declared righteous by God as a free gift.” Regarding baptism, “baptism is only intended for the individual who has received the saving benefits of Christ’s atoning work and become His disciple.” We can infer from this that the Church of Eleven22 believes that salvation happens prior to baptism, but again we ask… is it something that the church of the Bible believes? Indeed, in the sixteen paragraphs on the “Statement of Faith” page, there is not a single instance of reference to the Holy Scripture; the words are paragraphs written presumably by the site’s webmaster or content creator. Let us look to the One, True Content Creator – God – and see what His Word has to say on the matter of salvation, and the steps to it. First, are we saved by grace? Absolutely – God’s grace, His gift to us of eternal life, is what saves us (Romans 6:23). When we receive grace, we receive what we do not deserve as imperfect and sinful human beings. The cost of that grace is Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21). God has laid out a plan to salvation – steps, directions, whatever an individual chooses to call it – in His Word. First, we must hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Romans 10:17 states that “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” Just because one’s parents are Christian, or they “feel the presence” of God, does not mean they are a Christian. Christianity is a religion of teaching (Matthew 28:19-20), and as such we must hear and understand the Gospel before it can be believed. Second, one must believe that Jesus is Christ, the Son of the living God (Matthew 16:16). An individual will hopefully come to believe in Jesus when he hears the Word of God (Romans 10:17). Next, an individual must repent of sins (Acts 17:30-31). Repentance is the act of not only being sorry for the sins one has committed, but by truly making a life change from those sins, making a conscious effort to no longer commit them, and instead perform acts that are good and beneficial to the Lord’s kingdom. Fourth, an individual must confess that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God (Matthew 10:32.33). This is the foundation upon which the church of Christ is built (Matthew 16:18). As the Ethiopian eunuch made the confession in front of Philip in Acts 8, an individual must also confess that Jesus is the Son of God. Finally, one must be baptized in order to be saved. Baptism follows belief in every instance it is mentioned in the Bible – and it follows confession. Mark 16:15-16, Acts 2:38, Acts 22:16 – all of these state that baptism is a part of that salvation. Baptism is not a later showing of that salvation – baptism is the act that washes away those sins. Is a church that believes classes must be taken, after a person has supposedly been already saved, the church of the Bible? The Bible tells us that baptism takes place as a part of the salvation of sinful man, that it is an important part of becoming a Christian. Where are the Scriptural references to having a class and going to a “mass baptism” to “get dunked?” It is often true that further study is needed to make sure the person who wishes to be saved is clear on the steps of salvation and the life changes that need to be made. However, that pertinent study does not interfere with God’s Word, or God’s plan for salvation, and the teacher and student must agree that salvation comes AFTER the act of baptism.
There are many other comparisons that can be made between the church of the Bible and the Church of Eleven22. However, this article has done its best to point out four that can be referenced by Scripture. The point of this series is: Can you prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that everything the church you belong to does is from the Bible? Where did God approve the usage of instrumental or a cappella music? Where did God approve the name of the church you attend? Where did God state, through His inspired writers, that Baptism is not a necessary act of salvation? Can you flip to the portions of the Scripture that can answer those questions? If not, why not? It is not this writer, or your neighbor, or your friend asking... it is God's Holy Word, the Bible! Please, prayerfully and studiously discover the answer.
1. Church of Eleven22 Facebook page – http://facebook.com/coe22
2. “Statement of Faith” – Church of Eleven22 – http://coe22.com/statement-of-faith
3. “Pastor Joby Martin” – Church of Eleven22 – http://coe22.com/pastor-joby-martin
4. “Elders” – Church of Eleven22 – http://coe22.com/elders