Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Church In The Promised Land

Deuteronomy 1:5-8, "On this side Jordan, in the land of Moab, began Moses to declare this law, saying, 6 The LORD our God spake unto us in Horeb, saying, Ye have dwelt long enough in this mount: 7 Turn you, and take your journey, and go to the mount of the Amorites, and unto all the places nigh thereunto, in the plain, in the hills, and in the vale, and in the south, and by the sea side, to the land of the Canaanites, and unto Lebanon, unto the great river, the river Euphrates. 8 Behold, I have set the land before you: go in and possess the land which the LORD sware unto your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give unto them and to their seed after them."

*NOTE: When the author renders the word 'Church' as seen here, he is referring to man's Business entity,  Professional Institutional 'Church' System we see today. When he renders the word church in all lower case lettering, he is referring to God's Authentic, Original Biblical house church of the New Testament found in the book of Acts.

Since writing this blog I have been engaged on a mission of sorts to inform (and at times gently Provoke) those inside an Institutional 'Church' setting to consider just how artificial their current surroundings really are. To this end I have been committed to write as many articles as possible to expose the comparisons between Institutional 'Church' and Biblical house church. I've tried to accomplish this from many different angles. My friend and brother in Christ, John Vuckovich Jr, recently shared with me a slant on this issue, which the Lord shared with him. He pointed out that we as saved individuals, are mostly unaware that the organizations we are members of (that call themselves a 'Church') aren't what Christ meant for church to be at all. And, that today, there are more people that are beginning to see that Biblical church life doesn't consist of funding a building nor is it supposed to be a Senior Pastor led business entity.

'Church' folk desire now what they desired from the very beginning; to please their Saviour and to become a part of His New Covenant assembly. The Problem is that the people in this category, although wanting to do God's will, just don't realize that they may be caught up in an Organization that claims to be Christ's model, but isn't. Let's face it, when a person receives the Saviour, he becomes "a new babe in Christ." A baby is ever trusting and dependent upon others who are supposed to know better than he does. When he is guided to be a part of a local Institutional 'Church' usually he becomes compliant and settles into his new role as a 'Church' member. But as he grows in his new 'faith,' he discovers that 'Church' may not be at all what it is advertized to be. After a time (and in some cases, many years pass bye) he notices inappropriate behavior everywhere. He also sees that there are traditions and practices that are contrary to the Word of God. The more nonsense he observes, the more aware he becomes of the contrasts that glare back at him from the pages of God's Word.

At first he goes to his pastor to get answers to the questions that are plaguing him down to his very soul. For a time, the answers he receives pacify him so that he'll return to his former mind set of toeing the line and being a good Christian soldier. But, as he matures, he see's what's happening in the light of Scripture and begins to take less and less stock in what his mentors tell him (no matter how sincere and honest they are). Some become aware of this 'dark side' and one day they say to themselves, "Enough is enough! If I'm going to get the answers I need, I'll have to consult the Bible myself. This cannot be Christ's model for His assembly! There's too much hanky-panky going on here to be His authentic church. Political scandals and illicit relationships are everywhere. Graft and extortion run rampant. The higher I ascend in the Church's' organization, the more corruption I see. I have to Protect my family from this. What have I gotten us INTO? I want out! BUT where could I go?" He has no idea that there is enough information outside of the Institutional model to help him Proceed and get out of this mess. He just doesn't know where to look.

I'm not trying to say that bad behavior is prevalent in every Institutional 'Church.' What I am saying is there is enough of it going on to warrant that something needs to be said about it. The disillusioned 'Church' member's faith in the Lord is strong, but his resolve regarding organized 'Church' is wearing thin. He is still willing to leave, but he just doesn't know where to go or what to do. How does he Protect his family from the angst of Institutionalism and still please his Saviour? Does he remain in such a dysfunctional setting or does he decide to do something about it and take a leap of faith?

I am convinced that there are those who have been struggling with the same questions as mentioned above for sometime now. They are at a loss as to what they can do to enter into a more godly and Christ-like assembly. They have been roaming around in circles most of their saved lives wondering, "Is THIS all there IS? Does corruption and immorality go hand in hand with God's church?" No matter where they go into an Institutional modeled 'Church,' they see the same thing time and time again. There are a few 'for instances' to note: The 'One Man Show' is a prevalent fixture in an Institutional 'Church' setting. Without clergy harping on it too much, it is understood by all within this model that a "Senior Pastor" is an essential part of the framework that makes up a business entity 'Church.' Believe me, when it comes to God's authentic model of Biblical house church, it isn't. Christ's authentic assembly has a plurality of pastors (elders) that make consensus decisions along with the whole assembly. In contrast, the 'One Man Show' leadership structure of the Institutional model creates a dictatorship at times. This 'One Man Show' seems to create many moods. The key-note speaker makes us laugh. They make us cry. They persuade us to make emotional decisions. Manipulation is key to getting what they need to survive. With emotion and persuasion, we are primed for the collection plate to support this business-like model. It feeds on our tithing dollars the same way the government feeds off of our taxes.

We think the money is going towards an overall 'Good' when in reality, it's going toward the upkeep and budget for a building, staff and it's business operations. A fair comparison would be to acknowledge how most charitable organizations operate. I had a charitable organization call me just last week asking for donations to feed hungry children abroad. I asked the women solicitor, who incidentally was doing a good job at playing on my emotions, what percentage of my donation would reach the actual child in question? She was almost proud to say that it was 10%! TEN PERCENT? To me, ninety percent is too much of an overhead. The child in my estimation is being cheated. They're almost used as an excuse to operate a business! The children in need have become the vehicle for Profit for crying out loud! That's how I see the Institutional 'Church' structure today. It's a business that requires large sums of money to operate and keep it's doors open. What is actually being sustained are the Programs, staff, buildings and budgets. The ones who are in need are getting but a very small percentage of the donations. No matter how sincere people are who give toward these causes, isn't it alarming how little they know that their generosity is being misappropriated in the name of "God's work?"

