Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Will the TRUE Church please stand up!!

Identity Crisis #3: The people within the church, the believers, disciples, sheep, etc. do not know what "church" truly is. They have unrealistic expectations and traditional ideas of how church is supposed to be and press that amongst the body of Christ.

The evidence that I propose:
Pastors: First, we don't stay very long at any church, (I think the average is 3 years) so the body of Christ where we serve do not trust pastors because they know that another church will entice them, a bigger salary or bigger fellowship somewhere else will entice them, problems at the current church are too overwhelming, or a "I want a fresh start" attitude. If we really dig in at the church where God has placed us and truly shepherd His Church then this attitude of how church is supposed to be can change.

Second, pastor's need to lead people to the Scriptures, the blueprint of the Church. It must be preached and taught over and over. We are to lead the sheep to the green meadows and still waters. We spend so much of our time doing strategy planning, mission and vision statements, long range planning, and other stuff when we havent really properly defined and taught what the church is. Be passionate about this and lead!! If we are intrenched in tradition, then it is time for reform so we better dig in!!

Church Members: I hear church members make comments such as "what is the church going to do?" when it comes to various situations, or "the church ought to be doing this" or "that". Some have even taken on the role of church watch dog, to be its protector or its hero. They have forgotten that "For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything." Ephesians 5:23-24 (NASB95)

I have been in some churches where people have their feelings hurt because of what the church didn't do and that offended them. There are plenty of those folks in our communities who have lost their faith in their church. The Me & I mentality of society has entered the church through its members. We do not claim to be servants of God any longer. We want to be served. We are no longer accountable to God, His Word, or each other. We want to be "faithful" through our attendance so that we can be marked as present.

We have no clue as to what "being subject" means. The church is subject to Christ Paul writes. Subjection is from the Greek root “hupotasso”: to be subject to, to make oneself willing, to submit to the discipline and control of a superior. The drill sergeant’s job in the US Army is to make soldiers out of civilians, to turn them into a combat ready soldier from the every day Joe that walked down the street without a care. To learn the ways of a soldier and to turn from a simple life to a brand new one. Always training, always working, always asking if I am ready or not……it is the same with being a Christian. God is our drill sergeant turning us, transforming us into the Christian we are to be…constantly training and molding, ready to defend our faith, to share Jesus with the world, and to be disciplined in our walk with Him. That is being “subject” and giving control up to a superior. That is at the root of all this accountability!!

So read God's Word, the blueprint, study hard, preach, teach, and write down what God says the Church is. Before we go anywhere or do anything, we must understand our identity first.


Jeff Richard Young said...

Dear Pastor Brian,

I have enjoyed reading these articles. I hope to come back tomorrow or the next day for a more careful reading and comment.

Love in Christ,


Eklektos said...

Telephone Pastor, I am in agreement with your thesis but as a point of clarity concerning identity crisis #2 you use the phrase “The church has allowed the unsaved to become members in it. There are people in the church…” I realize that you use lower case “c”, and it probably a matter of semantics but it seems to me that you are saying that Jesus has allowed the unsaved to become members of His Church. I do not think that the Messiah allows the unsaved to become a member of His Church. Would it not be more accurate to say the local church membership has allowed the unsaved to become members? As the shepherd of the flock it is our highest responsibility to keep the local church unpolluted, protecting them from the goats and anything else that would threaten the safety of the flock.

There is another saying that the goats use and that is “the Bible says we are not to judge them,” and I use 1 Corinthians 4:5 where Paul is counseling the local church members

So be careful not to jump to conclusions before the Lord returns as to whether or not someone is faithful. When the Lord comes, he will bring our deepest secrets to light and will reveal our private motives. And then God will give to everyone whatever praise is due.

With this verse in mind, I agree the Bible calls us not to judge but to leave judgment up to the Lord.

