Dealing With Our Differences

Coming together with other Christians in a non-denominational ministry like FCAP brings with it the challenge for people to work together under the same focus and purpose. In FCAP we recognize the various emphasis that local churches have regarding practices and functions for believers in their church. We entitle people to hold such distinctives, but we also realize that if we want to remain a non-denominational ministry with like-minded people within the workplace there must be limitations placed on permitting such distinctives to be practiced in local FCAP meetings. Though our fellowships can have a variety of people with different backgrounds, when we come together we must have the same focus and purpose in ministry. The following three sections are arranged to help you and others think through issues which could bring division in your group. It is our prayer that this study will help to enhance harmony and prevent any partiality in local FCAP groups. We also have drawn these principles from God’s word as well as from practical experiences taken from FCAP fellowship that have either been a good example, or have failed because people majored on minor differences.

STANDING ON COMMON GROUND: We cannot stress enough the importance of your group being on common ground. Establishing common ground does not emerge from someone’s personal plans or some group strategy. It is based on the issues that are important to the heart of God, issues that He has revealed to us in His word. Your group should learn to become focused on what is important to God and allow these to be your focal point. These of course are not derived from any church denomination, nor from the teachings of a Christian celebrity. They are shaped from the clear and central teachings in God’s word that we mutually understand. The following points are essential teachings that must be understood and upheld in order for believers coming together from various denominations to experience the oneness God speaks of in 1Corinthians 1:10; Philippians 2:2; 3:16. · We share a common faith in the person and redemptive work of Christ, (Acts 4:12; 2Cor. 5:21; Eph.2:8,9), and also the saving work of Christ (Rom.5:9-10). · We share a common access to God through prayer because of being in Christ who is the same mediator to all who believe. (1Tim.2:5; Eph.2:18; 3:12) · We share a common source of knowledge from God’s Word available to all believers, and essential for our growth and discernment (John 17:17; 1Pet.2:2; 1Thess.2:13; Heb.4:12; 2Tim.2:15). · We share in a common goal which our Lord has determined for all believer, that of being daily conformed to the image of Jesus Christ (2Cor.3:18; Rom.8:29; 12:1-2). · We share in the common message of the gospel of Christ. The only message we are commanded to take to the ends of the earth. This message offers forgiveness and abundant life to all who receive it by faith. (Eph.1:13; 2:8-9; Rom.1:16; Acts 1:8; 2Cor.5:18-20) · We share in a common calling to be Christ’s disciples and walk together in the work of making disciples of others who believe and are entrusted to our care. (Matthew 28:18-20)

THINKING THROUGH ISSUES: When minor differences become an issue in your group, please use the following guidelines, taken from Scripture, to help you and others seek to become united in ministry. (Read: Philippians 1:27; 2:2; Ephesians 4:1-3)

1. In FCAP we believe those who call themselves “Christian” should hold to the truth that all beliefs and practices are to be confirmed by the final authority of God’s words in Scripture. Therefore all beliefs and practices can be examined in light of scripture. This means that all of us are accountable to one another in how we live in accordance to God’s word. (Example: God says that all of our personal experiences and private interpretations should be examined by the Word of God. Read: Hebrews 4:12; 2 Peter 1:20,21; 2 Timothy 3:16,17.) 2. We believe that any practice that the Word of God requires of all believers is not to be hindered but encouraged in FCAP. However, any practice that is not commanded to all believers, we ask that you refrain from this practice in FCAP meetings. (Example: All believers are commanded in God’s word to walk by the power of the Holy Spirit [Gal. 5:16-17,25; Rom. 8:1] and the common evidence of this walk in all believer is the Spirit producing fruit through our lives. The fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, etc.., [Gal.5:22-23], is evident through all we do (Colossians 1:10; John 15:4-5,8). But believers are not commanded to strive for a particular gift in order to demonstrate it to others. Why, because God gives gifts as He so chooses. Read:1 Corinthians 12:11,18, 29-31; 1Peter 4:10). 3. We believe that any principle or practice found in one particular verse of scripture is to be taken into consideration and balanced out with the rest of Scripture. We can distort God’s Word simply by over emphasizing one truth and failing to balance it out with the other truths in Scripture. (Example: We could become so intensely engaged in battling an issue at work that is clearly wrong in scripture,(e.g. stealing or injustice) that we neglect to balance this with our responsibility of sharing the good news of God’s forgiveness, even praying for our enemy and blessing those who curse us. Read: Matthew 5:43-48; Romans 12:18) 4. We believe equal concern among God’s people should be demonstrated without showing preference to anyone because of denomination, race, personality, spiritual gift or company status. In order to show our oneness as the body of Christ in the workplace, denominational distinctives and personal preferences must be set aside and fellowship must be extended to all who walk in obedience to Jesus Christ. (Example: Jesus hand-picked a group of man to be his disciple and they were all very different. Not just different personalities, but different political backgrounds, occupational peculiarities and social boundaries. Yet, He spoke of the magnitude of demonstrating their oneness in Christ. Read: John 13:34-35; 1Corinthians 3:1-7; 12:25-27). 5. We believe that the local FCAP fellowship or small group is to remain consistent with the focus and purpose of FCAP. The FCAP focus, purpose and statement of beliefs are built on the clear and direct teachings of scripture. Often divisions among God’s people come when a person or group of people puts emphasis on a more difficult or less direct passages of scripture (II Peter 3:16-17). We desire to major on the major ones, and minor on the minor ones. (Example: A local group could begin centering their ministry on when the Lord should return. Setting dates could become the focus of their ministry. And while the Lord’s return will be a sure event someday, we are not given dates but rather told to occupy in His harvest field until He comes. Read: Acts 1:6-8; Luke 19:11,13: Matthew 25:13; 1Thessalonians 5:2))

STUMBLING BLOCKS TO AVOID Listed below are some of the issues that can bring division in a FCAP fellowship or small group and could eventually hinder people from being united in ministry.

  • Pushing political candidates or issues,
  • Pushing a particular church or denomination in your meetings,
  • Promoting a personality as the central focus of a fellowship, rather than Jesus Christ,
  • Elevating one spiritual gift above another,
  • Arguing over the interpretation of prophecies regarding the end times.

By Paul Curtas

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