Another trait is that of imposed pet doctrines. They abound greatly and are enforced under penalty of exclusion, fear of exposure and or excommunication. Tithing is one such imposed doctrine. Another is 'Pastoral Authority.' There is also the false concept of there being two classes of people within the 'Church' such as clergy and laity. Preaching become a scourge to the average Believers who are falsely taught that it is meant to be aimed at the saved as a method to straighten us out. But, we discover from Scripture that preaching is supposed to be a method used to deliver the Gospel to the lost in a positive light. I could go on and on with these imposed traditions, but I think by now, we get the idea.

After years of witnessing the same things in different locations, we come to realize that these 'Churches' are mere duplicates of one another than what was originally framed by God. In fact, I am reminded of the term used in chain stores and restaurants as being "duplicatable." It becomes apparent why preachers today refer to the nation of Israel in the time of Moses as, "the church in the wilderness." They roamed around the desert for forty years going absolutely nowhere. The ironic thing is, this is what today's Institutional 'Church' is doing. Only their journey has lasted over 1800 years! When we begin to read the Scriptures, we find just how different church life was in the New Testament compared to what we are accustomed to today. At this point, I think that we should be questioning what it is that we're actually involved in? Is this really Christ's authentic model for His church?

More and more 'Church' members today are concerned about what is to happen to their families if they continue to bring them up within an Institution that has a track record of being an Organization instead of the Organism Christ intended. Leaving it's boundaries and moving forward into another plain becomes scary. Most aren't even aware that there is another model. So there they sit, perched in their pew, being fed the same old diet of men's traditions from the same old pulpit since the time they were hatched from a 'Church' bus shaped egg. Sadly, most of these birds will never come to the conclusions that are pointed out in this article.

But, a growing number of Christians are discovering that there is an alternative to man's design for 'Church.' It's called, 'Jesus Christ's Authentic church.' The difference is as vast as the gulf fixed between Abraham's bosom and the place called hell. Nowhere in the Bible do we see a business organization associated with Christ. What we do find is a body of believers with a plurality of elders. No head of the church is mentioned save One. Jesus is the Head of the church (Colossians 1:18), not a man who claims that role as a "Senior Pastor." No tithes were used to support the upkeep of a building to meet in. The Lord's Supper was (and still is) supposed to be a full meal in the evening. Elders weren't on a 'Church' payroll. There was no paid staff. Bible colleges weren't derived from Christ's model either. These concepts are all man made. Like I said, the differences between the Bible's model and man's are vast.

For generations it's been said from the pulpits of America that the New Testament 'Church' is likened unto the church in the wilderness of the Hebrew children. They wandered about for forty years waiting until all those who were twenty years and older, from the time they left Egypt, died off so that those nineteen years old and younger could move forward into the Promised Land. This fact in Israeli history is rich in typology. It is a wonder I didn't see it before. In remembrance of why the children of Israel hesitated before they entered into the Promised Land, I submit that this same reason applies to all those who want to leave the wilderness of the Institutional model. The reason is FEAR!

Hebrews 3:7-14, "Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice, 8 Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness: 9 When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years. 10 Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do alway err in their heart; and they have not known my ways. 11 So I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest.) 12 Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. 13 But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end;"

Fear of what? Fear of many things. Fear of the unknown. Fear that we might be shunned. Fear of losing our friends and contacts. Fear of what others might say. Fear of losing our jobs. There's a lot of 'fear factors' going around when we consider the ramifications of such a decision. The writer of Hebrews let's us know that fear is "an evil heart of unbelief." The Hebrew children had fears too. They feared that they wouldn't stack up against the giants in the land. What they forgot is that they had a great Leader in the LORD God, who is bigger than any giant. They also had pretty good human leaders as well. Joshua and Caleb! Joshua here is considered a 'type of Christ.'

Think of it this way... Moses is a type of our "Senior pastors" today. They lead their congregations all through the desert of Institutionalism just like Moses led the children of Israel around the desert. The Problem was, the Hebrew children of Moses' generation ended up waiting for death in the wilderness before the newer generation could live in the land flowing with milkshakes and honeydew melons. Remember, every person who was twenty years or older when they left Egypt had to die off before anyone who was nineteen or younger when they left Egypt could enter into Canaan. It was their land of Promise. The only two exceptions were Joshua and Caleb.

In our modern day and age we have a similar situation presenting itself. Just as the land of Canaan was available to the Hebrew during Moses' day, so is Christ's authentic assembly in ours. We are the church of the Promised land. We just need to realize that we need to get out of the wilderness of Institutionalism and cross over. We need to realize that God is bigger than any obstacle that we might face. Is fear holding you back from crossing over because the giants of the unknown are keeping you at bay? Jesus is the Head of His church, not a senior pastor. When the children of Israel were sent over Jordan, they were commanded to "take possession" of the land, plains, hills, vales, mountains and coasts. It was theirs free of charge. Under the leadership of God, Joshua and Caleb, they realized that only they themselves could prevent them from entering in.

For the better part of 1800 years the Institutional 'Church' model has emptied the pockets of their members just to keep their religious machine greased and running. Christ's assembly has no operating costs. It's a church flowing with the milk of the Word of God and the sweet honey of freedom from organized religious tyranny. We as Believer's are as able to possess and roam our land (as it were), as the Joshua led Hebrew when they entered into the Promised land of Canaan. What are we waiting for, a better offer? Thanks for visiting and God Bless.

Contributions to this article were offered by John Vuckovich.