However, when a person comes into a local church, or has been there many years and claims to be a Christian but acts like a goat, scriptures tell us that not only can we judge them, but instructs us to do so. We see this in 1 Corinthians 5:3-13

3Even though I am not there with you in person, I am with you in the Spirit. Concerning the one who has done this, I have already passed judgment4in the name of the Lord Jesus. You are to call a meeting of the church, and I will be there in spirit, and the power of the Lord Jesus will be with you as you meet.5Then you must cast this man out of the church and into Satan's hands, so that his sinful nature will be destroyed and he himself will be saved when the Lord returns.6How terrible that you should boast about your spirituality, and yet you let this sort of thing go on. Don't you realize that if even one person is allowed to go on sinning, soon all will be affected?7
Remove this wicked person from among you so that you can stay pure Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed for us.8So let us celebrate the festival, not by eating the old bread of wickedness and evil, but by eating the new bread of purity and truth. 9When I wrote to you before, I told you not to associate with people who indulge in sexual sin. 10But I wasn't talking about unbelievers who indulge in sexual sin, or who are greedy or are swindlers or idol worshipers. You would have to leave this world to avoid people like that. 11What I meant was that you are not to associate with anyone who claims to be a Christian, yet indulges in sexual sin, or is greedy, or worships idols, or is abusive, or a drunkard, or a swindler. Don't even eat with such people. 12It isn't my responsibility to judge outsiders, but it certainly is your job to judge those inside the church who are sinning in these ways. 13God will judge those on the outside; but as the Scriptures say, "You must remove the evil person from among you."

I think these scriptures are very clear about our obligation to judge but there is a difficult and prayerful duty to be considered when we do this. If there, is any reproof it is to be done with the utmost Christian love. The objective is to turn a goat into a sheep or to bring a sheep back into the fold. A local church that does not have harmony and cohesiveness is not a good witness for our Lord, especially if there is acrimony among the leaders of the local church.

Another example of when the body of believers is to judge the goats and backsliders within the local church is found In 2 John 7-11 John talks about truth and error and how we are to respond to these goats. John says about the same thing as Paul does in Corinthians.

“5And now I want to urge you, dear lady, that we should love one another. This is not a new commandment, but one we had from the beginning. 6 Love means doing what God has commanded us, and he has commanded us to love one another, just as you heard from the beginning. 7 Many deceivers have gone out into the world. They do not believe that Jesus Christ came to earth in a real body. Such a person is a deceiver and an antichrist. 8 Watch out, so that you do not lose the prize for which we have been working so hard. Be diligent so that you will receive your full reward. 9 For if you wander beyond the teaching of Christ, you will not have fellowship with God. But if you continue in the teaching of Christ, you will have fellowship with both the Father and the Son. 10 If someone comes to your meeting and does not teach the truth about Christ, don't invite him into your house or encourage him in any way. 11 Anyone who encourages him becomes a partner in his evil work.”

These people oppose Jesus Christ and speak lies about him at the worst and at the least; they distort the truth and muddy the water. Perhaps unknowingly they have become the servants of the devil. They are enemies of Christ. John calls them false Christs.
When Christians really love each other, they will see who the false ones are. Therefore, our love is like a guard against these false Christians.
In verse 8, John warns the local Christians about the risks if they accept a false or distorted message. They must protect themselves from that danger. They need to test the source of what they hear.
What these false teachers say may sound good, on occasion, they have fooled me, and some of those who love Christ have fooled themselves. They teach their message so well that it seems to be true. Unless we test it with care, we might believe it as the truth. If we were to believe it, we would suffer loss. We would lose all that for which the apostles and teachers had worked. We would not be able to grow in the truth if we believed their lies.
We must believe the truth about the Lord Jesus Christ and we must love each other. There are rewards for those who remain true to Christ. John is eager that we should not lose these rewards. He wants us to have eternal life and all the promises of God. Therefore, we must refuse all that is false. We must receive all that God has for us.
In verse 9, the false teachers thought that they had new knowledge. This replaced what the apostles taught. The false teachers said that their message was new and different. In addition, their message really was a new idea, but it was a wrong idea. They had added their own idea to the truth, they had changed the truth into what is false. Sometimes these false teachers have been inside the local church many years and have positions of authority. What a new Christian or new member hears from the pulpit does not match up with the teachings, or actions, of these leaders. This creates a conflict that is hard to reconcile, who is right, not understanding it is their individual responsibility to judge what is proclaimed back to the only source of truth, the Bible.
They did not continue to teach what Jesus Christ had taught. They did not believe the truth about Jesus as the Christ. They denied that Jesus was always the Son of God. In addition, they tried to lead other people away from the truth by what they taught. They changed the truth. And they did not do as Christ said. They did not live in truth and love as he wanted.
Many people, like these false teachers and false members, do not believe what Christ taught. They do not obey what Jesus said, therefore, they cannot know God. They do not have the life that Christ gives. They do not live with God.

