Image: Rose bushes and fountain at Houston Baptist University, Houston, Texas (2.25.16)
Note: I completed a short series on Churchmanship last Sunday with a message on “Communion Among Churches” (Acts 15). Here are some notes from the closing application:
There are specific benefits that might come through “communion” or fellowship among churches:
We might appeal to one another for assistance in dealing with difficult doctrinal or other problems that lead to conflict within any church or churches (see the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15).
We might appeal to one another in cases of church discipline (see the 2LBCF-1689 chapter 26, paragraph 15). Churches can act improperly and unjustly. They can also act rightly and be accused of acting improperly and unjustly. In either case it would be good to have a court of appeal. Compare:
Proverbs 15:22 Without counsel purposes are disappointed: but in the multitude of counsellors they are established.
We might spur one another on toward love and good deeds (cf. how Paul urged the Corinthians to consider the generosity of the Macedonians in 2 Corinthians 8:1-5).
We might assist each other in the ministry.
A church with only one elder might seek the counsel of the elders from other churches.
Sister churches might help a church that is without any elder by supplying preaching and counsel.
A man seeking theological education might seek to study with elders from various churches.
Churches might work together to host camps and conferences.
Churches might work together to plant new churches in places where there are no gospel churches.
We might aid and assist one another in times of distress and persecution.
We might pray for one another. John Owen: “There is not a single particular church or a member of any of them that does not have the prayer support of all the churches in the world and all the members of them every day. Although this fellowship is invisible to the eyes of the flesh, it is glorious to the eyes of faith” (Gospel Church Government, p. 101).
We might hold one another accountable. This means one church or group of churches might admonish another if it compromises its preaching of the gospel, its holding to the faith, its practice of community, or the purity of its worship and administration of the ordinances.
Last week I did a Bible study on the reaction to modern feminism known as MGTOW (Men Going Their Own Way) and I read Ecclesiastes 4:9-12:
Ecclesiastes 4:9 Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. 10 For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up. 11 Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone? 12 And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
I was struck in preparing this message on communion among churches, how these principles might be applied here as well. Churches need communion with other churches, lest they become CHiGTOWS: Churches going their own way.
Indeed, this might well be one of the questions you ask of any church you might consider joining to evaluate its health. Is it connected and accountable to other churches?
As we seek to be faithful in other areas of our life as a church let us also seek to be faithful in this area of communion among churches.
Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle