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Thursday, April 13, 2006

The fellowship of believers

Recently I’ve been confronted with two issues whose solution seems critical to carrying out the Great Commandments of love. Both are centered on the fellowship of believers.

The first is concerning what criteria should be used when making the determination of whom to fellowship with as a believer. This is not the same as the question, “What must I do to be saved” though that question certainly has great implication on the resolution.

The second concerns what would constitute a breach in that fellowship. I had previously considered this issue resolved through Church discipline but was recently made aware that this is also an individual choice.

Given these issues my questions to you would then be, “What must a man do to be your brother” and “what would cause you personally to break fellowship with your brother”?

Note: Your answer will be judged on a scale from 1 to 10 with 10 being the highest. All scores will be posted on the bulletin board in my office and you can review them at your convenience. ;-)

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37 Comments:

Blogger Kc said...

My answers are, "Peter's confession (Mat. 16:16)" and "being withdrawn from the assembly (Church discipline)".

4/13/2006 06:17:00 AM  
Blogger Seeker said...

I'd give you a 10.

4/13/2006 06:56:00 AM  
Blogger Kc said...

Thanks Karen. Now I can post my score too. ;-)

4/13/2006 07:25:00 AM  
Blogger nathaniel adam king said...

I would say that while I would consider a Jehovah's Witness a friend, I would not consider him a 'brother' in the sense of being a Christian. I might even think of him as such a friend, such a close friend, that he is better than a brother, but he would not be a brother in the truest sense of the word.

That would then lead one to conclude that I, at least, put the understanding, or acknowledgement, of Jesus' deity as qualification for salvation and therefore as qualification for brotherhood (they are the same). And I think this would be right at first blush.

Another thing that would cause me to break fellowship is repeated denial of truth. If one stares at 'In the begining God said...' and still claims that 'God did not say', after repeatedly being shown their error, then I would be unable to fellowship with them. If one can look at the Scriptures, especially in crystal clear passages, and deny what is specifically being said, then I would be unable to call them friend. I might still label them as Christian, and therefore as 'brother', but I would give them over to God and ask Him to deal with their denial of truth.

You want more? Did I answer the question?

4/13/2006 08:04:00 AM  
Blogger Kc said...

Thanks Adam and yes very well. I think you made an important point too. While we might acknowlege others as our brethren it will be difficult if not impossible to discuss our faith with them if they reject the scripture. That would severly retard the relationship.

4/13/2006 08:26:00 AM  
Blogger Mrs Zeke said...

hmmmm..lets see a brother is anyone who does exactly what I say :)

One who professed Christ and the Bible as the true and perfect words of God I would consider a brother in Christ although I see the whole human family as kin and will still offer love , grace and mercy to all. But A brother has special consideration within the word of God and also expectations of behavior I would suggest. I would not expect a brother to distort God's word, lie or take part in certain behaviors although if one did I would offer an olive branch back into the fold. But a non believer I don't expect these thing from and am not shocked if you will that they take part in them, also the way I would handle it would be different.

Did I go off point again? :P

Your loved

4/13/2006 01:07:00 PM  
Blogger Kristi said...

A brother is someone who has been redeemed.

I would have to break fellowship with a brother according to II Thessalonians 3:6 if he were walking disorderly.

(Don't ask me what that involves... I really have no idea!)

I'll put my own score up: 1.75 =)

4/13/2006 01:29:00 PM  
Blogger Kc said...

hahaha Mrs. Zeke you were never off point, just ahead of my posting (hehe). ;-)

Does a brother have to agree to do what you say prior to knowing what you're saying? (grin)

I agree with all you said and although I don't require a brother to accept scripture it does prevent any relational growth. Your point concerning the special relationship we share as believers was exactly what prompted this post. Thanks for your wisdom. Zeke is very blessed. ;-)

Krisit I'm afraid to ask but how would you score me? I was thinking you deserved extra points for the verse! I guess it's good for you I'm doing the scoring and you can check the board to see how you did next month (hehe).