In verses 10-11. We should give strangers a welcome to our churches and our homes. But we must be careful and not give a welcome to false teachers. The purpose of their visit is to teach errors. Therefore, we should not give them a chance to teach. If false teachers come to the house (or the church), we should not let them in. We should not even greet them. If we greet them, we share in their evil task. If we help them, it is against our own church and against Christ. We should not greet them when they arrive. Moreover, we should not bless them when they go.

To be continued. . .

Signed, Eklektos

Gene Pool said...

Pastor Brian,

You said, “write down what God says the Church is. Before we go anywhere or do anything, we must understand our identity first.”

Allow me to start the process by providing a definition of the local, assembled Church (ekklesia in the Greek), and also state its purpose.

DEFINITION: a gathering of called out ones; the assembling of individuals who have surrendered to Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior (the saved).

PURPOSE OF THE ASSEMBLED CHURCH: (1) to worship God through prayer, the preaching of His Word, and observing the Lord’s Supper, (2) edify, encourage, honor, and love each other as brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ, (3) teach and learn biblical doctrine, (4) prepare members to proclaim the Gospel, (5) equip members with the tools they need to overcome sin and remain free from the pollution of the world.

I contend that every activity within the assembled church be tested against its purpose statement. If an activity can’t be directly or indirectly tied to a stated purpose, that activity should be revisited to see if it should be done under the banner of “church.”

Please note that I intentionally did not include sharing the Gospel to the lost through word and deed, providing for physical needs--food, clothing, shelter--to those outside the church family (the unsaved), etc. Those are things our Lord commanded all believers to do and we should obey His commands. But they need not be a formal purpose of the assembled church. When churches attempt to institutionalize individual believers’ responsibilities, it usually ends up in distractions, disagreements, hurt feelings, and disunity.

That’s my off-the-cuff 2-cents worth.

Gene Pool

Jeff Richard Young said...

Dear Pastor Brian,

I am especially glad to hear you calling pastors to unbusy themselves from programs, planning, etc. in order to teach the congregation.

Hear, hear!

Love in Christ,


Eklektos said...

As the late Paul Harvey said "page two."

We find another example in Revelation.
Revelation 2:1: “To the angel of the church of Ephesus write, “These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands…”

The Lord walks among the churches in all ages to know them. Jesus commends and rebukes them and gives a specific warning to this church in Revelation

2:5: “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place-- unless you repent.”

The removing of the church’s lampstand meant Christ’s Spirit would depart and leave them on their own, which in turn would result in them being as Laodicea (Laodicea can mean “men’s opinions ruling in place of God”). Loyalty to Christ can and often is replaced by loyalty to an organization, a church, and its leaders, substituting new rules and interpretations for Biblical truths.

We find that all the churches mentioned in Revelation exist at the same time, and we can find the faithful Church existing alongside the unfaithful Church today. However, there is only one Church that will take over and it will become the center of apostasy. The church of Laodicea has prepared the way for the great apostasy. It has kept Christ out of the Church and from His people. It has stood for nothing for so long that it has little effect on society, while at the same time it has allowed anything contrary to Christ’s teachings to come in. Today the world looks at this Church and excuses its sin, because there is no salt left for conviction. This Church became lukewarm, seeking unity with everyone, showing tolerance for any doctrinal aberration and interpreting it as love. It is reflective of a Church that at end of the age has come under the influence of the world instead of being an influence in the world. The world wonders why it should be judged, if there is no substantial difference between it and the Church. Nevertheless, judgment begins in the House of God. The Lord is infinitely more concerned about His people than about the unbeliever. And so Jesus commands, warns and rebukes each church. Because God removes His lampstand from apostate churches, they have resorted to worldly methods and techniques in order to continue to attract people. Developing so many programs that the church begings to resemble the country club of Christ, putting activities ahead of worship, providing a superficial involvement in peoples lives. After all, one must keep the organizational wheels and money rolling!

