With all my recent exposure to Al Maxey, Ed Fudge, etc., and having studied for myself, where is the line on what really is “the church” and denominations? Do we really need our fellowship if “most” are all right?
David Lipscomb once said, “There are some in nonsectarian churches who are sectarians, who violate the laws of God to oppose sectarians. They are sectarians in their opposition to sectarians.” This is the situation with the one cup Church of Christ in which many of us were raised. While claiming to be nonsectarian and nondenominational, the one cup Church of Christ is a sect and part of a denomination known as the Churches of Christ. The one cup Church of Christ does not constitute the true and whole Body of Christ despite its claims. It’s an anti-scriptural and unscriptural exclusive fellowship and this is one of the primary elements of sectarianism.
The church is everybody who has been saved by grace through faith. Are all of these people in what we have termed the denominations over the years wrong about some things? Yes! But so are we in one cup Church of Christ wrong about some things. To claim that we are without error doctrinally is to manifest sectarianism in its highest degree. Recently I asked a brother who opposes me because of my “broader” view of fellowship and concomitant view that unity is of diversity if he though the one cup Church of Christ is scripturally correct in all of its doctrinal teachings. He replied that after an extended study he concluded “about 90 per cent.” There you have it!
Much of the exclusivism of the Churches of Christ is traced back to the stance taken by Daniel Sommer and his followers at Sand Creek, Illinois in 1889. Yet bro. Sommer wrote the following:
“What shall we say of those preachers who denounce all persons who happen to hold membership in a sectarian denomination with a sentence of sweeping impeachment, as though they were all under the influence of sectism? We should say that they are probably more sectarian than some whom they denounce. Their manner shows that they are unscripturally exclusive, and this is one of the elements of sectarianism . . . None of the denominations are wholly right and none of them are wholly wrong. We should admit the truth and condemn the error in each, and should admit that many among the denominations are better than their sectarian creeds. Sectarianism is bad enough, and preachers of Christ should not stain their spirits with sin by misrepresenting what is found in sectarian systems.”
In his autobiography, Little House On The Highway, bro. Olan Hicks tells this interesting story of a conversation he had with a Church of Christ preacher with a sectarian attitude:
Olan, I have a brother who preaches in the Baptist church. I admit that he is a kinder man, more committed, and more spiritual a man than I am. But I know that when he dies he will go to hell because he is preaching in the Baptist church.’ I said, ‘Bill, what you’ve said is that he has it on the inside and you have it on the outside. According to what Jesus said about that I would take his chances before I would yours. The Lord talked to some zealous religious men in His time who outwardly appeared beautiful to men but inwardly did not have it. He said they were like whited sepulchers and on one occasion said to them, ‘The publicans and harlots will go into the kingdom before you.’ So to me the chances of one who has it on the inside but makes some errors on the outside, look better than the other way around.
No group of believers has a right to exist as a sect exclusive of other believers. This includes the one cup Church of Christ. They need a broader view of the church and fellowship.
Let me conclude this lengthy answer with a quote from the late Carl Kecherside about sincere believers in the Messiahship of Jesus of Nazareth who are or may be in error.
He may not have understood all the blessings accruing from baptism into the Christ, and he may have been mistaken as to the time of bestowal of some of them, but his ignorance of effect or time will not nullify God’s grace or promise, if he surrenders his will to that of the Messiah. Since his birth, he may be in error about many things pertaining to his responsibility, worship of service, and he may require a tremendous amount of teaching and adjustment, but he is still my brother and I will teach him as a brother, and not count him as a pagan or infidel. If our hearts are both honest we will grow even closer to each other as we both ‘grow in grace and knowledge of the truth.’ The transformation in our lives through conformity to the life of Christ will produce uniformity of heart and thought in the two of us.