January 17, 2018

The Fellowship Principle

John Mincy

The intention of this article is to explain one of the purposes of the FBFI as briefly described in a 2003 resolution, which reads:

The FBFI reaffirms its identity as a fellowship of individuals who hold to the Statement of Purpose and Statement of Faith in the FBFI constitution. We believe that this Fellowship is vital for the encouragement of godly men worldwide. As we move forward and face new battles, it is essential for us to be guided by the Spirit and Scripture in correctly identifying both friend and foe. We urge the leadership of the FBFI, both now and in the future, to carefully seek God’s face in knowing what issues are essential to our movement and what issues are those on which godly men can agree to disagree. We must hold the concepts of unity and purity in dynamic tension. The spirit of our meetings must be gracious in areas where we legitimately disagree yet bold in the defense of those foundational doctrines that bind us together. Through the ministries of the FBFI we will always seek to encourage and strengthen the hands of God’s faithful servants, holding a thoroughly Biblical position with a thoroughly Biblical disposition.

The FBFI is a fellowship, and true fellowship among believers is always a two-way street. The word implies that there is a giving and receiving in such a relationship. Each needs to believe that God can use him in the life of another, and each needs to believe that he can learn something from everyone. True fellowship has no room for pride or arrogance.

The FBFI is a fellowship of individuals: pastors, missionaries, musicians, educators, and “laymen” of many varieties. Often we are mistakenly viewed as a fellowship of churches and other organizations. In fact, realizing that we are made up of individuals makes the resolution above much more important. We should remain focused on serving and building up fellow Christians, not building up an organization.

According to our constitution, to become a member of the FBFI, “all applicants for membership must give testimony of their agreement with and obedience to the Statement of Faith of the Fellowship by signature on the membership application form.” Everyone is encouraged to attend fellowship times whether they be local, regional, or national, but membership is restricted to those who share the convictions of the FBFI. It should be the desire of each member, however, to minister to everyone, whether or not he is a member.

The FBFI also realizes that its members, as they are led by the Holy Spirit through the Word, will have differing convictions in areas not delineated in the constitution. This issue has been addressed several times in Fellowship resolutions, such as the one in 2004:

Historic Fundamentalism exercised great latitude among the brethren regarding convictions over which good men disagree. Therefore, we must not so restrict this latitude in our day by narrowing our fellowship exclusively to those brethren with whom we agree on all points and thereby hinder the greater cause of Christ. We must continue to study, know, and defend the essentials and to agree to disagree, if necessary, on those which are not (such as philosophy of youth work, pastoral authority, political involvement, versions, certain aspects of Calvinism, dating, divorce, evangelism/discipleship methodology, etc.). As Baptists we certainly wish to practice the doctrine of individual soul liberty and allow others to do so, but we need to pursue unity in every Biblical way that we can, especially in a day when there is much division over things not essential. Within the Fundamental Baptist movement we must prioritize an active love for our brethren, so that we demonstrate a Biblically based tolerance toward those with whom we disagree.

Our goal is to cultivate an atmosphere of Biblical fellowship in order to build one another up in the faith, even though we may differ in some of our convictions, or, as our constitution says, “we purpose to foster a genuine spirit of love and Biblical unity among those who are truly Fundamentalists.”

The desire of the FBFI is to maintain both unity and purity—to have uncompromising fellowship. True separatist fellowship is often seen as an oxymoron, but we wish to emphasize both while avoiding either extreme—in other words, to have obedient fellowship. The emphasis in this article is on unity and fellowship, an emphasis that was declared in a 1995 resolution regarding Scriptural unity:

The FBF endeavors to practice Biblical separation but at the same time recognizes that Scripture equally emphasizes the need for true unity among believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. Created by God through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, it is the responsibility of each believer to jealously guard and maintain this unity (Ephesians 4:3). We believe that visible unity should not be disturbed by personal ambition (1 Corinthians 12:18), personalities (1 Corinthians 1–4), or disputes over doubtful things (Romans 14:1–13). As our Lord prayed for unity (John 17) among His followers, so should we pray for a true Biblical unity. We believe that the Scriptural teaching concerning the Person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ should be the center of our unity.

We must come to grips with the fact that Scripture imposes a theological imperative on us to promote Biblical unity as well as Biblical separation. We must have the spirit of Barnabas to reach out to the Sauls and Marks, those who need our encouragement to continue serving God. We must have the spirit of Timothy, who served as a son with the apostle Paul. We must have the spirit of Epaphroditus, a brother, fellow worker, and fellow soldier who ministered to Paul in a time of great trial, even to the point of death. We must have the spirit of Paul’s “yokefellow” and reach out to men and women who labor in the gospel (Phil. 4:3). We must have the spirit of the great apostle to the Gentiles, who himself was a mentor to many—especially to his two younger brethren, Timothy and Titus.

We are to love one another (John 13:34), to prefer one another (Rom. 12:10), to “be of the same mind one toward another” (Rom. 12:16), to edify one another (Rom. 14:19), to admonish one another (Rom. 15:14), to serve one another through love (Gal. 5:13), to be kind and forgive one another (Eph. 4:32), to comfort one another (1 Thess. 4:18), to exhort one another (Heb. 3:13), to confess our sins against each other and pray for one another (James 5:16), and to have fellowship with one another (1 John 1:7). We would especially encourage FBFI pastors of larger churches and those in bigger metropolitan areas to remember how lonely it is for pastors of smaller churches (and those in more remote areas). We would encourage pastors with more resources not only to attend fellowships for the encouragement of others but also to seek out and help other pastors to participate in our state, regional, and national meetings. Perhaps, in some cases, we should start a regular local time of fellowship, if none exists.

We must promote purposeful effort to encourage and strengthen God’s faithful servants. As our constitution says, “We purpose to strengthen the Fundamentalist movement and to furnish a rallying point in defense of the faith . . . to which pastors, Christian workers, and lay-people everywhere who share our convictions can come to find refuge, strength, encouragement and fellowship.”

And finally, we must do this while maintaining a Biblical position and a Biblical attitude: “We purpose to foster a genuine spirit of love and Biblical unity among those who are truly Fundamentalists” (FBFI Constitution).

True Biblical unity will be without compromise, and it will be without a spirit of condescension, jealousy, envy, suspicion, or strife. Such unity will lead us to the place of the Lord’s blessing. Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments; As the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the Lord commanded the blessing, even life for evermore (Psalm 133).

John Mincy, formerly a pastor, continues to serve the Lord in his local church and through ministry with missionaries around the world.

(Originally published in FrontLine • May/June 2008. Click here to subscribe to the magazine.)

Speak Your Mind


Although Proclaim & Defend is the blog of the FBFI, the articles we post are not an expression of the views of the FBFI as a whole, they are the views of the author under whose name they are published. The FBFI speaks either through position statements by its board or through its president. Here at Proclaim & Defend, we publish articles as matters of interest or edification to the wider world of fundamentalist Baptists and any others who might be interested.

Submit other comments here.