I write this post in order to express my feelings over a topic that is near & dear to my heart as well as to deal with some of the hurt & anger I am presently feeling over my association with what I have termed the "Organized Church" (that is, most average, fundamentalist church organizations residing most typically in buildings with steeples on their roofs.)
It is not my intention to "blast away" at churches as much as it is to express some of the things I have seen & experienced in my 30+ years that I believe hurt Saints & grieve the heart of God, in order that we may perhaps begin as a "family" of Believers to deal with these issues so the church may become what our Lord truly intended when he said "I am building a Church whom the gates of hell will not be able to stand against."
In January of this past years my family & I left a small Pentecostal church that we had served in for 12+ years. It was with much anguish & pain that we left, as we had served in many capacities over the years such as Sunday School, Music Ministry, teaching Adult Bible Studies, Jail Teams, Counseling, Missions Youth Group, etc, etc.. We had established many relationships & felt a real security there for many years---feeling we were where God wanted us to be.
there were also problems (as in any church where imperfect folks attend);
problems that got to be too much to handle that (I believe) were not handled by
Leadership in a proper manner---many times issues & problems were just
ignored with trite sayings such as "Well sure we have problems, but don't
complain! we are only human,,, if you find the perfect church out there don't
go cause you'll
ruin it!!...Ha!..Ha!..Ha!" ---To me when any church says this they are just really making excuses to continue on in their mode of mediocrity; sure I realize we will never see a perfect church & yet should we not deal with issues & problems that are apparent to all & strive to be that Complete Church w/out Spot or wrinkle!?
At any rate, do not misread me here, I LOVE the Church of Jesus Christ where ever it may be found (In a nice, clean white building, in a living room, in a coffee shop, in a cave etc, etc), BECAUSE the church contains God's Sons & daughters!
Believe me when I say LEAVING the organized church as it were, was one of the hardest decisions I ever have had to make on this earth, because it REALLY goes against my whole makeup as a person who loves tradition, stability, order & structure, not to mention the fact that leaving church meant feeling as though I had left God's plan for our lives.
At any rate as I pen this today almost 6 months later I realize that the pendulum has swung back toward the middle of things as it were... whereas at one time we were at every church meeting day & night for over 12 years & most recently have not been in church much (if at all) I now believe we may end up back in an (the) organized church but without such a pressure that makes one feel condemned if they are not in attendance every Sunday. This has been much longer than I Thought so I will continue in part two.....
1. CHURCH can never be a substitute for a personal relationship with Jesus.
I have seen a subtle deception in many churches & with many church leaders today involving this very concept. Even well meaning leaders of churches have I believe, fallen into this trap. What I have seen many times in a number of churches is a system that leads many Christians feeling secure (though this is False) because they give enough $$, attend enough services, participate in enough ministries, etc, etc.
These Christians feel they are secure in the Lord because they go to a good church NOT because of a steady, consistent relationship built with Jesus. Instead of using the RESOURCES in that church to BUILD & DEEPEN their relationship with Jesus they have come to depend on these programs & ministries for their security before God.
2. CHURCH Attendance does NOT equal Fellowship
How many times have you & I heard over the years from Pastors that we need to come to church on a regular basis for FELLOWSHIP & w/ out such fellowship we will die spiritually? Hebrews 10:25 is quoted again & again to teach this concept; we have all heard "… FORSAKE NOT the assembling of yourselves together....!"
Yet to me, in my experiences with in the church over many years, the true scriptural idea of fellowship with my brethren was not fostered & did not occur that often. The very structure & system of church services in the average church work against this as we all come in & for an hour or so hear 1 to 2% of the church get up (as we sit passively) & preach, exhort, sing etc, to the rest of us.
In Greek the word most commonly used word for fellowship is 'Koinonia' (I am sure we all know this word!) & it means the following:
· "Participation, intercourse, intimacy, transparency"
To me, basically the organized church as we know it does not provide for relationships with others in this intimate manner. That is not to say that I have not found such relationships in the organized church, but it has mostly been up to me to seek them out & develop such relationships.
3. CHURCH should be a means to an end NOT the end itself.
This is similar to point # 1. What I really mean is that attending church & being in good standing (i.e. - a leader, recognized & loved member etc,) should not be our end all as Christians.
I do not believe Jesus ever intended CHURCH attendance to be our Goal, but rather to be another TOOL(along w/ Bible reading, prayer, etc) to help us develop our relationship with HIM.
With that in mind if I choose not to do "organized church" every week I should not be judged by the brethren to be backslidden.
4. CHURCH AUTHORITY (Pastors, leaders, elders) should be all about RELATIONSHIP NOT RULERSHIP!
I am so very weary of being involved in churches where the Pastor had to let all within earshot know that HE IS "TOP DOG!" I believe true shepherds should be gentle, compassionate folks who embody & foster intimate relationships with & among their flock. Most "TOP DOGS" I knew were aloof & austere folks who knew as much about personal relationship/frienship as an average lumberjack knows about sailing the seven seas!
As an example of this aloof posture, my own Pastor of 12 years who I faithfully served as a leader NEVER once asked me out for just a simple burger or cup of joe to just shoot the breeze. Yes we had many meetings over the years but they always involved either
a) A "Correction session" for yours truly or
b) A church business session.
5. Shepherds should be AMONG the sheep not OVER the Sheep
This point is also similar to point #4, yet with a little different twist. An old man of God retired from the Pastorate once told me as a true shepherd sometimes does, one needed to SMELL like the sheep & always carry this scent (though sometimes rather unpleasant) with them.
In other words be a humble servant of the flock willing to get down in the sheep dung with your folks to help them & show some compassion! Too many leaders today are too busy letting folks know how important they are to God's plan & that the people, “Just better SUBMIT to God's man of the hour or they will fall!”
Josh McDowell says "Rules w/out Relationship equals rebellion." When it comes to children, well I would say this can also apply to church leaders & those entrusted to their care.
6. CHURCH should be all about EMPOWERING People To do The works of Christ
This last point truly has given me much grief over the years w/in the church structure I have been involved in. Too many times I have seen gifted folks go before church leaders with a Gift or ministry Vision God has given them only to be discouraged, ridiculed, blocked, etc because of jealousies, lack of faith, wanting to over-control, etc.
True Church Leaders should be all about EMPOWERING, SUPPORTING, & ENABLING THEIR Flock to to do the work of Christ in any way they can. True Church leaders need to provide Support
& Resources to their flock to help them fulfill their call & then GET OUT of the Way & Watch God Work!!!