Faithful congregations in unfaithful denominations

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Rome2Geneva

Puritan Board Freshman
I travel quite a bit and often find myself in an area where the Reformed Church in America (RCA) is the biggest game in town. I know that as a denomination the RCA has gone off the rails but I do know there are varying degrees of faithfulness to be found in individual congregations. So I have a couple questions:

- Is it permissible to attend service where the worship is according to the RPW and the preaching/administration of the sacraments is orthodox, even if it is a member of a liberal denomination?
- Does a congregation which has female elders (not teaching elders) preclude it's being considered an option even if number 1 is true? In other words, is female "eldership" a Gospel issue?

So on a Lord's Day would it be better to just not attend service or attend a service at a congregation such as the above? Does attendance at such a congregation imply approval with denominational stances?

Thank you.
 

Jake

Puritan Board Senior
I've not found a situation where I could not find somewhere to find a church to visit when I'm out of town, even if I can't always participate in every aspect of the service. I err on the side of preferring some sort of in person fellowship and worship even if there are errors. That said, I'm not out of town a lot and have also never gone for a mainline church. I have attended a church with female elders (ECO) after confirming that the pastor was male.

I would not join a church with female elders, but I would be okay worshipping with such a congregation in a less than ideal circumstance.

That said, from what I know the RCA is quite broad. Though they permit a lot of progressive theology, they also have conservative congregations and do not impose requirements for having female elders at the local congregation. For example, I think this RCA congregation would fit in quite well to a NAPARC denomination like the FRCNA. https://providencereformed.org/
 

Jack K

Puritan Board Doctor
A handful of thoughts:
  • Guard yourself against a critical spirit in worship. In general, attending an imperfect service is preferrable to not gathering for worship at all. If it were not, none of us would ever gather for worship. So, try to attend worship with thankfulness to God for what he has provided, even though it is imperfect, rather than with annoyance over what God has withheld.
  • Guard yourself against a demanding spirit with other believers. Sometimes, people claim such broad issues of "conscience" that they end up unable to worship with any but a very few believers. In such cases, I start to wonder if their conscience issues haven't actually become demandingness: "If you don't do everything exactly the way I know it should be done, I just can't worship with you." Worship ought to be inherently humble, and this spirit is the opposite.
  • That said, guard yourself against being easily satisfied with counterfeit worship. Cultivate a heart that's willing to go out of the way a bit and look hard for a good service. There is real value in worshipping with a group of people truly committed to following Christ rightly, and in the properly-administered means of grace—starting with true gospel preaching. Remember that this is pure gold and sweet honey (Psalm 19:10). Eagerly desire it, and do not be content with tinfoil and corn syrup.
None of this is a direct answer to your question, because where you need to make adjustments depends on your own heart. Checking your heart and repenting where you need to is more important than picking exactly the right service or knowing exactly where to "draw the line," especially when you are just visiting.
 

ZackF

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
The kind of meta-awareness that we enjoy(?) these days can make us too scrupulous. We are presented which much more information (including rumors and innuendo) and often find ourselves tied up in knots.

My wife and I have conversations about where to worship when travelling usually a couple times a year. We avoid much driving on the Lord's Day and try to make sure those stops are in an area with a reasonably sound church. We kissed a frog once about a decade ago but have otherwise done pretty well. However, if you do travel a lot, the numbers say you'll hit snakes eyes eventually. If the situation is outrageous and burdens your conscience, just politely walk out.
 

reformed grit

Puritan Board Freshman
I'd say, honour the Lord's Day and try to save-guard your appearance before others: but if I found myself in a foxhole with a Jehovah's Witness and a Mormon, we'd still read together from our KJV and pray. Just don't find yourself in a foxhole where it isn't necessary.
 

Taylor

Puritan Board Graduate
…if I found myself in a foxhole with a Jehovah's Witness and a Mormon, we'd still read together from our KJV and pray.
Absolutely not. It’s not even possible to pray with a Mormon or a Jehovah’s Witness, since they worship demons. Praying with them I would consider blasphemy. You can only pray for them.
 

reformed grit

Puritan Board Freshman
Absolutely not. It’s not even possible to pray with a Mormon or a Jehovah’s Witness, since they worship demons. Praying with them I would consider blasphemy. You can only pray for them.
That's certainly one way to go. They're still folk to whom we're commissioned to carry the Gospel.

Of course, the thread title was "Faithful congregations in unfaithful denominations", so I've wandered a bit off-track.
 

