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Is Jesus Enough?
by Chip Brogden

"After they had eaten, Jesus asked Simon Peter, 'Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these other things?'" (John 21:15).

If Jesus was all you had, would Jesus be enough for you?

Many precious believers are in love with the things of the Lord, but they are not in love with the Lord Himself.

Many Christian workers and ministers are in love with the Lord's work. Almost without realizing it, the work of the Lord becomes more important than the Lord of the work.

There are prophets and teachers who hold words from God in higher esteem than the God Who speaks the words they attribute as being from Him. People seek these words and teachings. The more they receive, the more they want. Before one word is digested they are craving another. They are seeking "things" - words, prophecies, teachings, visions, dreams - but they are not seeking the Lord Himself.

Is Jesus enough?

When the saints gather together most of the activity is focused on "one another". This is important, but it is not the most important thing. Fellowship is good: but is Jesus enough? Gatherings are good: but is Jesus enough? Meetings are good: but is Jesus enough? Special speakers and special music are good: but is Jesus enough?

Even with praise and worship it is possible to sing "about" Jesus and not truly worship Jesus. With preaching and teaching it is possible to talk "about" Jesus and not truly meet Jesus in what is shared. In prayer it is possible to talk "about" our needs and never actually commune with Jesus Himself.

Among Christians I have discovered something. There is Jesus, and then there are all the things ABOUT Jesus that are NOT Jesus. Jesus Himself occupies only a small portion of what is said and done in Christian circles. Most of what is said and done is merely ABOUT Jesus, but it is NOT Jesus.

I have learned that stress, strife, disillusionment, dissatisfaction, bitterness, anger, hurt, misunderstanding, and confusion comes from everything said and done by religious people ABOUT the Lord, and IN THE NAME of the Lord, that does not, in fact, have anything to do with Jesus Himself.

How much of your focus is directed to the things of God, and not to God Himself? How much of your discussion centers on things about Jesus, and not Jesus Himself?

Just look around. This brother is focused on end-time events, and that sister is devoted to inner healing. This brother is primarily concerned with prophetic things, while another sister is keenly interested in spiritual warfare. That brother is deeply involved with theological discussions, while that sister is in love with Christian music. One movement emphasizes this particular thing, and another group stands for another thing.

There may be diversities of gifts and callings. There may be various and sundry things to be involved with. There may be many topics to study and discuss. Many things compete for our time, attention, affection, energy, and money.

But there is only one Lord Jesus.

Just as some people cannot see the forest for the trees, I believe most sinners cannot see Jesus for the Christians. And I believe most Christians cannot see Jesus for the "church".

Is Jesus enough?

Whenever I am ministering to pastors, whatever they think their calling is, I always have them turn to Mark 3:14:

"And he ordained twelve, that they should BE WITH HIM, and that He might send them forth to preach."

You are called to be with Jesus. That is your calling. That is the primary thing, the highest ministry. Going forth to preach or do anything else is of secondary importance. We should be with Jesus; after that, He might send us forth to preach. But before Jesus said, "Go into all the world" He said, "Be with Me."

The call of the Lord is not more important than the Lord of the call. The work of the Lord must not replace the Lord of the work. No amount of ministering FOR the Lord will make up for a lack of ministering TO the Lord. And knowing the Word of God does not necessarily mean that we know the God of the Word.

Everyone wants to go and do something for God, but few people are willing to stay and do "nothing" for Him.

Jesus asked Peter, "Am I enough for You? Do you love Me more than everything else? Do you love Me more than you love the things about Me?"

A few weeks later, when Peter stood with John before the religious rulers to explain the healing of a man who had never walked, "...they marveled; and they took knowledge of [Peter and John], that THEY HAD BEEN WITH JESUS" (Acts 4:13b).

If we will be with Jesus, then Jesus will be with us.

The reason the New Testament church had power was not because they spoke in tongues, or held meetings in their living rooms, or had a certain system for planting churches. The secret was they had been with Jesus.

But some Christians are more in love with methods and ministries than they are in love with the Man.

The prophets and teachers in the church of Antioch were gathered together: not to have a house church conference, not to begin a new ministry, not to discuss the latest prophetic word or the newest teaching, not to exchange ideas on how to grow the church, not to fellowship, not to share a meal, not to minister to one another. But "as they ministered TO THE LORD, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said..." (Acts 13:2a).

Paul and his fellow workers had many souls to save, many disciples to make, many churches to plant, many places to visit, many messages to deliver, many letters to write. There were many needs to be met, many doors of opportunity before them.

But the work was suspended. Activity ceased. Ministry came to a standstill. Fellowship and food were forgotten. The prophets were there, but the prophets did not prophesy. The teachers were there, but the teachers did not teach.

Instead, they ministered to the Lord. The focus shifted from horizontal to vertical. The emphasis was directed away from man and man's needs, and onto the Lord and His Need. They were busy being with Jesus. They were at His feet.

So when the Holy Ghost finally spoke, they were ready to go forth. Thus began the first missionary journey of Paul.

When apostles love church planting and mission work more than Jesus, then they are saying that Jesus is not enough.

When prophets love their prophecies, dreams, and visions more than they love Jesus, then they are saying that Jesus is not enough.

When evangelists love traveling, preaching, and holding meetings more than they love Jesus, then they are saying that Jesus is not enough.

When pastors love their church services and building programs more than they love Jesus, then they are saying that Jesus is not enough.

When teachers love their teachings more than they love Jesus, then they are saying that Jesus is not enough.

When preachers love their preaching more than they love Jesus, then they are saying that Jesus is not enough.

When ministers love their ministry more than they love Jesus, then they are saying that Jesus is not enough.

When musicians love their music more than they love Jesus, then they are saying that Jesus is not enough.

When writers love their writings more than they love Jesus, then they are saying that Jesus is not enough.

And when the simplest disciples grow tired of "just" being with Jesus, and begin to long for something bigger, something better, something greater, something more powerful, something other than what they have in Jesus already, then they are saying that Jesus is not enough.

If Jesus was all you had, would Jesus be enough for you? Or do you have to have all the "trappings" of Christianity, all the bells and whistles, all the toys and trinkets?

Make no mistake: there is no life in the things that are ABOUT Jesus. There is life only in Jesus Himself.

May I speak candidly? If you are dissatisfied and disappointed with your Christian walk today, it is only because of one thing: Jesus is not enough for you. Somewhere along the line, something else became more important than Jesus. Maybe you have become focused on the things ABOUT Jesus that are NOT Jesus.

There is only one solution. You do not need more of the Lord, because He has already given Himself completely to you already. You just need less of everything else.

Remember.

Remember what it was like to hear His Voice, to be so filled with passion and love for Him, that you wanted nothing more than to sit at His feet, and hear His Word.

Remember when you were so infatuated with Him that you did not want to do anything else.

Remember what it was like to just be with Jesus.

Go back to when Jesus first called you to be with Him.

Go back to the time when all you had was Him.

Go back to the time before you were planting churches, speaking prophetic words, preaching to the unsaved, pastoring the congregation, teaching the people, or leading worship.

Go back to the time when there was no work, no ministry, no vision, no special calling - except Jesus calling you to be with Him.

Remember when you said, "He's all I need!"

So what happened?

I pray the Lord will draw us after Himself and make us thoroughly sick and tired of things - especially the things that are ABOUT Him, but are NOT Him.

God so loved the world that He gave His Only Son, Jesus.

Well... is Jesus enough?

 

Churchianity Today
by Chip Brogden

We must always be sure to distinguish between the Lord's invisible, universal, spiritual Church (the Ecclesia) and the non-profit religious organization that meets in a building with a steeple on top. The difference is incalculable, and we dare not make the mistake of confusing the two. Please understand that we do not question the right of any religious group to peaceably assemble together, elect their leaders, receive monies, have membership requirements, and govern themselves in the manner they see fit - as long as we realize that such a right is a civil right and is neither inalienable, Scriptural, or mandated by God Himself. That doesn't make it wrong, but neither does it make it spiritual. The Ecclesia is not an organization or invention of man, but an organism filled with the Life, and whether we worship "in Jerusalem or in this mountain" is not as important to God as whether or not we worship Him "in Spirit and in Truth."

So where is the distinction? What makes it an issue? It becomes an issue when spiritual or Scriptural significance is erroneously attached to a mere social contrivance, cultural norm, religious tradition, organizational structure, or place of meeting. When the waters are muddied and the lines are blurred between the social expectation, tradition, or custom of the religious organization and the true spiritual life and essence of the Ecclesia or the individual believer then such a system has the potential to evolve into a dangerous form of spiritual abuse or religious elitism.

What is Babylon? It is the marriage of church and state, religion and government; or to be more direct, it is allowing the leaven of the world to spread via Organized Religion and Institutional Christianity. As an example, consider how pastoring a church has become more of a profession than a calling, and how church government has digressed from a theocratic, Spirit-led consensus to a "Spirit-led" democracy, or worse, a "Spirit-led" benevolent dictatorship of a single pastor or a church board. This is the result of the spirit of Babylon. Whereas the True Church is to be "in the world, but not of the world", Babylon is that which is both in the world and of the world - it is by, for, and of the worldly system, yet it retains the outward appearances of godliness and spirituality. It is a synthesis of God and man, taking the best that each has to offer and fashioning a golden calf with it.

