If you are truly a Christian, and the above all too often reflects your thoughts and feelings after a session in an institutional church, what follows may be of interest to you.
Are you the sort of Christian who desires, above all else, to learn of, glorify and honor God in your life? Do you long for biblical Christian instruction and fellowship? Do you attend an institutional church that falls short of this goal?
Have you struggled with a nagging feeling that there's something wrong with what you know as "church"?Is that institution more about cliques, programs, promotions, and trips abroad, and less about living a biblical life?
Does the "worship" seem more like a carefully-scripted performance act, or even an audition for "American Idol" (with sensually-dimmed house lights and excessive decibels), than it does an sacred offering from the heart in music, sanctified to the Lord? Has the hymnal disappeared; only to be replaced by naked lyrics projected on a Cinemascope-sized movie screen, sung in an unknown key, to a back beat rhythm, generated by youthful members of a guitar-percussion combo? Have God the Father, the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit been reduced to ambiguous adjectives in lyric choruses that appear to have been written by a failing English student?
Does the after service "fellowship" consist of exclusionary groups of "buddies", who discuss corporate dealings between the company and the county government; or, how their last trip to Silverwood or Disneyland went; or, what sort of outlandish design scheme will be used for the next series of custom choppers; or, how having tattoos on one arm just demands you have the other arm tattooed as well; or, what sort of psychotropic drugs the kids are being administred in the public schools this year; or, how great the [insert sport team name here] are doing this season; Do they tear one another apart with their gossip? Anything, but discussing that which God has spoken that day?
None of that is biblical.
Men, are you forced to avert your eyes more often than not as you walk through the church door due to the sensual styles and lack of modesty observed by young women in their behavior and manner of dress?
Do you find that the youth in your church, boys and girls alike; not only do they get away with engaging in openly sinful activity, but their irreverent behavior, such as dressing, talking and behaving like ghetto hoodlums, proudly sporting tattoos, piercings, outlandish make-up and hair styles, is seen as an "evangelistic" tool? Are far too many children being allowed by faithless, spineless and permissive parents, to look, act, talk, and smell just like their unsaved mall rat hoodlum counterparts? And while all that goes uncorrected, are excuses actually being made for their sin by, not only their parents, but the "leadership" as well? And if you raise a red flag, you're accused of being judgmental, and of course, someone always throws: "judge not, lest ye be judged" in your face (apparently, not knowing or caring that the devil twists and misuses Scripture too).
Are your children sequestered away from you in "Children's Church", instead of learning how, by your side, to rightly worship God, as well as learning to be self-disciplined and respectful in the company of adults?
Are you frustrated by the flights of fancy taken by modern "exposition" of Scripture, while interpretation is neglected altogether? Does the "pastor" mix the old with the new, as though time, place, and audience means little to the message of Scripture? Does talk of miracles in the Far East and how much money is needed for Pastor Whoever's pet projects predominate the messages? Are you encouraged from the pulpit to become politically involved? Does the pastor talk all about having "your best life now", while little, if any, mention is given to glorifying God with your life, no matter what condition your life is in? Have you been taught that it's okay to keep the secular and sacred separate? Have you been taught to believe that your "purpose", as a Christian, is to become a better person, have a more successful career and make a better world? Does your church consider teaching about sin or holy living as legalism?
None of that is biblical, either.
Are you starving, spiritually? Have you been so badly wounded by the church, that you've considered giving-up on the idea of finding a church family altogether? Please don't ever do that. It's out there. Read on.
I know that I've painted a pretty nasty picture of the goings on in your average, run-of-the-mill, modern Protestant and non-demonitional church today, but stick with me here, please. You might be releaved to learn that all of that tripe is of human invention. None of it comes from the Bible. Now consider that the Bible, rightly-divided, has answers to all the questions, healing for every wound, and is a fountian of knowledge and wisdom which God has given us; that we may be able to glorify His Name and worship Him in the manner He has prescribed.
Look with me for a moment at some of the causes and solutions to the problems of the church of this post-modern era we live in.
Virtually every church today is organized around an anti-biblical hierarchical pattern of human leadership which divides the "Leadership" from the led. That division is responsible for every problem in the church today. Let's look at some of the defining characteristics for church, as God intended.
Did you know the Apostle Paul taught that the Church of God is to be like a family, not an organization? That it is, by definition, small and it is to meet in the homes of its members on the Lord's Day. It is elder-led (not in an set-apart, "having authority over others" sense, but rather, in a sacrificial and service sense); In such a church, Jesus is the Senior Elder and no one leads from the front. A biblical church celebrates the Lord's Table not as a "crumb and a cup" service, (biblical churches don't even have "services"), but rather as a full meal: the main meal at the end of the day.
In a biblical church, everyone is expected and encouraged to
participate. Acts 20:9-10 reads: "And there sat in a window a certain young
man named Eutychus, being fallen into a deep sleep: and as Paul was long
preaching, he sunk down with sleep, and fell down from the third loft,
and was taken up dead. And Paul went down, and fell on him, and embracing him
said, Trouble not yourselves; for his life is in him.
