What You Won't Find In A Christian Bookstore

The following post is a response (by yours truly, David Y.) to an article I read at the following website (you may want to read it first before continuing with my comments below… Also note, I have updated this post with more comments after the original post… see bottom):

Hate Church? by Dennis Lacheney

The author’s site wouldn’t allow me to post my full response (presumably because, as usual, I’m a bit long-winded – hehe), so I am posting it here with a link in author’s blog to this post. You’ll notice some “slight” agitation with the author’s comments. 😉 I hope I was not unjustly spirited in my response, however, I believe I was genuinely conveying the frustration I know so many of us feel when religious folks so routinely mis-characterize those of us who are seeking to follow the Lord Jesus with all our hearts and without submission to all the typical mindsets present within organized religion regarding what is so often wrongly referred to as “the church”. So, without further adieu, here is my response…

NOTE: Oh, by-the-way, I noticed (as of 9/06/2014) christianlife.org appears to have removed the pastors blog post on this subject. Not sure why, but I was unable to find it anywhere on the website.

In response to the pastor who wrote the “Hate Church” article, admitting he has 19 years under his belt as an institutionalized Christian… I spent over 30 years of my life in the institutional church system before making my exodus. I’ve been involved in “ministry” as well and rubbed shoulders with a lot of pastor figures over the years. My comments come from experience and a heart-felt devotion to Christ and a love for His people, who are His body (regardless of whether they attend institutions of religion or not). I am thoroughly annoyed with the content of this article and I hope you will allow me the grace to speak frankly.

I’ve read so many articles like this where institutional church pastors try to explain why some of us want nothing to do with organized religion anymore and they almost all condescend (and virtually all of them misunderstand and thus make completely inaccurate conclusions)…

The answers they give are also typical; they say we who no longer participate in the religious routine must be bitter, weary, wounded, arrogant, rebellious, deceived, lazy, ignorant, backslidden, not lovers of Jesus, and forsakers of the assembly, etc… Never once stopping to imagine the possibility that we may be following the voice of Jesus Himself (let alone even entertain the idea that they may actually be the ones not following His voice but preferring a system of religion over His body).

The most ridiculous comment I think this brother who wrote the article makes is “You can’t claim to love Him, and hate His wife.” Obviously this brother is under the deceptive notion that the Lord’s wife is a building and a program rather than a people. I challenge this brother to illustrate plainly for everyone reading here where the Bible indicates that the wife of Jesus is an institutional religious system! Where does the Scripture (even once) define the Church as a “house made with hands” and structured with religious programs? It doesn’t… Not once! It doesn’t because it’s nothing of the sort!

In fact, the Lord’s Church is a single household of LIVING stones, NOT MADE WITH HANDS! (Acts 7:48; 17:24; etc.) It is people who are born into the kingdom of God. It matters not what religious denominations they attend or fancy structures they build. We are not qualified in God’s kingdom by man-made religious systems and expensive religiously-dedicated edifices, but by the shed blood of Jesus Christ who made all of us (those who believe His Gospel) ONE body in HIM! The fact that so many pastors overlook the Gospel while elevating their traditional, man-inspired concept of the Church, is disturbing (to say the least).

The author of this article says, “If you fall out of love with Jesus, church will always be boring.” First of all, my thoughts are drawn to Revelation 2:2-3 where Jesus said to the Ephesian Christians, “I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name’s sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted.” Do they sound bored? On the contrary, Jesus said they labored hard, endured, were patient, steadfast, unwavering in their dedication to Christ. No hint of “boredom” anywhere (they were totally into the routine), yet they had left their first love. So, apparently (according to Scripture anyway), boredom has nothing to do with whether or not someone is in love with Jesus.

Again, nothing about Jesus’ words indicate that falling out of love with Jesus produces boredom. I would, in fact, point to the institutional church itself. It is full of programs which are created solely to entertain those in the pews… Why? Because they know to begin with that church IS boring! Why do you think we have all these new kinds of “churches” raising up (emergent, relevant, post-modern, etc.) and rock band worship teams, Sunday morning skits, power-point projector screens, mood lighting, coffee bars, special music, guest speakers, etc? Many sincere Christians who love the Lord and are fully engaged in the program burn out all the time! In fact, many pastors do as well! Is it because they don’t love Jesus? What a harsh presumption. I surmise it’s because the program has largely taken the place of the Holy Spirit. The very way church is presented to people is to entertain them for 2 hours on Sunday morning… It’s kind of ironic. Many people come with the hunger and intention to draw closer to God and then wonder why they feel so empty despite all the non-boring activity!

This statement about not loving Christ and being bored with church shows the author’s disconnection from and ignorance concerning those he claims to speak about. I manage a website that covers subject matter on life outside the religious system and I have received hundreds of letters from Christians for whom just the opposite is true. They love the Lord with all their heart, but felt they were constantly hindered by a religious system that stagnates under man’s inferior control. They long for the Lord to be their Leader, but they’ve been pushed around by pastors who have forgotten that Jesus said only ONE is your Leader; the Messiah! Jesus said not to strut around bearing titles, and yet this is what religious leaders do all the time (a perfect example being those who put the word “pastor” or “apostle” or “prophet” before their name as a title). This pastor doesn’t seem concerned about this error (this direct disobedience to Jesus) or how it affects God’s people (the reason why Jesus said not to do it), yet they continue to lay the blame on the people who are weary of this man-made anti-Christ order.

Many others leave, not because of wounds, bitterness or falling out of love with Jesus, but simply from a conviction of faith that God is leading them. Most love their fellow brothers and sisters and find that the most painful part of leaving a church organization is the fact that many of their Christian friends, who have been so indoctrinated by pastors (perhaps like the one who wrote the article called “Hate Church?”), will probably not talk to them anymore because they have been taught as well that if you don’t attend church you are in some form of apostasy. So, most often, it is the typical organized religious mindset that does the damage to Christ’s Church, NOT those who are weary of it and do their best to follow Jesus by leaving it behind.

