The Iglesia ni Cristo (Church of Christ) is a Christian religion whose primary purpose is to worship the Almighty God based on His teachings as taught by the Lord Jesus Christ and as recorded in the Bible. The Church of Christ is a church for every one who will heed the call of God and embrace its faith — regardless of his or her nationality, cultural background, social standing, economic status, and educational attainment.
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A ‘RADIANT’ CHURCH
In Ephesians 5:27, the Church of Christ is described as a “radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any blemish, but holy and blameless” (New International Version) Hence, the Iglesia ni Cristo molds its members toward perfect unity of faith and practice, that each one will be devoted to a life of holiness and service founded on true Christian teaching.
The Church’s major activities include worship service, missionary works, and edification.
The Church of Christ adheres to the unadulterated teachings of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ written in the Bible. The faithful firmly believe that this Church is the fulfillment of biblical prophecies that the Church established by Christ would re-emerge in these last days for the salvation of humankind.
The Iglesia ni Cristo is not a denomination or sect. It is neither affiliated to any federation of religious bodies nor itself an assembly of smaller religious organizations. The Iglesia ni Cristo is Christ’s one true Church today.
This solemn gathering of the faithful is usually held on Thursdays and Sundays by every local congregation inside the house of worship. It consists of hymn-signing, prayers, and study of God’s words for proper applications in daily living.
The members gladly fulfill their duty to share the faith. They invite all people to attend Bible study sessions and worship services. The Church also uses mass media in spreading its message of hope to a broader audience. The Pasugo: God’s Message, the monthly official magazine of the Church, carries mainly religious articles and Church news and features. DZEM (954 kHz) broadcasts programs that discuss Bible teachings. These programs are aired by about 60 other radio stations all over the Philippines and several more in the US and Australia. GEM TV-49, as well as major cable stations in the Philippines and some channels in the US Direct TV ch 2068, telecast the Church’s religious programs featuring biblical teachings. Live streaming and video on demand of Iglesia ni Cristo Programming at www.incmedia.org
For the spiritual welfare of the members, prayer meetings are held weekly by each group of neighboring households for further instructions in the faith and announcements about Church projects and activities. Pastoral visitations to the brethren are conducted regularly by the Church officers for prayer and spiritual counseling. Through its Christian family organizations (Buklod, KADIWA, and Binhi) the Church of Christ undertakes projects to strengthen the family, to guide the single members in right living and in proper conduct, and to assist the youth in their studies. The Buklod (bond) is the organization of married members. The KADIWA (acronym of a Filipino phrase meaning “Youth with a Noble Intent”) is for the single members 18 years and older, and the Binhi (seed) is composed of 13-17-year old members.
A GLOBAL CHURCH
Today, the membership of the Iglesia ni Cristo comprises at least 110 nationalities. It maintains about 104 ecclesiastical districts in the Philippines and in 100 more countries and territories in the six inhabited continents of the world.
The Iglesia ni Cristo was first preached by the late Brother Felix. Y. Manalo in the Philippine capital city of Manila. Its first local congregation was established in Punta, Sta. Ana. On July 27, 1914, the Church was registered with the Philippine government. In 1915, Brother Felix Manalo, as the first Executive Minister of the Church, started training ministers to assist him in the propagation of the gospel. By 1918, ministers and volunteer preachers were being sent to provinces around Manila. In its tenth year, the first ecclesiastical district was organized in Pampanga province.
By 1939, the Church had already expanded to as far as Ilocos Norte province in Northern Luzon to Cebu province in the Visayas with the addition of 14 districts. It reached farther south in Mindanao in 1946 with the establishment of a district in Cotabato. When Brother Eraño G. Manalo assumed overall administration in April 1963, the Church had established districts in more than half of all Philippine provinces.
On July 27, 1968, the late Executive Minister, Bro. Eraño G. Manalo, officiated at the first worship service of the Church outside the Philippines. This gathering held in Ewa Beach, Honolulu, Hawaii marked the establishment of the Honolulu Congregation, the first overseas mission of the Church. The following month, the Executive Minister was in California to establish the San Francisco Congregation and lead its inaugural worship service.
In 1971, the Church set foot in Canada. In June 1987, the US Main Office (USMO) was set up in Daly City, California to assist the Central Administration in supervising the then 11 districts of the Church in the West. The first local congregation in Latin America was established in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba in 1990. The following year, the Church reached Mexico and Aruba. From 2000 and beyond, congregations rose in the Central and South American countries.
