Encouraging, Living, Reaching

TBT – Are the Assemblies Guilty of Sectarianism?

TBT – Are the Assemblies Guilty of Sectarianism?

This article was written by Bill McCartney and published in “Letters of Interest”, January 1951. Section titles have been added by the assemblyHUB editors. 

How should we apply Romans 15:7?-“Wherefore receive ye one another as Christ also received us to the glory of God.”

Those of us who for many years have met in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ can come to no other conclusion than this that the Scriptures provide no other plan of gathering than that which we, as assemblies of God’s people, have sought to maintain. The most beautiful thing in this world of sin and confusion is a company of redeemed ones meeting in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and seeking to fulfil the Scriptures in maintaining the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Why is assembly growth so small?

But these questions often arise: Why is it that our growth, especially in this land, has been so small? Why is it that we see today so little evidence of that of which Acts 19:20 speaks: “So mightily grew the Word of God and prevailed”? Why is it that assemblies are not springing up all over the United States of America and Canada?

One cannot but feel that it is because we have cut down the large upper room to conform to our own traditions. Romans 15:7 sets the very highest standard for reception. “Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God.”

How can we, beloved brethren, lower such a divine and holy standard? It is the desire of the great Head of the Church not only that all men might be saved, but, according to Ephesians 3:9, that all men might see what is the fellowship or administration of the mystery.

On the look-out

Would to God we had more in our assemblies with large hearts, such as had Priscilla and Aquila, who would keep vigil for the Apolloses and invite them into their homes to teach them the way of the Lord more perfectly. It is recorded in Acts 28:30 that Paul dwelt in his own hired house and “received all that came unto him,” preaching the kingdom of God and teaching those things which concern our Lord Jesus Christ.

But today we misapply the Scripture, “Come out from among them and be ye separate,” and so isolate ourselves from the unsaved and from the Lord’s people that we have few to save and few to teach. In this we are unlike our blessed Lord who ate and drank with publicans and sinners and was ever teaching and encouraging the uninstructed ones.

Avoiding the extreme

Of course, we are not here countenancing denominational-ism, nor are we advocating affinity with sectarian groups. But we are saying that if in our abhorrence of denominational-ism we go to the extreme of excluding from our fellowship every believer who has not been taught the truth of God as we know it, then we ourselves have become guilty of sectarianism.

Let us not be guilty of falsehood when we sing, “Here everyone that loves Thy name our willing hearts embrace.” How many of the choicest of God’s people might be with us today if we only extended to them a warm welcome and took time to explain in a loving, courteous manner the precious truths we enjoy and seek to practice to the glory of God.

Avoiding hypocrisy

How often we hear from Christians the strong rebuke, “If you people practiced what you preach we would be with you.”

Why not, brethren, get down on our faces before God and confess our sin in the mishandling of the holy things of God and seek in these last days to gather His saints together unto Him? Then perhaps once again we would enjoy the growth of the early church.

Editorial Note: Bill McCartney was the founding editor of Letters of Interest magazine and the principal person behind the formation of Stewards Foundation. His passion, revealed in the articles he wrote, was that new assemblies be planted and established assemblies grow in number and depth.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect any other author or an official position of the assemblyHUB team.


This is a general post published by the assemblyHUB team. At times we will post articles that we feel will be helpful and encouraging or challenging to our readers. We pray the Lord will use them for His glory.

9 Responses to TBT – Are the Assemblies Guilty of Sectarianism?

  1. Avatar

    Good stuff, again!

    Great reminder. It does say something that I think we need to tweak, before applying to ourselves: “In this we are unlike our blessed Lord who ate and drank with publicans and sinners and was ever teaching and encouraging the uninstructed ones.”

    The Lord did eat and drink with publicans and sinners. But He never allowed confusion about whether He, himself, was a publican or a sinner. He was gracious, because he was the embodiment of the Gospel of Grace. But he was always in the midst of publicans and sinners with the clear purpose of redeeming them.

    By contrast, it is easy for us to fall into the trap of thinking we are reaching the world by resembling it. If there is no discernible difference between ourselves and the lost, what reason do they have to look to us for help? Our good works are to shine before men, such that they look at OUR works and glorify OUR FATHER.

    Thanks again for publishing this excellent article.

  2. Avatar
    Randall Shuford

    Fellowshipped in assemblies for 17 yrs appreciate the article

  3. Avatar
    Harold Williamson

    Great article wish we had more of that kind of teaching here in Northern Ireland where a sectarian attitude abounds among so many assemblies

  4. Avatar

    I feel compelled to point out “the Assemblies” is a remarkably sectarian term. My first impulse is to ask “Which assemblies?”

    Unless we’re talking about every gathering (regardless of denominational affiliation), we’re not talking about “the Assemblies” in the biblical sense.

    • Avatar
      Crawford Paul

      Hi Mark. I think the writer was agreeing with you. I don’t think that having affiliated gatherings are wrong. That’s not sectarian but the article addresses the attitude against others that is wrong.

      The brethren movement started with a much wider acceptance that it does now. That is what we need to get back to. Thanks for your input!

  5. Avatar
    John Dunne

    If the assemblies were truly led by the Holy Spirit , then revival would erupt in England and other places – the fear of man brings a snare and sadly the fear of offending other assemblies is rife at the cost of displeasing the Holy Spirit – to such emphasis on the assembly efforts in outreach . It has to be the Holy Spirit leading and guiding , and the autonomy of the local assembly being accountable to God alone ( not just preached but practised !! I learnt a lot from Godly men and women in the assemblies who were often grieved by heard hearts ( As is the Holy Spirit ! ) I thank God for the 20 years I spent there , and the many happy memories and fellowship enjoyed – but unless there is a radical change of heart , which only the Holy Spirit can bring about , I can,t see them departing from there traditions !! Hope I,m proved wrong x

    • Avatar
      Crawford Paul

      Thanks for your comments brother. I believe the Holy Spirit IS doing a work to change the way things are. You are 100% right that it must be the work of the Holy Spirit.

  6. Avatar
    Jennifer Di Pasquale

    In every assembly there are the professors and the possessors if the Holy Spirit. Not all who meet together are in the church, or the body of Christ. We must remember this, and this is why we see this hard-heartedness and legalism which has been spoken of here. Legalism lacks love, but liberalism lacks truth. We read that in every N.T. church written to in the Scriptures there are warnings about false brethren. Just because these wolves are amongst the sheep is no reason to leave the assemblies and join the denominations. They are far from keeping sound doctrinal principles. I was brought up in the assemblies and over sixty-five years I am still there. I have seen first hand the things spoken of above in the article, but they are no reason for me to go somewhere that does not adhere to sound doctrine, and be a part of all the divisions, which is totally unscriptural.. I know that it has been prophesied that in the last days there would be a falling away from the faith once delivered to the saints. The assemblies are crumbling and have been for decades now. I believe that these dreadful modern corrupt versions are very much responsible for this falling away. But those who do possess “the Spirit of truth” will not faint but go in obeying the Lord until He come.

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