It is easy to believe that as long as the church I am part of baptizes for remission of sins and worships without instrumental music then everything else is minor detail and not of genuine concern. Yet three truths stand out from a careful study of the Scriptures that force us to rethink such a view of church membership.
The church at Corinth was not rebuked for instrumental music or teaching error on salvation. Yet Paul was not pleased with what was happening there. He urged repentance and change (see 11:17), even though the issues at hand were matters like church discipline, party-ism and even how the church handled spiritual gifts. God expects His church to be in conformance with His will in every way, not just in a few major matters. What looks to us like something that doesn t matter is precisely the kind of the thing the Lord directed an apostle to set in order.
The issues we deal with today are not really centered on church sponsored recreation or fellowship halls in the building. The matter at hand is Bible authority. Colossians 3:17 instructs us to do all by Christ’s authority. As soon as we turn away from this mandate to do even one activity that is unauthorized we have stepped away from the pattern of Christ and cannot consistently stop anyone from taking another step. A little liberalism today always leads to more liberalism tomorrow. The pattern of what has happened in mainstream churches of Christ since the cataclysm of the 1960’s testifies to this truth. Brethren today are doing things no one imagined in the 1960 s. How did that happen? It happened because brethren decided they could do some things without authority back in the 60’s which led to another generation deciding to go on and continue to act without Bible authority in more areas and activities, which led to more unauthorized action until we are up to the present time. Now we have brethren who don t even know what you mean when you talk about Bible authority or ask them where is your authority for your practice. Folks cannot imagine what would be wrong with instrumental music and lack the basic respect for the Bible and its authority to even start talking about it. Friends, if we cannot provide book, chapter and verse for what we are doing today how will we possibly check the next big idea or program or denominational copycat someone wants to put forth, since it won t be any more wrong than what we re already doing?
Even if I disagree strongly with what is going on as long as I maintain my membership at a congregation doing wrong I encourage them in that error. That is not what Paul said we should do. Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them (Eph 5:11). Fellowship means to be a joint participant, to work together, to be partners. Why am I partnering with error? Why am I giving my dollars to be used for what I know to be unauthorized activity? Why am I supporting, if only by showing up for worship services, what I know to be wrong? I am involving myself in the error that is happening whether I wish to or not! The only way to solve that problem is for me to leave that church and its error behind. To do otherwise is to fellowship error.
Leaving a congregation is serious business and requires much thought. Yet if a church practices error and will not turn from that error what choice do I have? I cannot remain in place, in violation of what the Scriptures say, allowing more and more error to creep in and being in fellowship with that error. No one wants to be a troublemaker or cause division but if the congregation will not turn from what is not right then I need to find brethren who will respect Bible authority and the pattern of the New Testament church. I cannot minimize the trouble and sin that come when I am part of a church that is in apostasy. Instead, with courage and prayer, I must be determined that I will practice only New Testament Christianity, even if that means I must change my membership that likewise practices simple New Testament Christianity.