Babylon is always antithetical to Christ. It is anti-Christ. Babylon is represented as a religious whore riding on top of a beast which kills the prophets and saints of God. Perhaps we have missed the point by personifying the Antichrist as a Hitler-type world leader bent on global domination. Antichrist is the religious antithesis of Jesus Christ which flows from Babylon AS Jesus Christ. It is not coming, it is already here, and has been here from the beginning. Perhaps denominationalism is the real mark of the beast. If so, it is no wonder that so many are willing to accept it.


THE TRUE COST OF CHURCH MEMBERSHIP

Usually when you join an organization it's because the price you pay for membership is justified by the benefits of belonging. For example, it costs a great deal of money to join a country club. The benefits are prestige, use of the facilities, social interaction, and networking with successful people. Or, in the case of a professional association, your membership gives you name recognition, credibility, current information affecting your field of expertise, social interaction, and networking with your peers.

How does the organization benefit? They get to charge and collect dues from their membership in order to pay for staff, executive officers, facilities, marketing, expanding their membership base, and other projects. So their motivation is primarily financial.

Now let's look at Organized Religion. How does the church gain from your membership? They stand to benefit in at lease five major ways. What are they after? Mostly financial support, followed by leadership support, doctrinal support, attendance support, and volunteer support. Let's look at these individually:

- Financial support means they have the right to expect their members to make donations in the form of tithes, offerings, love gifts, fundraisers, pledges, building funds, and the like.

- Leadership support means they have the right to expect their members to agree with the stated mission of the church and the pastor.

- Doctrinal support means they have the right to expect their members to adhere to the stated spiritual philosophy and teachings of the church and/or denomination.

- Attendance support means they have a right to expect their members to be present at a majority of services and functions (perhaps you've heard the _expression, "Visitors welcome, members expected").

- Volunteer support means they have a right to expect their members to donate their time and volunteer as nursery workers, Sunday school teachers, bus drivers, or whatever is needed.

In addition, the church enjoys a greater control over its membership by meting out discipline when someone goes astray in one or more of the above areas. This typically plays out in sanctions against the offending member resulting in the loss of a leadership position or voting rights.

Whether or not these expectations are realistic, fair, or Scripturally justified is beside the point. The point is, THIS is what you are buying into when you decide to join a church. These are the standard expectations and conditions of membership in a typical church. They are not necessarily unreasonable when considered from a business perspective - if you don't pay your dues to the country club you don't get to use the golf course.

But to determine if church membership is for you, you have to do the other side of the cost-to-benefit analysis. The benefits to the church are many, but what's in it for the member? Basically, the church member gets a vote in major decisions like picking a pastor, a say-so in some financial matters, and the privilege of being in leadership (Sunday school teacher, worship leader, etc.) if you have a penchant for such a thing.

Remember at the beginning of this article I wrote that you join an organization because the price you pay for membership is justified by the benefits of belonging. Take into account the amount of time, money, and cooperation expected from church members, and the tremendous amount of individual control that is relinquished to church leadership. Then consider what you get in exchange - a small part in the political process of church government. Is it really worth the investment?


THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO ORGANIZED RELIGION

Those who ballyhoo the spiritual benefits of joining a church should be reminded that we are already joined to the Body of Christ, the Ecclesia, and are already realizing every spiritual benefit of membership in HIS Church. The only qualification for such membership is a New Birth. There is no responsibility but to abide in Him, and every action springs forth from that abiding. Joining a church may be good, proper, beneficial, and moral - but it is not a condition of salvation, thus it is not a condition for being a Christian.

Many Christians believe that we are saved by grace because we are unable to achieve salvation through good works (unfortunately there remain many more who believe they can work their way to heaven apart from Christ). But what happens once they acknowledge this truth and trust in the Lord to save them by grace? Immediately, Organized Religion comes along and convinces them that they now have to work to keep that which is freely theirs in Christ. What do we mean? They are instructed to pray, read the Bible, join a church, give to the work of the Lord, witness to everyone they meet, stop doing so and so, start doing this and that.

We are not arguing that these things are wrong. We are pointing out an inconsistency in the Gospel according to Organized Religion. What is the message here? That good Christians do "X", and don't do "Y". What is the end result? We are trying to please God. We could not please God as sinnners, but now that we are Christians it is our duty to please Him. So we set out to do so, and unwittingly fall into a works-oriented faith.

What Organized Religion fails to convey is that you can no more please God as a Christian than you can as a sinner. Any attempt to please God with your charitable deeds, church service, or spiritual activity will be met with frustration and failure. We are not interested in how good, holy, just, proper, or moral your deeds are; we are only interested in your motivation for doing them. Many are laboring and sweating at trying to live Organized Religion's idea of a good Christian life. They have fallen from grace, and are consumed with works.

The most righteous man or woman on earth cannot please God by their righteousness. Take all the righteous men and women on earth and put them together and they still will not measure up. But go further than that, and store up all the righteous deeds of every righteous man and woman who has ever lived on the earth and pile them up together and the wide gulf between God and us will still be as large as it was before. Our very best effort amounts to nothing. Nothing! We cannot please God in and of ourselves.

What then? There is One Man who is pleasing God, and that is His Son, Jesus Christ. "This is my Beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased." Ah, the crux of the matter is Jesus Christ, not me. We live the Christian life the same way we enter the Christian life, that is, by trusting Jesus Christ to do something in and through me that I know I cannot do myself. It is not as I am, but as He is, that makes the difference.

"Come unto Me, all that are burdened and heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Rest from what? The excruciating burden of work, toil, and labor under the cruel hand of Organized Religion.


FELLOWSHIP APART FROM ORGANIZED RELIGION

If we are one with the Head, we are one with the Body, even if we are not gathered together. But, if we are not one with the Head, we are not one with the Body, even if we are gathered together.

If we are walking in the Light as He is in the Light then WE HAVE fellowship with one another whether we are attending a church building or not. Joining a church is not a condition of fellowship. Some join a church for the social benefits - meeting other believers, making friends, etc. Perhaps they don't realize that they can still fellowship, meet other believers, and even make friends without actually joining a church. In fact, you'll attract far more attention as a mere attendee (if attention is what you seek, and that's another cause for concern). As a potential but as-of-yet-not-signed-up visitor, there are virtually no expectations placed upon you. When you give money it is appreciated all the more because they know you aren't obligated to do so. When you donate your time and talent as a non-member it is all the more impressive because no one is expecting anything from you. And when you show up for a service or function it isn't taken for granted.

The faithful members and their leaders often label those who regularly attend different churches but do not join any of them as "Churchhoppers". These creatures flit about from group to group, "Churchsurfing", hoping to find the perfect pastor, music program, youth group, etc. Churchhoppers are criticized for their unrealistic expectations and lack of commitment. To be sure many of those participating in the "Church Shopping Network" are so infatuated with their needs and wants that they will never be satisfied and will forever remain uncommitted. But before we write off this group of people we would do well to enquire into their personal history with churches, what they are seeking, and why they are unwilling or unable to commit to church membership. We may discover a history of hurt or a pattern of spiritual and emotional abuse that has left them wary of churches in general. We may find the churches they visit to be cold, aloof, or cliquish. That they even make an attempt to attend somewhere is a positive sign, but the phenomenon only underscores one of the troubles with Churchianity today. Many more have left, never to return again, and we can only speculate as to their real spiritual condition before the Lord.

Among aggressive, growth-oriented churches the goal is to persuade you to join the church (actually discussed among pastors privately as "getting you plugged in" or "getting fresh blood"). This is presented as the next logical step of your attendance. Once you do decide to join, however, the tide changes, the wind shifts, and the honeymoon is over. The list of expectations, rules, regulations, and by-laws make their appearance. You are educated in what constitutes acceptable and unacceptable behavior. Suddenly your performance is being measured in terms of dollars contributed, services attended, and hours donated. All too often, consciously or unconsciously, your worth as a member is determined by your overall "support" factor.

Of course we do not mean to suggest that every single church is engaged in a conspiracy to use their members as unwitting pawns to achieve some wicked end, or that the pastor and deacons conduct covert meetings in cigar smoke-filled underground cellars thinking up strategies to trap unassuming visitors into a black-hole of church membership. We're only pointing out how easy it is for the generally accepted attitudes, traditions, rituals and practices of Organized Religion to quickly deteriorate into something wholly other than what the Lord has in mind for a community of Believers. Our contention is that the way we go about "doing" church is far removed from what "being" the Church is all about. Church as most know it has become a business, social, or legal arrangement, not a community or family. As such, our assertion is that Organized Religion seeks, retains, and manages its members in much the same way as a country club - but without the golf course. It provides a mostly intangible, invisible (and therefore highly subjective and difficult-to-quantify) service while expecting tangible, material things in return: your cash, your time, and your allegiance.

We are not necessarily advocating a boycott of church services, but we do wish to demonstrate the difference between joining a church and attending a church. In the case of membership, support is expected and enforced. Non-conformers are removed from membership, and although the instances of actually refusing to allow someone to attend services are rare, the amount of psychological pressure brought to bear upon the offending member is usually enough for them to leave on their on accord.


