Vol.XIII No.II Pg.7
April 1976

You Know What?

Robert F. Turner

Dear bro. Turner:

Please discuss the relationship of churches. What should be our attitude toward one disfellowshipped by another congregation? Could we have had fellowship with Laodicea? T.C.


Fellowship with God exists only as we walk in the light — for God is light (1 Jn. 1:5-6). He is also Pure, Love, Spirit, Holy, and Perfect; and we must share such characteristics to maintain fellowship with God (1 Jn. 3:3; 4:8; Jn. 4:24; 1 Pet. 1:l6; Matt. 5:48). This is the meaning and basis of spiritual fellowship — of saints with God, of saints with fellow-saints in the universal church, and of local churches with one another. No corporate bond is here contemplated.

Saints covenant together to form a local church — they are fellows in a team: accepting common oversight, pooling resources, and acting as one. (Heb. 13:17; 1 Cor. 16:1-3; Phil. 1:1; 4:15). They are bound, by mutual consent and the nature of local church structure, with the obligations of membership; although this must never take precedence over their obligation to God. But we find no authorization for teams of churches. There are no fellow churches in the corporate sense — each local church is completely independent. Their only bond with other churches is that of common interest in serving the Lord.

The Oaks-West church is interested in the work of the church in Boronia, in the same way a saint in Maine is interested in the welfare of a saint in Texas: there is a common interest in spiritual matters. Concerning Laodicea, the Lord said, As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. . .(Rev. 3:19). It seems to me a saint in Texas could do as much for a saint in Utah; or a church in Canada for a church in Spain. No infringement of autonomy takes place in the use of moral suasion to encourage saint or church to be faithful to the Lord, although propriety and courtesy should be considered. Truth can not be forced upon anyone. We could not condone, support or encourage the Laodicean church or an erring saint in their error; and of course, no corporate bond exists to be broken or mended.

When a local church severs relations with one of her members, this means that in their judgment the offender has broken fellowship with God and they are endeavoring to make the offender aware of his condition, and bring him back to God. It is a logical assumption that they would know more about the situation than those of a different church. This is a local matter, within the realm of local autonomy (self-rule), and other churches should keep hands off.

If the disfellowshipped one should seek to join a second team (church) he should be told to correct his status with the first church. If he says he is in the right (with God), this should be proven to the satisfaction of the second church before he is accepted into their fellowship. We dare not deny him a hearing, or accept him without examination. There would be no local autonomy if the poorest judgment of the weakest church could be bound upon all churches everywhere.