If you advocate just one way of doing church, even though you see it as being the biblical way, aren’t you in danger of being exclusive?
This is one of the most important questions that needs to be addressed and, as a church, we are more than happy to go on record as saying that we believe exclusivism amongst believers to be one of the most horrible things that can occur in the body of Christ. Below are excerpts from actual replies we have sent to people who have written to us which pertain to this subject:
“You seem to be implying that adhering to such a practice (i.e. biblical church) is somehow making us exclusive. However, we aren’t exclusive in any way at all and welcome fellowship with other believers on the simple and sole basis that they are believers, and therefore our brothers and sisters in the wider family of God. People’s church affiliations, and this would apply to all matters of secondary doctrinal understandings as well, are irrelevant to this as far as we are concerned. Neither do we imply in any way at all that churches set up differently to ourselves are not true churches. We would, of course, maintain that they are wrong in their church practice in precisely the same way we would also maintain that those who baptize babies are wrong in their practice of baptism, but we don’t for one moment think they are thereby lesser believers in any way, or that they are not sincerely following the Lord. Indeed, we would freely acknowledge that there are many Christians who believe in, and practice, all sorts of things which we would consider to be biblically erroneous, yet to whom, on a personal spiritual level, we could doubtless not hold a candle to. So if you fear that we, or similar churches, somehow necessarily shrink away from contact with those in what we consider to be unbiblical churches, then let me put your mind at rest. That would indeed be to reveal an exclusive attitude which we would believe to be wrong in the extreme. No, we are happy to fellowship with any believers quite irrespective of matters either doctrinal, or pertaining to church life. Our fellowship with each other as believers is in Jesus and in Him alone.”
“Your point about becoming fully biblical as regarding church practice, but without being exclusive, is vital. Our fellowship with each other as believers is based on precisely that one point, that we are indeed believers. When it comes to having fellowship together as brothers and sisters then knowing Jesus is enough, and no secondary issues, be it what churches ought to be like or anything else, should come into the picture. Even if fellow believers are in churches which are far from being what the Bible teaches they ought to be like, we are nevertheless having fellowship with them as individuals and not with their corporate churches. We know believers in, for instance, the Anglican Church, but our fellowship is with them personally as individuals, and we see their Anglicanism as being irrelevant to that. Basically, we don’t personally give a monkeys uncle about what kind of church someone is part of. If they are following Jesus then that is enough for us to enjoy fellowship with them, quite regardless of secondary issues.”
“So in our efforts to bring into being more and more biblical churches we do so with our arms open wide, in every respect, to other believers. We welcome them as visitors at any time, and would obviously rejoice should they decide to leave churches which are not biblical in order to be part of ones which are. (Likewise, how could someone who practices believers baptism not be pleased when someone who practices infant baptism ‘sees the light’ concerning it and makes the appropriate changes?) However, should they be happy to remain in unbiblical set-ups then we truly bless them accordingly and just concentrate on our personal relationship with them. However important it is to get church practice right, and we believe it to be absolutely vital, it nevertheless doesn’t in any way constitute grounds as to whom we do, or do not, share fellowship with.”
“We must, however, be clear that to take the Bible’s path regarding church practice will, sadly, place us in the position of at least running the risk that some believers will make not continuing to do so the condition for their continued fellowship with us. Some Christians do, I fear, get very angry to see people leave the status quo church set-ups, and when that happens we must be prepared to take it on the chin. Indeed, we must be prepared as well to even lose friends for the Lord’s sake if need be. Yet we must nevertheless continue to make it as clear as we possibly can that the door to ongoing fellowship remains wide open from our side, and that we do not see fellowship between believers to be the slightest bit conditional upon such things as what sort of church someone is part of. And whereas we don’t take a particularly proactive stance of trying to actually get believers to leave unbiblical churches and aren’t over much evangelistic about it, so to speak, neither do we shrink from speaking up for God’s Word regarding these matters in situations of mutual discussion and debate. We are quite prepared to run the risk, where it seems appropriate, and where the Spirit seems to be leading, of causing controversy in so far as other people’s reactions (over which we have no control) are concerned. So whilst not in any way on the offensive about this, neither are we shrinking violets who don’t dare say a controversial word in case it causes ripples.” (End of excerpts.)
In conclusion I would like to say that I have personally been to churches which, although biblical in structure and practice (such as we are describing), struck me as being both arrogant and exclusive in their attitudes. They display the very worst of so-called ‘church life’ and are not therefore churches I would ever want to be a part of. But of course the problem with such churches is not that they are biblical in regards to church structure and practice, but that those who comprise them are completely unbiblical in their personal lives in that they are utterly failing to exhibit a loving and gracious Christian character. Being a biblical church without love, as with having the gifts of the Holy Spirit, amounts to nothing. And as one who advocates and encourages a return to biblical church structure and life, I hang my head in shame and acknowledge that there are indeed unfortunate and misled believers who settle for church structure and practice alone, and then use it as an outlet for their spiritual exclusivism, bigotry, personal arrogance and assumed religious superiority. The new wine of the Spirit does indeed need new wineskins in which to be poured, but how tragic to discover that there are such wineskins but with hardly any wine in them!