By Carol R. Lumpkin
First of all, allow me to explain what I have in mind when I say a “liberal church.” I have reference to a church which practices that which the New Testament does not authorize, such things as using the church building (paid for with the Lord’s money) for secular education, fellowship halls, recreational activities, baby showers, wedding showers, voting precincts, scout troop meetings, etc.; sending church funds to some sponsoring church, or serving as a sponsoring church; sending funds to some benevolent institution, or to some college. There, of course, are other things being done by some “liberal churches”; but these will let the readers know the type church I have in mind.
I cannot worship with a liberal church because:
1. I would in a sense be lending encouragement by my presence (2 Jn. 9-11).
2. I would be condoning those who do not believe and respect the all sufficiency of the word of God (2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:3).
3. I would appear to support what that church is doing (Matt. 5:16).
4. I would be denied the opportunity to teach the truth (Jude 3; John 8:32).
5. I would be violating my duty to withdraw from those who cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine of Christ (Rom. 16:17).
6. I would support heresies (1 Cor. 11:18-19). I must speak out against such activities (Titus 3:10).
7. I would fail to obey the command to withdraw from those who walk not according to the apostles doctrine (2 Thess. 3:6).
8. I would fellowship those who no longer have fellowship with God, nor with Christ (2 John 9).
Some brethren who claim to be “conservative,” favoring only what the New Testament authorizes, seem to think (by their actions), that they can worship occasionally with a “liberal church.” If this can be done while on vacation, visiting, or on a business trip, then I raise the following question. Why can’t a person worship every time with a “liberal church”? If the “liberal church” is practicing sinful things, then is it not wrong? It would be like saying, since I do not intend to commit adultery all the time, then it would be alright to do so once in awhile.
John wrote, “If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth” (1 Jno. 1:6). Churches which do not follow the New Testament pattern in all things are in darkness. The person who commits adultery once in awhile is in darkness. Neither of the above have fellowship with God, even though they may think they do (2 John 9). When sin (darkness) is engaged in by a church, or by an individual, repentance is in order before God will remove the sin. John admonished the sinful churches of Asia to repent (cf. Rev. 2:5).
Churches, in the first century A.D., did not engage in the things which “liberal churches” are doing today. Since the New Testament churches were established under the influence of inspired men and were, therefore acceptable with God, how can churches of Christ today believe that God will accept their innovations?
Jesus has all authority (Matt. 28:18). Elders are to oversee the local church; but they do not have legislative power. Their authority is the New Testament; and there is no way to improve it. We must all “contend for the faith, once delivered” (Jude 3). Jesus prayed that we all be one (Jn. 17:20-21). Preachers may assume authority, elders may usurp authority; members may demand things like their denominational neighbors; but it all spells tie same; a rejection of the authority of Jesus Christ. When false doctrine is practiced and unscriptural works engaged in, people are deceived and souls are lost. In view of all this, we all must die and face the judgment (Heb. 9:27). We each will be judged by the words of Jesus Christ (Jn. 12:48). Those who reject, add to, or take away from God’s word will be lost (Rev. 22:18-19). Those who obey God will be saved (Matt. 7:21; Rev. 22:14). It is better to obey than to perish.
Truth Magazine XXII: 44, p. 717
November 9, 1978