According to statistics by Barna and others, it is estimated that well over 20 million Christians now have decided to leave behind organized religion, but not Jesus. I love the Lord with all my heart, talk with Him daily, weep and pray for my relatives who don’t know Him, and ask Him to help me grow each day and know Him closer. The fact that this pastor presumes I find church boring because I’ve fallen out of love with Jesus is absolutely foolish.

This pastor says, “if someone has hurt, disappointed, or offended you, and you do not forgive, you will eventually hate that which God loves.” This may be a true statement in some regard; however, it is not true in the context he is using it. This pastor is suggesting that God loves “church” (as pastor knows it) – the program man invented to pacify and also control God’s people by dictation and manipulation. The fact is, God did not invent church… man did. Jesus said that HE would build his Ecclesia (Church), which means His Assembly of people (i.e. the organic, living Family of God) on Himself. He did not say he would start a institutional system founded on creeds and denominational agendas and marked by religious temples. It was men in their own wisdom who tried to improve upon the idea. Man, not God, turned something that was organic and free into a static routine, a religious structure, a building and a system that he could control and direct (not to mention use to qualify his own perception of spirituality and justification as a Christian). In fact, man (in his own wisdom) completely re-defined the Lord’s assembly as this other thing. This pastor, unfortunately, moves beyond Scripture to set his religious ideal in front of everything else. Perhaps he means well and doesn’t realize he’s doing it, but the error is obvious for those who know their Bibles.

This pastor says, “if you are mad at the church, be careful not to throw the baby out with the bath water. Holiness is still high on God’s interest list.” But participating in man’s institutional church system has nothing to do with holiness and God never introduced such a requirement (i.e. “attending church”) for holiness. Once again, this man introduces doctrine that is not found anywhere in Scripture. As for throwing the baby out with the bathwater, this is a typical line used by brain-washed, institutional church zealots. The Scripture has something to say about it…

Paul referred to children born under the slave woman and those born under the free woman. He said that believers are NOT children of the slave woman… Paul NOWHERE said to keep both! Galatians 4:30-31 – “Nevertheless what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman AND HER SON: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman. So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free.” That sounds an awful lot like throwing out the baby with the bathwater to me and it’s exactly what God wants! Organized religion typically tries to mix the two concepts of law and grace together to make their hybrid church system.

But if true believers in Jesus accept only Him and His Gospel, then there are no other substitutes and you don’t get to mix the water. The Scripture calls us to come out and be separate (2 Corinthians 6:17-18)! The Lord also called to those of His people that were still messing around in Babylon to come out from among her (Revelation 18:4). Hebrews says that we are to follow Jesus outside the religious camp and bear the reproach that he bore because we don’t have a city here on earth (Hebrews 13:13-14). Throughout Scripture the Lord’s call is always to come out unto Him… never to mix with the world’s concepts. So, yes – absolutely, we must throw out the baby with the bathwater in this proper context.

One statement I agree with in this pastor’s article is when he said, “if you allow man to take the place of God, your ‘god’ will always disappoint you. Christ must remain the focus of our lives.” And this is PRECISELY why so many people have left behind the gods of men who govern their own little kingdoms they call churches. Jesus himself pointed out the arrogance of the religious leaders in His day and how they corrupt everything they touch. He told the woman at the well that God was no longer interested in religious meeting places as had become common (i.e. the Temple of the Jews and the Mount where the Samaritans worshiped). He said, from now on, God was looking for those who worship Him in spirit and truth, from the sincerity of their heart.

This pastor, like so many, sadly use guilt to sway readers with their argument. He says that if you’re still telling the story it means you have unforgiveness in your heart. Apparently, by this logic, only going back to church will cure this problem. Ugh… Such stupidity! (Pardon my bluntness.) What if I applied the same logic to an exodus from, say, the Satanic Church? After having broken free from years of deception, confusion, guilt, sin, shame and maybe some very deep wounds too, would this pastor say that talking about it means I haven’t forgiven the Satanic Church? And the fact that there may be a long period of adjustment, as wounds heal and God works on a person’s heart, doesn’t mean that going back to that environment is God’s will or healthy. This is just another example of a pastor trying to insert his authority over people’s lives instead of trusting the Lord to lead His flock. If the Lord Himself leads someone out of the traditional religious environment some call “church”, what is that to anyone else? Who is this pastor or any other follower of Jesus to judge that believer or belittle them because they have come to a different conviction about some weekly religious routine? To the pastor who wrote that article, I dedicate the following passage of Scripture and relate it as a word of the Lord:

Romans 14:4-10 – “Who are you to condemn someone else’s servants? They are responsible to the Lord, so let Him judge whether they are right or wrong. And with the Lord’s help, they will do what is right and will receive His approval. In the same way, some think one day is more holy than another day, while others think every day is alike. You should each be fully convinced that whichever day you choose is acceptable. Those who worship the Lord on a special day do it to honor Him. Those who eat any kind of food do so to honor the Lord, since they give thanks to God before eating. And those who refuse to eat certain foods also want to please the Lord and give thanks to God. For we don’t live for ourselves or die for ourselves. If we live, it’s to honor the Lord. And if we die, it’s to honor the Lord. So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. Christ died and rose again for this very purpose—to be Lord both of the living and of the dead. So why do you condemn another believer? Why do you look down on another believer? Remember, we will all stand before the judgment seat of God.”

Colossian 2:16-17 (The Message) – “So don’t put up with anyone pressuring you in details of diet, worship services, or holy days. All those things are mere shadows cast before what was to come; the substance is Christ.”

Absolutely I believe in forgiveness when wrongs have been done to us by people, but there is often a process of healing that doesn’t happen so quickly as it seems this pastor is suggesting; “Oh, you’ve been hurt? Well your bound in unforgiveness and you better get over it and get back to church.” That’s about how coldly that comes across. The Scripture says to cast your cares on the Lord for He cares for you. If repentance is needed, the Scripture also says that it’s His kindness that leads us there. The answer is not more church. The answer is a deeper walk with Jesus. You don’t “need” church. Church isn’t something you can attend anyway, let alone prescribe as some kind of cure to what ails you. The Church is who WE are in Christ Jesus – REGARDLESS of man-made institutions and religious systems and denominations! Fellowship with the body of Christ is not born nor guaranteed in “church” as man defines it… It’s established in Christ!

