I was talking with a distinguished doctor who was commenting on missionary practices in his area of the world. According to him, there is much valuable work being done, and the people doing it are certainly earnest and dedicated believers. But there is one thing lacking. "We want so much to win the people to Christ," he said, "that we are watering down the gospel to the point where believing in Christ hardly means anything. There is no repentance, no change of life. It is easy to become Christ’s follower."

There is a variety of places in which Christian service is performed. I have been called to the city of Philadelphia and I’m very much concerned about cities, Philadelphia in particular. I have preached on commitment to a particular place (like Philadelphia) so much that I can hardly come to a mention of the word "place" without thinking along these lines. I believe in a commitment to the great cities of the world so much and I want a commitment to Philadelphia by many Christian workers so much that I can hardly stand to see a person go somewhere else. I am sometimes critical, especially when I see a person go to what I consider an easy, pleasant, or affluent area, especially if it is for what I consider to be the wrong motives.

There is only one way we will ever defeat this tendency to an improper narrowness in our view of Christian work, and that is to recover a vision of the greatness of the Church as Christ’s body. We need to recover the truth Paul writes about in 1 Corinthians: "There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men" (1 Cor. 12:4-6). According to this and other passages, the church contains a variety of gifts, styles, causes, and methods of ministry.

The second historical example of separatism harming the gospel occurred in the Roman Church of the Middle Ages. The medieval church was orthodox in many respects. It upheld the doctrines of the Trinity, the divine-human nature of Christ, the atoning work of Christ, the work of the Holy Spirit, the inspiration and authority of the Bible, and many other teachings. But something happened during those centuries. The Roman church spoke of salvation through the grace of God in Christ, but it came to think of the impartation of this grace as something belonging to the church and to be controlled by it.

Before we draw conclusions as to what a Christian’s relationship to other professed believers should be, we need to examine this story carefully. One of the things we need to see is that although in this case Jesus said that the one who is not against us (and him) is for us, it does not follow that there could never be a case or circumstance in which a person could be opposed to Christ’s kingdom.