Honestly I think Church discipline is the withdrawing in that verse. From the context it seems the disorderly conduct is in being a slacker.

4/13/2006 01:54:00 PM  
Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

One can have fellowship with anyone who confesses Christ, who does not preach a false gospel and who is not involved in habitual immorality.

I know a guy who used to have a hobby horse about people who he judged to be in deliberate unemployment. He would avoid the company of such a person, considering them to be 'walking disorderly.' I think he had a point that we should avoid the company of people who walk disorderly (though this is not the same as ecclesiastical sepearation), but he was harsh in his judgment of those people.

He seems to have softened his position on this.

Every Blessing in Christ

Matthew

4/13/2006 02:42:00 PM  
Blogger Kc said...

Matthew thanks for adding your part. Ithink each of those items you listed could all be resolved by the proper application of Church discipline were it not for denominationalism.

I couldn't help but think how much stronger the body would be in the absence of Denominationalism. Considering the Church as the body of Christ, Denominationalism has caused it to go into spasms. A false teacher can always find another assembly to join because of the lack of unity.

4/13/2006 02:54:00 PM  
Blogger Kristi said...

So, if exercising church discipline constitutes "walking disorderly" then...

if a brother leaves the church angrily, and every time you run into him he is backbiting and slandering, would that not be a good reason to break fellowship even though no discipline was exercised?

4/13/2006 03:04:00 PM  
Blogger Kc said...

Kristi If he left the Church then he withdrew himself from fellowship and in my opinion you are under no obligation to him. If he confronts you then you may wish to refer him to an elder concerning his complaints or point out his own obligation concerning an offense. Most are unaware they have a responsibility.

4/13/2006 03:22:00 PM  
Blogger Herobill said...

My brother is anyone who is in Christ. I don't know what you mean about "break fellowship", but of course it's easy to avoid offensive, rude or legalistic christians. Don't we all? :)

Then there's folks that I personally "can't get away from".

I think modern life, individualistic christianity, and denominations do a good job of confusing most attempts at comparisons with NT situations. (I sympathize with KC's comments to Matthew, whose comment was generally excellent.)

A lot of things we can see in the NT would be more feasible, if certain things were as they once were.

Dear Lord, help us all.

4/13/2006 05:42:00 PM  
Blogger Herobill said...

[grin] I say "generally" because some could stretch the meaning of "false gospel" and there's a range of interpretaion on how much immorality can slide before it's "habitual"!! HAHA! :)

But I think I understand what Matthew means! :)

And, btw, Matthew. I really appreciate your way of speaking simply about things. Thanks.

4/13/2006 05:46:00 PM  
Blogger Kitty Cheng said...

Have a blessed Easter Kc.

4/13/2006 05:59:00 PM  
Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

Thanks, Bill.

'God is in heaven and thou upon earth. Therefore let thy words be few.' Eccleasiastes 5:2

I try to take that seriously.

God Bless

Matthew

4/13/2006 06:13:00 PM  
Blogger Joe said...

To be a brother(sister) to me, a person need only sincerely (according to my observation)profess a belief in the finished work of Christ at the cross and His resurrection.

I would probably only break fellowship with one who professed that his/her original profession in Christ was false.

But there might be sociological factors, like "he made me really mad."

Is breaking fellowship with someone the same as just not having any more to do with them?

4/13/2006 06:43:00 PM  
Blogger dorsey said...

#1) Name Jesus as the Christ (although Jesus' instructions to me about my brothers are not as straightforward as his commands regarding my neighbors, which comprise a much larger group).

#2) If he becomes religious. By doing so, he rejects the message of Christ (see #1).

4/13/2006 07:36:00 PM  
Blogger Gabe said...

Thanks for the thought provoking questions.

I think the church is both visible and invisible. Meaning there is tangible fellowship (local congregation) and intangible fellowship that transcends denomintions and time.

A person who living a cross-shaped life is my brother or sister. A person who is living a me-shaped life is not.