1 John 1:7 – “But IF WE WALK IN THE LIGHT, as he is in the light, WE HAVE fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.”

Note, it does not say, “if you attend church,you have fellowship.” The Spirit of God is the Master Assembler of the body of Christ and He is well able to lead people into genuine fellowship, whether or not a “church” (i.e. institutional) is ever involved.

Suppose the institutional church is a junk yard… It seems that a lot of pastors have the idea that if you just pile up a bunch of auto parts together in one place you have an “assembly”. They assume that just because there is this pile of parts, they are meeting the manufacturer’s intention. How sad… The truth is, you cannot simply cram a bunch of parts together or stack them in rows and have them become a working automobile. It takes an assembler who knows the manual (and by analogy I do not mean that this “assembler” figure is the pastor… No! It is the Holy Spirit of God Himself)! The Assembler orders in the correct parts (they may come from all over the world) and He fashions them perfectly together as they are each designed to fit……. and this is done in HIS factory, not a junk yard! Granted, our divine Assembler may fashion His vehicle (i.e. the Church) wherever and whenever He desires. Man has nothing to do with this process, save to obey when called. No pastor can say, “It will happen here and this is how we are going to do it!” That is foolishness and comes from an anti-Christ spirit of influence. To all pastors who have bought into this foolish notion, I plead with you to flush it and turn back to Christ as Lord and Master. This is how it must be; ONE flock and ONE Shepherd!

John 10:15-16 – (Jesus said) In the same way, the Father knows me and I know the Father. I put the sheep before myself, sacrificing myself if necessary. You need to know that I have other sheep in addition to those in this pen. I need to gather and bring them, too. They’ll also recognize my voice. Then it will be one flock, one Shepherd.

There is some truth presented in the article and I should probably say that I’m sure the author believes he has good intentions and is merely trying to offer insights to help people avoid getting stuck in unnecessary ruts of bitterness, isolation and pride, but the majority of it is absolutely drenched in a mindset that screams “the institutional church is the answer” and if you don’t agree with this, then you are obviously estranged from Christ. This is unacceptable. There is no redemptive quality to this kind of argument; it’s simply a guilt letter with one solution – return to church. Christ really is not the central focus in this article at all and I think this is obvious.

The closing sentiments by the author are a little bit encouraging… At least there is some blessing for those who have made a decision based on genuine faith, but the problem I have is that it is quickly squashed out by the presumption (which the entire article just finished presenting) that virtually everyone who steps away from church world is in error. The biggest confusion the article presents is the author’s misrepresentation of the proper biblical, Christ-given definition of the Church. The author relates a building and its religious program as being “the wife of Christ”. This is not only laughable, but disturbing and shows that the author’s understanding of the Gospel has been infected by religious tradition. I say that because attending an institution has NOTHING to do with the Gospel, NOTHING to do with being a member of the Lord’s body, NOTHING to do with guaranteeing fellowship and NOTHING AT ALL to do with being the wife of Christ! And that’s without getting into the detail that the Body of Christ is NOT the wife of Jesus, but rather His Bride who continues to make herself ready until He comes.

It is IN HIM we live and move and have our being, NOT in an institution! Who cares about whether anyone decides to either attend a church or never attend one? I choose to follow Jesus and to relate to my brothers and sisters in Christ based on our mutual connection WITH HIM, not what denomination they belong to or whether or not they sit in a boring church service for two hours a week under some false notion of so-called fellowship. I know there is but one Fellowship and one Body of Christ. The rest is just man’s bright ideas, which are usually just foolish obstacles to faith. God forgive us for trying to mix religion with your holy body. Help restore us all to Truth and bring us together as one body in YOU alone!!!


After making two post attempts on the author’s blog (and both were rejected by the moderator), the author wrote me personally with a response. I decided to post his response letter to me, followed by my return letter to him. While I do appreciate his taking the time to respond, I wish he had engaged the conversation openly on his blog. In any case, you can read his response below and my return response following that. I would greatly appreciate any comments that any of you would like offer. Your honest comments will be posted and not ignored, even if they disagree with me. Thanks friends! Have a great day!!! 🙂

The following was sent to TruthForFree’s email by Dennis Lacheney on October 13th, 2010:

      Dave,

When I got to my desk today I noticed two comments you left in response to my “Hate Church?” blog. Our website requires a moderator to allow comments so that the site is not used to spam unrelated content. (I would guess you do the same thing with your blog site.) By default our moderators normally delete any comments that have URL links to other sites. These posts are usually just spammers trying to promote their own websites, products, or services. Your original comment fell into that default status. When your second request came in (on the same day I might add) it became clear by your comment that you were agitated. We have no desire to get into an online debate with you, and after glancing through your blog rebuttal we realized that such a discussion (or debate) would not benefit us, you, or the body of Christ.

If you would like to discuss the matter via email, I would be happy to continue.
You did misunderstand some comments made in the article, and I would be happy to clarify your concerns if you like.

As a reminder, here is the last paragraph of the article. This is our heart in the matter, and we trust this is your heart as well:
If you have decided not to be a part of a traditional local church body, then take the time to examine your heart and ask yourself why not? If your motives are pure, then may the Lord bless you in your service to Him, and may you truly see countless souls won and discipled for Christ. If you find it difficult to really justify your motives, and you realize that it is hurt, pain, woundedness, or disappointments that have brought you to your current state, may I invite you to ask the Lord to forgive you, and soften your heart once again toward Him and His people.

Blessings to you and your wife. I did read your bio, so congratulations are in order concerning your new baby. I am very sorry to hear about the loss of your father. My father-in-law passed in 2000 due to cancer, and I know the pain of that process.

May God richly bless you and your family.

Sincerely,
-Dennis


The following was sent in response to Dennis by David Y. (of TruthForFree.com) on the same day:

      Thanks Dennis for the personal reply…

May the Lord bless you too bro. 🙂 I do understand the need for moderating posts. Yes, I do this also (to filter out spam and crude content), but NOT to filter out genuine responses and opinion. Isn’t the whole point of sharing a blog post and offering comments to be left to gain honest feedback for discussion? Your reply leads me to think that perhaps you’re not really interested in a open discussion or to allow honest reactions to your post unless they are fully accepting of your view point. Perhaps I have misunderstood your intention, but that is how it appears.

