One of the distinctive traits of Churches of Christ has been its commitment to Biblical faithfulness. This is why we send our men to ministry training schools that have an emphasis on studying the text of the Bible.
As I consider my own experience, I am challenged by a deficiency that I have both witnessed and been a part of. When I was younger, I remember sitting in countless Bible classes learning what was in various books of the Bible. I also remember studying various doctrines of the Bible in various classes. We touted correct doctrine. We usually emphasized mostly those things that made us different than denominations, such as the institutional structures of the church and worship practices.
After re-reading the Gospels, I am convinced that the most important aspects of what the Church of our Lord is supposed to look like was missing. In fact, I am beginning to understand that the heart of what the church is supposed to look like comes from the Gospel writers. The message of Christ began and ended with the Reign of God as its central motif. The instructions from Jesus in the Gospels were not intended to be individualistic, but communal.
What are the marks of the Reign of God? That is a different question than "How are we distinct from denominations?" The Sermon on the Mount that begins in Matthew 5 is a good place to start on identifying the marks of the Reign of God. In fact, the very first Beatitude identifies the Reign of God as consisting of those who are poor in spirit. Jesus said there that he did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it. In other words, Jesus is the embodiment of the ideal subject under the reign of God. When God first established his reign in Israel, Israel failed to demonstrate the ideal. So Jesus came to demonstrate what the reign of God looks like. I challenge you to read through it carefully and list the identifying marks of the Reign of God, especially the last couple of sections of the sermon.
Here is where the challenge came. We "knew" a lot of scripture. However, Jesus puts the emphasis in the Sermon on the Mount not just on "knowing," but on doing. Many people are on the broad way that leads to destruction. Not everyone who says Lord Lord will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Those who listen and do the words of the sermon are like a wise man who builds his house on a solid foundation. For those who read and know but do not do….well, does the Reign of God really exist there?
As important as Bible study is, the purpose is not merely to accumulate academic knowledge, but to lean "how to" think, act, and live under God's reign. It will look very different than the kingdom of this world. Knowing AND doing ALL of God's word…that is biblical faithfulness.