THE ISSUE OF FINANCIAL SUPPORT

The motivation for all financial support should be "as the Spirit leads", not as the rules of membership dictate. For example, a Christian should give not under compulsion, but liberally, from the heart, as led by the Spirit. That sort of giving cannot be legislated, no matter how hard you try, through spurious teachings on the ten percent tithe, "sowing and reaping", "love" offerings, "faith promises", etc. - yet that is precisely what Organized Religion attempts to do.

Notwithstanding, anyone deriving a benefit from an organization should support it. If you attend a church at all, member or not, you should modestly compensate them for the trouble of providing you with climate-controlled facilities, nursery care for your kids, and refreshments during Sunday school. That's just good manners. If you eat the food you should offer to wash the dishes. Beyond that, you should wholeheartedly and unreservedly give as the Lord directs you to give. That could mean an offering in the collection plate, the donation of clothes or food, anonymous gifts to individuals in need, and the like. Ours should not be an "I don't owe you anything" attitude. We should always give more than we take. But once our freewill support is legislated and expected as a condition of membership in a religious institution, it ceases to be spiritual and philanthropic. We are no longer giving with no expectation of receiving. Instead, we are giving in order to receive or maintain the privilege of membership. Therefore, we have our reward here on earth, and not in heaven.

Christians should be encouraged to give anonymously in order to ensure no reciprocal benefit. Jesus says when you give a gift don't let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Yet Organized Religion has to have some means of enforcing the Financial Support clause of the membership contract. How? With those little offering envelopes and a place to write your name. Remember that for every benefit there is a loss of freedom. It's certainly your right to claim the tax deduction if you wish, but in exchange for that benefit you lose anonymity. Now the church has a way to track your giving (or lack thereof), and if you don't think they will use that to their advantage if necessary, you better read your membership contract again. Even so, a few pastors have resolved to take no knowledge of the personal giving records of their members. Though an admirable first step, you can still rest assured that someone in authority at the church has access to the information and it can and will be used against you if necessary. For instance, when you're being considered for a leadership position, or when the church board wants to determine the active voting membership. Of course, if you aren't a member, none of that will matter to you anyway. But it again demonstrates that your value as a church member is being measured in dollars and cents.

Jesus did not advocate anonymous charity in order to make us paranoid or fearful of being caught doing a good deed. He did it to liberate us, to enlarge us, to help us experience the pure joy of a no-strings-attached gift, to ensure we would not become proud, and very importantly, to prevent others from rewarding, manipulating, regulating, or expecting us to give to them on a continual basis apart from His direction. He understood how easily people, even with the best of intentions, make value judgments of others based on material possessions (see James). He obviously didn't want that to be the case among His people. Unfortunately, acquiring, building, and catering to people of affluence has been the modus operandi of Organized Religion since its inception, and continues to run rampant in Churchianity today. Yet for all its money and temporal possessions, Organized Religion has always been in a state of spiritual impoverishment.


THE ISSUE OF LEADERSHIP SUPPORT

Support of the pastor and his vision cannot be mandated; either the Spirit bears witness with what is happening or He doesn't. Titular authority is based on perceived rank, status, charisma, spiritual gift or popular appeal: it's a fantasy, a piece of dirt painted gold.

The philosophy of Organized Religion is to maintain the distinction between clergy and laity. To reinforce this philosophy most churches consider the pastor (or priest) to be the spiritual head of the church. Most pastors see the local church as an extension of their own personal ministry and calling, thus the congregation is made in the image of the pastor. It is important that we note this carefully, for we maintain that God's people do not belong to anyone but Christ, and the Church is His Church, and not ours. All authority is given to Him, and whatever weight or influence we as individials have over one another is ours by reason of our depth of knowing Christ and our willingness to love and serve one another. The "elders" are just that - those who are older and more experienced in the things of the Lord, the implication being that they are more conformed to His image and are thus gentle, loving, kind, and able to instruct and encourage the younger.

But who are the leaders of Organized Religion? Those who have been elected to fill leadership positions. Democracy is a fine system of government, but we note that the Kingdom of God is not and never will be a democracy. The political process of church government is as corrupt as the political process of secular government. What makes it worse is most people know how corrupt secular government is, yet they seem either unable or unwilling to believe the same corruption exists in their own church. If you've ever been involved in a church split you'll understand when I say the political intrigue and behind-the-scenes treachery rival a Tom Clancy spy novel.

Again, we are speaking in generalities. But a thinking person must admit that something is wrong with a process in which a pastor can be voted into and out of the position of spiritual leader by a certain majority of the congregation. If this were God's way then Moses would have been voted out, Israel would have returned to Egypt, and they would probably still be there making bricks today. Spiritual processes and God's holy call and selection cannot be reduced to search committees and paper ballots. Once the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit, they stopped drawing straws and started praying towards a consensus. The Spirit made it evident who He wanted. A distinction needs to be made between what the majority wants and what the Lord wants, as typically there is a difference between the two.

The process and method of selecting deacons and board members is even further removed from the Biblical idea of the diakonite. Invariably we find those who rise to some level of church leadership are big financial supporters or have some family connection to the establishment of the church.

In most cases, there is no mutual submission, as the Bible commands. Instead, submission is a one-way street from bottom to top. Those who know God understand that calling attention to one's supposed "authority" is a sure sign that there is no authority to be found there. Real authority doesn't have to vaunt itself and demand others be subject to it. I received a letter once from a human religious authority I was involved with that took me to task for "attitudes and opinions which imply a compromised loyalty to the church and the pastoral leadership." Human authority is threatened at the mere suspician of independent thought, whereas God's authority never defends its rights or demands capitulation. Since it sees God as the only Head of the Church it is not possessive over God's people and is neither compelled to defend itself nor insistent that everyone do things its own way. It sees itself as a steward, not and owner, of what God has given.


THE ISSUE OF DOCTRINAL SUPPORT

At first glance doctrinal support of the church you aspire to join seems self-evident. Yet denominations have an incredible knack for making doctrinal mountains out of molehills. We agree everyone who names the Name of the Lord should be in one accord on major tenets of faith, such as the fall of man, the inspiration of the Scriptures, the diety of the Lord Jesus, His resurrection from the dead, etc. Yet if we trace the histories of the thousands of denominations which have sprung up in the last few centuries we will find most began by laying particular emphasis on one doctrine or method or means of grace to the exclusion of all others.

For example, nearly every charismatic denomination stress the baptism in the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues as their doctrinal distinctives. We certainly find no fault with being filled with the Spirit or excercising spiritual gifts as the Spirit leads. But again, the way in which we live out our beliefs in these areas cannot be legislated by some governing body. It is a spiritual thing bound up within the faith of the individual who endeavors to follow the Spirit. It is most improper to make one particular _expression of faith as the sine qua non of Christianity and make it a condition for salvation or a prerequisite for fellowship with a particular religious group. To do so is to promote sectarianism, a thing which God has expressed not just a relative dislike for, but a passionate hatred of.

A good example is the belief among certain religious groups that anyone not joined to their particular fellowship or adopting their particular nuance of Biblical interpretation is on the way to hell. A far more common and just as damaging belief among more mainstream churchgoers is that anyone claiming to be a Christian who does not attend church services regularly is either not truly saved, or is backslidden. Thus, a socially accepted practice of going to church has become the de facto standard by which the spiritual lives of millions are judged. Or the reverse, deeming someone as a good Christian based solely upon their faithfulness in some institutional church capacity. This is nothing more than salvation by works, a concept most Christians say they don't adhere to yet frequently practice and impose on others.

Another example is esteeming views independently of what the pastor says to be the result of a rebellious spirit that should be bound or cast out. Or, assuming that a failure to conform to the particular style of congregational worship is indicative of some hidden, unconfessed sin holding the individual back. Or, that a failure to respond to the altar call is a sure sign that you "don't mean business with God." We might add, the expectation that everyone who is on the cutting edge of what God is doing is going to come on board with the latest revival, movement, or spiritual teaching. All the instances cited above are attempts to add spiritual weight or credibility to the decision of a group or individual leader when there is no Scriptural mandate or justification for doing so.

This is the sort of peer pressure and "Groupthink" presented under a veneer of spirituality that is devastating to all who fail to measure up in the eyes of their fellow parishioners, in spite of the fact that God neither desires nor commands that we all worship, pray, sing, or serve in the same capacity. Threatening some spiritual result or consequence for failing to live up to the expectations of the group or the leadership, when in fact no such spiritual consequence exists, is a blatant abuse of religious authority. Examples are numerous, but they commonly involve money. "If you don't pay your tithes (e.g., go on the record with a systematic and verifiable contribution to this particular church) then God will not bless your finances." There is no Scriptural support for such a caveat. A more legitimate warning would be, "If you don't pay your tithes, you'll lose your active member status at First Church and your voting privileges will be suspended." That is a natural consequence of a natural action. It is a statement of fact, no matter how much you disagree with the politics of it; if you bought into church membership you accepted that as part of the deal. The line is crossed by the leadership when spiritual punishments are meted out in addition to the natural consequences of one's actions.


THE RENUNCIATION OF DENOMINATIONALISM

It is our position, then, that a believer who is standing on the ground of Christ and has seen the Body cannot but renounce once and for all the scourge of denominationalism. The reason is simple. We must receive all whom God receives. If the Life of God is found in them, we will receive them as brothers and sisters and not make periphreal issues the basis of our joining or not joining with them.

