Just a few weeks ago I visited a church organization with my mother one Sunday morning (a rare occurrence for me these days). In case you’re curious, my mother doesn’t quite hold the same conviction about church world that I do. She sees glimpses of what I have expressed to her and she listens to my heart and often nods in approval concerning the things I’ve shared from my personal experiences, but church remains an important activity she enjoys participating in (and it’s often been important to her to experience it along with family). Recently, mom relocated from her home across the miles to move in with my wife and myself due to some health issues. You can imagine the challenge here as we are not “church-going folks” these days and here we are with mom who is and she wants to find a place to attend and we’re just not in that mode or mindset at all. I’ve suddenly found myself in a position where I’m taking my mom to church because this is important to her, though I (quite honestly) detest it myself. I share this because I know many of you have found yourselves in similar predicaments and I want you to know that I understand and I hope I can encourage you with something today.
I know the feeling of thinking that if you happen to sit in a pew after which the Lord has opened your understanding about the errors of churchianity, that there might be a concern that you’re somehow endorsing it and compromising by being there. If any of you are anything like me, it’s no longer an enjoyable environment for you, but there may be times when (for whatever reason) you find yourself back in that environment and it’s unsettling. Perhaps some of you have felt a conviction that churchianity is full of error and you’ve wanted to distance yourself from it, but (in the honesty of your heart) you still enjoy and crave the experience of fellowship with other believers, or singing the songs, and sometimes just being in an environment that (for the most part) seems to at least intend to encourage people to seek the Lord and you’re a little torn by these contrasting feelings about involvement with it. You’re not alone. Lots of folks have struggled with these same concerns, including myself over the years. These days the kinds of things I struggle with concerning it have transitioned a bit (quite a bit actually), but I still relate to the many letters I’ve received about this because I really have walked through this as well and my heart goes out to those who are working through this.
The whole thing reminds me a bit of the movie the Matrix; and the thought of the “Matrix” as being “church world”. Those of you who have seen the movie might know what I’m talking about. Church world (“the Matrix”) isn’t real Christianity, but for those still inside it, they don’t seem to know otherwise. Yet some are awaking and others will find themselves “plugging” back into it from time to time (though they are no longer a part of it). It can pose a real mind trip for some of us.
Would it surprise or shock you if I dared tell you that neither Jesus, nor His apostles ever told anyone to build a church, attend a church, or call others to go to church? Would it offend you if I dared suggest that when Jesus said in Matthew 16:18, “Upon this rock I will build My Church…” He never actually used the word church at all (but that this word was added hundreds of years later)? Would it bother you to discover that the word “church” NEVER appears anywhere in the entire New Testament?
As astounding as these claims may sound, they are absolutely true. Some of you, at this point, will be saying, “How can you say that Jesus and His apostles never used the word ‘church’ in the entire New Testament, when anyone can open a Bible and see it present, page after page?” The first response I have to this concern is to remind you that the Bible was not written in English. In fact the first hand-written English language Bible manuscripts were produced in the 1380’s (over 1,200 years after the last apostle had died)!!!! That having been said, it’s important to understand that the word “church”, or at least its derivative, is older than the English language… However, it still was never used by Jesus or His apostles!
There is certainly a lot of discussion right now in the “Christian community” over the issue of gay marriage, due to the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling allowing same-sex marriages in all 50 States. That having been said, as of the time of this writing, not all States have chosen to comply with the ruling and many Christian organizations are speaking out in anger over this decision, which essentially re-defines marriage and which many Christians fear will force them to make difficult decisions based on their conscience vs. the directive of Government, potentially leading to some folks losing their jobs or worse (e.g. being fined or imprisoned for choosing not to comply with the ruling on the basis of faith and/or conscience).
I do have my own perspectives on this issue, though I must say that I believe God’s Word speaks most adequately for itself and that anyone who is genuinely seeking Him, and who invites the Holy Spirit to lead them, will have to confront these decisions for themselves and I pray that they will find the strength to listen and obey the Lord as He directs them.
One thing that has caused me to shake my head in amazement when watching the general Christian community respond to this issue is the reaction of shock and surprise that this has happened in America. It makes me wonder where all these pew-warming people have been for the last 20+ years. While it’s true that gay marriage has not been officially legal on a national scale before today, it has certainly been endorsed by almost every outlet imaginable; from television and movies to department stores and banks. We see approval for it among political leaders, public speakers, college professors, and the general conversation of the public at large seems to indicate that almost everyone is supportive of homosexuality. Even if some don’t personally agree with it, few have been willing to speak out against it… so I am watching this unfold now with some curiosity as it appears that some of these “slumbering saints” are finding their voice all of the sudden… unfortunately, not necessarily with a positive tone.
