A few years ago at a popular Church of Christ conference someone parked a moving van outside of the conference hall with a sign on the side. It had pictures of four of the many speakers, and it linked to a website where it explained how each of these speakers were in error.
What were these four men guilty of? False teaching? Not following a pattern of worship?
No. These men were “guilty” of speaking on lectureships alongside other men who believed or maybe fellowshipped someone who believed or practiced something considered “error.”
The website on the picture featured in the article has this to say:
Instead, the lack of vigilance (Acts 20:31) and refusal to ‘mark’ (Rom 16:17) by both those in charge and those who speak appears to have the potential to morph the event into a massive convergence point between sound and erring brethren.https://ptperror.com
These men were accused of “fellowshipping” with the other speakers, which is debatable. There have been lectures I’ve spoken on where I did enjoy fellowship with the other speakers. There have also been occasions where there were so many different speakers that I didn’t have an opportunity to spend any time with them.
Honestly, if I’m invited to speak somewhere then I will go. I’d rather go to speak where someone was in “error” in hopes that God could use me to help them than to a program with “ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.”
But this article isn’t about whether or not a speaker at a conference with dozens of other speakers is in fellowship with them; it’s about fellowship and endorsement.
In the ministry of Jesus, eating at the table was often the first step towards reconciliation. He was criticized for this. I don’t know if any Pharisees parked a U-Haul outside an upper room with a big poster that had Jesus’ face on it, but He certainly did receive a lot of ridicule over eating with sinners.
Did he have fellowship with those publicans and sinners? He certainly had more fellowship with them than a couple of random speakers at a conference!
But did He endorse everything they did, every doctrine they believed, and all of their misconceptions about God?
I think you can see how silly of a proposition that is!
How about yourself? Do you have fellowship with God? If so, are you willing to say that He endorses everything you teach and do?
If not, then why should you hold yourself to a higher standard than God? Just like God doesn’t “endorse” all of our error, we can fellowship fellow believers without endorsing theirs.
In this kind of system, we would end up in a church consisting of three people: me, myself, and I.
My friend Dallas was asked, “Do you mean to tell me that you fellowship brethren who are in error?” He replied, “I didn’t know there was any other kind.”
Thanks again for an excellent article. None of us has perfect knowledge. God is still looking at the hearts of men and women. There is a distinction between an honest mistake of the heart and rebellion against God. I do not know of any anyone, even preacher, who approaches a particular text without carrying with him or her hand-me-down traditions inherited from his or her forefathers. In Romans 14-15 and 1 Corinthians 8, Paul dealt with believers who were mistaken on various issues, but, at the same time, Paul still encouraged the believers to accept one another even as Christ had accepted them to the glory of God the Father with “warts and all.” If God required absolute perfection in knowledge, none of us could be saved. If you have not read Romans 14-16 and 1 Corinthians 8, I suggest that you do so immediately. As you reflect upon these Scripture, I encourage you to examine them with “audience relevance.” To some extent, we all read the Bible with tainted glasses.