How do I respond to people who ask me to come to their denominational church services after I have invited them to the assembly meetings?
Sometimes, these situations can be awkward, as people will accuse assembly believers of being exclusive and “narrow-minded isolationalists.” They will even openly say, “You people think that you’re the only ones who are right!” It’s not about who is right, but rather what the Bible teaches as to the principles of gathering and the doctrines of the gospel.
A good question to ask yourself first is why they are asking you to attend their church. Is it to share with you the enjoyment they find within their fellowship, or is to change your mind about where you are now going? I’m assuming that you have spoken with the person before and they are a friend or a contact. You are trying to “build bridges” spiritually-speaking, so thank them sincerely and honestly for the invitation. The friendship is not a competition or a one-way affair, but rather a forum of mutual help and blessing. Perhaps you could answer something like, “Thanks for inviting me, but I always like to know what a church teaches before I go there. Does your church have a website that I can visit? Are there online messages to which I can listen? I’d like to check it out, and then we can get together to talk about it sometime.”
When you are able to get together, it would be appropriate then to ask why they enjoy going to their church. What do they teach there? Be willing to listen carefully to what they are saying as your genuine interest is both a basis for further discussion and an evidence of respect on your part. Express appreciation for anything that is Scripturally true, and seek to emphasize the importance of that particular truth or practice. A little discernment should reveal the degree of their openness to follow what the Word of God actually teaches about church gatherings. However, don’t argue or attack their church or belief system as “the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all … [and] patient” (2Tim 2:24).
Be ready to relate God’s dealings with you – perhaps first of all, how you were saved and then how the truth of a New Testament gathering impressed itself upon you. We all have our own story to tell of how we came to appreciate the local assembly. If you originally had no assembly background, now would be a good time to relate how the discovery of the truths and practices of the early church were far reaching in your life and growth as a believer.
You can mention the privilege of being linked with the Name of the Lord Jesus alone, along with the simplicity of the gatherings, the priesthood of all believers, and the care, guidance, and government of elders/shepherds. If you grew up with assembly parents, your appreciation of this, along with your own searching of the Scriptures, would also be a testimony to your friend. This discussion will establish an understanding in his/her mind as to why you value assembly fellowship and have a desire that he/she will appreciate it as well.
Be aware that many people today are “church hoppers,” going from place to place to plug into the excitement and charisma of various groups. In Christendom today, music, drama, video presentations, dynamic speakers, youth activities, and focus groups are all offered. Is this the basis for Scriptural fellowship? Though we don’t seek to be out of step with today’s society, we must keep in mind that the Lord in the midst deeply values those who keep His Word and who do not deny His Name (Rev 3:8) and who go on steadfastly in fellowship with Him and with fellow believers. True fellowship must be based on truth, and once truth has been purchased, you won’t want to sell it (Prov 23:23) or head down the road to be a part of something that is unscriptural.
The exhortation of Hebrews 13:13 is a good perspective to keep in view as we talk with others. It’s not a matter of telling them to come out to where we are but rather the appeal – “let us go forth unto Him without the camp, bearing His reproach.”