Sectarianism in the Welcome to the Lord's Supper
"Dear saints we would like to welcome to the fellowship of the Lord’s supper our brother John Doe from the Assembly in Fullerton, our sister Jane Dee from the Assembly in San Diego and our Brother and Sister, Bob and Kay. We welcome you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ."
The intention of the above welcome is to announce a welcome to the visitors and announce a commendation to the saints. Perhaps there is more purpose to this event but this is the gist of it. Lets examine what it does.
Division and Sectarianism
First, let’s describe what we are saying. We are saying that John Doe and Jane Dee are in fellowship with us. They are involved with the ministry that we are involved with. You know this by the recognition of their geographical location and by the mention of ‘the Assembly in’. We are also saying that Bob and Kay are not in fellowship with us, they are not committed to a place of fellowship that we recommend and pray for. They are believers who are walking with the Lord but do not merit the kind of recognition that someone ‘in fellowship’ does.
Second, let's see what this means. We preach about the sin of sectarianism, where there is division by some saying, ‘I am of Paul’. The first rebuke Paul gives to the immoral carnal gathering in Corinth is about the sin of divisiveness. We say we have no name but the name of Christian and we are offended when called ‘the Assembly’, but is it not right that people call us ‘the Assembly’ when it is the name we give ourselves. We welcome by church name where a member is from when they are involved with us giving them a special welcome. The church name that we have selected is, ‘the Assembly in …’ By welcoming in this way we identify ourselves as ‘the Assembly’.
This is not only sectarianism where we welcome by saying…they are of the Assembly…but it is also presumptuous. By singling out one gathering in a city as the Assembly of that city we have presumed to be the ones ordained by God. It seems that we give lip service that we are not the only ones, that we are just of the body of Christ and not the body of Christ but when it comes to our welcome we state otherwise. Do we call ourselves here in SLO ‘the Assembly of San Luis Obispo’? If not then why do we welcome others in this way? If we do call ourselves ‘the Assembly of San Luis Obispo’ then why do we have the preaching about not having a name but the name of Christ? If we do see ourselves as the Assembly in San Luis Obispo then we must make this distinction between us and all the other Christian churches in town after all we are the Assembly and they are the other churches.
Submission One To Another
What happens when someone is offended? Do we care? Paul was willing to be a vegetarian when it came to avoiding the offence of others. What sacrifice are we willing to make? It seems very little. What bending was done for the Foys, the T.'s, the Biddles…? What yielding, what submitting?
Did you know that in the most accurate text in Ephesians 5:22 the word ‘submit’ does not occur? It reads, ‘wives to your husbands’. Where is the verb you might ask? It is in the previous verse, ‘Submit yourselves one to another’. Instead of seeing verse twenty-one as the emphasis, we have focused on verse twenty-two. We are not alone; many Bibles have erroneously made a paragraph separation between these verses. Like verse twenty-two is completely without verse twenty-one. Sadly this is an emphasis without merit. Where have we erred in our past emphasis? Perhaps there has been far too much, ‘Submit yourselves to your guides’ and far too little, ‘Submit yourselves one to another’? God hates the Nicolaitans; are we holders or haters? Does leadership hold the saints accountable to the mint, anise and cummin, but give allowance for themselves?
So what happens when someone is offended by the welcoming? It appears that it doesn’t matter. It appears that this is the way we do things. The one who is offended must abide in their offence. Unyielding authority and unhearing ears should not be the example of shepherds unless they are lording it over the flock.