Friday, November 25, 2011

When church Isn't a church Anymore

1Samuel 4:21-22, "And she named the child Ichabod, saying, The glory is departed from Israel: because the ark of God was taken, and because of her father in law and her husband. 22 And she said, The glory is departed from Israel: for the ark of God is taken"

*Note: When the author renders the word ‘Church’ as shown, he is referring to the Main Stream, Business Entity, Institutional ‘Church’ System most are familiar with. When he renders the word church in all lower case letters, he is referring to Christ’s Authentic, Legitimate Home based church, which He created and continues to build.

Please read 1Sam 3 & 4 to get the whole picture of this incident. The ark was not just a symbol of God's power for the nation of Israel. It was a conduit of God's power so long as God chose to use this instrument for His glory. Other nations knew and feared this power. Although they did not understand it as the nation of Israel did, they understood that when it was around, God's power would emanate from it to destroy any people who dared challenge this little nation. They knew of the stories of how the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob obliterated the mighty Egyptian armies that day on the shores of the Red Sea. They were afraid.

But something happened. God was about to make good on His vow regarding the judge Eli. The LORD had Promised that his house would be judged for the iniquities of his sons and Eli's disregard for their sins against God. They had little or no regard for the power of God. This was evident by their lack of interest in the ways of God. So, even though the Philistines were afraid, they decided to die like men and they marched on Israel anyway. But, for the house of Eli, it was time to pay the Piper! The LORD withheld His mighty power against the Philistines and the ark became silent. Thirty thousand Israelite footmen fell that day and the ark of God was taken. Our lesson is about to begin. Let us now focus our minds eye on today.

On a Saturday afternoon a man hears a knock at his door. Standing at his doorway is a man who claims to be visiting the neighborhood to introduce himself. After some chit-chat he asks a question; "If you were to die today, do you know where you'd go?" Being new to the question, the resident answers with an honest heart and admits that he does not. The friendly man asks if he might take a moment and show him that he could know. He agrees and he starts out explaining God's simple plan of salvation. The resident believes on Jesus Christ to save his soul and he instantly and wonderfully becomes a child of God.

This scenario occurs thousands of times through any given week in our neighborhoods across America. Thousands have been gloriously saved because of those who put forth the effort to share the gospel of Jesus Christ, and I thank God for each of them. Now begins the task of discipleship. The new babe in Christ needs to be taught about his Saviour and how He expects him to behave and grow. The preacher invites him to have Bible studies in his home. When the newborn arrives he finds others who were approached in the same manner and have been saved as well. He is meeting his new spiritual family for the first time. He is instructed about baptism and the Lord's Supper. He complies willingly and begins his new journey as an ambassador of Christ.

After weeks and months of being taught the fundamentals of the faith, the disciple grasps the concept of leading others to Christ and he begins showing newly saved people the ropes of soul winning. His wife and children are saved. His extended family is saved. Some of his friends get saved. Some of his co-workers are saved. This growing assembly meets on a regular basis in different homes. They share God's Word from house to house and witness to the lost on a regular basis. They learn to follow the Holy Spirit's leading and don't just witness on Saturdays, but wherever the Spirit leads. It is no longer a duty to them. It becomes a lifestyle and a mission.

Unbeknownst to the flock, they are being taught by a man who was sent from an Institutional ‘Church’ to plant ‘like-Churches’ in the area. What’s wrong with this? Plenty! What we may assume is being formed as a church of Jesus Christ isn’t that at all. I’ll explain. An Institutional ‘Church’ sends out its so-called missionaries and ‘Church’ planters to reproduce themselves as an Organizational business entity, not a New Covenant assembly. It’s so close to what we would understand as true church planting that we do not recognize the difference. To be blunt, the genes of a Jackal cannot Produce a lamb. Their DNA’s are totally different and incompatible. So it is with an Institutional Church' trying to spawn Christ's New Covenant house church. They just aren't compatible. Their bloodlines don't mix.

The house church never evolved into the Institutional model. The home church came through Jesus’ bloodline. The Institutional ‘Church’ System came from Satan’s bloodline. That’s the bottom line. The only reason why the Gospel is in some Institutional ‘Churches’ is a result of Organizational survival. Many years ago, when “The CHURCH” was a Theocracy and governed the people, a few noticed that Scripture stated that faith was to be in a Saviour, not the ‘Church.’ When those in power saw that the public smelled a rat, they relented and embraced the Gospel (or a counterfeit of it) so that the average subject wouldn’t leave, as did so many others. Apart from that, the Institutional ’Church’ has taught more of man’s traditions than God’s. It became an ecclesiastical business. But, the house church continued to survive and grow outside of Institutionalism. Why? Because Christ’s authentic church was never a part of the Institution to begin with. Now let’s see how the Institutional ‘Church’ pastor / planter springs his trap.