4/13/2006 07:37:00 PM  
Blogger dorsey said...

So you have what, 3 brothers? hehe.

4/13/2006 07:44:00 PM  
Blogger Kc said...

HB good question. I think shunning is an accurate discription of what I was thinking. To be honest I try not to avoid others at all for those reasons. If I have to avoid someone it would be due to a weakness on my part. Sometimes I have to admit my weakness and seek strength but my goal really is to keep the Great Commandments by His grace and to the best of my ability.

I know you're right about our perceptions and that's one reason I appreciate your offering to bloggerville.

I also appreciate Matthew in many ways. ;-)


Kitty thank you sister and I pray you will as well. ;-)


Joe that's an excellent point. I could certainly not consider a non-believer to be my brother in Christ.


Dorsey is there no way to resolve that problem? I feel sure there's more to what you mean by religious than I'm inferring to it.

May God bless you Gabe. It's so good to see your comments here and to find your blog again. I thank God for you.

I guess my thinking is more in line with Dorsey's though I lack his ability to present it in such a concise manner. ;-) I think I would feel closer a brother who is striving to follow Christ but those who are not I still consider family, just maybe more in need. ;-)

4/13/2006 08:49:00 PM  
Blogger dorsey said...

By religious, I mean pharisaical, legalistic, and the inevitable condemnation of those who aren't likewise.

4/13/2006 10:48:00 PM  
Blogger Kc said...

hehe Dorsey I was pretty sure. I hate to break the bad news but you don't withdraw from them, they withdraw from you. ;-)

4/14/2006 05:05:00 AM  
Blogger Kitty Cheng said...

I think we can only have proper fellowship with those who are followers of Christ, but we should certainly develop friendship with people who don't know Christ, as we are called to be salt and light of the world.

4/14/2006 06:30:00 AM  
Blogger dorsey said...

Kc, I thought of that right after I commented. Sort of like, You can't fire me, 'cause I quit! hehe

Yeah, so I guess I'm off the hook.

4/14/2006 06:36:00 AM  
Blogger Kc said...

Kitty I think you're right in that a proper fellowship requires that but I'm thinking more in terms of those times when we're imperfect and improper. Even then we fellowship if we fellowship through discipline. I thik that's the only way we can maintain our fellowship. It's those times we illustrate the depth of our love for each other. ;-)

Dorsey it's just like the time before when you said something similar. The net effect is "I will break fellowship with anyone who breaks fellowship with me" and from watching your conversation I know even then you won't give up without a fight. ;-)

4/14/2006 07:04:00 AM  
Blogger Kitty Cheng said...

Kc, I agree that fellowship through discipline is an important fellowship too. It's certainly a challenge for church leadership isn't it?

4/14/2006 07:52:00 AM  
Blogger Kc said...

Yes, and for us too. I think leaders are challenged with helping us to see our responsibility in discipline. It's really difficult for us to confront someone who has offended us. ;-)

4/14/2006 08:28:00 AM  
Blogger Nunzia said...

I'll definitely need to think and pray on that! God bless you! Hope you have a Happy Easter!

4/14/2006 12:30:00 PM  
Blogger Kc said...

Nan, thank you and I pray you all will be blessed in this special time as well. ;-)

4/14/2006 12:44:00 PM  
Blogger Kris said...

You are so mean to ask questions like this and get me to thinking out loud. And also to get me to thinking; Am I really doing what I should do? Do I really want to...NO I don't!


Geez, look at 1 Corinithians 5:9-12

9 I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people;
10 I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world.
11 But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler--not even to eat with such a one.
12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church?

Let me do so some complaining to God here.
Do you, Lord, expect me to figure out if my brother is being covetous? I mean sometimes it may be very obvious if my brother keeps whining around that so and so always has more than him or I wish I had so and so's wife instead of mine.

Ok I get your point Lord, unless their covetousness is so obvious then I don't have to worry about my brother eating all the potatoes when he comes over to eat.

