Sectarian Concepts in the Church

By P. J. Casebolt

We are not surprised to see sectarian concepts in sectarianism  unscriptural doctrines and practices associated with the confusion and division of human denominational-ism. But sectarianism should be confined to that area, and not be practiced or sanctioned in the Lord’s church, God’s “called out” people  called out of the world and sectarianism.

I do not believe that the church of Christ of which I am a member, and which is identified in the New Testament, is either a sect or sectarian. Some members of the Lord’s church may believe in, or even practice certain sectarian ideas. It may even be possible for a whole congregation, or even congregations in a given geographical area to be partially or wholly given to sectarianism. Some brethren and congregations even identify themselves physically and men-tally with the denominations of men. But that does not prove that Christ’s faithful, spiritual body on earth, either in a local or “brotherhood” (1 Pet. 2:17) sense is a human sect.

One sectarian concept that I still witness among brethren is the Catholic idea of communion, or the Lord’s supper. It is evident in both word and deed that some think all they need to do with respect to public assemblies of the church is to “get” (or receive) communion.

We can have the Lord’s supper at the beginning or end of the assembly, and some brethren will come only to “get” communion. We can have the Lord’s supper in the morning, afternoon, or evening, or all three, and some brethren will abuse these times which have been set for the convenience of brethren in a given congregation. But abuse, per se, is not proof that a practice is wrong.

Some brethren are opposed to Lord’s day evening communion, depending on their definition of “evening.” Some say all of the church must be assembled at one time, which could postpone the observance of the Lord’s supper indefinitely. Now, I have received literature from California that insists the Lord’s supper is “not a breakfast,” and must be observed exclusively in the evening (whenever the evening is). In some parts of the country, the noon meal is lunch, to others it is dinner, while some call the evening meal dinner instead of supper.

The Bible says that we are to observe the Lord’s supper “on the first day of the week” (Acts 20:7), and that is as near as we can come to establishing either the time or frequency of the Lord’s supper. But the idea that “taking the sacraments” as “the most important act of worship” or doing it to receive absolution from sin for the past week or for another week is purely sectarian in nature, and may contribute to other erroneous ideas concerning the public assemblies of the church and when we should observe the Lord’s supper.

Another sectarian idea still being entertained by some brethren is the notion that the local preacher is “the” minister, that he needs some kind of flattering title (cf. Job 32:21, 22), that he should do all of the “visiting” for a congregation, that he should “manage” the affairs of the local church either with or without elders, and that the preacher’s prayers for the sick are more effectual than other prayers, especially when those prayers are offered within three feet of the patient and not from a distance.

I use the term “located preacher” or evangelist in the same sense that Paul was located for a period of time at Antioch, at Ephesus, at Thessalonica, or at Corinth. The “work of an evangelist” is proscribed by apostolic example as well as by teaching in such epistles as 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus. And a preacher is not only a minister, he should be a “good minister” (1 Tim. 4:6); but he is not the only minister in a congregation.

Both preachers and brethren should resist influences in either the world or the church that are of purely sectarian origin. And while a preacher’s wife certainly ought to be an asset to the preacher’s work and may have individual talents of her own in ministering to the Lord, I’m hearing speech that sounds more and more like the sectarian concept of an “evangelistic team” composed of some “Reverend and Mrs. John Doe” who entertain, counsel, or edify public assemblies of some church on an equal basis.

Those who have more talents must give an account for more, and for how those talents are used. But let us not promote the idea that a preacher’s wife who cares for the needs of her husband and children and “guides the house” is somehow not reaching her full potential in helping to qualify her husband as an evangelist. Recognizing and weeding out such sectarian concepts is what keeps the church from be-coming sectarian in its identity. Let each of us do our part.

Guardian of Truth XL: No. 19, p. 22
October 3, 1996