Let us be clear: while we cannot render support to a church or group which meets on sectarian ground, we can and will receive the individual members who desire our fellowship on the basis of Christ.

We should also investigate thoroughly any group or church that claims to be "independent". We often find these independent or non-denominational groups to have an even more narrow and sometimes bigoted focus on issues of secondary importance to the basic elements of faith. All too often the group is built upon the charisma and influence of one man, and since he doesn't answer to a denominational board, there is a greater than normal risk of spiritual abuse or excess.

Jesus is building His Church upon the foundation of Himself. This is the only safe ground to build or stand upon.


INSTITUTIONAL HOUSE CHURCHES

The clarion call of recent years has been the Scriptural injunction to "come out of Babylon", and when applied to the Institutional Church, it is interpreted to mean have nothing at all to do with the present religious system as represented by the clergy / laity distinction, the hierarchy of leadership with the pastor at the head, and the platform-based, event-oriented programs and church building projects. Invariably the trend has been towards informal small groups and home churches. We believe this to be a partial but incomplete solution. We see Babylon not as a political or institutional state, but a spiritual state. To truly come out of Babylon requires something more than deciding to meet in homes or resolving to do away with the external trappings of Churchianity. Many claim to have come out of Babylon because they no longer attend church services, but Babylon has not come out of them. They have only exchanged one sophisticated form of religious bondage for a less sophisticated one, perhaps creating an Institutional House Church in the process.

More than changing a few external rituals and adopting a so-called New Testament pattern to the exclusion of all others, coming out of Babylon requires an attitudinal adjustment on the part of the believer, a genuine paradigm shift and seeing the Lord and the Lord's Church; it cannot merely be a reacting to the obvious wrongs perpetuated in the name of God by Organized Religion. It is quite possible to be out of the system but still be bound to Babylon, still chained by bitterness and fixated with all that is wrong with the Body.

It is just as possible to be somewhat within the trappings of Organized Religion outwardly speaking, but have an ascendant spirit that overcomes within the midst of Babylon. Our whole goal should be to look beyond the external characteristics of how and where people worship. The only way to do this is to have an all-consuming revelation of Christ and the Ecclesia, the Body, His Church. Once we see that, we will understand that the external accessories of Organized Religion can neither help nor truly hurt the True Church, since Christ is bringing all things into subjection to Himself through the Church. This includes Organized Religion, Babylon, systems of false worship, denominationalism, wheat and tares, sheep and goats. The one that abides in Christ is joined to the Ecclesia and thus transcends all that is contrary. This contagious, unbridled liberty in Him cannot be bound or brought again under subjection to, or depenedence upon, earthly religious institutions. Its identity is found in Christ, therefore it requires no external support systems or crutches. It accepts no substitutes, and immediately and effortlessly resists all attempts to rein it in.


"BY THE RIVERS OF BABYLON WE WEEP

Perhaps the fear is that once we are escaped from Churchianity that we may be deceived again, but not so with the one who has finally seen the Body. It is not that we find it necessary to wax bold or stand guard continually and purposely resist all attempts to institutionalize us in the name of God. When we have seen Christ and His Church, anyone attempting to lord over, corral, enclose, intimidate, manipulate, unlawfully influence or exert his or her spiritual whims upon us is rebuffed with a calm, quiet spirit. It is like striking the air, or stopping the ocean. The spirit of Jezebel simply cannot stand before the Spirit of Christ. It's so simple. We do not need to understand the spirit of Jezebel, we only need experiential knowledge of Christ within.

Again, we reiterate that it is not a question of learning or knowing, but of seeing. If we see Christ we will immediately react to all that is anti-Christ. Those who belong to Him will never accept the mark of the beast. All who know Truth can easily see through the false.

It is not uncommon for someone to sit within Babylon for years, know something is wrong, but be unable to express what it is. It is only after much soul-searching, prayer, counsel, sleepless nights and painful experiences that we are able to understand why the Spirit of Jesus is troubling us with regard to what is done in the name of Organized Religion. But we need not understand what troubles us in order to be troubled. To all who listen, to all who have ears to hear, He will voice His disapproval of all that is not sanctioned or condoned by Him. God is not so silent as many imagine, it is just our ears are dull. But when our hearing is sensitive, we will hear His protest when something is said or done in His Name that He does not endorse. If we are listening, we cannot but hear Him disavow the televangelist who begs for more money, or the pastor who treats the sheep with contempt, or the prophet who speaks out of his own imagination.

If we can sit within Organized Religion, day in and day out, and drink it all in without the slightest provocation, without even a hint of being troubled in our inner man, with no twinge in our gut or pain in our heart whatsoever, then we are far gone; our hearts are hardened and our ears are dull. We are blind Pharisees.

You who call yourselves Christians: are you troubled by all that is proclaimed, confessed, bought and sold, taught, prophesied, promoted, and prayed about these days in Jesus' Name? Then rejoice, because you are still able to discern the Spirit of Jesus above the cacophony of religious voices spewing forth from Babylon. But if you are able to shrug it off or lightly dismiss it, blithely going your merry way, I would consider your Christianity to be nominal at best.

The Lord does not take it all in stride, or shrug it off. The responses of Jesus to the organized religionists of His day were many and varied. We find Him driving the merchants out of the Temple with a scourge of cords. We find Him engaging in public denunciations of the Pharisees, holding them up as shining examples of what NOT to do. At other times, He was silent, or simply hid Himself and departed. Which response strikes you as the most profound? In my opinion, it is a weighty matter to observe the Son of God simply walk away and ignore the religious leaders of His day. There is a time and season to speak, and a time to refrain, and we find the Lord knows how to do both. But I must confess that His silent rebuke, Him hiding His Face and turning away, strikes as much fear in my heart as His spoken Word and piercing gaze. What unbearable, deafening silence! What contempt He had for their hypocrisy! How His holy nature must have been repulsed! How can we not also be moved to indignation?


THE WAY OUT OF BABYLON

There is only one right way to leave Babylon, and that is by way of Christ. To leave because of hurt, bitterness, dissatisfaction with the status quo, rebellion, or anything short of seeing Christ is to be in a precarious situation. Certainly hurt, bitterness, and the like are compelling reasons to leave, but only when they drive us to Christ do they help and not hinder. If our experiences drive us into a quagmire of depression and unforgiveness then all meaning and purpose for the experience is lost. On the other hand, if our disenchantment, disillusionment, and despair drive us deeper into Christ, we will find healing through Him and we will be enabled to extend grace to those who persecuted us. Then the experience is meaningful, the pain had purpose, and the lesson is learned.

This is why we do not command all Christians everywhere to stop attending church services. To leave, or to stay, apart from revelation, apart from seeing Christ and His Body, and based only upon the word of some man or group, no matter how true, is not sufficient to escape from Babylon. Others may bring us out of Babylon, but they cannot bring Babylon out of us. This is the Lord's work. And this explains why we find some who have left Organized Religion but are not better off spiritually than they were before leaving. In fact, after several years they have become cold, aloof, distant, critical, and suspicious of others. Their world has become smaller, whereas the one who leaves Organized Religion because of revelation lives in a much larger world as entire new vistas of opportunity appear. With an awareness of the Body, fellowship is no longer restricted to time, place, church, or denomination, thus opportunities for fellowship abound. But with no consciousness of the Body, only an awareness of our personal pain and harsh treatment at the hands of a few, our defense mechanisms will prevent us from seeking out fellowship or risking further hurt by engaging other believers.

When we enter this Body consciousness we will not find it necessary to wax bold or stand guard continually and purposely resist all attempts to institutionalize us in the name of God. We do not have to fear what man may do to us. When we have seen Christ and His Church, anyone attempting to lord over, corral, enclose, intimidate, manipulate, unlawfully influence or exert his or her spiritual whims on us is rebuffed with a calm, quiet spirit. It is like striking the air, or stopping the ocean. The spirit of Jezebel simply cannot stand before the Spirit of Christ. It is so simple. It is only difficult because we make it difficult. We do not need to understand the spirit of Jezebel, we only need experiential knowledge of Christ within.

This experiential knowledge of Christ will also enable us to recognize Him in others, and call upon us to enter into fellowship with brothers and sisters of all backgrounds. We will not be overly critical or unnecessarily suspicious. The Anointing will teach us and lead us into proper relationships with others in the Body. No more will we judge others or restrict ourselves to our little home group, church, or denomination. Our basis for fellowship is Christ, and with Him as our common ground we will not be uncomfortable or threatened by people of different philosophical or doctrinal nuances. Either the Life is present, or it is not. If it is, we must not call Unclean whom God has called Clean.

We may be able to passionately and persuasively expound upon the evils of the religious institutionalism, be correct with our arguments, confirm the experience of others and sway the opinions of many; but perhaps the most compassionate thing we can do for those still bound by Organized Religion is to become secure enough in our walk with God and clear enough in our vision of Christ and His Body that we can worship together with them in spite of our ideological differences, modeling the freedom which belongs to all who are in Christ Jesus, in hope that they, too, can escape from Churchianity and experience the same liberty from the deadness of the Letter towards the freshness of the Spirit, far beyond the influence of Babylon.