The Laodicean church thought they were doing well and were spiritual. After all, they were rich, so of course God must be blessing them. The wealthy, and I might include the not wealthy, so mostly dress well and talk about their possessions to impress people. They focus on outward appearances and worldliness. But, these people did not know their inward condition; they were blind and could not see. Therefore, the Lord asked if they would buy from Him, gold refined in the fire (by their suffering) white garments (robes of salvation) and eye salve so they could see their condition. Today many see their success, because their local church grows in numbers and prosperity as God’s blessing. But, if you look closely it is just a revolving door of people coming in and then leaving, believing in an easy salvation and not wanting to hear a message that might convict them causing them to evaluate their relationship with The Messiah. The Laodicean Church was lukewarm. The Lord wanted them either cold or hot. Hot water was used for healing; cold was used for refreshment. Instead, they could not make up their mind, they were standing for nothing, and were good for nothing. They lived in both worlds. Spiritually they could have been either all for God or not for God at all, but they were in between. If they were hot, they would have been approved. If they were cold, God could have changed them, but they were in the middle and He was unable do anything. This is the worst place to be, to be part of a church, doing church things, thinking you are a Christian when in fact you are not. The Laodiceans had just enough religiosity to get by and think they were fine. They were naked also. In the time of Christ all soldiers would sleep in their clothes, they would not take them off in order to be ready for battle at a moments notice. We are to be clothed in white garments, the righteousness of Christ. Jesus was saying they did not have his righteousness they were naked. Yet even this church is not hopeless; Christ can come in to the individual if He is allowed, “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore, be zealous and repent “(v.19). This is the only Church that The Messiah is outside of and offers to come to the individual in the Church and not the collective Church. Because the whole Church is removed from the truth, the word of God is not functioning. This does not mean they abandon God’s word or name but only use portions of it that suit them, or change its meaning to make them feel more comfortable.
Telephone Pastor, in closing I want to thank you in standing up for the true Church, my fear is that we are well along the irreversible path of apostasy and I pray God we will be harpazo out of here soon.


Anonymous said...

I wonder how many of our local folk are actively studying the Word, daily.

What group of 'mature' Christians are mentoring the 'newborns'? Or more important - how many of the folks that say "I'm Christian" have the knowledge to share that faith and to answer questions with a biblical basis?

How many have something x years ago as their testimony?

Ergatees said...

Gene Pool,

Do you not think that the Assembled Church cared for the poor and the needy? Was that not the job of those who were selected to care for these affairs in Acts 6? I mean, I understand your point that this is not something that should be the center of Sunday Service, but do you not think that these matters were addressed by the Assembled Church? They did not have meeting houses then like we have today. So where do you think they were distributing food and the like? While I am not suggesting we make alms giving and food hand-outs a part of our orders of service, I am suggesting that it was the Assembled Church that did these things. Therefore, it should be a part of the purpose of the Church.

In fact, I think one could simplify the Purpose of the Church to just "To glorify God in all matters and means possible." While this is not really meaningful to someone who is outside of the Church, I think it is accurate.

In Him,

Ergatees said...

Sleepy Disciple (Telephone Pastor),

I am taking my time reading through all of your posts and all of the comments that have been made. I really have been blessed and encouraged by what I have read so far. I appreciate your standing up and declaring the truth found in the Word of God for the church.

I agree with you as it seems that the church has indeed lost its way. The church really needs to fall to their knees and pray for forgiveness. Many that come to our meeting houses on Sunday and Wednesday are living a lie; they proclaim themselves to be followers of Christ, but the reality is that they follow the traditions of men and their own wicked hearts.

We need men to stand up and declare from the pulpits and from the Sunday School rooms the REAL truths of Scripture when it comes to what the Church really is, what the Church should look like, and how it should act. One only has to take a brief look at the various commands that the Word has for the Church to see that the Church is in disrepair and is boldly disobedient. We need to repent, we need to study, and we need to tell others. When I say we, I mean to include we as leaders in our churches as well, for we bear the burden of preaching and teaching these truths to the people and for many years we have failed to do so. We must reclaim the true identity of the Church and own it for ourselves. We need to declare these truths boldly and with love to all that will hear.

Thank you for these posts. I still have plenty more to read and I look forward to reading it.

In Him,