One day the pastor announces that their congregation has gotten too big to manage from house to house and that something needs to be done. He explains that he was trained in Bible College how to grow a church Properly. He explains that every growing ‘Church’ reaches a point in their development when they need to branch out, take a leap of faith and search for a permanent meeting place. So, they find a school gymnasium, or a community center they could rent for a couple of days throughout the week while they search for a permanent piece of Property to be purchased. The congregation asks, "How do we pay for this new endeavor?" The pastor gently guides them into a doctrine called Tithing' (a.k.a. Income Tithing).

He opens up the Bible and teaches what he has been trained to teach. He says, "Turn in your Bibles to Malachi 3,” and he begins to unfold this new doctrine. This, my friends, is the beginning of the end. The second the appointed deacons and trustees sign a bank note for a building is when this pedigree for a ‘Church’ reaches maturity. It happens everyday.

It is no longer a small, struggling fellowship that meets for Bible study. It now has a 'Name.’ It has a corporate name, which is to be placed upon a sign outside their new structure. It is now a place where they can have 'Church.’ It has become an Institution. It has become a business organization. It has filed a tax-free status called a 501c3 with the Federal government. It has now officially become a Corporation. Ads are placed in the local phone book to attract new attendees. They hire a staff out of their congregation and different approved Bible Colleges who interview for positions as, "Full-time Christian Servants.” In time, an Associate Pastor is hired to lead the youngsters so that they will not stray into the world.

As more time passes they add different Programs they call “ministries,” like a nursery and a bus ministry. The Bookstore becomes a reality and so does an Addiction Program. They eventually see the need for an academy to be formed so that the children will be educated with a Proven Christian curriculum. Instructors are found to teach the curriculum during the school year. A payroll is needed for them. The parents are charged for every child who attends on top of the tithes they pay. Why? Because a school needs three things to survive and Prosper; faculty, facilities and funding. The more students who enroll, the more money is generated. The more money that is generated, the more can be spent for expansion. The academy becomes a separate corporation all it's own. To keep these "ministries" going, more money is needed; and these needs are met through the faithful ones who tithe, give offerings and pay tuition.

This 'Church' grows even faster and larger. The pastor becomes a regular speaker at the conventions and conferences he is invited to. Many are curious how he grew his 'Church' so big in such a short amount of time. As word spreads, many families move to his area to be a member of this organization for the betterment of their family. The pastor even starts a new Bible College on campus to instruct and train young men and women for the ministry. This also costs tuition on top of their tithes. The new college grows and expands the same way the academy has.

One might ask, "What's wrong with all of this? Isn't this the way it is supposed to be?" The answer, sadly is, "No!"

The ’Church’ has grown as a fixture in its area and has become its own industry. It never was a local, fellowship, assembly, which met from house to house, was free in all things and had all things in common. Instead, it was born into a world of departmentalized enterprises kept together by Proceeds and not Power. You see, this corporation would never have become the facsimile of a church that it has become if the pastor never said, "We need to tithe!" There is NO WAY a body of saved believers could have gotten into so much debt, without the implementation of the tithe. Take that away, take the name away, take the bank accounts away and we are back to being the ever-growing, ever-moving, house to house ekklesia Christ intended.

Christ’s church was meant to be a whole community of believers, which expands from house to house, neighborhood to neighborhood, burg to burg, town to town and city to city. We would become the personification of the kingdom of God. We would still be local, physical and meet not just two or three times a week. We would become an everyday lifestyle. We would be an ever-growing, living organism. We wouldn't be considered "an IT" to go to and have, as much as, "an Us" to where we just are! One body, under One ruler; Jesus Christ! Under One Teacher; the Holy Spirit! No money would be needed to fund Programs, Properties and Professional leaders. Children would be home schooled by their parents. Pastors wouldn't be the Prominent ones in the assemblies. They would be in the background as guides, making sure that doctrine is taught Biblically.

Home churches that have morphed into an Institutional model exist as well, but from the beginning of the church age, this was not so. A Home church that has forsaken it’s fellowship roots will have a lot to answer for, but Christ’s authentic and legitimate home church that remains pure will never cease to be a remnant.

Add the tithe, and church just wouldn't be 'a church' anymore. It would become something else with a new name. Why? Because this new name is a reminder. People of an Institutional style of 'Church' today have little or no regard for the way Jesus would have His people be ruled and behave. Those in an Institutional 'Church' may have put their own biblical sounding name out in front, but God only see's one name above the door; Ichabod!
This name was given by a distraught mother to her newborn son to remind those in the future of the total dismantlement of the house of Eli and God's withdrawal of His power once reserved for their benefit. It is said today that God writes 'Ichabod' above the doors of churches that has had His power stripped from them. Every local assembly that started out under God's model of church and morphed into an Institutional 'Church' model falls under this category. God help us to understand His vision of the community He wants for His saints.

No comments:

Post a Comment