 

Not For The Better!
by Chip Brogden

"Now in this that I declare unto you I praise you not, that you come together not for the better, but for the worse" (I Corinthians 11:17).

Jesus made it clear that "where two or three are gathered together in My Name, there I am in the midst of them" (Matthew 18:20). Just two or three!

I thank and praise God that Jesus did not say, "Where two or three THOUSAND are gathered together, there I am." He did not say, "Where two or three HUNDRED are gathered together, there I am." And He did not say, "Where two or three DOZEN are gathered together, there I am."

Jesus also did not say where the two or three had to be gathered together. He did not specify a church building or a living room meeting. And He did not say how many times a week they had to be gathered, or if the gatherings had to be structured or unstructured, open or closed, inside or outside.

By establishing His Presence in the midst of a group so small as two or three, Jesus repudiates our fascination with large numbers. Anyone can gather a crowd if you tell them what they want to hear. May I say that a large group has no more of the presence of Jesus than a small group. The numbers are irrelevant. Either Jesus is in the midst, or He is not. If Jesus is not in the midst of us then having a large group of people will not compensate for Him not being there.

I would rather sit on the living room floor with three people and have Jesus in the midst than sit in a service with three thousand people where Jesus is nowhere to be found.

Of course, Jesus can sometimes be found in large groups of people, but as my wife says, He tends to get lost in the crowd.


WHAT ABOUT ASSEMBLING TOGETHER?

Concerning our assembling together, the author of the letter to the Hebrews says:

"Forsaking not the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as you see the day approaching" (Hebrews 10:25).

Praise the Lord for the simplicity of this Scripture. Once again, we are not told WHERE to assemble (the local church). We are not told WHEN to assemble (Sunday morning). We are not told HOW OFTEN to assemble (three services a week, prayer on Tuesday, youth group on Thursday). Taking this verse by itself, it simply tells us to make the most of every opportunity we have for encouraging one another face-to-face. Yet it gives no direction about where, when, or how many times a week this is to take place.

As a pastor, I misused this verse all the time. I did it in ignorance, but the message I consistently sent out was, "You need to attend more, pray more, give more, and do more than what you're doing. You need to be submitted to me so you can have a spiritual covering. You need to be accountable to a local body of believers. And if you don't come to church every time the doors are open and if you don't participate in every program we have available for you then you are forsaking the assembling of yourselves together!"

Is that really what this verse means? When you read the verses preceding this one it becomes apparent that the Spirit of God is not trying to get us to be more faithful to attend church services. In fact, when this was written, Christians did not have "church services" (or church buildings, for that matter).

So what does it mean? If you read the entire chapter (better yet, the entire letter), you find that we are being encouraged to draw near to God without fear, by a "new and living way", through Jesus Christ our High Priest, Who has already assembled us together as the house of God in order to lead us into the Holy of Holies.

Based on what we know about the Lord's Ekklesia, we could just as easily say, "Don't forsake the house of living stones that Jesus is assembling together, because there's no other way to draw near to God!" But people usually find what they expect to see, not what is really there. So we nullify the Word of God with our tradition, missing the blessing and turning it into a burden.


IN THIS I PRAISE YOU NOT

Jesus said if HE is lifted up then HE will draw all men to HIMSELF. Instead, we lift up religion and draw all men into an institution.

Are we suggesting that Christians should never go to church or have fellowship with others? Of course not. But we ask, can fellowship only occur in the context of a church meeting? Once we realize that our fellowship is supposed to be based on a relationship with Jesus, not a relationship with "church", we will discover that there are more opportunities for fellowship OUTSIDE the local church building than there are INSIDE.

That is because Christ-based fellowship lasts as long as you are abiding in Jesus, while church-based fellowship only lasts as long as you are attending that church. When you go to their services and support their agenda then they love you. Once you leave, and they realize you are not coming back, they want nothing more to do with you. The reality is simply this: their fellowship with you is church-based, ministry-based, man-based, or money-based, but it is not Christ-based.

The true character of a church, fellowship, or ministry is not judged by how they receive you when you join, or how they treat you when you are there, but rather, how they send you when you go, and how they relate to you after you have left.

Many churches, gatherings, meetings, ministries and fellowships do more harm than good. They should be shut down because Jesus does not have the preeminence there. Thus, they serve no Kingdom purpose. I am convinced that most churches exist only to give the pastor someplace to preach on Sunday. The meetings continue but no fruit is produced. They are dead branches still clinging to the vine that need to be hacked off to make way for new growth.

Paul told the Corinthians that when they came together it was not for the better, but for the worse. To be sure, they gathered together. They were faithful to assemble. But their gathering together was not a testimony to their faith, it was a testimony to their division. Actually, they were not assembling together at all, they were assembling separately. "Shall I praise you in this? I do not praise you!"

The apostle says it would be better for them to stay home than to gather together for the worse, have division, teach heresies, despise the church of God, bring shame to one another, eat and drink damnation to themselves, and come together "unto condemnation" (see I Corinthians 11:17-34).

This is strong language. When was the last time you heard a message on that? What pastor is willing to stand up and say, "There will be no more services until we can learn how to come together for the better, and not for the worse." Not many!


IN THE SPIRIT ON THE LORD'S DAY

Brothers and sisters, do not be deceived or troubled. If we are one with the Head then we are one with the Body, even if we are not physically gathered together; and if we are NOT one with the Head then we are NOT one with the Body, even if we ARE physically gathered together. How can that be? Because Jesus is building His Church, and it is a spiritual house, not a physical house.

This principle is clearly demonstrated in the life of John the apostle. Exiled to the Isle of Patmos because of the testimony of Jesus, he was physically isolated from other believers and had no face-to-face contact with any of the churches. He had no "covering", no "accountability", no "authority" no "local body of believers", no "fellowship". He seemed to be cast off into a corner, forgotten.

But John says, "I was in the Spirit on the Lord's Day." He maintained connectivity to the Head and to the Body of Christ by way of a spirit-and-truth worship walk. This connectivity is spiritual, not physical, not social, not geographical. Because of this, John received a clear vision and a fresh revelation of Jesus Christ. As a side benefit, John knew the exact spiritual condition of the seven churches of Asia, even though he was not assembled together with them.

It is better to be alone and be in the Spirit than to assemble together and be in the flesh, going through the motions of Churchianity, gathering for the worse, and not for the better. Jesus said,

"Isaiah was correct when he prophesied about you hypocrites, saying, 'These people draw near to Me with their mouths, and they honor Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me, and they worship Me in vain, for they teach as doctrines the commandments of men'" (Matthew 15:7-9).

Friends, there is a more excellent way! The Father is actively seeking and recruiting for Himself people who will worship Him in Spirit and in Truth. Jesus is setting them free from vain worship and traditions of men, and He is gathering them together into a spiritual house of living stones. The Holy Spirit is leading them into an ever deepening, ever increasing relationship with Christ. With them, every day is "The Lord's Day"!

While everything not established on Christ is being shaken, those who are being reduced to Christ are receiving a kingdom that cannot be moved. It is a wonderful time to be alive and to see God's Purpose being fulfilled! Why would we be content with anything less? He has given us new wine and new wineskins. Let us seek the preeminence of Christ in all things, and when Jesus does gather us together in simplicity, He will be in the midst, and our gatherings will be for the better, and not for the worse. Amen.

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WHEN THE CHURCH WENT OFF TRACK MANY YEARS AGO...

Around 300 A.D. the Holy Spirit influence upon the church began to wane. Leaders began to rely on their own abilities, rather than the Holy Spirit. The church then made one of the worst mistakes in history. She gave up basic freedoms that powered the early church's success, and put a strangle hold on much of the church's powerful ministry. How? by turning the saints from lively participators into pew potatoes, or spectators.

Whatever happened to, "When you come together brethren, everyone of you hath a psalm. a hymn, a tongue, an interpretation, a revelation etc." (1.Cor.14:26). How did this early dynamic church meeting turn into a one (or sometimes two) man show with an almost professional sounding worship team? What was the secret of the early church? Well for start they didn't have to worry about financing buildings, their money was invested in living stones. (Of course a roof over our heads to keep the rain out, while gathering is a necessary asset.) They met in houses, and rented rooms, an informal often boisterous affair with full-scale meals. Church was a kind of floating party with every one participating 100%. At the weekly get together's, everyone was the star of the show. Everyone was needed.

As the church grew in various cities, it ceased to become a "family" and turned into a kind of "establishment." The final nail in the church coffin was the fact that Emperor Constantine kindly issued the Edict of Milan, officially ending the persecutions and tolerating the church. Then came "US" and "THEM", priest and laity. The problem was that 98% of the church was "them". and so the professionals took over. The rest learned to sit and be quiet and join in singing when told to. They learned to add something to the meeting- afterwards- at home or in the foyer, but not in the meeting.

Whereas before, everyone could contribute to the meeting as the Holy Spirit moved upon them, now the Holy Spirit was only allowed to move in the pulpit. At first everyone could get into the act, prophecies, healing's, tongues and interpretations. revelations, spiritual songs, words of knowledge flowed through "whosever", now, maybe the service is open for the "Body" to share and minister for about 10 minutes-if you're lucky.