Taylor

Puritan Board Graduate
That's certainly one way to go. They're still folk to whom we're commissioned to carry the Gospel.
It’s the only way to go. Again, it is impossible to pray with an idolater without blaspheming. You don’t carry the gospel to idolaters by pretending you pray to the same God. You carry the gospel to them by telling them of their sin and the mercies of God found in Christ alone.
 

reformed grit

Puritan Board Freshman
Well, I'll admit to being off-topic with the better part of valour being to bow out. But let me say, I've had Mormon missionaries come to the house, and I don't send them away. I take out my Scriptures, & even their writings, and we converse. Same with Jehovah's Witnesses. I don't shut the door in their face, though I can understand where some might actually need to. No, it isn't the question the OP asked, and I cautioned about one's reputation, but I hoped to use the example as to say we sometimes get too persnickety regarding fellowship. I say that as a long-standing and suffering member of both a church and denomination out of step with my personal persnicketys.

I've been in those 'fox-hole' situations and interfaith cooperation of relief where standing alone isn't the ideal way to go, even the morally superior way to go. Sometimes, even most times, there's an individual aspect of worship above corporate appearance, even if corporate appearance may or may not be actual, or even if an appearance of corporate worship sustains individual worship. It's certainly true that any appearance of supporting sin as with any joining with apostasy is grave, but we are at once in the world while being not of it.
 
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Taylor

Puritan Board Graduate
But let me say, I've had Mormon missionaries come to the house, and I don't send them away. I take out my Scriptures, & even their writings, and we converse. Same with Jehovah's Witnesses. I don't shut the door in their face, though I can understand where some might actually need to.
I never said anything of the sort. I merely said you cannot pray with them. Straw men are very frustrating; please don’t erect them.
 

Rome2Geneva

Puritan Board Freshman
Well, I'll admit to being off-topic with the better part of valour being to bow out. But let me say, I've had Mormon missionaries come to the house, and I don't send them away. I take out my Scriptures, & even their writings, and we converse. Same with Jehovah's Witnesses. I don't shut the door in their face, though I can understand where some might actually need to. No, it isn't the question the OP asked, and I cautioned about one's reputation, but I hoped to use the example as to say we sometimes get too persnickety regarding fellowship. I say that as a long-standing and suffering member of both a church and denomination out of step with my personal persnicketys.
Thank you. While off topic I did want to suggest that while we should never shut the door in someone's face when there is an opportunity to share the Gospel (which I'm sure Taylor wasn't suggesting), that doesn't mean that we should, or are even permitted, to pray with them. In the case of Mormons and JWs we are talking about individuals who worship a strange god. I don't see how there could be any joint prayer with a pagan, Mohammadin, Mormon or JW.

There isn't any Biblical grounds for true fellowship with non-Christians. Courtesy, hospitality, and a sharing of the Gospel is all I can see as being appropriate.
 

reformed grit

Puritan Board Freshman
I never said anything of the sort. I merely said you cannot pray with them. Straw men are very frustrating; please don’t erect them.
LOL, and I never said or alluded that you said such a thing, dear brother. Sorry if it seemed so.
 

reformed grit

Puritan Board Freshman
Thank you. While off topic I did want to suggest that while we should never shut the door in someone's face when there is an opportunity to share the Gospel (which I'm sure Taylor wasn't suggesting), that doesn't mean that we should, or are even permitted, to pray with them. In the case of Mormons and JWs we are talking about individuals who worship a strange god. I don't see how there could be any joint prayer with a pagan, Mohammadin, Mormon or JW.

There isn't any Biblical grounds for true fellowship with non-Christians. Courtesy, hospitality, and a sharing of the Gospel is all I can see as being appropriate.
That's certainly one viable thought - "a strange god". I don't blame folk seeing it that way. We'd (you & I) agree though, that there is only 1 God; so another thought would be that Mormons & JWs are trying to worship the 1 God and doing it wrongly as people deceived. (cf. Acts 17:23, John 4: 20-30, Luke 19:40)
 
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Taylor

Puritan Board Graduate
That's certainly one viable thought - "a strange god". I don't blame folk seeing it that way. We'd (you & I) agree though, that there is only 1 God; so another thought would be that Mormons & JWs are trying to worship the 1 God and doing it wrongly as people deceived. (cf. Acts 17:23, John 4: 20-30, Luke 19:40)
I know this is off-topic at this point, and I mean no disrespect by this, but I am honestly a little astounded that a Reformed man would say such things. The Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses have the Scriptures. They sin openly against knowledge. They reject Christ with a high hand. They are nothing like the pagans of Athens of Paul’s day. They have idolatry in common, yet the sin and blasphemy of the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses is far more egregious.
 

reformed grit

Puritan Board Freshman
I know this is off-topic at this point, and I mean no disrespect by this, but I am honestly a little astounded that a Reformed man would say such things. The Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses have the Scriptures. They sin openly against knowledge. They reject Christ with a high hand. They are nothing like the pagans of Athens of Paul’s day. They have idolatry in common, yet the sin and blasphemy of the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses is far more egregious.
I guess you'll just remain astounded and we'll disagree on some points. I view all of creation as God-stamped, yet every denomination as somewhat flawed (even at some points "liberal", as a term denoting a degree of wrongness). We may perhaps agree on what it means to be unequally yoked, and certainly that, "those who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth " (Jn. 4:24).
 

reformed grit

Puritan Board Freshman
So, would you have an issue with the OP visiting and having communion with a Foursquare Church, as founded by Aimee Semple McPherson?
 