I do apologize if my comments of response came across as overly spirited or if they offended you (my heart is not to offend); however, my frustrations are not isolated or insincere (nor are they sprung from bitterness or hatred for fellow brothers and sisters in Christ who may still choose to attend traditional institutionalized churches), for many of us who have pulled away from the institutionalized church system feel the same way and your article (in my opinion) absolutely and overwhelmingly did tend to lump the majority of us in a derogatory category.

I did read your final paragraph and also commented on it in my own post. My feeling though is that after spending an entire article to basically belittle all of us who do not “do the church thing”, the one little line of “if your motives are pure the Lord bless you” is pretty weak. The overall impression your article gives is that if a person is not into church, they do not love Christ. Or, as you put it, “You can’t say you love Jesus and hate His wife.” I also notice that you removed that line from the article. I wouldn’t mind you explaining which comments of yours you believe I misunderstood, providing your explanations refer to your original article, not the revamped one (as that would only be fair).

I personally think that your article confuses the biblical definition of “Church” with your own traditional understanding of “church”. I believe you mixed these concepts in your article, leaving the impression that you believe the “wife of Christ” is an institutional church system. Forgive my blunt reaction here, but I view such a concept as heretical at worst and grossly ignorant at best. Jesus did not die for a religious program, He died to save that which was lost and restore relationship with the Father. His sacrifice, as you know, brought us who believe together into one holy family. There is not a single hint in any of Jesus’ words about attending a church or participating in religious routines, worship services, or listening to sermons each week to validate one’s love for Christ, so for you to suggest that someone who has a distaste (or even disgruntlement) for institutionalized religious practice is essentially a person who “hates the Lord’s bride” is appalling (to say the least). Brother, you should be ashamed for such a statement.

Believers in Christ can absolutely grow spiritually and thrive spiritually even if they never set foot in a church building their entire lives! While there is nothing inherently wrong with a “traditional church service” (as it concerns singing songs of worship, listening to teaching, or engaging in prayer), the Bible does not tell believers (at any time whatsoever) they need to be joined to a religious program called “church” for these things to transpire or for genuine body fellowship to manifest. When a person understands that the body of Christ IS His Church, why should there be any intimidation put on them to observe any kind of religious routine outside of the Holy Spirit’s direct influence and guidance? This, I believe, is the great error of what your article implies; that church (as man, not God, has defined it) is somehow essential.

Biblically, there is not more than one Church (i.e. one spiritual assembly) of Jesus Christ. The Church of Jesus is His body (not His bodies). It is the family of God. It has nothing to do with buildings and programs and weekly religious routines. Again, I am not saying it is wrong to gather with other believers who are members of Christ’s body (certainly this can be a positive thing), but whether they gather in homes, by the river, over dinner somewhere, or by talking over the phone or computer (and whether or not they gather once a week or once a year) they are still the Church and their right standing with God is in Christ and their process of spiritual development is dependent upon their level of obedience to the Holy Spirit, not by listening to sermons or attending meetings. I think your article places far too much emphasis on the institution and not enough on Christ Himself.

Anyway bro, thanks for the personal note and thank you also for the congratulations toward my wife and I. 🙂 God is awesome!!! Thanks also for your condolences about my father and I offer the same to you. I do miss dad very much, but I thank God that He gave me a father who raised me up to follow Jesus. I look forward to seeing him again one day!!! What an awesome day that will be!

I hope you’ll understand that my principle frustration is not directly with brothers like yourself who hold a different viewpoint on things, but my frustration is primarily with the system mindset that works its influence on so many brothers and sisters in Christ. I am not unfamiliar with several aspects of your expressed perception of “church” and that of how you tend to view the rabble of us who do not do the church thing anymore. I lived with that same type of perception for many years myself. In fact, I was much harsher toward others who disagreed with me than anything I have read from your article. In fact, you are far more diplomatic, gracious and respectful in your presentation than I was many times. God broke me of a lot of pride and, with His help, I had to mend a lot of relationships with people that I wounded through my spiritual arrogance. That’s also not to say that I suppose I have fully matured yet either… I know I am still rough around the edges. 😉 My emotions sometimes get revved up and I speak with less grace than I ought to. Like anyone I have some strong convictions in areas and when I see things that I perceive as unjust, untrue or damaging I react. I do believe it’s possible to be angry and not sin in the process; especially when that anger comes from a righteous conviction that God stirs up in us. My prayer is that God will help me not cross the line of letting my own identification with that conviction of truth cause me to act without mercy and love toward others who do not yet see that truth.

I guess, part of the reason for my writing, is just to let you know that LOTS of God-fearing saints exist out here in “out of church” land. We have no taste for organized religion anymore and it is true that many of us no longer meet in traditional fashion…. But we love Jesus with all our heart and we love His people! We’re tired of being lumped together as “the bitter backsliders” who “hate the wife of Christ”. I guess those kinds of accusations are par for the course in some respect. Jesus said we would be hated by men for His name sake. He also said, woe to you when all men speak well of you, for so did their fathers of the false prophets. Hebrews tells us to follow Him outside the religious camp and bear His reproach. The early believers were certainly reproached for following Jesus and not aligning themselves with the religious expectations of the day. We’re open to let the Lord change our hearts and help us to grow in love and truth… but, in all honesty, we feel too and so sometimes we react to the constant beating down and disrespect of many who are supposed to be members of the same family in God.

Thanks for hearing me out. I do pray God’s very best for you bro.

In His grip,
David

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17 Responses to Hate Church? Hmmm… Yup, pretty much!

  • Another good article Dave. Thank you for being open & honest regarding following Christ into the Wilderness. It’s not easy – but well worth it. Keep it up, Bro!

       1 likes

  • Wow Dave! I really like reading your stuff. I always learn new things. 😉 Don’t worry about this guy not taking time to go a few rounds. God know, pastors are hella busy. Lol.

    I was really hoping you would’ve responded to his assertions about the sales statistics of Frank Viola’s books! That was precious! Maybe fewer people bought Frank’s second book ’cause his first one sucked. Lol. 😉 Just playin’.

