Dialogue from a conversation...
"Hello. I hear that you are a Believer (?)." (Bright and breezy)
"Yes, that's right."
"Praise God!” (Pause) “What are you?" (Head goes to one side, waiting for answer)
"You know - what denomination?" (Friendly persistence)
"None." (Oh dear, you think... here we go again!)
"I don't understand. You've got to be something!" (Suspicion in voice)
"Why?" (You know it sounds anarchic, but you want to be honest)
"Because everybody belongs to some type or another." (Warning bells sound)
"I don't. I'm just a Christian. I belong to Christ."
"Yes... but you've got to say what type, or else no-one will know what you are!"
(A bit impatient by now, and rather wary)
"I'm a Christian. Simple as that."
"I'm a Christian. Simple as that."(He thinks I belong to a cult!)
"Okay - what church do you attend?" (Trying a different angle)
"We are a small group meeting in our homes."
"Ah, I see... you belong to the house-church movement!" (Relieved now that a 'type' has at last been recognised! But, still a bit suspicious)
"No. We happen to meet in our homes because numbers are small. We are not part of the house-church movement, or any other movement or denomination."
"Hm! What do you call yourselves then?" (Now very suspicious)
"Nothing. We're just local Christians."
"But everybody is known by some name or other! Take us - we are in the Mount Zion English Baptist Church." (Visibly impatient by now)
"But the Bible does not differentiate between groups of Believers. In the New Testament they are all 'Believers' or 'Christians'. They were known by where they lived and by nothing else. Once you call yourself something else, you place that name above the name of Christ."
"Rubbish! It's just a name!" (Most annoyed)
"Well, if it's just a name - why are you so annoyed about it? Beside, God Himself calls us a name in His word. We have no right to alter it. Denominations and local church titles are not scriptural at all!" (You really can do without all this!)
"Are you telling me that I am being unscriptural?" (Feeling of outrage. Who is this upstart anyway?)
"You tell me - if scripture says one thing and we do another thing... is that being scriptural?"
"How dare you! I've never heard so much insolence in my life! I've tried to live as God wants. Not once have my beliefs been put down like that! I think you are arrogant and full of pride. You think you've got the perfect church, eh? You are on dangerous ground, brother!"
(Off goes our 'fellow' Believer, full of indignation and anger. The word 'Brother' was not really meant. Indeed, the 'brother' is now a 'back-slider' or even a false Christian in the eyes of the angry Believer)
Recognise parts of the above conversation?
Every Christian should, because the first thing he or she is asked when met by a stranger is..."What are you?", in some way or another. That is, what local church do you attend and what denomination are you? What you may not be familiar with, are the kinds of answers given to the stranger. If you were the stranger, would you react in a similar way? Or would you remain silent, utter suitable sounds and then make an excuse to leave quickly, thinking that the person who makes such remarks is a moron, a false Christian, or a backslider caught in a strange sect?
Such a conversation would make many Christians feel very uneasy. They don't know how to cope with it and so often resort to nasty, suspicious asides or innuendo. Or, they go away vowing never to speak to that person again. But, why? The answers were solidly scriptural! Shouldn't the stranger have asked at least a few further questions instead?
Imagine the continuing horror, if the person tells the stranger that his meetings are nothing like the 'services' in most other churches! Imagine the growing tension as he tells the stranger that he is a pastor and that the local church he is a part of does not hold regular prayer meetings, because there is no scriptural command to do so. And worse, he claims that regular prayer meetings do not match scriptural teaching on prayer!
As if to increase the tension, he adds blow upon blow by denying the validity of many of the stranger's cherished beliefs. He does it because - as he keeps telling the stranger - only the Bible is God's word. What is more, he stays calm whilst the stranger becomes more and more angry and distrustful and perhaps even abusive. Yet, the stranger has not bothered to listen to the man, who plainly claims that he bases what he says on scripture. Should he not be given an opportunity to share his statements in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere? If not, why not? Many folk are frightened when another questions the very ground of their belief. If they are so sure of their ground, what is there to be afraid of?
This paper will be strange to many readers. But it is a part of the experience of the members of the Bible Theology Ministries team in Swansea, who all belong to the same Fellowship. We act out what we publish, whether or not others find it 'socially acceptable'!
If there are queries regarding this Outline, send them to us. They will be received with courtesy and every effort will be made to give full answers. Meanwhile, read what Spurgeon said on this subject:
"The one Church of God, of what is it composed then? Is it composed of the Church of England, the Congregational Union, the Wesleyan Conference, and the Baptist body? No, it is not. Is not then the Church of England a part of the church of Christ, and the Baptist denomination a part?
No; I deny that these bodies, as such, unrefined and in the gross, are a part of the great unity for which Jesus prayed (John 17:20-21); but there are believers united with the Church of England who are a part of the body of Christ, and there are believers in all denominations of Christians - aye!
And many in no visible church at all - who are in Christ Jesus and consequently in the great unity.
The Church of England is not a part of Christ's true body, nor any other denomination as such; the spiritual unity is made up of spiritual men, separated, picked out, cleared away from all the mass with which they happen to be united.
I have spoken very boldly perhaps, and may be misunderstood; but this I mean, that you cannot take out any visible church, however pure, and say that as it stands it belongs to the spiritual unity for which Jesus prayed. There are in the visible churches a certain number of God's elect ones, and these are of the body of Jesus Christ; but their fellow professors, if unconverted, are not in the mystical unity. Christ's body is not made up of denominations, nor of presbyteries, nor of Christian societies; it is made up of saints chosen of God from before the foundation of the world, redeemed by blood, called by His spirit and made one with Jesus."
(Sermon: "Unity in Christ". C H Spurgeon)
© December 1992
Published on www.christiandoctrine.com
Bible Theology Ministries - PO Box 415, Swansea, SA5 8YH
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