Sunday, September 4, 2016

Rethinking Church Leadership and Titles


 Rethinking Church Leadership and Titles

I have been considering and re-evaluating our concept of “church” for several years now. And the more I look at it, the more I am convinced that we have been just practicing religious traditions rather than actually being the Church. And I don’t really care what brand of Christianity we’re talking about. Basically, they are all the same, with the same order of business in weekly services held every Sunday (or Saturday, or Wednesday night). Programmed, ritualistic services just leave me cold anymore. And the traditional split between leaders and followers, between clergy and laity, between the anointed ones and the dumb sheep, is just plain upsetting to me.

I have become a card-carrying member of The Dechurched, The Nones, The Unchurched, call us what you will. I now firmly believe that we are to leave the church building and start being the Church. Traditions always lull people to sleep, leaving thousands upon thousands bewitched by religion, thinking that they are serving God by merely attending scripted services. It’s all so very sad. The Church is a new wineskin, a new concept that puts Christians in the world, demonstrating the love of God to those that He puts around them as they live their lives. Biblical Church has nothing to do with buildings and scheduled meetings. It has everything to do with being led by the Holy Spirit as a lifestyle, demonstrating God’s love to the world.

And this brings me to the purpose of this rant. I fully believe that we have read the Word through the eyes of pastors and through our experience of what we call “church” to our detriment. I am now reading the Word through new eyes, from a whole new perspective, the perspective of how the Church is supposed to be, not what we’ve experienced for generations.

We have been programmed to believe that the way congregations in general are run is biblical, that the structure of any given fellowship is driven by biblical example, when it clearly is not. For instance, we have been programmed to believe that every group needs leaders and thus followers. The so-called “clergy-laity” divide is so deeply entrenched in our thinking, that it is practically blasphemous to consider anything else.

Do we need leaders? Do we need a pastor to feed us and guide us? Do we need a sermon every week? Do we need to be told how to interpret the Word from the pulpit? Not according to the Word, but traditions have blinded us to the Truth, making the Word of none effect (Mk. 7:13). Are we really just “dumb sheep” waiting to be fed by another man? Jesus said otherwise: 
But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. John 14:26 KJV
But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him. 1 John 2:27 NKJV
We don’t need teachers; we have the Holy Spirit. Every one of us is to abide in Him, and the anointing will teach us ALL THINGS. This is the promise. Consider what Jesus said:
But you are not to be called rabbi (teacher), for you have one Teacher and you are all brothers. 9 And do not call anyone [in the church] on earth father, for you have one Father, Who is in heaven. 10 And you must not be called masters (leaders), for you have one Master (Leader), the Christ. 11 He who is greatest among you shall be your servant. 12 Whoever exalts himself [with haughtiness and empty pride] shall be humbled (brought low), and whoever humbles himself [whoever has a modest opinion of himself and behaves accordingly] shall be raised to honor. Matt. 23:8-12 AMP
Jesus Himself said, Don’t call anyone teacher or leader or (like Catholics do) Father. And what have we done for centuries? We have called other men leaders, teachers and fathers. We have all accepted the basic structure of any given congregation with its leaders and its followers, but it’s just not biblical. Jesus was laying out the new order of things, the new wineskin, with God as Father, the Son as the Head of the Church, and the Spirit as the Teacher. We are brethren and we are all to submit one to another in love.

Reading the Word now from this new perspective absolutely brings this concept alive. Yes, there are references to positions that some will naturally take by their maturity in the Word and in their walk with the Lord. But they are not to “lord it over”, they are to come alongside. There’s a huge difference. When titles come into play, so does pride. Paul never called himself Apostle Paul; he called himself Paul, an apostle.
But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. 26 Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. 27 And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave— 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Matt. 20:25-28 NKJV
It shall not be so among you. But this is about all we’ve seen in traditional church, to the extreme of abusive leadership. The whole concept of church leadership just looks like foolishness to me now, men doing what men do best- organizing and structuring in order to control. What God intends is so very much better. He has given us His Holy Spirit to teach us Himself. The Word is not a matter of private interpretation (2 Pet. 1:21), yet we sit in services every week listening to someone’s private interpretation. The pastor isn't the only part in the body; we all have a part. And that part needs to be judged just like our part needs to be judged by others.

Titles and positions cater to pride. I've seen people demanding respect, demanding to be called by a title thinking that they deserve some exalted position by far too many times over the years. And it's all completely justified in their thinking, but ego is the only thing getting served here. We are all brothers and sisters in Christ and are to submit one to another. Demanding that titles be used is a serious red flag, an indicator of  hubris, and perhaps an indicator of psychological issues that need to be dealt with. People that demand titles may be, in effect, demanding that they be in control.  This begs the question- who is in control in that church? Is it God or man?