It also seems that this is what religion tends to produce on a regular basis; people that are quite comfortably outspoken within their four little walls and among their church cliques, but who are so disconnected from the world around them and the people in that world that they have no idea how to talk with them, and many don’t exhibit any compassion for them either. They (i.e. those who are not part of this churched crowd) are simply regarded as the sorry lost, while the happy Saved remain comfy and cozy in their little religious social clubs. Jesus is their superstar, but they don’t even emulate Him. They resist touching the unclean masses, forgetting that Jesus walked among them and ate with them, drank with them, visited their homes, shared His love and life and truth with them (and that these Saved ones were once one of those “unclean masses” as well). He is still doing this, touching the lives of people, through vessels that are willing to hear His voice and act. Vessels who share the same love that God has bestowed upon them and of which they are humbly aware.
“Those of you who try to earn God’s approval by obeying his laws
have been cut off from Christ. You have fallen out of God’s favor.“
That opening verse is quite a strong statement isn’t it? Yet, week after week, Christians all over the world buy into the traditional teaching that paying monetary tithes to a religious organization will earn them points with God.
Most have been taught that this is an ordinance of Scripture (yet often without really knowing exactly what Scripture fully teaches regarding the tithe). Christians are often taught that if they will faithfully tithe money (bringing it into the “storehouse” of the church), this will guarantee them favor with God, blessing, provision, protection and prosperity. The main problem with this logic (aside from the lie which suggests that God’s favor and His gifts can be purchased with money – Acts 8:20-22) is that all of these things (favor, blessing, provision, anointing, etc.) are already promised to every believer by God’s grace and to each who makes Christ his Lord. Nothing further is required. Let me put this very plainly another way: Even if you never tithe a cent of your money throughout your entire life as a Christian, it will not change God’s promise to watch over you, love you, protect you, bless you, lead you, provide for you or take you to heaven when this life is through! God does NOT want or need your “tithe” and there is nothing on earth you can do to buy His favor or blessing!
Jesus said that ALL of our provisions will be met on the basis of two things. One, that God loves us – PERIOD. Even the little flowers of the field who do not work or gather into storehouses, Jesus said the Father clothes them with beauty beyond even the splendor of Solomon – so of how much more value are we who are His dear children? Two, that as we seek only His kingdom and His righteousness, everything we have need of in this life will be provided for according to His own purpose. (Matthew 6:24-34; 7:7-11; Luke 12:15-34)
NOTE: This article first appeared on the original TruthForFree.com site June 20th, 2005.
It was the proverbial Christian catch phrase of the 90’s and it’s still going strong. You see it practically everywhere you look: On bumper stickers, fish emblems for automobiles, t-shirts, banners, hats, bracelets, necklaces, Christian television and virtually everywhere else imaginable in church world. It is sounded over the loudspeakers of rock concerts, conferences, radio and printed in the religious educational materials of many churches and youth ministries. It is the question that almost literally fuels Institutional Christianity itself.
- NOTE: For those who may be unfamiliar with my verbiage here, what I mean by “Institutional Christianity” is, essentially, the modern day church system (which is largely identified by its buildings, denominational and clergy designations, programs, static routines and Sunday services – and the mission to advance the building of such organizations and structures as frequently and in as many places as possible). In other words, it is “Christianity” as most of the world recognizes it – a religious institution or a system comprised of religious institutions. Real, biblical Christianity (in this author’s perspective) is something far more simplistic and organic; it is a global, spiritual community of believers in Jesus who find their identity in HIM (not in meeting places, programs, denominational titles, and religious rituals). This is not to say it is wrong for Christians to meet in a building, but buildings and programs should never be the focus for they do not define, embody or validate true Christianity as the Scripture teaches it.
The reason I say that WWJD is the question that almost literally fuels institutional Christianity is because anyone who observes the institutional church system can easily and quickly recognize its flagrant fascination with titles, catch phrases, and externally imposed methods to invoke a religious response or action. Rather than the simple, inward motivation of the Holy Spirit and actions that flow purely and spontaneously from sincere love and faith, catch phrases like WWJD invoke people to take action based on the presumption that their identity and acceptance by God is wrapped up in religious activity. WWJD also leaves Christians to determine on their own what they presume Jesus might do, rather than recognizing that a living relationship with God reciprocates communication and activity based on love, faith and obedience to a living Lord. All in all, WWJD is something that involves an external regulation of conscience and does not require any influence by a living Lord.
Equally surprising is the fact that the Institutional Church’s thriving on the question of what Jesus would do, demonstrates as reality what so many who walk with the Lord on the outside of the four walls of institutional Christianity (i.e. traditional church attendance) have been saying for years; THE INSTITUTIONAL CHURCH SYSTEM CONCEPTUALLY SERVES A DEAD JESUS!
“What?” you say… “How can you dare say such a thing? WWJD is such a good, positive, righteous statement! Surely all Christians should intend to pattern their lives according to a consideration of how Jesus would do things… isn’t that what Christianity is all about?” Well… in a word… NO! That’s not what Christianity is all about. NOT EVEN CLOSE!