Many Pastors cannot handle a meeting where they don't know what is going to happen, or who is going to do what? But we are supposed to be a family are we not? So what if someone makes a mistake! No one will lose their salvation. The saints are to be taught to hear from God and let the Holy Spirit flow through them as He wants to. What better place to learn than in church. The youngest convert will learn to discern what God is saying to the church in that particular meeting. It may not be the place to share, "a funny thing happened to me on the way to the meeting."

Where did our present form come from? Probably from the church down the road, because they got theirs from the church round the corner and so we all ended up with the hymn sandwich (to coin a phrase from England).

Three hymns, a prayer for the nation, an offering, maybe another hymn, a wonderful message and short benediction and then we get to go home.

Sharing to be done OUTSIDE. In actual fact if you look at it, our present form comes from the O.T. pattern. The priest went in to the Holy of Holies on behalf of the people. It was the priest who had the ear of God plus of course God's special leaders like Moses, David, Joshua etc.

Many Christians seem to have simply transferred these roles to the pastor or minister, especially for the church services. After all, he gets paid to seek the Lord and come and deliver the message to the people, just like Moses going up the mountain. Most people see the worship team as people who lead them into the presence of God.

While music and songs can bring the anointing into a meeting, it is totally an old testament revelation. In Hebrews we are taught that the old pattern was DONE AWAY and now it is a NEW AND LIVING WAY. JESUS, our High Priest once and for all rent the veil and made the way open for EVERY BELIEVER TO STAND AND WALK CONTINUALLY IN THE SPIRIT AND IN THE PRESENCE OF THE LORD. We don't rely on someone else to bring us into the presence of God any more. We bring the presence of the Lord with us. The Ark of the Covenant is replaced by the living stones. The glory, or presence of God is or should be IN EACH ONE OF US.

Many Charismatic's were filled with the Spirit twenty years ago and got some life and for a while it looked like the old rusty boat was going to really rock as people wanted to GIVE and not just listen to someone else.

But somehow it soon all got put back in a box. Only this time we sang chorus's instead of hymns, dressed more casually, were more friendly toward each other, gave a little more liberally financially, had a more uplifting message, but guess what, it's still the same form. Largely and with a few exceptions, it's still "US" and "THEM", the professionals and laity. The poor Pastor got worn out trying to do everything and the people just expected him to do almost anything. After all, he was PAID to do everything.

In the book of Revelation 2:6, we are told about the works of the Nicolations which Jesus hated. Well Nico means power and laity means people. Translated - Power over the People. Somehow the part of the shepherds; i.e. pastors and elders got switched from being ministry gifts, that had authority in the Spirit, to take authority over that which came against the sheep, to being people who began to take authority over the sheep. They began to tell people what God was saying instead of allowing the sheep to hear from the Great Shepherd for themselves as they were meant to. The Lord Jesus Christ is jealous over His relationship with His sheep.

The Holy Spirit showed me something one time when I was praying with some people over a city in Virginia. I had a vision of a beautiful banqueting table. It was laid with all kinds of dishes of food and very fine wine. There were seats all around the table for the people to come and eat. In front of the table was a man. He had his back to the table and he was facing a crowd of other people who were in front of him.

Although the table was laid and there was an invitation to "COME AND EAT" to EVERYONE WHO WAS HUNGRY, the man in front was reaching to the table and then giving the people some of the food from the table. He was deciding what they could have or not have according to his own tastes.

But you see it was not his decision to make, it was the Lord's table. Some of the people side stepped him and went to the table anyway, some couldn't even really see it, because he was standing in front of it. Some just accepted whatever he gave, because they assumed he must know.

Then the picture changed and the Holy Spirit showed me what the man in front was supposed to do. The man turned so that he faced the table, in the same direction as the people. Then he led the people TO THE TABLE, and THEY ALL SAT DOWN AND BEGAN TO FELLOWSHIP ( SHARE) and EAT. To oversee the flock like a shepherd is to guard them from the enemy, not guard them from getting too much of the Holy Spirit. Our place as pastors, teachers and leaders is to preach the whole counsel of God. I know we can't do that in three weeks. That includes Salvation, deliverance, healing, the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, the gifts and the fruits of the Spirit, all of them. It also includes making available ministry gifts so that the people can eat and receive revelation and impartation from outside ministries; Prophets, Apostles, Healing Evangelists etc. We do not have the right to withhold God's table from His people.

We were involved in a great revival in England some 25 years ago. Prior to that we had sat under a religious form and although we had great preaching, none of us ever got to share anything ourselves. We were never told that we were supposed to contribute, so we just sat and listened to the wonderful sermons. When we experienced revival we let God do what He wanted. He used everyone, small kids, big kids, parents, lawyers, doctors, truck drivers, housewives, laborers, in fact anyone who was willing to be used. The meetings would be in full swing before any leaders or musicians were there. We did not wait for an official opening of service. We were already in high praise and you were hit with a bolt of electricity when you opened the door. In fact many times we had to step over bodies outside the meeting place, the power of God was present on the people. No one ever knew what was going to happen, or who was going to do what. We didn't know when it would end. There was no "front" as the seats were in a U shape. The musicians sat among the people and led or followed according to what the Holy Spirit was doing. In one meeting a young lad of ten stood up and sang (off key) two lines of "I will bless the Lord at all times" and God's Spirit came in and swept over 200 people off their seats flat onto the floor.

We had special teaching meetings so that we were not a bunch of idiots as far as learning doctrine was concerned. God raised up Elders and Pastors and Full time ministries but they equipped the Body. Sometimes the pastors preached, sometimes they didn't. Sometimes God used Joe, or Kate, or Harry or Sue. One thing, Jesus showed up, He seemed to love being in the middle of all the excitement, because He could do whatever he wanted.

There were times of course, when we missed God. Somebody would get up and be out of it and not minister life. When you don't have professional gifted preachers doing it all, Brother Bill's little message can be very boring if he misses God. A gifted preacher can hide his mistake (being out of the spirit) to the undiscerning, and get away with it. We soon learned how to correct and encourage. We taught them that if at first you don't succeed you don't quit, but try, try again. There was a lot of love flowing, nobody cared too much, we all learned together. Sometimes when we really missed it, someone would stand up and say "Let's go and get some coffee." We learned to laugh at ourselves. When we take ourselves so seriously the religious spirit has a ball. He brings in heaviness, condemnation etc. Those saints began to hear from God in an awesome way. Through the ministry of the Body, hidden things were revealed and people's hearts were made manifest and as the Bible says, others fell down and said, "Truly God is in this place."

In the book, Another Wave of Revival Frank Bartleman, (Whitaker House Publishers. ISBN 0-88368-111-0.) talking about the 1904 Azusa street revival says, "The service I am writing about began in an impromptu and spontaneous way some time before the pastor arrived. A handful of people had gathered early, which seemed to be sufficient for the Spirit's operation. The meeting started. Their expectation was from God. God was there, the people were there, and, by the time the pastor arrived, the meeting was in full swing. Pastor Smale dropped into his place, but no one seemed to pay any attention to him. Their minds were on God. No one seemed to get in another's way, although the congregation represented many religious bodies. All seemed to be in perfect harmony. The Spirit was leading. The pastor arose, read a portion of the scripture, made a few well-chosen remarks full of hope and inspiration for the occasion, and the meeting passed again from his hands. The people took it up and went on as before. Testimony, prayer, and praise were intermingled throughout the service. The meeting seemed to run itself as far as human guidance was concerned." (Page 21-22.)

"Many have declared that we cannot have open meetings today, But if that is true, then we must shut God out also. What we need is more of God to control the meetings. He must be left free to come forth at all costs." (Page 90.)

His comment on a camp meeting prior to the revival. "Most were seeking selfish blessings. They rushed to the meetings, like a big sponge, to get more blessing. they needed stepping on." (Page 25.)

Someone writing about Evan Roberts, used in the 1901 Welsh Revival. "It was not the eloquence of Evan Roberts that broke men down, but his tears. He would break down, crying bitterly for God to bend them, in agony of prayer, the tears coursing down his cheeks, his whole frame writhing.

Strong men would break down and cry like children. Women would shriek. A sound of weeping and wailing would fill the air. Evan Roberts, in the intensity of his agony, would fall in the pulpit, while many in the crowd often fainted."

With the coming revival there is coming great change. We need to be like the willow trees, they bend. Trees that are dry break easily.

Kathie Walters

http://www.house2house.tv/index.pl/articles/00088

 

The Church that Jesus Builds

By Wayne Jacobsen

 

Part X in an occasional series on Life in the Relational Church

 

“You want to know what I’ve learned this weekend?” the man said as he drove me to a Midwest airport early one morning. We’d just spent an incredible weekend together with a house church he’d helped foster and another group of believers who joined us when they heard I was in town. The latter were deeply conflicted about their current involvement with a congregation that sounded abusive. “I’ve been selling the wrong thing!” he continued.

“What’s that?” I asked oblivious to what we were talking about.

“I’ve been selling house church,” he said shaking his head with a sigh, “instead of Jesus.” Obviously he wasn’t talking about ‘selling’ anything, but I love his discovery. Almost everywhere I go people are preoccupied with finding the right way to do church. It seems our hunger for church outstrips our hunger for Jesus.

