Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
November 30, 1967
NUMBER 30, PAGE 4-5a

Worshipping In An "Unscriptural Church


Over and over the question has come these past twelve or fifteen years, "How long may I continue to worship in an `unscriptural' church without bringing myself into disfavor with God for so doing?" Probably every gospel preacher has encountered this problem in one way or another in recent times.

The answer all depends. Depends on what is meant by "unscriptural" for one thing; on what is meant by "worship" for another; and on the extent of "how long" for still another. For example; does the "unscriptural" church faithfully and truthfully follow New Testament teaching in the acts of worship? Is there anything in the worship (or life) of the congregation which personally and inevitably involves YOU in any violation of your conscience? Are you allowed to express your convictions as to Bible teaching on whatever it is you believe to be wrong? Your "how long" will depend in large measure on the answer given these questions.

If a congregation's work and worship are both such that you can participate fully, wholeheartedly and in good conscience, then we see no reason why you could not worship there for quite a while. Indefinitely in fact. This was the very thing we had in mind in proposing the "box-in-the-vestibule" idea of more than a decade ago. It was simply suggested as ONE way by which brethren who loved the Lord could continue to work and worship together, no matter how far apart they might be in their beliefs and convictions as to the rightness or wrongness of supporting benevolent institutions, colleges, recreation camps, etc. from the church treasury.

The more we see in recent months of the wild-eyed liberalism now becoming so aggressive in many of our "institutional" churches, the more certain we are that a tragic and terrible mistake was made in the mid-1950's when brethren rejected our honest and sincere proposal. The plan we set forth would have permitted ALL the pet projects brethren had to receive contributions from their friends without let or hindrance — while, at the same time, the contributions of the congregation would ALL be devoted to the clearly authorized "work of the church" — works about which there was practical unanimity from all sides.

But, alas! bitterness and intolerance ruled the day. And still does in some places. Brotherly love was slaughtered by pride and prejudice. Take a case in point: We know a fine Christian family who moved to Morristown, Tennessee, last year. Faithful to Christ, deeply consecrated to his service — they found the church there contributing to certain things which they could not conscientiously support. Like many another troubled Christian under such circumstances they sought to meet with the congregation, sing with them, pray with them, partake of the Lord's supper with them (all of which they could do in full assurance of faith.) But when it came to the matter of the contribution the picture changed. For here was something which clearly caused them either to give into this treasury and violate their consciences — or else to give their contribution each week into the treasury of some other congregation which was NOT supporting the things they believed to be wrong.

A sad and cruel choice was thus forced upon them, to be sure! But they followed the course faithful Christians have taken in all generations; they chose to obey God, no matter how much it might cost. Here is what the preacher wrote in his bulletin upon knowing of their decision to send their contribution to some other congregation each week rather than participate in something they believed to be wrong:

"It has been the practice for some time of those influenced by the faction or sect opposed to supporting orphan homes to "boycott" the contribution by NOT GIVING because the church has decided to help the helpless in this way...Personally, I have no use for any person who would deny any child his daily bread...Even the Communists have a better heart. As far as I am concerned, these "gnat strainers and camel swallowers" who withhold their contribution are the lowest forms of humanity; impossible it is to get any lower!

"Oh yes, we are well acquainted with the "doctrine" of the little orphan anti school in Florida and its neurotic supporters. We realize that this self-righteous group instructs its followers that they are justified in meeting with us heathen, even though we do all the giving, in order to teach us! How utterly precious!

"Now get this, and get it good:

"Those who do not give are violating Acts 2:42, I Cor. 16:2 and other scriptures. If you think we have 'been taken', better think again...WE DO NOT CONSIDER YOU IN FELLOWSHIP WITH US...IS THAT PLAIN ENOUGH?"

Now, just suppose, for a moment, that this congregation had in it some one who had been publicly announced as a person to whom monies might be given by all who wished to send a donation to some home for orphan children? or to a Christian college; or to some summer recreation camp to provide a summer holiday for children of the slums? or to the Red Cross, the Community Chest, the Heart Fund, or a half dozen other agencies or projects. Then those who WANTED to support these various things could have done so — and the worship or work of the church would not have been involved or affected. Indeed, the very family against whom the invective was written in all probability could have gladly contributed to several of the projects named above.

Thus a church would have been saved from tension and friction; division would have been avoided (the family moved from the city rather than continue under such an uncharitable and unChristian atmosphere); Christ would have been glorified — and in all probability, the orphan home would have received far MORE than it received through the "church contribution" route.

With most congregations perhaps it is already too late. But mayhap there are some brethren, even at this late date, who love the Lord enough, and love one another enough that they will try to find some way to stay united! Once it began to be shown that such a plan could work, and would work, the idea might be contagious. It is certainly worth a try.

F. Y. T.