NOTE: The following article is taken from the Appendix of Peter Whyte’s book “The King and His Kingdom”, written in 1979.
While preparing the final chapter of this book I had an unusual dream, and the Lord gave me an interpretation of it.
This is the only time I have had the experience of hearing from the Lord in this manner, and the Scriptures from Proverbs, which He gave me to confirm it, were unfamiliar to me.
The following is an account of the experience, followed by the Scriptures confirming God’s interpretation.
I dreamed that I was in a spacious office talking to a young receptionist. She was about thirty years my junior, charming, pretty and exuding fresh innocence, and we liked each other tremendously.
As we walked to the door of the office I put my arm across her shoulders in a fatherly gesture, thinking of her affectionately like my own daughter.
After a few paces she trustingly responded by putting her arm around me.
She walked with me to the lobby, and as we left sight of those behind us in the office I bent and kissed her lips gently in farewell. She smiled back at me and we parted in a beautiful atmosphere, totally devoid of any sexual overtones.
I rode the lift to the car park, and for a split second I entertained a fleeting fantasy of a love affair with that fawn-like creature. I dismissed it as being unthinkable for an old married grandfather, and a Christian, too!
NOTE: The following article is taken from Chapter 11 of Peter Whyte’s book “The King and His Kingdom”, written in 1979.
The disciples were first called Christians at Antioch (Acts 11:26). The name “Christian” means an adherent of Christ.
Today we have such muddled terminology that we apply the term to any church member, regardless of whether he or she is a dedicated follower, a disciple, of Christ.
We need to become disciples of the King and His Kingdom, and church membership can sometimes be a hindrance rather than a help. Loyalty to a man-made church will usually prevent total loyalty to the Kingdom of God. The claims of the organization usually take priority over the claims of the Kingdom when any conflict of interest arises. You cannot serve two masters.
- Becoming a disciple involves first AN ACT OF MY WILL.
I WILL TO DO THE WILL OF GOD.
I WILL to be a disciple of King Jesus and His Kingdom.
Becoming a disciple means I STOP TALKING AND START DOING.
It may not be difficult for us to see the truth of the Gospel of the Kingdom, but we are an unholy nation of scribes and Pharisees. Our normal reaction, if we accept the truth, is to agree with it Then we study it for ourselves in the Bible, read books and hear teachings on the King and His Kingdom.
We then make the fatal error of talking about it, and NEVER become TOTALLY COMMITTED TO DOING IT PERSONALLY.
NOTE: The following article is taken from Chapter 17 of Peter Whyte’s book “The King and His Kingdom”, written in 1979.
The gates of a city in Bible days were the seat of authority. The elders and rulers of the city sat in the gates, and the people came there to hear the reading of the law. The judges gave out judgments and the king’s place of audience was in the gates.
The word Hades means “not to be seen.”
The term “the gates of Hades” therefore denotes the rulers, the powers of the “not to be seen;” the spiritual powers of darkness.
Jesus was saying, “I will build My people that I have called out (My Church), and the ruling powers of the kingdom of darkness from the unseen realm (the gates of Hades) will not overpower them.”
Article by Loren Rosser
There is an article titled “The Rise of the ‘Done with Church’ Population” that has been sweeping across Internet. The writer simply discusses the increasing trend of people who were highly active in church, including leaders, that are exiting and not coming back. Of course, this subject matter is nothing new to me, having tackled it in the four part video series I co-produced with my friends David Fredrickson and Bob Humphrey titled Church Outside the Walls. I can’t believe it’s been eight years now since we produced the final video in that series and the topic is still completely relevant. In fact, it seems there has been a sudden resurgence of interest in this subject recently. I’d like to put in my two cents about the article.
First of all, let me say, it is well written. I appreciate the author bringing up the subject because I think it’s an important one. One thing I really don’t like is the author’s use of the word “church.” But he is not alone in his usage of the word. When the Bible speaks of church it speaks of those who are called out of this world to follow Christ, period. So how can one be “done with church” unless one is done with Christ? But today, for many, church is a building where one goes to attend meetings. Attending those meeting and being involved in activities held in those locations is viewed by many as being a requirement for those who follow Christ. This concept was completely foreign to the writers of the New Testament, but sadly it is the widely accepted definition of church in our culture today.
My family and I are some of those who could be classified as those who are “done with church.” But I can’t tell you how much I hate that phrase. It completely misrepresents the reality in which we live. We are actually not done with church, but chose to embrace it. We stopped attending because we wanted Jesus plus nothing. We grew so frustrated and tired of all the added baggage. 2 Corinthians 11:3 became so real to us. “But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.” (NASB, emphasis added.) We wanted to be able to build genuine relationships with our brothers and sisters in Christ but found it was such a challenge to do so with all the meetings and agendas. Most of the things done in those settings became distractions from loving Christ and one another, rather than motivators. We actually left not because we were done with church but because we hungered for the reality of church!