The Scriptures make it clear that the Church is to be one body (1 Corinthians 12:27; Ephesians 4:4-6). When we become children of God through faith in the finished work of Christ, we become part of the family of God (Romans 8:9; 1 Corinthians 12:12-13) that transcends cultures, languages, and ethnic groups (Galatians 3:26-29). Therefore, to preface what I am about to write on, the Church is not to be divided but unified by the Spirit of God (1 Corinthians 1:10). Jesus made it known to His disciples that we are to love one another and thus prove to the world that we are Jesus’ disciples (John 13:34-35). I am called to worship with all who call upon the Lord with a pure heart.
We know, however, that there are differences in the Church when it comes to theology. I believe if more Arminians could see that Calvinists are true brethren in Christ and not our enemies (and vice versa), then we could see great progress in the kingdom of God. But for now we tend to be in Galatians 5:13-15. We tend to bite and devour one another instead of build each other up in Christ despite our differences.
But could I attend, on a regular basis, an openly Calvinistic church? I am sure many Calvinist have asked the same thing to themselves about Arminian churches. Often we are quick to say “No,” but let me first add why I could attend a Calvinist church if the conditions were right for me to do so.
1. Expository Preaching – If the Calvinist church is faithfully preaching the Word of God (and for me that means expository) then I could attend. I long for sound doctrine to be taught (Titus 2:1) that is based on the clear teachings of Scripture.
2. Passion For God – Does the Bible teacher along with the elders and the church have a passion for God? I don’t just mean emotionalism, but rather I mean a passion for the presence of God, worship in singing and praise that is not dictated by a clock or a program. Does the leadership truly reveal a servant’s heart for the lost and for the Lord?
3. Prayer – Does the church pray? Leonard Ravenhill wrote that prayer is the acid test of devotion. I agree. Prayer demonstrates our faith in a living God who is able to do more than we could ask or hope for (Ephesians 3:20). Jesus told us to pray always (Luke 18:1) as did Paul (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Prayer should not be something we do in passing, but it should be one of the hallmarks of the Church (see Acts 2:43).
4. Evangelism – Does the church communicate God’s heart for the lost to the people? By evangelism I don’t mean just some kind of “outreach program” but a burning zeal for Jesus that takes His gospel into the world (Mark 16:15). Does the church use the Law of God to bring about conviction (Romans 3:19; 7:14)? Does the church concern itself with God’s heart in world missions (Matthew 28:19-20; 1 Corinthians 16:1-2)?
Under those conditions, I could attend a Calvinist church. But there is a Calvinist church I could not attend. I could not attend:
1. Disingenuous Toward Others – If the Calvinists are completely disingenuous toward those who disagree with them such as Arminians and have a “we alone are saved” attitude, then I could not attend.
2. Lack of Emphasis on Holiness – If the Calvinists are not passionate about holiness and avoiding sin, then I would not attend. I believe God’s call is holiness (1 Peter 1:16-17). We are to strive for perfection (2 Corinthians 13:11). Will we attain it in this life? No, but this does not mean that we ignore God’s command for holiness (Hebrews 12:14-15).
3. Hyper-Calvinist – I could not attend a hyper-Calvinist church. Period.
4. Theological But With No Passion – Whether it be an Arminian church or a Calvinist church, despite the sound theological preaching and teaching, without passion it goes nowhere. I want to know Jesus, but I want to burn with a love for Him more and more (2 Peter 3:18; Revelation 2:4; 3:14-17).
5. Overemphasis On Particular Calvinist Doctrines – For example, I could not attend a church where every sermon, lesson, study, etc. is on eternal security. Whether it be Arminian or Calvinist, if the entire counsel of God’s Word is not being taught, then it is not building up the kingdom (Ephesians 4:11-16). I believe it is dangerous to harp on one doctrine other than the king of Kings, our Savior Jesus Christ.
Conclusion – I could attend a Calvinist church like first type above. I have never been to one, sadly, but this doesn’t mean that there is not one out there or one that God may lead me to in the future. For now, I will continue to worship with my fellow Arminians and seek to build God’s kingdom by faithfully teaching His Word. Whether you attend a Calvinist church or an Arminian church, be passionate about Jesus above your own theology and, in fact, make Jesus the Lord over your theology (Philippians 2:5-11).