       1 likes

  • I am a 74 year old man who for a lot of years has felt the need for something much larger than church in a building a couple or three times a week. I have prayed and cried to GOD asking to be led to a fellowship of believers. I knew that somewhere there exists more than the “we are family” group, which meets once a week then scatters to who knows where for the next six days. Really I just want to say thank you.
    (Mark 13:34 KJV)

       1 likes

  • Response to Matt: Pastors are hella busy… LOL! 🙂 Love it man! I probably should have commented on several things in more detail, but (to be honest) much of my initial reaction to this guy was out of frustration. Usually I take some time before responding to something, but his blog just hit me in the wrong way at the right moment and I kind of unloaded on him. Oh well. Live and learn… Hilarious comment about Frank’s first book sucking (LOL)… For those of you unaware, Frank Viola authored a book called Pagan Christianity which became immensely popular. Eventually, well-known pollster, George Barna, got involved and helped Frank rewrite and republish the book. It has always been my opinion that the first book was much better and the second book much worse because Frank allowed Barna to soften its content to make it “palatable” to the masses rather than keeping its slightly raw edge and even sense of humor (which I, personally, enjoyed). The funny thing about Matt’s comment is that the second book increased in sales, but I don’t believe this was because of the content, but because it had George Barna’s name associated with it (as an endorsement); That was, pretty much, the whole idea. I suppose one could also point out that the sales of the book increased AFTER it was edited to be more “positive” in its approach! This would mean that it was precisely because of the positive approach that sales increased, not the negative as Lacheney asserts. Either way, it is obvious that Lacheney is trying to defend his mindset about church and doesn’t appear to be interested in taking into consideration the context of Frank’s work or biblical teaching on this matter.

    Furthermore, Frank’s book about “the right way to do church” was NOT published by Barna. Naturally, the book not having this popular endorsement would logically affect the number of sales. Also, my personal opinion here is that the really great thing about Frank’s book “Pagan Christianity” was that it did not attempt to tell anyone how to do church. It largely left this matter of exploration up to the reader. This is significant because there are many folks, like myself, who do not agree entirely with Frank’s views on “how to go about the matter of church”… So, logically, folks like myself would not be impressed by his follow up offering because it imposes his own religious notions about how to organize church, rather than just stating historical data and leaving the interpretation up to the reader and the Lord to speak to the reader. The fact that I was not interested in Viola’s follow up book does not mean I am disinterested in the Lord’s heart toward His people (who are His Church). As you can see, Lacheney’s logic is severely flawed on a number of points.

    The following (just for reference) is Dennis Lacheney’s comments about Viola:

    “If you doubt this negative motivation in those who have turned away from the local church, take a look at Frank Viola and George Barna’s books on Amazon.com. His attack on the local church, “Pagan Christianity”, ranks at number 6,702 in sales as of the date of this article. While his follow-up book, providing a supposed solution to what church should look like, ranks only at number 22,867 in sales. One has to wonder why the book written to tear down the current model of local church would so drastically outsell the book written to redefine it.”

    Lacheney’s ignorance will be obvious and apparent to those who have actually read the book, because Pagan Christianity is NOT an attack on the “local church” (i.e. locally-gathering believers in Jesus), but rather the system of institutional church-ianity that has been imposed on believers for the last 1,700 years. Frank talks about the pagan-inspired origins of many of the man-made practices brought into local organizations over the centuries and how religious leaders helped to emphasize the errant notion that these were composite and essential to the Christian walk (despite the fact that Scripture neither prescribed nor authorized such concepts). Additionally, Frank’s book does not diminish the legitimacy of local believers gathering together for fellowship at all. This, again, is the main problem with Dennis’ article; He assumes that organized religion, encapsulated in a religiously-dedicated building is “the local church”. He reveals his gross misunderstanding of the biblical text, which plainly reveals the Lord’s Church as one body in Christ Jesus. The Lord’s body is a SPIRITUAL house of LIVING stones and does NOT need a religious edifice to qualify itself as “the local church”. Biblically, a “local church” would simply be a gathering together of folks who are born again… Where (or even if) they gather physically is not important. It is the “WHO” that is gathering that makes up the Church. This is a spiritual and eternal designation based upon a person’s right-standing with God in Jesus Christ. Lacheney blends man-made temples with God’s definition of His assembly of saints to make a new (might I add unbiblical) hybrid he labels “church”. So, his attack against Frank’s book is unwarranted because he first fails to even comprehend the subject matter in context.

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  • I’m 75 and I’ve been outside the walls of traditional Christianity for some 40 years (I was treasurer of an Anglican church for 8 years in the 1960’s and subsequently spent some 20 years in a Sabbath keeping church that has at times not unreasonably, been referred to as both a cult and a sect).
    Early this morning I felt prompted to look at a friend’s blog that I hadn’t looked at for some weeks. I followed his link here so this is the first article I have read.

    I’ve recently finished updating a couple of blogs that are effectively a reflection of my Christian journey over the last 50 years. I have twice been forced to reconsider just about everything I had ever been taught – a close friend of mine once said, “Peter, you have the knack of asking the awkward questions to which there are no easy answers”.

    Until about 5-6 years I now realise that my faith had been based almost entirely on head knowledge and very little heart awareness. The introduction to my blog is entitled “The Undefended Faith” – I am convinced that God is a God of love and grace who loves us more than we can imagine.

    I came to the conclusion some years ago that I was not an evangelical – and the views expressed by Dennis seem to sum up all that I find so frustrating. I love David’s response. I have been following the emergent / emerging / house church scene since 2003 – it’s an interesting story – and I would want to question some of Barna’s conclusions in “Revolution” published in 2005.

    I believe that people need to be encouraged to THINK for THEMSELVES. I haven’t had a full time job for over 20 years – maybe the story of my journey – and some of the questions that I have been considering – as an uneducated (or self educated) Christian might be helpful to others.

