From "The Normal Christian Church Life" - Watchman Nee
Non-sectarianism. Some Christians think they know better than to say, "I am of Cephas," or, "I am of Paul," or, "I am of Apollos." They say, "I am of Christ." Such Christians despise the others as sectarian, and on that ground start another community. Their attitude is: You are sectarian. I am non-sectarian. You are hero-worshipers, we worship the Lord alone.
But God's Word does not only condemn those who say, "I am of Cephas," "I am of Paul," or, "I am of Apollos." It just as definitely and just as clearly denounces those who say, "I am of Christ." It is not wrong to reckon oneself as belonging only to Christ. It is right and even essential. Nor is it wrong to repudiate all schism amongst the children of God; it is highly commendable. God does not condemn this class of Christians for either of these two things; He condemns them for the very sin they condemn in others - their sectarianism. As a protest against division among the children of God; many believers seek to divide those who do not divide as from those who do, and never dream that they themselves are divisive. Their ground of division may be more plausible than that of others who divide on the ground of doctrinal differences or personal preference for certain leaders, but the fact remains that they are dividing the children of God. Even while they repudiate schism elsewhere, they are schismatic themselves.
You say, "I am of Christ." Do you mean to say others are not? It is perfectly legitimate for you to say, 'I am of Christ" if your remark merely implies to whom you belong; but if it implies, "I am not sectarian; I stand quite differently from you sectarians," then it is making a difference between them and other Christians. The very thought of distinguishing between the children of God has its springs in the carnal nature of man and is sectarian.
What then is right? All exclusiveness is wrong. All inclusiveness (of true children of God) is right. Denominations are not Scriptural and we ought to have no part in them, but if we adopt an attitude of criticism and think, They are denominational: I am undenominational; they belong to sects, I belong to Christ alone - such differentiating is definitely sectarian.
Yes, praise God, I am of Christ, but my fellowship is not merely with those who say, "I am of Christ," but with all who are of Christ. I do not so much mind what they say, but I very much mind what they are. I do not enquire whether they are denominational or undenominational, sectarian or unsectarian. I only enquire, Are they of Christ? If they are of Christ, then they are my brethren.
Our personal standing should be undenominational, but the basis of our fellowship is not undenominationalism. We ourselves should be non-sectarian, but we dare not insist on non-sectarianism as a condition of fellowship. Our only ground of fellowship is Christ. Our fellowship must be with all the believers in a locality, not merely with all the unsectarian believers in that locality. They may make denominational differences, but we must not make undenominational requirements. Their denominationalism or sectarianism will mean that severe limitations are imposed upon the Lord as to His purpose and mind for them, and this will mean that they will never go beyond a certain measure of spiritual growth and fullness. Blessing there may be, but fullness of divine purpose never.
When we come to a place where Christ is not named, we must preach the Gospel, win men to the Lord, and found a local church. If we come to a place where there are already Christians but on various grounds these believers separate themselves into denominational "churches," our task is just the same as in the other place - we must preach the Gospel, lead men to the Lord, and form them into a church on the scriptural ground of locality. All the while we must maintain an attitude of inclusiveness, not exclusiveness, towards those believers who are in different sects, for they, as we are children of God, and they live in the same locality, therefore they belong to the same church as we do. For ourselves, we cannot join any sect or remain in one, for our church connection can only be on local ground. Let us be clear on this point, that an undenominational church is not a local church. There is a vast difference between the two. A local church is undenominational and it is positive and inclusive, but an undenominational church is not a local church, and it is negative and exclusive.
Let us be clear as to our position. We are not out to establish undenominational churches but local churches. We are seeking to do a positive work. If believers can be led to see what a local church is - the expression of the Body of Christ in a locality - they will certainly not remain in any sect. On the other hand it is possible for them to see all the evils of sectarianism, and leave them, without knowing what a local church is.
I do not condone sectarianism and I do not believe we should belong to any sect, but it is not our business to get people to leave them. If we make it our chief concern to lead people to a real knowledge of the Lord and the power of His Cross, then they will gladly abandon themselves to Him and will learn to walk in the Spirit, repudiating the things of the flesh. We shall find there will be no need to stress the question of denominations, for the Spirit Himself will enlighten them. If a believer has not learned the way of the Cross and the walk in the Spirit, what is gained by his coming out of a sect?