In my last blog post, I mentioned the title of a sermon I once heard, “Things I’ll Die For, Things I’ll Fight For, and Things I’ll Fuss About,” and explained the need for category distinction with respect to Christian doctrine. This week, I’m taking some liberty with the title. In actuality, I’d physically walk away rather than physically fight over this Tier 2 category of issues. In fact, walking away is a more appropriate analogy because 2nd Tier issues and doctrines are the ones that determine whether Christians can fellowship together as members of the same local church. If a believer determines that he cannot in good conscience participate in a local church because of one or more Tier 2 issues, he needs to join a different church.
If I’m thinking of joining a local church I want to find out what they believe and how they practice the issues below. Here are a few Tier 2 doctrines and what they look like in our church:
The Lord’s Supper (Communion): At Emmanuel Baptist Church (EBC) we observe closed communion. This means we allow confessing believers in Christ in our church and those who may be visiting with us to participate. Some churches observe closed communion, allowing only members of that local church to participate. Other churches observe open communion, allowing anyone to participate. As you can see, this is not a tier 1 issue, directly tied to one’s salvation. It is however, important enough to help guide which church you will join.
Baptism: At EBC we hold to believer’s baptism by immersion. There are other churches that pour, sprinkle, dunk 3 times and the like. We believe that baptism by immersion is faithful to the text of Scripture and best represents the gospel of the Lord Jesus. Again, we are not saying that those who have been poured or sprinkled on are not believers, but we do believe that immersion is what the Scripture teaches and that is not going to change. Therefore, this ordinance as well would govern one’s choice of a local church.
Church Discipline: At EBC we hold to a biblical view of redemptive church discipline and through humility and hope we practice it as necessary. There are many churches who do not practice church discipline or who only hold to it in word but not in practice. I would not say these people are not believers, but I would say they are being disobedient to a clear command of Scripture and doing harm to the individual and to the corporate body of Christ. Once again, you can see that this doctrine would prohibit some believers from joining some churches.
Church Government: At EBC we hold to a view of church government that makes room for the offices of Elder and Deacon. We understand Scripture to teach that Elders govern the church spiritually and Deacons serve the church physically. There are some churches where the governing body is a board of trustees, still others have the deacons leading the church. We love our brothers and sisters in Christ but we would not join those churches because we see clear commands in Scripture for the way the church should be governed.
Liturgy (Order of Service): At EBC we believe every corporate gathering of the church should have certain biblical components to it. These include praying, confessing, Scripture reading, singing, giving, and preaching. We are not legalists, merely checking each of these boxes every time we meet. However, we believe that the vast majority of all worship services at our church have these components in the order of service. If a church regularly diminishes any of these categories, especially that of the preaching of the word, I would not be able to join that church.