God wants us listening to Him. We are all responsible for seeking wisdom, for testing spirits, for checking what others say against the Word and against the Spirit inside us. Reading the Word from this perspective brings a whole new light to scriptures now. We all have a part, but it’s your responsibility to judge what I say, and mine to judge what you say. No one is 100% right, and to expect anyone in any church to be right all the time is just foolishness. We will ALL be wrong sometimes. The way I see it, our job is to find God in everyone, and don’t condemn them where we think they are failing. Everyone has a part, but it takes the Spirit to bring discernment.
These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. 14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. 15 But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. 1 Cor. 2:13-15 NKJV
The traditional concept of church leadership needs to be seriously rethought. Our leader is Jesus, the Head of the Church, and the Holy Spirit is our teacher. We need to be led by that still, small voice.
But when He, the Spirit of Truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth [full and complete truth]. For He will not speak on His own initiative, but He will speak whatever He hears [from the Father—the message regarding the Son], and He will disclose to you what is to come [in the future]. 14 He will glorify and honor Me, because He (the Holy Spirit) will take from what is Mine and will disclose it to you. 15 All things that the Father has are Mine. Because of this I said that He [the Spirit] will take from what is Mine and will reveal it to you. John 16:13-15 AMP
Preacher is free clipart from clipart.christiansunite.com.




Blog Posts

The Dechurched and the Next Move of God

The Dechurched, the Wilderness Experience and the Next Move of God
Liquid Church- The Shape of Church to Come
Will the Real Church Please Stand Up?
Righteous Judgment
Where's the Love?
Church- Consider Your Ways
Clergy- Invitation to Idolatry?


Red Flag Churches

Red Flag Churches
What Does a Wolf Look Like?
Making the Decision to Leave an Abusive Church
The Spiritual Covering Doctrine
Spiritual Abuse Is Not Obvious
To Tithe or Not to Tithe



Friday, August 26, 2016

Will the Real Church Please Stand Up?

I have been born again since 1971 and have attended a host of churches over the years. All of them have had their issues, and I have been frustrated over and over again, thinking there should be a church that was “right” out there somewhere. I have finally jumped off the treadmill of religious works and found the real Church, but it took quite a few years of looking.

The Churches

The first church I attended regularly many years ago was a small non-denominational church where we really did have a good time for quite a few years. But the leadership allowed all kinds of kooks to essentially take over entire services, leaving me wondering if they had any discernment at all. It turned into a 3-ring circus, and I left. The next one was a mainline Baptist church that had a pastor that was caught in adultery before it was over with. Next was a small Methodist church that had a known adulterer in charge of the youth. Go figure. All those were interesting, but didn’t hold a candle to church number four.

It was a “church” that was caught up in the Shepherding movement and promoted control and complete submission to authority, using the so-called spiritual covering doctrine as their license to run over their “dumb sheep”. After 12 long years in there, I finally got out, and in getting out, I began to see the truth of it all. It was essentially a spiritually abusive church that has left an enormous amount of human wreckage in its wake.

Because I was still in go-to-church-on-Sunday-regardless mode, I felt I had to attend somewhere. So I tried another, this time a pretty good-sized Pentecostal church, but it was more a scripted performance than anything else. It just left me cold. One Sunday in particular stands out- I had picked a seat at the end of a long row. As people began to come in, more and more started filling up that row. I finally got pushed out of the row completely- apparently I had transgressed and sat in “reserved” seating! I swear I can count on one hand the number of regulars there that bothered to introduce themselves to me, and I wasn’t missed when I left about a year later. And at that time they were going into a building program and busy twisting arms for the tithe. So much for that.
Church drawing is free drawing from Wikimedia Commons.

 
 Pagan Christianity
All this time, I was looking for answers. I had decided to write about my experiences in the abusive church to help others in the same situation (link below), and in the process, I had come across quite a few books that began to shed some light on the whole thing. One in particular, Pagan Christianity by Frank Viola, went into detail about where we have gotten most of our church customs and traditions, clearly demonstrating that most of what we do on Sunday mornings is straight from worldly customs from centuries ago. For example, sermons can be traced straight back to Greeks and their penchant for oratory. The flowery talks were incorporated into Christianity, giving us the sermon. There are many, many examples like that. Once I had seen the roots of most of what we call church, I could no longer go to a regular service and accept the order of things. My mind was too busy picking it apart! Thus began my search for the real Church.

