One feature of the Fellowship that has a surprisingly bad influence is “Fellowship principles”.
At first I heard about “Fellowship distinctives”, but in later years only the principles. I don’t know if the name changed throughout the Fellowship, or if the name principles was only used in the dutch churches.
When I heard about “distinctives” there was a logic to it. We were hearing about characteristics that distinguished the Fellowship from other churches that held pretty much the same doctrines. These were often given as reasons why it was good that we never cooperated with other churches or groups in local evangelism activities.
But eventually, the “Fellowship principles” became a list of expectations, a kind of code of conduct, for members of the church.
Without going into the merits (or lack thereof) in any specifics, I want to describe what happened.
Ultimately, your standing in the church – even your walk with God, was evaluated on the basis of whether you followed the rules.
Oddly, these rules aren’t written down (as far as I know), except that some of them are on the paper people are expected to sign if they want to be in a drama or music group. But people know what is expected if they keep coming to the church.
These “Principles” become a replacement for the Bible! The Bible gets used to justify the Fellowship rules. People who look at the Bible too closely see conflicts, wonder why there’s so much emphasis on things the Bible doesn’t even mention and begin asking too many questions. People’s knowledge of the Bible becomes limited to certain passages and it is no longer foundational to their lives.
Of course, nearly everyone in the Fellowship will deny that this happens, but it does. It’s subtle and slow, but after getting someone through the “sinner’s prayer”, follow up is centred on what you should do, or not do, based on “Fellowship principles”, baptism and end-times prophecy. Baptism of the Holy Spirit has become much less emphasised than in the past, but why you shouldn’t own a TV is a big deal.
Valk felt it was necessary to devote weeks in succession in Bible study to repeating “Fellowship principles”. It was something he repeated periodically. And how many Bible verses do you think he could come up with to explain why you shouldn’t smoke, drink, own a TV or go to a movie theatre?
Honesty and fairness aren’t Fellowship principles.
As a result, I’m not much of a fan of creeds and articles of faith. It’s good to know them (including groups you don’t belong to) but it’s a mistake to follow them.
You need to know and follow the Bible.
Summaries miss too much.