In one house church meeting a few years ago I heard a woman share a dream she had the night before about a bride endlessly primping in the mirror and admiring her own beauty. She fussed with her hair, make-up and dress making sure everything was perfect. Meanwhile she saw the groom standing at the altar checking his watch and wondering why his bride had not come. What a sad and lonely picture of too many believers in our day. We are so focused on ourselves and what the church should look like that we’ve forgotten our joy is in the bridegroom—Jesus himself!

If there’s anything I’ve learned over the last decade visiting expressions of the body of Christ all over the world, it is that those preoccupied with doing church rarely get to experience body life to its full, while those who are preoccupied with Jesus find church life that is vibrant and awesome.

 

Search for the Church

In the last 40 years hundreds of books have been written about church renewal. I have watched countless people move from mainline to charismatic to mega-church to prayer-based to power-centered to cell church to seeker-sensitive to renewal to purpose-driven to house church to emerging church and the list just keeps getting longer. Some have even gone back to liturgical services, finding solace in its aesthetic beauty and safety. As one man confessed, “I just wanted to meet with Christians where I didn’t have to worry about someone flopping on the floor like a beached fish.”

These movements last only briefly spearheaded by a gifted speaker who draws a large following and then claims he has at last found the Biblical way to do church. After the euphoria of the alleged ‘new wineskin’ wears off in 3 to 5 years, people find themselves frustrated with the results and have to look again for another expression of church that fulfills the cry of their heart.

I understand the hunger. The Scriptures paint a compelling picture of God’s church—brothers and sisters growing in their relationship with Jesus and each other in a way that transformed them. They loved each other, grew together in God’s wisdom, shared their possessions together freely, and saw him reveal himself in extraordinary ways to them and their culture.

Was it perfect? Of course not and Scripture graciously made that clear as well. They struggled through failures and sin. They had to deal with those who tried to exercise control over others and brothers and sisters who preferred the comfort of false teaching to the challenge of the true. But throughout God kept making his way and truth known. They were filled with awe and God’s grace multiplied among them in demonstrable ways.

Who wouldn’t want that? But those expressions of church life have been rare and brief in our day. What passes for church today makes us spectators rather than participants, manipulates people’s shame rather than setting them free from it, prefers the rigidity of obligation to the power of love, is more contemptuous of the world than more relevant in it, and rewards cooperative pawns in someone else’s program rather than growing disciples of Jesus himself. No wonder so many people are disillusioned with it. Yet the search goes on, like birds drawn on an inexplicable migration, to a land they’ve never seen.

 

Beyond House Church

What compounds this search is that all that calls itself the church is not really the church. After 2000 years of Christian history, the term is used for institutions that provide a Christian experience through rituals, clergy and tradition. Some of the best of these actually provide an environment where people can come to know Jesus, grow in Biblical truths and connect in real fellowship so that in and around these institutions some people find expressions of church life.

However, there are increasing numbers of people who find that expression incredibly limited. Some have spilled out of abusive systems where the control of insecure leaders and the priorities of the institution overran any legitimate spiritual life. Still others grew unsettled with the time and money invested in building and institutional politics and found that those who get to the top of such groups often have little of Father’s character and even less of his passion.

I am continually amazed by the number of people I run into who have left those institutions who were once respected leaders in it—pastors, elders, teachers, deacons and board members. Some left rather than submit to ungodly demands made of them, but others did so because they grew convinced that the institution didn’t fulfill their hunger to live as the church. Loyalty was valued over honesty, arrogance over tenderness, entertainment over spiritual growth and the survival of the institution over loving people.

One denominational official confronted his own organization, “A growing number of people are leaving the institutional church for a new reason. They are not leaving because they have lost their faith. They are leaving the church to preserve their faith.” People are waking up to a new reality, and finding the way they have learned to “do church” in the past doesn’t serve their hunger to know Jesus more intimately and to share that life with others more effectively.

Many of these initially turned to house church, hoping its more Biblical dynamics would provide the Promised Land they hungered for. But they soon find it a mixed bag as well. Their excitement at the relational dynamics of a smaller group fades when they discover there are still people who wanted to control it from within or mold it into new networks from without. They find relationships awkward as people are more focused on a method than on following Jesus. They often face the same religious demands for conformity and commitment and they find the same our-group-is-better superiority that separates them from other Christians and from the world by breeding contempt for unbelievers, rather than compassion.

Now increasing numbers find themselves beyond house church still wondering where they can find authentic church life, or even if it exists at all.

 

An Undeniable Hunger

A sad reality is that many who break free of systems of religious obligation sometimes find themselves using freedom as an excuse to fulfill long-restrained appetites in the things of the world. They don’t always fall into great sin, but their spiritual hunger is swallowed up by their search for pleasure. I cringe when it happens, but I know for many it will only be a phase. Having worked so long and so hard for God with so little enduring fruit in relationship with him or with others, their frustration often spills out in careless personal indulgence.

For those who have been touched by Jesus, this season won’t satisfy and out of it a new passion for a real connection with Jesus emerges. Beyond their disappointments, beyond the failure of others, their hunger to find real life among God’s people surfaces again and again. I am amazed at the resiliency of this hunger to find life in Father’s family. Even those who have been abused or frustrated in their attempts to find it in the past, still find that undeniable hunger rising even beyond their resolve to go it alone. Once you’ve tasted genuine fellowship where dear friendships inspired your journey and opened up new vistas into God’s nature, you won’t be satisfied by anything less. Most have experienced some taste of that in the early days of a new fellowship, in an informal Bible study or with a close friend.

Certain there must be a consistent way for believers to share this incredible journey they read voraciously anything they can find on the church, search the Internet to see if anyone else has found it and keep going to any group in their area that sounds promising. While some find answers and connections others find themselves with passions ignited that leave them feeling increasingly isolated when they can find no one locally to share it with.

Perhaps we’re finally waking up to the fact that Jesus didn’t tell us to build his church. He said he would do that. He told us to abide in him, love others as he loves us, proclaim the gospel and help others learn to follow him. If we are focused on those things instead of trying to do his work, I’ve no doubt we’ll see the church springing up all around us.

The church that Jesus is building continues to grow the world over and you are no small part of that. Even if you feel alone in your journey, he is creating a passion in your heart for a purpose you may not yet see. I suspect in the next few years we will see Jesus bring his body together in ways we cannot even fathom now. I see two trends in our culture that excite me. First, an increasing number of believers are growing disillusioned with the rituals of organized religion. Second, an increasing number of nonbelievers are contemplating spiritual issues and hungering for authentic relationships. It will be interesting to see how these realities converge in the days ahead.

Recognizing His Church

Though I don’t expect to see a perfect expression of the body of Christ on the planet before Jesus returns, that doesn’t keep me from beholding her glory nonetheless. I have witnessed again and again all over the world the miracle of people sharing the life of Jesus together in growing compassion, wisdom, care and freedom. I’ve watched God connect people who had a profound impact on each other’s lives and had great joy in doing so.

I am reticent to define what Jesus’ church looks like, because I am convinced people know it when they touch it. Church is not a place to go or an organization of any kind. It is the network of relationships we share with other believers where Jesus is the only focus (Colossians 1:18) and we are free to grow in him (Ephesians 1:21; 4:18-20). You’ll recognize the life of Jesus’ church where people have the freedom to be honest without being attacked (John 4:24 – See sidebar Being Real), where they can disagree without being less loved (Romans 13), where they can be encouraged to their best without being manipulated by someone else’s agenda (I Corinthians 14), where guilt is lifted off each other instead of heaped on (Romans 8:1-4), where they lovingly care for each other’s practical and spiritual needs (Philippians 2:4), where they are set free from obligation to live in love (Galatians 5) and where God’s purpose in us comes into sharper focus (John 17, Ephesians 1).

 

In short it is a family in the best sense of the word, brothers and sisters growing together under Father. People like this will find ways to gather regularly in various arrangements as God leads, but their relationships are the focus, not their meetings. Where you find people like that you’ve found the body of Christ. Of course these may happen around existing institutions, though no institution can ultimately contain it. They also happen outside institutions in the normal course of our lives as Jesus sets us in his body just as he desires (I Corinthians 1:18).

 

Where Can I Find That?

Relational community is not rocket science. The more we try to organize it the more we will siphon the life right out of it. When I was in junior high school I watched my parents move from being nominal church attendees to passionate believers. Caught up in the early days of the Charismatic renewal of the mid-1960s they began to discover just how real Jesus wanted to be in their lives and found many of their friends shared that hunger. Without any of the hassles of an institution they met house-to-house, shared meals and resources, and even invited in more mature believers to help them make sense of what God was doing in them.

The congregation they all attended on Sunday mornings soon grew threatened by their newfound fervor and soon forced them out. Excited, they moved their Friday night ‘prayer meetings’ to Sunday mornings to ‘start their own church.’ I remember even as a young man being amazed at how quickly their joy, enthusiasm and spontaneity faded away in the demands of getting organized, planning Sunday services, and staffing children’s ministries. Soon they were bickering over how things should be done and how money should be spent, rather than growing in Jesus.