The primary problem I began to have with regular, traditional church services is the basic set-up with one person at the head of the place, a staff of people under that person, then the sheep that just go along. After having experienced the perversion of an abusive church, I could see where this basic set-up is just asking for abuse. Jesus is supposed to be the Head, not a person, and you just can’t see that walked out in the traditional systems we know now. Traditional churches assume the division of clergy and laity. The leaders are theoretically gifted to bring the Word of God to the rest of us; they have the anointing and the education. So that leaves the rest of us sitting back, letting them do all the hearing from God, and telling us what to do and where to give. I guess I just got plain rebellious against this whole arrangement.


Organic/House Church
In this process of looking for answers, I also came across a whole host of books by several different authors on the so-called house church or organic church movement. And this seemed to hold promise. I could see how much of what these authors wrote about would work better than what we were doing now- no huge buildings, no paid staff (i.e., no more huge money drain), more participation by individuals, allowing each person to contribute their part. Yes! All this is so much closer to the biblical model that I was seeing in the Word. Collaboration is a key element to this kind of set-up. As each person hears from God and shares their insight, the Holy Spirit works to bring agreement as people work together to find the will of God.

Now we are getting warmer. But I certainly wasn’t seeing any of this where I live, and I began to think that perhaps house churches were just a pipe dream. Frank Viola was one of the proponents of this; he has a lot of books out that demonstrate how they work. But even he has backed off, saying that the time just isn’t right yet.  Close, but no cigar.
House is free clipart from WPClipart.

 
The Real Church

It’s taken several more years, but just recently I found a book called Finding Church by Wayne Jacobsen.  Oh my, I think we have an entire box of cigars! I am still trying to get my little mind around all this. In a nutshell, he is saying that for 2000 years we have attempted to cram the Kingdom of God into a man-made system of whatever form. For centuries, the church resembled the monarchy-type systems that operated in the world at the time. Then came the rise of democracy, and churches adopted much of that. Think committees, church votes, etc. Now we see churches run like businesses with a CEO and a business hierarchy. All of these have the stamp of man on them, and all of them, at least eventually,  leave the Spirit out of the church.

The house church form goes in the right direction with the right biblical objectives, but the problem is that people too easily slide back into the need for organization and control. Any time you assemble several people for scheduled meetings whether they are in a church building or a house or wherever, the chances of planning God out are huge. For 2000 years, people have tried to organize, plan and control the Kingdom of God, and it’s never been God’s best.

The ideal is for Jesus to truly be the Head. This requires that His people hear His voice so He CAN be the Head. One thing Wayne mentioned that really hit home- Jesus spoke little about the Church as such. He spoke instead of the Kingdom of God. It’s a whole new order, a new wineskin, one that leaves the systems of man entirely behind, allowing the Spirit to lead, Jesus to be the Head and God to be God. The Kingdom of God is based on relationships, not on programs and services. Jesus came to abolish the old. He came to live in us, not just in a church building on Sundays. Old things are passed away, behold, all things are become new!
Box of Cigars is free image from Wikimedia Commons.


Emmanuel, God With Us

Now when I read the Word, I am seeing it from an entirely different perspective. I’ve always viewed it through the eyes of the traditional church model, assuming that our places in Christ are found within that structure. The Church was never intended to be contained in buildings called houses of God- we are the temple, we are the body of Christ, and God has given us His Spirit:
And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. John 14:16-17 NKJV
The Kingdom of God is within us. It doesn’t take a church membership to find your place in God; it only takes a relationship with Him. Churches have held responsibility, accountability, works, works and more works over our heads, producing guilt when we don’t conform completely to expectations. Does that sound like God?

I’m beginning to see how the Church is the interrelationships of people with their God, demonstrating His love to the rest of the world. No planned, mandatory services, no sermons, no choirs, no endless programs that are nothing more than attempts to feed the institutional beast with money and more members. There is such freedom when the realization hits that the true Church is nothing more than God in us. No more old wineskins, no more traditions of men that make the Word of none effect, no more religion.

Rainbow picture is mine.