Taylor

Puritan Board Graduate
So, would you have an issue with the OP visiting and having communion with a Foursquare Church, as founded by Aimee Semple McPherson?
If that particular congregation professed the true religion, and there were no other options, I might consider it. But again, the Foursquare Church and Mormons/JWs are not different in degree, but in kind. With a Foursquare Church, there is still a chance, however slight, that the true religion is professed, however impurely. With the cults, there is by definition no possibility of such, even in the slightest. With a Foursquare Church, I could at least evaluate the individual church and hope they don’t entirely hold to their founder’s heresies, despite their association with her by name. With Mormons/JWs, they are to be rejected out of hand.
 

Tom Hart

Puritan Board Senior
Not on this topic, no. I will pray with an Arminian; we both worship Jehovah.
Even this must necessarily come with qualifications. It really depends on what is meant by “Arminian.” Some that I have met have espoused some rather alarming things - one self-professing “classical Arminian” being by far the worst.
 

Taylor

Puritan Board Graduate
Even this must necessarily come with qualifications. It really depends on what is meant by “Arminian.” Some that I have met have espoused some rather alarming things - one self-professing “classical Arminian” being by far the worst.
Good point, and I agree. Arminianism is such a varied theology, as I said a while back here.
 

Tom Hart

Puritan Board Senior
That I would not worship in many churches does not mean that I discount them as brothers and sisters in Christ. I would not return to worship at the evangelical megachurch I left years ago. Their Hillsong-derived, concert-style worship I regard as blasphemous. I am still in touch with some members there, though. I do not doubt they are believers, though we differ on our theology of worship and other things.

I acknowledge that, as my convictions around the RPW have tightened, I have become more strict with respect to worshipping in other churches. I cannot now in good conscience participate in such will worship as has now taken over so much of the church. There are, however, distinctions to be made. Not all false worship is of the same degree. For example, if there is hymn singing I will stand silently, probably reading out of my pocket psalter, but once they bring out the dancers, I’ll walk out (and I have done).
 

reformed grit

Puritan Board Freshman
If that particular congregation professed the true religion, and there were no other options, I might consider it. But again, the Foursquare Church and Mormons/JWs are not different in degree, but in kind. With a Foursquare Church, there is still a chance, however slight, that the true religion is professed, however impurely. With the cults, there is by definition no possibility of such, even in the slightest. With a Foursquare Church, I could at least evaluate the individual church and hope they don’t entirely hold to their founder’s heresies, despite their association with her by name. With Mormons/JWs, they are to be rejected out of hand.
Ah, but there are many Mormons and JWs who are quite removed from what their founders taught. Most if not all of the Mormon missionaries I've encountered have little idea of that. I've had even a son of a Mormon elder come to accept what I've communicated about the true Gospel, yet unwilling to split from his family. JW missionaries too, often are quite befuddled when confronted with Gospel truth. There are times one might consider them as Christians caught in a web of death. Not all are on-board with what their leadership teaches.
 

Taylor

Puritan Board Graduate
Ah, but there are many Mormons and JWs who are quite removed from what their founders taught. Most if not all of the Mormon missionaries I've encountered have little idea of that. I've had even a son of a Mormon elder come to accept what I've communicated about the true Gospel, yet unwilling to split from his family. JW missionaries too, often are quite befuddled when confronted with Gospel truth. There are times one might consider them as Christians caught in a web of death. Not all are on-board with what their leadership teaches.
Sorry, this whole thing is apples and oranges. Being caught up in an Arminian or even a Foursquare church is simply not even in the same league as being unwilling to leave a cult because you’re afraid you might offend your family. Those who do not leave such idolatrous assemblies, despite what they have come to believe, are countenancing a false church and giving credence to a false god.
 

retroGRAD3

Puritan Board Junior
Mormans are polytheists, how could they possibly be considered Christian? JWs think Jesus is Michael the archangel. Both deny the Trinity. There is a chasm between what they believe and Orthodox Christianity.
 

MChase

Puritan Board Freshman
Mormans are polytheists, how could they possibly be considered Christian? JWs think Jesus is Michael the archangel. Both deny the Trinity. There is a chasm between what they believe and Orthodox Christianity.

Just a note on this. There is good reformed testimony that Michael is Jesus.

This is an excellent sermon on the subject.
tinysa.com/sermon/130221827437680
 
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