The first local congregation in Europe was established in England in 1972. The Church came to Germany and Switzerland in the mid-70s. By the end of the 1980s, congregations and missions could be found in the Scandinavian countries and their neighbors.
The Rome, Italy Congregation was established on July 27, 1994; the Jerusalem, Israel Congregation in March 1996; and the Athens, Greece Congregation in May 1997. The predecessors (prayer groups) of these full-fledged congregations began two decades earlier. Meanwhile, the mission first reached Spain in 1979.
The first mission in northern Africa opened in Nigeria in October 1978. After a month, the King William’s Town Congregation, in South Africa was established.
Asia, Australia, and Oceania
A congregation was organized in Guam in 1969. In Australia, congregations have been established since mid-1970s. The Church first reached China by way of Hong Kong, and Japan through Tokyo also in the 1970s. Missions have also opened in Kazakhstan and Sakhalin Island in Russia. In Southeast Asia, the first congregation in Thailand was established in 1976 and missions have already been conducted in Brunei since 1979. In addition, there are also congregations in Vietnam, Indonesia, Singapore, and Malaysia.
Bible as Basis of Faith
The Iglesia ni Cristo also regards the Holy Scriptures as the sole basis of its faith and practice. Some of its fundamental scriptural teachings are as follows:
- Judgment Day. The Church of Christ believes that God appointed a day when He will judge all people through Christ. This is the day of the Second Advent of Christ, which is also the end of the world. (Acts 17:31; Jude 1:14-15; II Pet. 3:7, 10)
- Baptism. The Iglesia ni Cristo observes the biblical way of baptism, which is immersion in water. Receiving baptism in the Church of Christ is necessary for one to become a disciple of Christ, to be forgiven of sin, and to have hope for salvation (Acts 8:38; John 3:23; Rom. 6:3-5; Matt. 28:19; Acts 2:38; Mark 16:15-16)
- Resurrection. The resurrection of Christ is the main proof that the dead will rise. Those in Christ will rise first to be with Him forever in the Holy City. Those who are not of Christ will rise a thousand years after the first resurrection to be cast into the lake of fire. (I Cor. 15:12-13; I Thess. 4:16-17; Rev. 20:5-10; 21:1-4)
A CHURCH THAT SHARES
The Iglesia ni Cristo endeavors to share the gospel of salvation written in the Bible to as many people as possible, in fulfillment of Christ's vision as stated in Mark 16:15-16 “...Go into the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved...” (New King James Version).
The Church of Christ is one in faith and practice. Its unity remains intact through a centralized form of administration that ensures the adherence of all members and congregations to the same Bible teachings and Church rules.
Morality and Holiness
The Iglesia ni Cristo strives to maintain a high moral standard. It regards the teaching of the Bible as a way of life. It promotes purity of life among its members by means of instructions, reminders, and, when necessary, corrective or disciplinary measures.
Lawfulness and Discipline
The Church puts a premium on lawfulness and discipline. It complies with the apostolic teaching to submit to human authority, that is, the duly constituted government, and abide by its laws (Titus 3:1; I Pet. 2:13). But over and above any law, its members obey the laws of God for Christians in our time as written in the Bible.
Peace and Order
The Church of Christ helps maintain peace and order by teaching its members to respect and observe rules and regulations governing such. They are dissuaded from joining unions and organizations that resort to violence or extra-legal means to advance their causes.
Brotherhood and Equality of Members
The Iglesia ni Cristo promotes Christian brotherly love. All members are deemed equal in the sight of God (Gal 3:26, 28). Gender, racial, social, educational, and economic discriminations are strongly discouraged.
Sanctity of Marriage
Marriage in the Church of Christ is regarded as sacred and inviolable. It is God Himself who instituted marriage and he does not allow the separation of the husband and wife whom He joined together (Matt. 19:4-6). Thus, the Church of Christ does not subscribe to divorce, annulment, or legal separation as a solution to marital problems in the same way it opposes live-in relationships and same-sex marriage.
Stability of the Family
The Church of Christ acknowledges the importance of family as the basic unit of its organization and of society as a whole. The stability of every family contributes to the stability of the entire Church. The home is where religious education begins so Christian parenting and the proper love of children are taught and reinforced at every opportune time.
Separation of Church and State
The Church of Christ upholds the democratic ideal of separation of Church and State. It advances through peaceful and legal means the right and freedom of its members and congregations to conduct worship and other religious activities as provided for and protected by the fundamental law of the land.