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  • Dave, I thought your response to Dennis’ article Hate Church was very well done. As I read the Hate Church article I noticed it was full of the standard control methods that are used to tug at the heart strings of people that motivate by guilt. I am not saying Dennis is doing it intentionally, it is just the system way. For instance, I attended a Charismatic Church in Hawaii for 10 years where the pastor told the sheep regularly they were thieves and robbers if they didn’t tithe and couldn’t serve in the church until they became faithful tithers. Guilt and control.

    Dennis may be right, I do feel angry toward the manipulation and control of the institutional church. I am hurt they way it squashes the beauty of the Lord in relation to the fellowship of the saints. I feel cheated when I see misappropriation of money and resources. I am offended at the Lies that are told about my Father in Heaven. Yes I am angry, so I voted with my feet. Having said all that, those are issues that I am dealing with and my savior has helped me. I am at a place of contentment with Jesus, and I love HIM more. I am not saying all churches are like that, most are not. But many people get emotionally damaged in church.

    Jesus continues to show Himself kind to me outside of the IC. The Lord has NOT caused my wife and I to be divorced as we were told if we ever left the Church. The Lord is Good and His mercy endures forever.

    Here is the response I sent to Dennis, which I doubt will not be posted either. I could be wrong, but I have not seen it yet:

    If a person is a believer and Christ dwells in that person, how could that person that IS the Church leave the church? Impossible!! But if you are talking about the Sunday morning tradition of meeting in a building called the Church and going through the activities and requirements of man, then I guess that is possible to leave the church, and even more possible to hate.

    There are many wonderful things that happen in the “Church”, of course. Christ works in it because His bride is in it. The modern day, Western Church is out of alignment and out of Biblical order. If Christians want to meet in a intimate, house environment then they have the liberty of Christ to do so. It is not fair to say they have lost their love for Christ, or are rebellious, or the like.

    That is kind of an unfair assessment you made about Frank and Barna. I don’t remember Frank Viola bashing the Church in any of his books. Only the man made institutions that we presently call church he was critical of. It seems he birthed the book out of love and adoration for the bride. I personally believe Pagan Christianity is one of the best Christian books ever written. I write my comments not to defend Frank; I have never met the man.

    If what you say in this article is true, then why are so many people tired of the religion and leaving the institutions of man to find the love of Christ again? And please don’t answer that with the same old emotion control answer of “they are rebellious and have lost their love, and, and and…”

    I like how you concluded you article with asking the people have left the traditional Church to examine their heart, that is fair and a good idea. But I would ask the defenders of the traditional Church to examine their motives of defending it. Is it livelihood? Is it tradition? Reputation? Just asking.

    Agreeing to disagree in CHRIST JESUS our LORD

    ____________________________________________________________________________________

    Anyway Dave, I appreciate your website, and this article. It was extremely well done. It is OK to be passionate in your writings. I thought you were gracious and kind to Dennis, and he as well to you. We can be brothers in the Lord and not agree on all, just like Paul and Barnabas.

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  • Awesome comment Doug! Thanks for sharing! You said everything so beautifully and I hope our bro Dennis will take to heart what you shared. Thanks again for the comments. Rock on bruthaaah! 🙂

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  • To whoever is interested: There are numerous web pages on the www birthed from the subsequent hurt and disappointment of institutionalized church or whatever you prefer to call it; I can name many. And unfortunately accompanying these sites normally is a spirit of hurt, condemnation and criticism. So before you hit the escape button, toss your laptop through the window or God forbid unsubscribe your internet access let me add to your confusion by sharing something I studied for 20 years. I too in the year 1990 got to the point where many of us are by questioning the institution (IC) and it’s purpose, and thus a study of scripture, hours of seeking God’s opinion and coming to conclusions were born. Now I can spend pages on quoting scripture and elaborating on arguments but I’ll give you the short version. If you contact me I’ll be more expansive, not that I think you need it. Those of you apposed to quoting scripture, enjoy your day and goodbye. Those of you willing to hold on, enjoy the ride. Hebrews was the beginning of many revelations regarding the illegality of the IC for me. Hebrews 9:1 (My own words, but please go read it yourself) ‘The first covenant had regulations for worship and even a place of worship’!!??. Interesting. Hebrews 9:8 (again my own words but…) ‘As long as the outer portion of the temple remains a recognized institution, entry into the Holy of Holies remains closed.’ i.e. As long as we have a place where we ‘meet’ with God we exclude ourselves from the very presence of God in our own lives. You can almost equate this with the spiritual position within your own life if you want to be analytical. And so we can go on and on; Jesus meeting with the Samaritan woman at the well, ‘you say you worship in this city or on that mountain, but a time is coming when you will worship God in Spirit and in truth.’ If you grasp some of these scriptures you’ll start seeing this all over and everywhere in scripture. SO, what I am saying is Yes the IC has and is hurting alot of people, but if that’s your reason for leaving, think again. Don’t spend your life in hurt and vengeance. I left because the IC in my opinion has no right to exist and will exclude me from the presence of God in my own spirit. This is in essence what happened when the curtain was torn on Golgotha. Jesus didn’t come to ‘save’ but to reconcile us with God, after all that’s what we need, reconciliation, Pauls mystery message. That’s it in short. God bless you all and hope I have not offended anyone.

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  • Great observations Jacob! I agree that we shouldn’t live our lives in hurt and vengeance. Indeed, many who have left church world do so because of deep wounds and then they never allow the Lord to heal those wounds. There are many websites, as you mentioned, that seem to be driven by this hurt. In one respect, I understand them. Spiritual abuse can be devastating and I do believe the Lord has much compassion for those who have been damaged by churchianity and folks need time to work through these difficult emotional experiences and invite the Holy Spirit to bring about the necessary change; however, it must not stop there. We are to be children of our Father in heaven and our Father forgives and loves and this also takes a conscious effort on our part. At the same time, we must be obedient to our Father and (as you pointed out) He calls us out unto Him. Meeting with other believers for fellowship is certainly not wrong, unless it becomes a replacement for fellowship with the Father and a distraction from His leadership. To many this will sound strange, but if we look back on our days in church world, how many of us can admit that we often substituted relationship with the Father as our primary source of direction by instead always yielding to the instruction of men behind pulpits, Christian books, videos, music, teaching tapes, magazines, websites, conferences, revival meetings, other Christians, professional prophets, etc. We grew so accustomed to these other voices and didn’t even realize that we had all but totally drowned out the voice of the One that really matters. I believe that God does not need, nor does He bind Himself to institutions of religion. God’s interest is people. For this reason, I do believe that God often reaches out to those still inside the walls of man-made churches, yet the purpose is not to validate their religion but to draw them closer to Himself.

