Whoever heard of such a question and why would someone even consider asking it? Even those who have a limited knowledge of the Bible can answer this question without giving much thought to it. And yet, some among us will give the right answer, but will not practice it themselves. Forty years ago practically every member of the Lord’s Church would have been able to quickly give the correct answer supplying book, chapter and verse for their reasoning. Forty years ago, the Lord’s Church was stronger than it is today. Forty years ago elderships were stronger than they are today. Forty years ago gospel preachers were stronger than they are today. My how the “winds of change” have swept through the Church over this period of time and continue to sweep through her. Never has this writer known so many who once stood for the truth now finding it not expedient to do so. Long time friends, co-workers in the Lord, families and congregations have been torn asunder over this very question in the last few years. The fellowship issue among us is not in the process of dividing the church; it has already divided it! Solomon warned that “he that soweth discord among brethren” (Prov.6:19), was something that God hates. What started with false teaching and practice by the Brown Trail Church of Christ has divided the precious bride of Christ and continues to divide her. If one has not heard of Dave Miller preaching false doctrine on “Reevaluation and Reaffirmation of Elders” and the Elders at Brown Trail agreeing to put it into practice, the question should be asked, why not? The evidence is not contrived or made up, but undeniable. And yet, many refuse to believe what happened at Brown Trail really happened or they make excuses why they had to do it. Sounds like Saul telling Samuel that he had to force himself to offer sacrifices to God (1 Sam.13:12). It does not matter why someone preached false doctrine and why false doctrine was practiced, the only thing that matters is that they repent and if they do not fellowship must be withdrawn until they do (Rom.16:17; 2 John 10-11). Many who have believed and practiced this in the past (Memphis School of Preaching, Gospel Broadcasting Network, Apologetics Press to name just a few) have decided to continue to fellowship Dave Miller in spite of the facts and in spite of what the scriptures teach. Consequently, the title of this article seems correct after all.
Back to the question before us, how many false teachers can we continue to fellowship before it becomes sin? One brother jokingly stated not more than four or five, what with the way some brethren define fellowship. But, what does the Bible teach? The Bible teaches that if we extend fellowship to even one false teacher we sin. “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them” (Eph.5: 11). For years the faithful churches of Christ have had no fellowship with the denominations or other false religions of the world, a.k.a., unfruitful works of darkness, because of their false teaching and false practices. However, the scriptural rules seem not to apply when it comes to brethren, especially when the brother is a fellow gospel preacher who has taught false doctrine. Paul did not write “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, unless, they are your bosom buddies or they are involved in a work you believe to be good.” Paul said “no fellowship.” If Christians pick and choose what they would like to obey and what they do not want to obey they are no better than the denominations for that is exactly what they do. Paul’s inspired ruling on this subject applies to all.
One might as well ask how much darkness can one continue to live in and still have fellowship with God? John writes “That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3). John continues writing, “This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). As Christians, for our fellowship with the Father and the Son to continue we must continue to walk or live faithful to His word (1 John 1:7). Remembering, that in God is no darkness at all, how much darkness can be in us and we remain in fellowship with God? None. This does not mean one is sinlessly perfect, but one has the ability to ask God for forgiveness when one sins “and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth (keeps on cleansing) us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). Verse six of this text explains, “If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth.” Therefore, if one will fellowship even one person who is a false teacher, whether it is Billy Graham, Rubel Shelly, Max Lucado, or Dave Miller, they sin. The truth is not in them and consequently that individual forfeits fellowship with God. As one brother stated, “This is not rocket science.” This is not hard to understand, just hard for some to obey.
How many false teachers can we fellowship and still be in fellowship with God? The Bible teaches not one. However, some brethren still do not get it. Some continue to fellowship Dave Miller because of his work at Apologetics Press. Although, it has been documented that AP will go anywhere to hold its program, even if a congregation is known to be rank liberal, a.k.a., “unfruitful works of darkness.” Some will continue to fellowship Dave Miller because he has written books and articles that taught the truth. Rubel Shelly used to teach the truth on liberalism at one time, does that mean faithful brethren should extend fellowship to him? When this writer attended the Memphis School of Preaching, the instructors brought Rubel’s name up time and again explaining how far he had drifted from the truth and why fellowship had to be withdrawn from him and rightly so. Yet, the same instructors now extend fellowship to Dave Miller; a known false teacher, and this writer cannot see a difference between Rubel Shelly and Dave Miller. Does MSOP see a difference between these two men that many do not or does MSOP just see things differently than they used to? The scriptures are still plain, “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple” (Rom. 16:17-18).
How many programs can we continue to fellowship that fellowship false teachers and still be in fellowship with God? When a program like Apologetics Press or the Gospel Broadcasting Network uses a false teacher (Dave Miller) is it right to continue to support them? Many who give an affirmative to this question at one time said no. Now, they evidently believe it is wrong to cancel out a good work for this reason. The problem with that reasoning is that when a program uses a false teacher it is no longer the good work it used to be. When has it ever been right to do wrong or when is doing wrong considered to be right? And why do some brethren who refuse to see this refuse to accept what John taught recorded in 2 John 9-11? For those who have forgotten, John wrote, “Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.” Programs, works, even congregations who use false teachers are guilty of their false deeds. Whoever the individual is, whether he has taught the truth in the past, a fellow gospel preacher or a bosom buddy must not have fellowship extended to him. Therefore, when a program or work partakes in the false teachers evil deeds they can no longer be supported by faithful brethren.
Many are praying that those who have created this division among us repent before it is everlastingly too late. However, if they will not, the faithful must continue to “earnestly contend for the faith” (Jude 3).