The Light Is Shining Into the Darkness

Religion is the stumbling block. Religion bewitches and blinds minds to the truth. Just like when I came out of a religious, abusive church, only then could I see the deception, so coming out of the religion that permeates traditional churches is (at least so far) the ultimate eye-opening experience. The veil is coming off, and the light is shining into the darkness.
And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. 2 Pet. 1:19 NKJV
Reading the Word from the perspective of the new wineskin brings it to life. Coming out of religion allows the light to shine in the darkness, and the revelation of the Word can finally begin to grow. The body of Christ is so much more than what we’ve known. Christians assemble in a gazillion different buildings for planned weekly meetings every Sunday, and they are in those different buildings because they can’t agree with each other. The little town I live near has 4 different mainline denominational churches within a half block, two on one side, and two across the street. And I have no clue how many others there are in the town. Is this the real church? I don’t think so.

The real Church, the Bride, is depicted throughout the New Testament, but we haven't seen her because we have been looking through the veil of man-made institutions, trying to see the glory of God in the church system we have all been raised in.  But those systems just distort and dilute the Kingdom of God, reducing it to an institution with little power. Seeing those systems for what they are allows that light to finally reveal the Word so the Church can be seen as God intended.

Sunrise in Thailand is from Wikimedia Commons
By Lisa Tancsics, uploaded by Pro2 - Licensed under aCreative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License here., CC BY-SA 3.0



Divine Frustration and Living Guilt-Free

You can tell when God is wanting to move you on to something new. I learned this years ago- you get aggravated, frustrated with your current deal, and your peace leaves. If you still have peace where you are, then by all means, stay. Just listen to what God is speaking to you.

But if you are experiencing that divine frustration, it’s time to do something different, and that something may be merely to step back, get free of the religious treadmill of works, and just enjoy your life. When you get aggravated about church and perhaps you even dread the thought of Sunday coming like I did, you aren’t doing those around you any good anyway. God may not be speaking the same thing to those around you, and it can be hard pulling away from what you’ve done for years. But if you want to stay in His will and have peace, pulling away may be just what it takes. The guilt treadmill is brutal; jump off that puppy!

The real Church is God’s people listening to His Spirit, and coming into agreement by consensus because they are determined to be led by God, not by their own wants and beliefs. The Church is God in us, and the relationships He engenders as we are obedient to Him, living our lives in the world as we are led by His Spirit. God creates unity, we don’t. God builds his Church, we don’t.

It’s time for the new wineskin. It’s time for God to build His Church. The Kingdom of God is within us.
Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? 1 Cor. 3:16 NKJV

To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Col. 1:27 NKJV
Treadmill is free image from Pixabay.



Recommended Reading


Finding Church by Wayne Jacobsen
Clearly the best book I've found so far. I'm sure there are other authors out there who have written similar books. Please pass along any you may know of.









From Eternity to Here by Frank Viola
This one has to be the next best book I've read in years. He presents a wonderful perspective he calls "God's Ageless Purpose".








Pagan Christianity by Frank Viola
A landmark book that explores the origins of all we call "church".










Red Flag Churches, my book on my experiences in an abusive church, available as a free download in several formats at Smashwords.com.













Blog Posts

The Dechurched and the Next Move of God

The Dechurched, the Wilderness Experience and the Next Move of God
Liquid Church- The Shape of Church to Come
Righteous Judgment
Where's the Love?
Church- Consider Your Ways
Clergy- Invitation to Idolatry?


Red Flag Churches

Red Flag Churches
What Does a Wolf Look Like?
Making the Decision to Leave an Abusive Church
The Spiritual Covering Doctrine
Spiritual Abuse Is Not Obvious
To Tithe or Not to Tithe



Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Where's the Love?


By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.  
John 13:35

 How many of you remember the old Wendy’s TV commercials from the ‘80's with the little old lady wanting to know, “Where’s the beef?” She was looking for the meat, looking for what makes a hamburger a hamburger. In one of the ads, there is a really big, fluffy bun, but hardly any beef.

I have been asking myself a similar question where the church is concerned. I look at what we call “church” and wonder, have we missed it? The meat of the church is supposed to be love. God is love. We are called to love. They will know us by our love. Without love we are nothing. If love is the meat of the church, I want to know where it is.

I see big ole churches being erected, thousands and thousands spent to house one brand of Christianity or another so they can do their programs, services and whatever else they do that they call “church”. Even the word “service” bothers me now. The only way that word is used in the King James New Testament is to refer to serving others, not to some scripted ritual once or twice a week. And of course to pay for all this, we are gifted with sermons that demand, Tithe or Burn!! (I stole that one from The Rise of the Nones*.)

Where’s the love?

