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Holding The Church Hostage

Holding The Church Hostage

by Richard Nichols

Originally published in
The Christian Informer
May, 1998

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Last updated:
June 18, 1998.

ONE LORD'S DAY morning back in the 1970's, the little congregation at St. Albans, near Charleston, West Virginia, was literally held hostage at gun point.  An irrational neighbor man had a dispute with the U.S. Government and expected to gain national attention by doing this awful deed.  He bursted in to the worship waving a rifle, and pointing it at members of the congregation he ordered that the news media be called to come and let him voice his complaints.  Needless to say, it was a traumatic ordeal for our fellow-Christians that day.  It was a terrible contrast to their ordinarily peaceful worship to God.  We have never heard of such a thing happening to our people before or since.

But there are those who fail to understand the Christian principles of love, unity and fellowship.  They actually stand as a barrier in the way of the harmony which God ordained should exist among His people.  Our remarks will be directed toward this issue in this article.  The early Christians ". . .continued steadfastly in the apostle's doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers," we are told in Acts 2:42.


The word fellowship, from the Greek word KOINONIA, in one form or another is translated by several terms in the New Testament.  Paul told the Philippians I thank God "For your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now" (1:5).  And again to this same congregation he said, "Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated[Lit., had fellowship] with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only.  For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity." (4:15,16).

Again a form of the word KOINONIA is translated communicate in Paul's writing to the Galatian churches in 6:6, "Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things" indicating that support was to be given to those who preach the gospel.  He points out that this type of fellowship in the spread of the gospel and care for the saints is what God wants of Christians saying in Hebrews 13:16, "But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased."  The word for participation fellowship in the support of the work is also translated contribution.  To the Romans in chapter 15, verse 26, the inspired writer says, "For it hath pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem."

Inspiration employs this term again and again allowing Christians to see their responsibility in the work of the Church.  "Whiles by the experiment of this ministration they glorify God for your professed subjection unto the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal distribution unto them, and unto all men" (2 Cor. 9:13). Again, Paul told the Corinthians that the Macedonian churches had set a good example, "Praying us with much entreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints" (2 Cor 8:4).


We conclude, therefore, that it means a sharing in common; mutual interest; mutual activity; a partnership with each other in the blessings of the gospel.  So the grand old apostle expressed the idea of a joint participation in the body and blood of the Jesus when he employed a form of this same word, KOINONIA, in 1 Corinthians 10:16, "The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?"  It seems that the word communion is a combination of two words, common and union.  Isn't it wonderful to know that we, the brothers and sisters in Christ, have fellowship together, or a joint participation in the one spiritual body of Jesus which we express by breaking of the one loaf in the Lord's supper, and drinking of the one cup.

Many in the city of Jerusalem heard the great message preached on Pentecost day, (Acts 2).  Those that believed were commanded to "Repent and be baptized for the remission of sins" (v. 38).  This command was consistent with the teaching of Jesus Himself (Matt. 28:19,20; Mark 16:15,16; Luke 24:47).  And naturally so because He told Peter and the other apostles that the Holy Spirit would cause them to remember all He ever taught them, and that their sermons would actually be the message of the Spirit (Mark 13:11; John 14:26).


Now three thousand of these people withdrew from that "untoward generation" in obeying the gospel, and were then added to a great body, the body of Christ or the church (Acts 2:41, 47).  They were together in their daily activity.  They ate together, rejoiced and wept together, as well as worshiped together.  They loved one another and began to look toward each other's welfare.  (Read Acts 2:42-47).  This is fellowship.

We can see from all of this evidence that Christian fellowship is that spiritual bond that connects all who have been baptized "into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit," within this great brotherhood in the Lord Christ Jesus.   All, who truly obey the gospel from the heart, enter into this body and enjoy this relationship.  Any social barrier, along with discrimination and unfairness, disappears among true Christians. Galatians 3:28 teaches that in the church, "there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus."  Theoretically and practically brothers and sisters in the Lord are one.


We are to think alike (Phil. 4:8; 1 Cor. 1:10).  Isn't it some times amazing how that those in earthly relationships who love each other for years grow to think alike.  Husbands and wives often can tell what the other is thinking.  Often blood brothers and sisters can do the same.  So it should be with the children of God.  The Scriptures insist that we think doctrinally alike, but we need to develop a close emotional kinship.  This, of course, naturally happens if we love one another as we should.  We will suffer when those whom we love suffer.


Recently, the news broadcasts around the world carried reports of deadly tornados that hit Birmingham, Alabama.  The fierceness of the storm was reported to be a magnitude of five on a scale of one to five.  There wereover 100 homes destroyed, 33 people killed and many, many injured in the Birmingham area alone.  It happened about 7:00 P.M. Wednesday night, April 8, 1998.  This terrible storm, which had already killed one person in Mississippi, made its way across the upper part of our county for about 22 miles, and on through central Alabama eastward to Georgia where it killed several more.

During the next few days, the church members here naturally received an avalanche of phone calls from family members, but many more came in from concerned brothers and sisters in Christ, calling from distant places all over the nation, just asking, "Are you all right?"  Our conversations were like, "Yes, we're okay. . . . All the memebers of the church are safe.  We appreciate your calling so much."  To which they would reply, "Well, we heard about the tornados and hoped you all weren't hurt. . . . We were praying for you." This, friend, is the kind of "care" that the children of God have for one another.


Not only does the family of God in a local congregation worship together in communion, but they love each other, and the work that they conduct is in total harmony with the idea of fellowship.  You see, "We are laborers together" (Rom. 12:4,5; 14:7).  Paul says, "We are laborers together with God" (1 Cor. 3:9).  The work or service of God's people is to be in union and cooperation with all the saints.  "Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!"  (Psa 133:1).  He who would purpose to disrupt that unity has the condemnation of God resting upon him.


There are a few men, possibly led by personal ambition, who, have "held the church hostage."  Some have done so for years.  They have been a barrier to unity, love, harmony and fellowship of the brethren.  Such people will offer threats of harm to the church if they don't get their way.  "You do that and I'll quit!", they shout. . . . "You'd better not call on him or you won't see me and my family here anymore."  Such people are unreasonable, don't have the spirit of Christ, don't have people's souls at heart.  They are a hindrance to the growth and prosperity of the church, and, if they refuse to repent, the church would be better off without them.

We are not talking about a brother or sister who has a wholesome expectation that all will conform to the will of God.  It is the place of every Christian to demand that the church teach and practice New Testament principals.  But there are some who expect to "have their own way, or else. . . ."  They reason, "I've been here all these years. . . . I've helped build this building. . . . That's my money in the treasury. . . . They'd better listen to me. . . .  Look, they owe it to me."  If the leaders of the church don't deal with that attitude the congregation will continue crippled and powerless.  It will never be what the Lord would have the church to be.


John said, "I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not.  Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church" (3 John 9,10).  John points out a man who refuses to allow the church to fellowship brethren from another congregation.  What a shameful condition!  John said he needed to be dealt with.

A man who refuses to come to peace with his brethren is "implacable, unmerciful" and condemned.  Paul condemns many saying, ". . . Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them" (Rom. 1:31,32).  Brethren, the command of the Word is: "Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another" (Rom 14:19).  We must work for that sweet fellowship and peace among ourselves that the Lord demands that we have.