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Have the independent
churches lost their way?

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Have the independent
churches lost their way?

by Wes White
Wesley White and his wife, Nancy, live in Big Sandy and attend services of the Church of God International in Tyler.

BIG SANDY, Texas--"We used to have a nice group of about 30 people in my city, but we have split several times. At present, it's just me and my uncle meeting every Sabbath at his dining-room table."

I sure hate it when I have heard some variation of the above statement, but I wish I had a nickel for every time I have.

Is it just me or is there a problem with too many splits in the independent Church of God (COG) movement?

Again, no one seriously suggests that we need a reunification of all the Sabbath-keeping COGs. A new, monolithic organization isn't going to happen, and it shouldn't happen.

But have we gone too far in separating ourselves from each other as a result of the bickering?

If you think so, then perhaps we can calmly discuss why it has come to this.

Heaven knows that a dialogue of this type is long overdue within the Body of Christ because some people are starting to ask: Have many of the independent COGs lost their way?

When the word lost is used in this context, it has less to do with losing salvation and more to do with losing the right sense of direction in our collective mission.

Difficult to deny

It's hard to deny that too many independent COGs are not:

  • Promoting the gospel of Jesus' coming Kingdom.

  • Feeding the flock. (Many think they are feeding the flock but are instead wasting precious sermon time on nonbiblical issues.)

  • Doing enough good works in helping the poor.

In short, many of our people are too inwardly focused.

A lot of this goes back to the fact that many independent congregations are isolated, not necessarily geographically but socially.

They do not interact with other congregations enough. They do not hold each other accountable when it comes to obeying God's Word as found in Matthew 28:19, John 21:17 and Matthew 25:34-36.

Our corporate history has us going from one extreme to another.

Years ago many of us went too far when it came to subjecting ourselves to a church organization. Today too many have overreacted in the other direction by becoming so independent they have lost almost all effectiveness in proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom.

Fortunately, though, many independents are recognizing this problem and trying to move back to a more balanced approach in their interactions with other members of the Body of Christ.

Praise God!

Not home alone

Christians need other Christians. We can't make it alone. Even leaders of the homeschool movement warn teacher-parents not to let their children become too isolated. They point out that kids need other kids and should not be kept in protected bubbles. They need to spend time interacting with their peers.

We in the church have the same need.

Scattered individuals and small local churches need to develop more relationships with others so they can move away from being hug-me churches in protective bubbles.

If we don't correct this problem, the ongoing dismantling of the Body of Christ (the privilege of working in unity) will continue to diminish our potential to have a greater voice that is distinct in Christianity.

There needs to be a slowdown of splitting, and there needs to be a ceasing of the excuses for inaction that follow being burned, betrayed, abused and disillusioned.

Instead, we need to follow the example of Jesus, who came to seek and save the lost. Nowhere in Scripture do we see permission to look out only for ourselves.

Look for ways

If you are isolated, look for ways to work with other individuals and congregations to serve the community.

Consider cutting back on your involvement in worldly politics. Learn more about what it means for members of the church to be subject one to another.

Let past bitterness go so that we can all work together for the common good.

Quit looking to the Feast of Tabernacles as an opportunity to vacation in some exotic location or a chance to have reunions with family members who are not in the church.

Instead, figure out ways that you can serve the Body of Christ during the Feast.

Quit misapplying Luke 21:36. This Bible verse is a warning for each person to watch himself, not for some world leader who might be the beast of Revelation.

Recognize that Jesus might not return in your lifetime and that the Bible's end-time prophecies might not be for your generation.

Let's hold each other accountable in all these matters with love. Let's gently encourage each other to let our lights shine so we can glorify our heavenly Father.

Let's come together in Christian unity.


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