So, kc, to give you answers to these questions would be the first time I have even considered it seriously. If I answer then I will be compelled to do what I said I would do.

I am not yet ready for this. I know I should, and it is not hard for me to jump a brother about sexual immorality, but to jump him out and tell him I can't associate with with because he has an idol or because he's wishing he had something someone else has all the time or even drinking too much is not easy for me.

I think this is what the Lord is saying and I need to start living it, but wow this will be tough. And you talk about being persecuted from other believers if a person is really serious about this!

How do we really, really do this...today? It would be much easier, I didn't say easy, to obey this command if the church and other believers in the past had held to this command don't you think?

By the way I consider anyone who professes to believe in Christ for everlasting life my brother.

Have a blessed resurrection day!

4/14/2006 03:20:00 PM  
Blogger Kc said...

Kris it is soooo good to read your thoughts on here again. Are you intentionally avoiding me?? hmmm??? ;-)

I think the text you offered is in reference to a "general offence" or one that "is reported commonly" "among you". My next post on Church discipline is set to address this issue. Maybe we can discuss it further then?

It really is good to have your wisdom around here again. ;-)

4/14/2006 03:48:00 PM  
Blogger Herobill said...

What's wrong with avoiding people? I know one blogger who's probably hoping I won't come back! :)

Seriously, then...

1) I don't know how to apply Paul's Corinthian advice to myself as a believer. That was to a church.

2) I don't know how to apply that advice to the "universal church" - as in, all the christians I know or have "relationships" with in my city and elsewhere. (the advice was to a local church).

I think Kris, above, was right to complain to God! Kris typed "I", "I", "I", "I", "I"... and then said, "How do we really, really do this..."

Kris, if you can accept it, then here is some grace from the Lord... YOU don't have to "do this"... because those scriptures were written to a church! And they don't make sense in any other context.

Thanks for the microphone, KC! ;)

So... as individuals in a big, mushy, "universal church", I guess that leaves us with avoiding people!

Aren't there millions of christians there in Lower Alabama you avoid all the time? ;)

But Matthew is right - there's only one Church in my city. And I am the brother of every believer who lives here...

...even if we don't ever all get together.

(What a weird sitution!)

4/15/2006 12:33:00 AM  
Blogger Kc said...

HB, there are many who avoid me and most share one of two common characteristics but in both cases it takes very little for them to refuse fellowship with other believers. It is usually the result of either a devotion to a particular denomination or theology that requires non-fellowship for adherence either implicitly or by extension.

I would say there are “times” when we should avoid participating in specific activities together for one reason or another but how do we love one another through avoidance outside of corporate discipline? (Serious question.)

Concerning corporate discipline I would also ask how it could apply to the Church at Arlington without applying to the Church at Mobile? I don’t believe the Lord established a universal invisible Church but I do believe it was intended to be a universally visible body. Paul didn’t leave Jerusalem in a huff to start a new denomination elsewhere and the scripture gives evidence that the Church at all locations communicated concerning the needs of the body in other places.

We agree that the Corinthian passage is intended as corporate and I hope to address that in my next article on discipline.

Now as far as you and I and this blog are concerned; the mic is always on and there’s a soapbox too if you want it. ;-)

4/15/2006 06:25:00 AM  
Blogger Herobill said...

Hey again. First off, I'm not claiming that our group in Arlington has anything over anyone. And I'm not saying the scriptures can't be applied to your universal church in your city. All I said is "I" don't know how to do it. And I really don't.

I guess the most you can do is try to extract a principle from it and reapply as best you might - which is what people seem to do... but then maybe they shouldn't be quite so strong about insisting they've got the proper application. It's just vastly different. That's all.

Now, then, about "avoiding". :)

I'm really not advocating that, but let's be practical. Did you attend the Catholic service in your town last sunday? Did you attend the Baptist service too? How about the 7th Day Adventists? All three? No? Then aren't you "avoiding" them? (Maybe 'Yes', but only 'in a way', right?)