    I think this is what often happens in “revivals”. But man, in his wisdom (which is really only foolishness to God), thinks that God is blessing them because of their religious activity; because of something they are doing, or because they go to the right church, sing the right kind of music, or pick any number of typical reactions. When God touches a group of people (in a “church” setting) with “revival” (so-called), the most common reaction is to try and “hold on” to it. Usually this is attempted by trying to capitalize on the elements of the revival that seemed to flourish in their moment. For example, wonderful “worship music”… As much as I get personally annoyed by the term “worship music” the reality is that, often times, great music comes out of a period of “revival”; when hearts are moved by God’s goodness. Man, however, tries to capitalize on this and makes an industry out of “worship music” and then everything is copied; the style of lyric writing, the musical arrangements, the vocal types, etc. Before long, all you’re left with is emotional music instead of heaven-inspired art expressed as worship to God. For many believers, they cannot even tell the difference. Just another reason why I would agree that church can sometimes be more of a distraction to our relationship with God than a help. I have often felt that religion is one of the most subtle and effective tools used by the enemy to draw people away from a genuine fervor of life-changing faith, as people become so comfortable with godly-looking substitutes that they cannot even discern the real from the alternative… or the “anointed” from the “emotional… or true doctrine, from man-made tradition. In fact, people are often so enamored and deceived with religion and all these substitutes that the very mention of an observation like this will strongly offend.

    I love the Lord and I love His people… Most of us have been deceived by religion at some point and God was merciful and opened our eyes and brought us out. For this reason, I think it’s important to approach others who do not yet see with the same love and compassion that God grants all of us. The truth, however, remains what it is; the TRUTH! So we speak this in love and with the earnest hope that eyes will open and lives will be restored. God does not live in man-made temples and is not restricted by their religious legalisms. These institutions are completely irrelevant in His eyes! God does not draw near to us nor draw us near to Him on the basis of ANY of those traditions they have concocted, no matter how “spiritual” they appear. Nor does God draw us to Himself on the basis of those expired Old Covenant legalities mentioned in Scripture. Indeed, the veil is torn! The old is washed away and we now have one High Priest, Jesus, who enables us to draw near to God. No more priests… no more temples… no more rituals… no more Mosaic legalism. Just God in relationship with man through Jesus Christ our Lord by the power of the Holy Spirit!!!

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  • Amen.

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  • Good comments Jacob. I agree. But, maybe you are referring to my comments where I vented a little frustration and anger concerning the abuses of the Church I attended. Or, maybe your comments are not. I am not saying all ICs are like the one I attended.. Many are not. They are places people attend and are spiritually nourished to the degree that the institution can nourish. My deepest desire is to see CHRIST in the meeting again. It would be wonderful if the believers assembly was held in a manner where people can participate, share their burdens, fellowship, laugh, cry, and where their giving actually goes to help somebody. Being angry, or bitter is useless and is a page out of the Devil’s playbook. I have voted to move on. I sat in Church for 10 years of name it and claim it and borderline cultist control. It is hard to forget. I feel sad for people that are controlled and it is my desire to see them freed. I am not spending my life in hurt or vengeance. What a waste of time. But, I don’t think you should make people feel bad for venting their frustrations, it is OK to do so, but ultimately believers must move on and be healed by Christ. It is a process. Peace out.

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  • To Doug, I wasn’t referring to any comment you made. It was a general comment in line with the theme of this blog. If you would allow me though to comment on your last letter. I understand that many many people leave the institutions frustrated and sometimes angry or bitter. And rightfully so they would have been hugely affected by their experience. The reason why would be that they were almost “let down” by the very system they were relying on and least expected to disappoint them. You might not agree with me on the following statements but believe me when I say it doesn’t matter if you do not agree, I’m not here to persuade you to believe my convictions. Just think about it and if you think it’s BS, chuck it. It won’t make a difference to my conviction. From my previous letter you would have gathered that I believe the church should not be an institution but rather an organism/family whatever makes you comfortable. Through the ages God met with His people through the positions of leaders/ elders/ prophets/ priests etc. And, He had a place where He met with them; the tent of meeting/tabernacle/ sanctuary/ temple etc. This was all in the era of the first covenant, which by the way is the covenant under which Jesus was born. But since His death, and the subsequent tearing of the veil/curtain, we now have direct access to God himself. Please bear with me I have a point. Over and above the indisputable facts of no more works/law, one sacrifice for all and new covenant dispensation, there are a few dynamics that are currently in effect. Mainly, God doesn’t meet with us somewhere anymore, no, He abides within us. Something He’s not done in the past. Hence the reason the veil was torn. Scriptures very explicitly declare that this new covenant is not like the old, they are completely different. So to get to my point, the church as an institution CANNOT fulfill that function to get man to meet with God, it’s illegal and the institution cannot execute that function. People go to ‘church’ with the expectation of meeting with God, a self professed declaration that they see God as being somewhere other in inhabiting their very beings. Thus the scripture in Hebrews 9:8. And this is my issue, as long as we still have that mentality/attitude that we gather to meet with God somewhere we are excluding ourselves from the presence of God in us. Now this is where the frustration comes in for believers; because the church is not capable of doing that, it leaves people frustrated and disappointed. You need not seek a place of worship to be nourished. Your desire should and must be to see Christ in you. This is what He died for. I sincerely apologize for making you feel bad. It was not my intention. I roam these sights for more insight and understanding, not to offend, and maybe our cultural differences make me a bit less understandable. Vent as much as want, I sometimes come across as abrupt but it is my intention not to aggravate you but to maybe, just maybe, make someone see that we should leave these institutions for the real reason and not the symptom. This might come as a surprise to you but I was also deeply hurt in the IC but because of the analytical nature as an engineer, I pursued the reason and I believe God showed me this which I shared with you. If we can get to the point where we collectively function as the church (which we are btw)in a new and LIVING way by His flesh(veil) (Hebrews 10:20) we’ll start seeing that we truly are the Temple of God. God bless you and I apologize.