We sit through these “services” led by the few that are supposed to be qualified to dispense their revelations for the week while the rest of us sit and stare at the back of someone’s head. (Forgive me- I freely admit to having grown rather cynical.) This whole system does nothing but breed laziness and dependence in the congregation and burnout in the leaders. We've turned into the Israelites of old, who decided that Moses would hear from God for them. They didn't want to go to that mountain! We all are supposed to be hearing from God, not just the few. We are all supposed to be ministers, but even the concept of ministry is warped in my opinion. “Ministry” isn’t getting in front of a group of people to lead a service or a Bible study or whatever. It’s ministering love to those in the world, those more likely than not who are not in the building but OUT THERE, who desperately need to see Jesus in us.

Where’s the love?

Having done our religious duty for the week, we feel like we can call ourselves “Christian” and go about the rest of our lives, more often than not, leaving Christianity at that church door. How often do people forget what the sermon was about, let alone implement any of it? Sermon? Hey, I'm busy obsessing about the out-of-place hair on the person in front of me!

Where’s the love?

Typical practice is for any charity work to be done in the name of that church- giving to various ministries including missionaries, and any other outreaches that minister to those outside that church. Generally, it’s just money put in the plate that constitutes the participation of the majority of the congregation. And we go home feeling like we’ve done our duty, even though only a small percentage of our giving actually gets to anyone in need, simply because of the ever-present expenses of building maintenance, insurance, (loan payments???) and paid staff.

Where’s the love?

I have been trying to help out an older lady I have known for quite a few years. She has no family that is helping, and is now in an assisted living facility. I provide transportation and company. She has been a member of a small church in the area for years, and has not gotten one phone call, let alone a visit since she's been in that facility which has been well over a year now. I had to twist that pastor's arm not once but twice to get out there and visit her when she was diagnosed with terminal cancer. I am more apt to give that family a pass for not visiting or calling before I'll cut that church any slack. I have been completely disgusted with them, and he's the one that she still wants to officiate at her funeral. This is the church?

Where's the love???

The world sees Christians as:
“. . . hyperpolitical, out of touch, pushy in our beliefs, and arrogant. And the most dominant perceptions of all are that we are homophobic, hypocritical, and judgmental. Simply put, in the minds of many, modern-day Christianity no longer seems Christian.” **
This is how the world perceives us. And all too often, they are right. So many “Christian” groups have just sailed into the ditch of judgmentalism thinking they are doing God’s work, while love just gets left in the dust. How many of those people they condemn could have been (or still be) won by just loving them?

Maybe your church isn’t one of those radical, hate-filled numbers that ruin the reputation of Christianity. I hope not. But still, our complacency and dependence on an authority structure have robbed us and the Body of Christ of real ministry and real growth. And with the reputation that the church has in the world, those that truly need him are never going to darken the door. Granted, most churches do the best they know to do and have done a great deal of good over the years, but there is just so much more.

They will know we are Christians by our love, not by our buildings. They will know we are Christians by our love, not by our Bibles we carry around or our bumper stickers. (Thank you, Joyce Meyer!) They will know we are Christians by our love, not by our judgmental, hate-filled “biblical” attitudes toward those who just simply need Jesus. And they will know we are Christians by our love, not by how we dress up and go to church on Sundays.

They will know we are Christians when we finally start doing what God said to do- Go! He never told us to build buildings, concoct programs and events and try to persuade the world to come. They ain't comin'! He told us to go, and He commanded us to love.

Do we just have "big, fluffy bun" Christianity? Where’s the love?



Where's the Beef image from Youtube
The Church Has Left the Building image from  Christian Life Church
*The Rise of the Nones, James Emery White, Tyndale House Publishers, Wheaton, Illinois, 2014, p. 79.
** ibid p. 39.


Holy Ghost
by Darren Wilson

This documentary is an absolute must-see; the entire film is now available on Netflix. This is the love of God in demonstration. This is a link to the trailer; their website is here.




Recommended Reading


Finding Church: What if There Really Is Something More? by Wayne Jacobsen
For 2000 years man has attempted to force the Kingdom of God into a man-made system. There is a better way.












The Rise of the Nones by James Emery White. Clearly one of the best books I've read in a long time. He explains how the church is perceived and what to do to reach the "nones", those with no religious affiliation.













Blog Posts

The Dechurched and the Next Move of God

The Dechurched, the Wilderness Experience and the Next Move of God
Liquid Church- The Shape of Church to Come
Righteous Judgment
Will the Real Church Please Stand Up?
Church- Consider Your Ways
Clergy- Invitation to Idolatry?


Red Flag Churches

Red Flag Churches
What Does a Wolf Look Like?
Making the Decision to Leave an Abusive Church
The Spiritual Covering Doctrine
Spiritual Abuse Is Not Obvious
To Tithe or Not to Tithe