1 Cor 14:26 reads: "How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying."
This sort of activity represents what Paul handed down as a biblical tradition for us to follow.
Notice the word in bold from Acts: "preaching". That is the Greek word: "dialegomai". It looks a bit like our word "dialog", doesn't it? It means to engage in discussion, in English, too. Paul was engaging in a discussion with those folks. That's a far cry from what happens in an institutional church today. Try a little dialegomai with an institutional church pastor during some Sunday morning service and see how popular you become with the ushers.
While the particulars are not all for us today, the method remains the same. Everyone participates. Today, we each read, comment upon, and make application to a portion of Scripture, share a song or poem of praise to the Lord, discuss some doctrinal, social, or prophetic issue we are concerned about, and, of course, we bear one another's burdens and pray for one another. Eph 6:1 and Col 3:20 show us that Paul also spoke to the children, who were obviously present at the meeting, learning right along with their parents. All of this is done in an atmosphere of transparency and trust, with the Holy Spirit leading as He chooses.
If church discipline ever becomes necessary, (a rare occurrence where the Holy Spirit teaches through the Word), it's done by the people who love the one being disciplined, not by some "Leader" lording some pretended authority over the individual behind closed doors, or exposing an already wounded person to even more humiliation and ridicule, before an audience of strangers.
Biblical churches don't have "pastors" because it's anti-biblical to do so. Both the Lord Jesus and the Apostle Peter said that we were not to lord leadership over one another. Why does the church today do that?
of the Early Church Fathers
Biblical churches are led by Elders, the word is a translation of the Greek word "presbuteros", which simply means older brother. Elders who God has called to be leaders in the church, are given the task of overseeing the church, and are called: Overseers (Greek:"episkopos"), sometimes translated Bishop. We might say something like: "Elder John has been called by God to Oversee the church that meets in his house". Overseer and Bishop are synonymous terms which refer to the same person. What we see in the context here are that these two words, Bishop and Overseer, describe the task of an Elder (presbuteros) relative to the church as a corporate body. See Acts 20, verses 17 and 28. The NIV translates "shepherds", in verse 28 from the Greek "poimaino" which means to tend as a shepherd (The KJV translates it "to feed"). Elsewhere, the Greek noun "poimen" is translated pastors (Ephesians 4:11). Here we see the task or function of an Elder relative to individuals in the church being described.
So, we have several different terms, all referring to the same individual in the church: the Elder.
Another point to notice is that whenever Eldership is referred to in the Bible, it is always plural, it is always male, and it is always home grown; one having been recognized an Elder by the church he was raised up in. Eldership is always co-equal and non-hierarchical (See I Peter 5:1-3). It is always functional, not positional. Authority in the church is a moral authority to which people respond because they recognize it.
I could go on and on with this, but what I wanted to do here, for the moment, is show that the idea of a church having a "Pastor" is completely anti-biblical.
Do you know why?
Because when you have one man in charge, that man gets proud and he gets deceived, (this always happens because we all get proud and we all get deceived), and he ends up taking the whole church down with him; along whatever road his deception leads. That's where each and every cult you can name has come from. Even in a church, so-called, that doesn't meet the criteria of a "cult", pastors and those who sit under their teaching can end-up with some of the most outlandish beliefs. Have you ever heard someone say: "Well, I just believe God can do whatever He wants to do ...", in response to a question that exposes an error or contridiction in what they have been taught? I have, all too often, and it's sad that "pastors" would keep their people in such a state of ignorance, all for the sake of their traditions and pet doctrines.
An elder-led biblical church is protected, by design, by the Holy Spirit, from being destroyed by some "pastor" who has gone completely off his biblical rails, because there is no "Pastor"; No one man in charge! The Elders answer to the same church as do the led. All are under the authority of the Senior Elder, Jesus Christ, through the working of the indwelling Holy Spirit, speaking His will through the written Word, the Bible, rightly-divided. This is true spirituality in action. See Philippians 2:16.
Biblical churches don't want your money, either. They may take up a collection to be delivered to the food bank or to meet some other, specific need of others, but they don't need (or ask for) your money for themselves.
Please also remember this isn't about finding "something that works" or "doing church" differently just for the sake of doing it differently or promoting some new doctrine; but rather, it's about doing what is right, biblically.
All that awful stuff I mentioned at the beginning of this paper, came about because men, who should have spent more time studying their Bibles and less time preaching out of their traditions, imaginations, and lusts, disregarded biblical truth; in doctrine as well as practice. They gave the devil a foothold in the communities of faith they were charged to protect, and the sin that was the result, has nearly destroyed them. Only by returning to the Bible: Hearing what God has said to us and just believing Him, (without the "assistance" of man's sordid opinions), can we ever hope to rescue the faithful church from this deadly, anti-biblical snare called Modern Western Christianity. It's time, I believe, we shook off the burden of nearly 2000-years of anti-biblical tradition (because, sadly, that's just how long it's been going on), and gave Jesus' Church back to him, so He can make it (and us) conform to His perfect will.