Like I said... weird situation. And that's pretty much all I really meant by "avoiding".

I make it my hope to live in a body where we might learn (and I emphasize the word learn most heavily)... how these scriptural situations might be applied more directly. Sometimes, I can tell you, we feel like we've discovered the proper sense of a passage, just because we live a diferent way than most do. But I wouldn't get exclusive about that.

If you think there's some way to apply the principles of the Corinthian passage to the universal Church in Mobile then great - let me know how it works. I just don't get it.

AND, personally, I want more than that. I want to TRY to rediscover whether we can really live like they lived back then. And let me say again, to leave no doubt, that I KNOW that we here AIN'T got it "down" by a longshot! :)

At least, not yet! [joking!] ;)

OH - one more thing.

I don't "refuse fellowship" to any christian. In any situation. Ever.

Even when Paul told Corinth to hand the guy over to Satan, he also said to admonish him like a brother. So he IS still a brother! See, that's a positive comment in the worst of situations! Forget the word "admonish" for a minute and marvel at the word "brother"! Praise the Lord! What Grace!

Can I give a picture of that?

In my world, let's imagine, if someone pulled a big stunt and made everyone uncomfortable around him... that person might be gently asked to step out of the 'together' functions for a while... but there would still be TONS of opportunities for individuals to come to that person and have interactions with him and even encourage him. Or 'pray' with him, if his heart is truly towards the Lord. Why leave one hurting, wounded brother in solitude?

In my world, you're not "out of the church" if you're just "out of meetings". (So we have that extra option. Maybe other places feel they do too. I don't know.)

Please know this rarely happens. I'll be candid. I think maybe three times in ten years, that I've seen. And each time it was a biggie or a semi-biggie, if you know what I mean. But 3 in 10 isn't bad, if you can grant me that!

And 2 of the 3 times that person was restored to us completely. And the 3rd had every gracious opportunity. (The door stayed warmly open. He went elsewhere.) And we never talked about any of those things again.

But let me imagine I'm in Mobile. And let me imagine that we know each other well, and you start sleeping with your young step-mother, and you won't quit. Well, I'd guess you're probably not going to be part of any group activities I'm part of, if that group is aware; but that doesn't mean I cut you off personally altogether. What? Would I walk past you at the supermarket? Shun you physically? I can't imagine that!

There is no condemnation in Christ.

Maybe if I reach out for a while and you finally tell me to quit it and go away, that you're happy in your sin... maybe I give up and steer clear from then on.

But that's not "breaking fellowship"... is it? (I don't think that's what you meant.)

But I'll go back again to my original thought - modern life really mucks with the application of those parts of the scripture. So I merely wish 'good luck' to all who try! :)

I hope my heart is clear here. Sorry if I wrote a book. And I hope you appreciate my candor. These are precious things to me. And I don't know why I trust you with them, KC, but I do.

Thanks again for the dialogue.

There's no perfect right answers for difficult situations.

There is only Christ... and learning to find him... and learning to give others Him.

We live in HOPE. :)

4/16/2006 12:17:00 AM  
Blogger Herobill said...

I just noticed.

Paul DIDN'T say anything against the woman in that Corinth situation. She might've been in the church, too. But Paul addressed the man.

Kindof the opposite of those Pharisees in John 8, right? :)

But I'll admit I'm just speculating, now... :)

4/16/2006 01:00:00 AM  
Blogger Kc said...

HB, I really do appreciate your candor and I value your trust in this more than you can know. I will do all I can to preserve it and nurture it. I think we’re pretty close on this and some other issues you raised here, especially concerning grace. You make some excellent points. I think we’ll have more to wrestle with soon and I look forward to much more dialog on this and many topics. I think that last distinction you pointed out concerning he/she is huge and that discussion could go all the way back to the garden!

I took this weekend away from blogging and I’m off to a slow start this week but I hope to be back to speed soon. Thanks again brother and I hope you had and will have a blessed week. ;-)

4/17/2006 05:51:00 AM  

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