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  • Jacob, no need to apologize, I just wanted to ensure you knew where I was coming from if indeed you were referring to my comments. I love your spirit and attitude toward this subject. You did not make me feel bad, I was referring to other readers who may. I spent 24 years in the Navy and grew some pretty thick skin. Iron sharpens iron and sometimes there are sparks. I love it!! I have also been to many sites concerning the IC, and there seems to be that underlying hurt tone. Many of them are very disrespectful in nature. Some have a hard time separating the IC from the Bride. My take is the Bride is in the IC, exiled if you will. But even though God’s children were in Babylon, they were still God’s children. Maybe this is a bad analogy.

    I agree with what you said concerning how the Lord met with his people in Old Testament times. It was in a designated place and through a man of authority. The new covenant has completely done away with that. There are no more ordinances, observances, or officials. The Law was fulfilled through Christ. The veil was torn from top to bottom. We now have access to the Lord through the Christ. This is very fundamental Christianity, but it must be understood to be free. The Church I attended in Hawaii had a guy (pastor) come through and teach the sheep that the Pastor is like our Moses, he has access to the Lord for us. It was not quite that blatant, but that was essentially it. It caused quite a stir in some. So, I believe that many Christians understand that we have access to the Lord only through Christ. But I do not agree that this should be a person’s reason for finding the IC unjustified as it seems it is your reason. I do understand that there are many that believe they have access to the Lord through their holy man (priest, prophet, pastor, medicine man), but most Christians I know understand they have access to the Lord through Christ alone. They are not going to church to meet with God, but to be a part of what they “think” God is doing. Most Christians understand the concept of “Christ in us the hope of glory. “

    It is Christ’s will that believers should meet together. It doesn’t have to be in an IC because we are the church, and we can meet anywhere and fellowship. You and I could meet at a Seahawks game (that’s my team), or at the beach, in my basement, in your living room, wherever. People attend the IC for many reasons; for me it was because that is where my Christian friends were at.

    My biggest issue of the IC is the ridiculous order of the “service” as it makes NO room for fellowship and subsequent growth. We have to get lined up in our pews, we have to do what we call praise and worship, two fast songs and two slow songs. Watch a short video, take up the tithes and offerings (tithing is way unscriptural for NT believers), hear a sermon called “once upon a marriage” or “dangerous faith”, do a closing prayer, maybe an altar call, take up a special offering for a need because apparently the tithes and offerings are being consumed by the administration and logistics such as salaries and rent, and then have a few minutes to talk and fellowship. But, by now people just want to go home. This is not nurturing. It is starving the believers for what they truly desire; Jesus leading the meeting and filling their hearts, and prayer and fellowship with their brothers and sisters, which doesn’t happen much in many of the churches I attended. It is my contention that we can only have the Christian experience and necessary filling to do His will in close, intimate groups that are open to waiting on the Lord as believers did in times past before the radical institutional takeover of the church.
    So, in a nutshell, I find the traditional western church out of alignment with the NT for many of the reasons Viola stated in Pagan Christianity (not sure if you read it). This book connected a lot of dots for me.
    Having said all of this, I am not ready to say the IC is not of any value. There are some pretty good churches out there that teach sound doctrines, encourage growth through fellowship, don’t put guilt trips on people, don’t extort wage earners through the tithe, aren’t caught up on any order of service, the pastor or elders have a job outside of the church so they don’t have to draw a salary, that meet in facilities that don’t require rent, the churches fund actually goes to benevolence, every member functions in the priesthood of the believer, etc. etc. but it is rare, I know. There are places people like to go to and they are free to do so or free not to.

    I am not trying to persuade you in any direction, just based on your writings I felt you thought that most Christians go to the IC to meet with the Lord like the days of old in the OT, I really don’t think that is the case and feel most believers I know have a fairly fundamental understanding that we are the temple of the living God, whether we act like it or not.

    Peace

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  • Thanks for your response Doug. Hope you guys have a peaceful Christmas and joyful family time. Thanks Dave for this site and the good work you are doing. God bless.

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  • Just a short note to thank you Dave for this website. And to Jacob and Doug, I enjoyed reading both your articles and comments, and appreciate the way your writings were done in love and acceptance for one another.

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  • David,

    I read your response to the “Hate Church” article with great interest. You have very eloquently articulated the growing sentiments of many Bible-believing Christians who desire to serve the Lord and walk the “Way of holiness” (Is. 35: 8), but find the present-day church a positive impediment to their spiritual journey. I agree with the theological rationale you have presented in describing what a true church is according to the Word of God. Having said that, I would like to share couple of comments:

    1.The statement, “You can’t claim to love Him, and hate His wife,” as used in the original article seems to suggest that the church is married to Christ. This is not true. Nowhere in the New Testament is the church described as the wife of Jesus Christ. Technically, the church is His bride, betrothed to be married (Rev. 18:23; 21:2; 21:9; 22:17). The marriage is yet to take place. Presently the church is being readied for that glorious marriage supper of the Lamb (Rev. 19: 7-9). It is important for pastors and church leaders to be clear when trumpeting these truths.

    2.I believe that the present-day institutional church is in a state of apostasy (2 Tim. 3:1; 4:3). According to a Barna research report published a few years ago, nearly 50% of the pews in our evangelical churches are occupied by Christians who have no personal relationship with Jesus Christ. They have been “anesthetized by prolonged exposure to the gospel” with no real commitment to Christ. Most institutional church goers equate social gatherings with biblical koinonia. No wonder, many churches are so boring, because there is no genuine love for one another, no sound expositional preaching, and no good examples.

    3.One reason why many of these churches are a “turn off” is because pastors of many of these churches have no real calling for shepherding. They don’t know what it means to “shepherd the flock of God” (1 Pet. 5: 1-5). They are more interested in “lording” over others than “being examples of the flock.” For many Christians, it is a struggle to grow under the leadership of such shepherds.

    Blessings.

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  • Thanks Abraham! Great name! 🙂 And some great points too!

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