The Exclusive Church

I’d like you to read this blog post from Thom Shultz, Is It Wrong for Christians to Attend Multiple Churches?

When I moved town a few years ago I knew that realistically I would have to stop worshipping regularly at my current church. I found a wonderful new church in my new town and I don’t have any regrets about settling there and becoming a member.

However, at the transition time I asked my then-Pastor about keeping my ties to the old church, and I was told it wasn’t possible to be a member of both. I remember thinking it was a shame, and it didn’t make total sense to me, but I was younger and less experienced then, and I accepted that this was the way it worked. There had to be some sound theological reason why I could only ‘belong’ to one church.

Thom’s blog has reminded me of that time, and has awakened something. I don’t know what to call it – resentment is too strong a word but is the one that comes most easily to mind. Maybe disappointment is a more appropriate term.

As a Christian, I want to feel that my church is the global church, that every other Christian is my brother or sister in Christ, and as soon as church membership becomes exclusive, I feel that I’m actually becoming a member of a local club, an insular organisation more interested in promoting its own ministries (which are probably laudable in their own right) than it is in promoting the unity of the Body of Christ.

When I visit different churches, I often find that the differences of style, and even the small differences of creed, are invigorating, thought-provoking and faith-affirming. There are several churches that have had profound effects on my spiritual growth, and I feel that I am a part of each of them, and they are each a part of me.

Churches don’t need to compete with each other – we have competition enough from the secular world and from more fashionable religions. A church that is filled with the spirit and strength of Christ doesn’t need to feel threatened by anything or anyone. Let God’s will be done in love, diversity and universal brotherhood.

How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!

It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard,
running down on Aaron’s beard, down on the collar of his robe.

It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion.
For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.

Psalm 133

“Teacher,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.”

“Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us. Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward.”

Mark 9:38-41

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

1 Corinthians 12:12-14

Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

Ephesians 4:3-6

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

“Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.

“Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”

John 17:20-26

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