Better Together: Churches of Like Faith Need Each Other

God is good to give believers the church. The church is his idea for the benefit of believers, the advancement of the kingdom and the glory of God.  While there are churches who have turned to a “different Gospel “(Gal 1:6) that need to be avoided, it is clear that there are churches of like faith that are given for mutual benefit. There is a concern for churches and pastors that want to remain isolated, and enjoy an Elijah complex (“I, even I only am left,” 1 Kgs 19:10, cf. 19:18). We see that in the New Testament churches of like faith fellowshipped together and were informed about the affairs of other churches. While keeping their autonomy, the cooperated together. Consider the following:

  • They shared the Word of God and fellowshipped around it.
    • Col 4:16; James 1, Revelation 2, 3.
      • Before the cannon of Scripture was complete, the churches copied letters to each other and shared them with benefit, Colossians 4:16. They knew about the state and affairs of other churches. In Revelation 2, 3, we see that praise to and concerns of the individual churches were to heeded by all the churches. As each individual church was addressed, each section ends with an inclusive “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches (plural),” note Rev 2:7 and others. They fellowshipped in victories and they were admonished by the failures of others. Some churches want to hide their warts pretending that all is well with them. A knowledge of other churches’ sins as well as victories can serve as warnings and encouragements to all.
  • They shared workers.
    • Romans 16:1-2, Acts 18: 27-28, Philippians 2:25-29; 4:18
      • There was a sense among New Testament churches that each could benefit from gifted workers in other churches. This shows at least two things. First, that a church should be willing to acknowledge a need for help for gifted persons outside of their congregation and second, that churches with some gifted individuals should gladly send their best to other churches to aid them. Both Timothy and Epaphroditus were sent to serve. Epaphroditus was “your (the church of Philippi’s) messenger” who the church gladly sent to minister to the needs of Paul. Churches were willing to send their “A team” to serve other churches. It takes a spirit of humility to acknowledge a need and a genuine spirit of concern to offer the “A team.”
  • They shared greetings and a love for each other.
    • Romans 16:21-23
      • It seems that there was a knowledge of and an affection for not only those in their local congregations, but for this in other churches. In a day before modern communications, they heard of, cared for and served others.
  • They shared “war stories” for encouragement.
    • 1 Thess 1: 6-10.
      • The stories of spiritual growth in spite of “much affliction” were examples of encouragement for all to follow. This presumes that these churches knew of each other and celebrated others’ victories. Sometimes a pastor or church can think that they are the only one going through difficult times. It is important to hear and know of other churches victories as well as defeats in hard times.
  • They gave money for other needy churches.
    • Romans 15:25-27, 1 Cor 16:1-3; 2 Cor 8-9.
      • While we don’t know all the details, the above passages speak of a gift that the Gentile churches collected to aid the church in Jerusalem that was primarily Jewish in background. This was a collection that took planning (1 Cor 16:1-3) and was accomplished through a “severe test of affliction  . . .  and extreme poverty, (2 Cor 8:2).”  Paul was compelled to orchestrate this grand offering for another church for the benefit of others and the glory of God. God is pleased when churches sacrifice for other churches.
  • They cooperated in missionary endeavors.
    • 3 John 5-8
      • This passage speaks of some brothers who (v7) had gone out for the sake of “the name.” Gaius (probably a member of the Ephesian Church) was encouraged to continue to sacrifice so that these brothers, this missionary team could be sent forward in their ministry in “a manner worthy of God (v6).”  One church may not be able to completely support a missionary, but several working together can accomplish what one by itself cannot.
  • They met together for doctrinal clarity.
    • Acts 15: 1-35
      • Because of doctrinal concern (Acts 15:5) a large group of Apostles and elders (15:1-4) met together to clarify doctrinal issues. There is still a place for churches (and church leaders) of like or similar faith to meet together for encouragement and doctrinal clarification. In 1978, a group of evangelical scholars representing churches and denominations gathered together to sharpen the focus of biblical inerrancy. In 1982, a follow up meeting produced a further clarification on hermeneutics.  Because of so much confusion on sexuality, in order to clarify these matters church leaders met to from the Danvers Statement.

Conclusion

Christians need each other for growth and mutual exhortation.  The believer needs to be involved with a local church of biblical faith.  But individual churches of like faith while remaining autonomous should cooperate with churches of like faith for the advancement of the gospel.

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