Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
September 4, 1969

To Fellowship Or Not To Fellowship

V. C. McCormick

There were three articles in the last edition of the Guardian (7/17/69) on the subject of our dealing with congregations who might differ with us on some point of doctrine. I found all three interesting and worthy of further consideration. I have no answer for the problem but would like to present a few thoughts on the subject.

There can be no doubt of the need for an individual or a congregation to watch their association. Indeed, "evil companionships corrupt good morals." (I Cor. 15:33) Still we must keep in mind the need to use fully every opportunity to save the lost and erring. In the final analysis it is an individual judgment. The individual, and he alone, can know his intention and his ability in a given situation.

I am afraid we are unduly concerned about our sister congregations. Our basic problem and need is at home. We must remove the beam from our own eye and keep our vision clear at all times. Then as we have the opportunity teach others, without categorically cutting anyone or group out, as beyond hope.

We feel more secure if our congregation is large or there are many "sound" and "faithful" congregations around us. Indeed it is edifying to be able to share with other congregations of "like" precious faith. This is still incidental to our main objectives. On the other hand we feel important when we announce that a certain congregation is no longer acceptable and all should stay away from it less they become contaminated. In too many areas there are congregations "withdrawing fellowship" from other congregations, not on the institutional question, but on petty grievances. Many of which could be quickly resolved if the people still had free communion with one another.

We must denounce sin when we see it, at home or away. Our purpose in so denouncing should be to correct and not destroy. Even in the scriptural work of a congregation withdrawing from one of its own members they are told "count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother." (II Thess. 3:15).

One might speculate as to what could have happened in the days of the apostle John. What fellowship was shared among the seven churches of Asia? If John could have taken a trip, would he have felt free to visit among the seven, or would he for fear of what brethren would say, stay away from Pergamum. Could the saints at Philadelphia attend a meeting at Pergamum or Sardis? The church at Pergamum had "some that held the teaching of Balsam," and also some the "teaching in of the Nicolaitans" (Rev. 2:14,15). Surely Sardis was well down the road of apostasy, for they had but "few" that did not "defile their garments." (Rev. 3:4). Yet, the Lord had not removed their candlestick.

Caution is good and we all must take heed lest we fall into the snare of the Devil. Paul said the "spiritual" ought to "restore" one who is overtaken in a trespass "looking to thyself lest thou also be tempted." (Gal. 6:1). Let us also remember that no congregation as such shall be saved. Judgment, eternally, is on an individual basis. Let us use the same rule now. Though I believe some are now dreaming an impossible dream, I admire their determination and pray for their success.

— 416 Harding Avenue, Portsmouth, Ohio 45662