Know Your Bible

VOL. 7                           July 6, 2008                           NO. 24

Why A Faithful Christian Should Not

Worship With An Unfaithful Church

    If you consider yourself a faithful Christian, I hope the title of this article caught your eye. There is an issue here, which you need to thoughtfully and prayerfully consider.

    By "unfaithful" churches I refer to churches which (as churches) are not true to God's plan for the work and worship of the local church. These are often churches that have been confronted with God's way of doing things and have decided not to follow it. This would include churches (called churches of Christ) which financially support human institutions like colleges and orphans homes, churches which support or encourage innovations in worship like clapping, musical instruments, or women taking a leading role, and churches which view common meals and recreational activities as legitimate works of the church. You could also add to this list churches that have open fellowship with denominational groups.

    By "unfaithful church" I am not referring to a church that has some unfaithful members or some problems. There is a difference between a church with some unfaithful members in it and a church that teaches, supports and practices error as a church and is unwilling to correct it. Virtually every local church would fall into the former category, but no church that is pleasing to the Lord would fall into the latter.

    A "faithful Christian" is one who clings to God's word, and with faith and love in His heart, does his or her best to follow it in every aspect of life. The faithful Christian does what Timothy was exhorted to do in 2 Timothy 1:13: "Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus." Such a faithful Christian would certainly not want to be a permanent part of an unfaithful church. Yet, The faithful Christian may occasionally be tempted to worship with an erring church while traveling, or even locally, at the bidding of family, friends or loved ones. Why shouldn't a faithful Christian do this?

1. It hurts your influence. A strong, faithful Christian may well know what is Scripturally wrong with the practices of an unfaithful church. Visiting the unfaithful church may not cloud the truth in a faithful Christian's mind. But a weaker Christian, who is just learning the truth on these issues, will have a problem with the stronger Christian's actions. If the strong can do it once, the weak will think it's OK for them all the time. This was the case with eating meats in an idol's temple in 1 Corinthians 8:10-12. The strong Christian, who realized that "an idol is nothing", might not be influenced to become an idolater by eating, but the weaker Christian, seeing the actions of his stronger brother, would be so influenced. The strong Christian needs to avoid any action, which would encourage the weak Christian fall into sin. And, worshiping with an unfaithful church is just such an action.

2. It may influence you. In 1 Corinthians 15:33 we are warned "Do not be deceived: 'Evil company corrupts good habits.'" In the context, the "evil company" referred to are Christians who said that there is no resurrection (see 1 Corinthians 15:12-13, 32). Being in the worship assembly of an unfaithful church can and does have a corrupting influence on the convictions of the faithful.

3. It is supportive of false teachers. We are commanded to "mark and avoid" those who have caused division over unscriptural practices (Romans 16:17-18). The leaders of unfaithful churches often fall into this category. If attending the services of an unfaithful church lends encouragement to false teachers (and it does), then attending makes one a partaker in their evil deeds (cf. 2 John 9-10).

4. It is participating in unfaithfulness. If you visit the assembly of an unfaithful church and give when the collection plate is passed, you directly support their unfaithful practices. If you partake of the Lord's Supper, you fellowship that local body; those taking the communion meal together declare by so doing that they are "one body" (1 Corinthians 10:16-18). To consent with those in error, is to partake of their error (cf. Psalm 50:18). Faithful Christians are in the light, and it is against the nature of those in light to fellowship darkness. We are to "have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them." (Ephesians 5:11). Those desiring to remain in the light have no business participating in the deeds of darkness. But that's exactly what they do when they give to and commune with unfaithful churches.

    Naturally some (perhaps many) will object. They'll ask, "What if the faithful Christian tells members of the unfaithful church that he doesn't agree with their practices?" "As long as they know where he stands, wouldn't it be alright for him to visit an unfaithful church?" No, it is not all right. It is hypocrisy - saying one thing and doing another. We need to lay aside "all hypocrisy" (1 Peter 2:1).

    But someone else will object, "What if you are trying to teach them - wouldn't it be OK to visit an unfaithful church for the purpose of teaching them about the error of their ways?" The answer is, of course, YES! We need to avail ourselves of every opportunity to teach the truth to those who need to hear it most. Paul regularly went into Jewish synagogues with just such motives (Acts 13:13-14, 16, 38-39; 14:1-2). But most of the time he could not stay long because of the plainness and forcefulness of his teaching. If you have an opportunity to teach an unfaithful church the truth, then GO and TEACH! But leave no doubt about your purpose. Be like Paul, who, in writing and visiting churches with problems, made clear his intentions and spoke directly to the pertinent issues (cf. 1 Corinthians 4:21).

    When faithful Christians worship with unfaithful churches it raises issues of consistency and compromise. Consistency would suggest that if I can worship with an unfaithful church some of the time, I could do it all the time. If I can do it because I'm traveling and it is convenient, or friends and relatives have given me a special invitation, I can do it anytime. If I could do this anytime, I could not justify ever making any distinction between faithful and unfaithful churches. And, there would be little justification for failing to go worship on a regular basis with the Christian church denomination. No one wants to lose all contact or influence with those in unfaithful churches. Many of these folks are friends, neighbors, and family and loved ones. But compromising our convictions by worshiping with them will help neither the faithful nor the unfaithful. As Tyron Edwards said, "Compromise is but the sacrifice of one right or good in the hope of retaining another - too often ending in the loss of both."

—Steve Klein

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