Why This Fellowship of Churches is Different
Every Christian group, association or denomination differs somewhat from the others. Each has distinct doctrine, practices, modes of operation, etc. The churches in this fellowship, which call themselves the body of Christ, are distinct from other Pentecostal groups and denominations. We do not claim to be better than others who are sincerely serving the Lord, but our mission is different. If we had the exact same mission as some other religious group, then we would join and be a part of that group. We believe they should be true to their vision, and we should hold to the vision the Lord has given us. Proverbs 29:18 says, "Where there is no vision, the people perish." Some people can have a vision, and lose it. Isaiah 29:11 "And the vision of all is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed."
So many people, who once seemed to have a vision of the mission God gave to this fellowship of churches, are now spiritually-blind. Some are in Babylon; some think they are closer to God without the church. They have lost their vision. Habakkuk 2:2 says to "Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it." We have been given a vision in the body of Christ. But in order to pass that vision on to the next generation, we must make that vision plain, so those who are running this Christian race will know what this is all about. Sometimes people wonder, "Why aren't your churches more like other evangelical church denominations, or why don't you act like the Pentecostals in some other denomination? They seem to enjoy life more than we do, yet they love God."
This fellowship is different from other associations and denomination, yet there are sincere people who love the Lord, and they don't believe like we do, they don't act like we do, they don't dress like we do, they don't even think like we do. Why are we so different? This fellowship has always been different, gloriously different, from every other group of churches in Christianity. That is not at all surprising. There are differences in denominations; differences between Catholics and Orthodox, differences between Methodists and Baptists, differences between Assemblies of God and Church of God in Christ.
Again, if we were exactly like some denomination - in doctrine, order, tradition, etc., then we'd be united with that denomination. But we have been called to be a distinct religious movement. We have been a distinct fellowship ever since God called Brother William Sowders on the banks of the Ohio River over 90 years ago. We have a mission - a unique mission that differentiates us from every other Christian group. It's not that we are better than anyone else; God forbid that we should think so. But our mission is different. Just as others may have been called to work in some denominational church, we have been called of God to work in this fellowship. We must be true to our calling. God called Brother Sowders. He called him to lead a people and He gave that people a mission that has not yet been completed. That mission was different than the mission He gave to Martin Luther and the movement he founded. It was different from the mission He gave John and Charles Wesley and the Methodist movement.
Our mission is different from the mission of the Assemblies of God, or the Baptist churches, or the United Pentecostal Church. At times someone asks, "What is different about this church? What is it that sets this fellowship apart from other Pentecostal and charismatic churches and organizations?" We could write volumes addressing our similarities to other Christian movements - we are a distinctly Christian group of churches. We believe in salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. We look to the Bible as our only source of authority on doctrine and church order. But instead of writing about these and other similarities with other Christian groups, we are going to look into the areas that distinguish this fellowship, which we believe is the true body of Christ, from everything else in Christianity.
There are at least five major points of difference:
- a different message
- a different spirit
- a different purpose
- a different order
- a different organizational structure
As a people, we do not aspire to be like anyone else. Yes, we preach repentance to sinners, pray them through to the Holy Ghost, lay hands on the sick, and so forth - just like many Pentecostal movements. But God has called us to do more, and to be more, than just a people with a social gospel. This group claims to be the body of Christ. What makes the body of Christ the body of Christ?