Most of us – even dyed-in-the-wool independents like us – want to have a level of inter-connectedness with other churches. Whilst there are certainly some isolationist churches out there, who cannot countenance working with anybody beyond their own four walls, I suspect that isn’t most of us. At the same time, whilst there are others who seem happy to work with absolutely anybody at all – Christian or otherwise – I suspect that isn’t the position of most churches either. The vast majority of us have a line somewhere.
The obvious question is this: how do you figure out who you will work with? The question isn’t as straightforward as you might like to think. It is almost inevitable that it will depend on what the thing is and exactly whom is being suggested that you work alongside. You might be happy to work with one church in a particular arena whilst not being so sure you would in another.
As it happens, we are thinking this through at the moment. Inevitably, when somebody starts working for your church, they want to know who else they can work with. That is all right and proper. Whilst I don’t presume that you must follow our approach, here is (broadly) how we work it out.
Anything at all
There are a bunch of churches that fit into the ‘anything at all’ category. That is, we would do anything with them. They could fill our pulpit for us, work with us in regular evangelistic works, join with us in gospel endeavours and be involved in large areas of what we do.
The kind of churches in this category tend to both share our gospel convictions and the overwhelming majority of our theology. Of course, we may have some more minor differences between us on different matters pertaining to how we do church, but essentially, we would do anything with these churches.
Most but not everything
There are other churches who definitely share our core gospel convictions but who would differ from us on various points of theology. We definitely affirm them as gospel-believing churches, and believers in Christ, and there would be a lot of overlap in the things believe. But there may be some significant, albeit secondary, matters on which we differ.
Whilst it is unlikely we would be asking such people to come and preach for us, or help in other parts of our teaching programmes, we would join together with them in evangelistic ministries. We would happily proclaim the same gospel together, even if we differ at points in our understanding of the Bible. These are the people we would do most stuff with, but not everything.
Some, but not most
There are other churches who we would recognise believe the gospel in essential terms but would differ on a fairly significant number of theological issues and points of practice. We can recognise brothers and sisters in that church but we would be significantly different in our scriptural understanding and our practice.
It is unlikely that we would invite folks from these churches to either preach nor would we necessarily do evangelistic gospel work together because the points of difference in practice and theology, even if we can affirm gospel essentials, would make it too difficult to do so. We might, however, participate in a joint prayer meeting or work together on a matter concerning a specific issue on which we agree.
Nothing at all
There are some “churches” with whom we wouldn’t work on anything at all. These would be places that do not share our core gospel convictions and have so departed from any theological understanding that we would recognise that it is impossible to work together in anything with them. If we are convinced that they preach an altogether different gospel, one that we do not recognise from scripture, we would have a hard time considering such places to be churches at all.
I have purposefully left these categories quite broad. The reason being that it is far too hard to outline the sheer number of theological differences that might affect the decision. Equally, it is difficult to outline the specifics of any given meeting or programme that may affect whom we would be happy to work with therein.
But these are the four broad categories that we work with. People we can work with on anything whatsoever, people we can work with on most stuff (particularly gospel endeavours), those we could meet with and pray with but would struggle to do much more, and those we can do nothing with at all.
No doubt you might put different churches and different meetings into different categories. But essentially, the closer folks are to us, the more we are likely to do with them. The further away from us on a spectrum they happen to be, the harder it is to do as much.