I’ve seen that happen so many times since. Thinking we can make church life better by organizing it, we almost always unwittingly sacrifice it to the institutional needs that bear so little fruit. Church life is the natural fruit of people growing in Jesus and in friendships with people near them. It isn’t always easy to find people with that kind of passion, but Father has some interesting ways to connect them.

 

What You Can Do

You certainly cannot make church happen by your own effort but neither will it come banging on your door while you watch TV. There are some things you can think through that will help you see how God might be connecting you to other believers:

First, live the journey. You don’t find life in Jesus by finding the right group; you are connected with the family out of your relationship to the Head, Jesus. Isn’t it sad that people who have ‘attended church’ for 20, 30 or 40 years, have no idea how to listen to Jesus and do what he wants. We have so equipped them to live by principles that they have never learned to follow his voice. Learn to live in him. Discover how secure you are in his love and how much you can trust his work in you. Read the Scriptures so you will learn to think like he thinks and recognize his voice. If you know a few others who want to grow in this too, share that journey together.

Second, cultivate relationships. As you grow secure in Father’s love you will find yourself loving others in the same way, and not just Christians but people in the world, too. You’ll come to recognize that God works primarily through relationships. So join him in building relationships however God gives them to you. He might lead you to a group of folks already gathering or to some individual relationships among your neighbors or co-workers. He might call you to get involved with others in what are commonly called ‘parachurch’ ministries, such as a rescue mission, prison or youth outreach, or prayer gathering, or he might lead you to open your home for a Bible study or fellowship group. God knows how to connect you with folks he wants you to know. Be prepared to give some time to those relationships by doing things together—sharing a meal, helping on a household project, or going out together. Too few people actually initiate these kinds of encounters and yet they are critical to growing friendships.

Third, share the journey. Who has God put around you that you can open up your life to? It may be one person or a handful. They may live across town or work across the hall. Find a way to share God’s life together. Admittedly this will be awkward at first because we’re not used to these kinds of conversations, but this is a joy worth learning. Share insights from Scripture or things you’re learning, pray together about situations you’re encountering and what God is doing in you and learn to listen to him together as you encourage his work in others. As your friendships grow you’ll find yourself increasingly free to be more open, honest and confessional about your struggles and be able to garner the wisdom and strength God has given to others.

Fourth, learn to lay down your life. Community doesn’t happen where everyone grabs for what they want, but where they follow Jesus’ example of laying down their lives for others. As long as we only look out for ourselves we will pass like ships in the night, and even if we meet every week we’ll end up feeling alone. Laying down your life for others will open the doors to real community.

Fifth, explore relational community. As your relationships grow you might find some people or families who feel called to walk together for a season. There is no better _expression of body life than brothers and sisters who want to share God’s life with some regularity and intentionality. Don’t try to ‘start a church’, just grow in what it means to care for each other through the real circumstances of life. Include entire families. Get together regularly, but also cultivate those relationships beyond the meetings. Share your resources, gifts and time as Jesus leads you. Look for ways God might give you away to others in the community, individually or collectively to reveal him in our world or bless other believers with help in growing spiritually and support each other in that process. Be careful not to limit your relationships just to those in the group and don’t try to make your community permanent. Enjoy what God gives you in each season and be open to moving on to other relationships when Jesus so leads.

 

And If You Want Help…

Learning to live as the church Jesus is building will challenge long-held paradigms. Most of us have been taught to be passive learners. If we need something, someone else will tell us what it is. Growth in this kingdom doesn’t happen that way. Those who find life are not afraid to knock, to ask, or to seek.

If you’re struggling to know how to live deeply in Christ, connect with other Christians, or have a group that can’t sort out how to share this journey together, it is often helpful to sort things out with a brother or sister that might be a bit further down the road in some areas. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. At every stage of my journey, God has always put someone nearby to help confirm things I’m seeing and to help me think outside the limitations of my own previous experience. But I sought out those relationships. They didn’t come to me.

There are also gifts God has distributed through the body (Ephesians 4:11-13) to help equip people to live this journey. You won’t recognize them by their titles since the real ones won’t use them, or by their popularity since most fly under the radar, or even by their writings since most don’t write. God will link you to those he desires through relationship. You’ll recognize in their demeanor Father’s nature. You’ll hear in their words his voice. And time with them will draw you to Father and free you to trust him more.
They will leave you focused on him not on trying to implement some method or set of principles. They help people unload their guilt and shame and never exploit it even in an attempt to get them to do the right thing. They have patience with those who struggle and are not defensive when people challenge them with honest questions. They don’t see themselves as experts above you, but as brothers or sisters alongside and will never pressure you or try to make you dependent on them. Their joy comes in your greater reliance on Father’s work in you.

It may require you to think outside the box, but learning to live in the church Jesus is building is worth every moment of the journey. He does want you to know the joy of walking alongside other brothers and sisters and finding them a powerful addition to the life you’re finding in him. Try not to lose your heart for that, even if it only looks like a distant mirage. I assure it is real enough and part of God’s plan to bring all things together under one head!

 

SIDEBAR:

Being Real

The following paragraph was adapted from “Will the Real You Please Stand Up!” a Lifestream Audio Collection, by a sister from Texas:

 

It’s OK to question what I need to question, ask what I need to ask and struggle where I struggle. I’ve learned that I am not rewarded for pretending to be better than I am, but that experiencing the life of God means that I am loved through the ups and downs, hurts and joys, and doubts as well as triumphs. Instead of exploiting people’s shame or need for approval to try and make them better Christians, I encourage people to go to God for healing and restoration from shame so they can experience for themselves the love of God.

Instead of loading others up with a list of `shoulds’, I tell people that God is working by “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” and his greatest desire is to communicate with them. I talk about learning “how to” listen to God and follow what he puts on their heart even if that means they make a mistake doing so. Instead of trying to change people I urge them to get to know Christ as life because it’s so much fun (and far more effective) watching him change them. Instead of manipulating others to do what I think would benefit me and my definition of God’s will for them.

I’ll share as much of your journey as I can to help lighten your load. If you’re in pain or in despair, I’ll be there for you as Father sorts things out. I don’t know that I’ll always have what you need, but I will at least be there with you so you won’t have to go it alone.

 

Yellow Spinning 5 Point Star

Here are the "one anothering" Scriptures of the New Testament given to the church.   
 

One Another


. . . be at peace with one another (Mark 9:50)

. . . wash one another's feet (John 13:14)


. . . love one another (John 13:34)

. . . love one another (John 13:35)

. . . love one another (John 15:12)

. . . love one another (John 15:17)


. . . you are members of one another (Rom. 12:5)

. . . be devoted to one another in love (Rom. 12:10)

. . . honor one another above yourselves (Rom 12:10)

. . . live in harmony with one another (Rom. 12:16)


. . . love one another (Rom. 13:8)


. . . stop passing judgment on one another (Rom. 14:13)

. . . edify one another (Rom. 14:19)

. . . be like minded one toward another (Rom. 15:5)

. . . admonish one another (Rom. 15:14)

. . . greet one another with a holy kiss (Rom. 16:16)

. . . wait for one another (1Cor. 11:33)

. . . have the same care for one another (1Cor. 12:25)

. . . greet one another with a holy kiss (1Cor. 16:20)

. . . greet one another with a holy kiss (2Cor. 13:12)

. . . serve one another in love (Gal. 5:13)

. . . bear with one another in love (Eph. 4:2)

. . . speak truth for we are members of one another (Eph. 4:25)

. . . be kind and compassionate to one another (Eph. 4:32)

. . . submit to one another (Eph. 5:21)

. . . do not lie to one another (Col. 3:9)

. . . bear with one another (Col. 3:13)

. . . forgive one another (Col. 3:13)


. . . abound in love toward one another (1Th. 3:12)

. . . love one another (1Th. 4:9)


. . . comfort one another (1Th. 4:18)

. . . incite one another to love and good deeds (Heb. 10:24)

. . . encourage one another (Heb. 10:25)

. . . do not speak evil of one another (Jas. 4:11)

. . . do not make complaints against one another (Jas. 5:9)

. . . confess your sins to one another (Jas. 5:16)

. . . pray for one another (Jas. 5:16)


. . . love one another deeply, from the heart(1Pet. 1:22)


. . . offer hospitality to one another (1Pet. 4:9)

. . . clothe yourselves with humility toward one another (1Pet. 5:5)

. . . greet one another with a kiss of love (1Pet. 5:14)

. . . have fellowship with one another (1Jn. 1:7)


. . . love one another (1Jn. 3:11)

. . . love one another (1Jn. 3:23)

. . . love one another (1Jn. 4:7)

. . . love one another (1Jn. 4:11)

. . . love one another (1Jn. 4:12)

. . . love one another (2Jn. 5)

Rotating

Steve Gushee: On Religion

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer Friday, November 05, 2004

The hurricanes that wreaked havoc in Florida in September visited their
wrath on area churches as well. Many are damaged. Some are unusable.

The cost of repairing them is expensive and unfortunate. It might also be
unnecessary and, arguably, even blasphemous.

Christians are meant to be a pilgrim people with no home in this world.
Church buildings are essentially a contradiction to the Gospel.

The New Testament identifies Christians as a people on the move, on a
pilgrimage to the Promised Land. Christian theology urges the faithful to
be wary of becoming comfortable in this world. Certainly, no such people
would build houses of worship reflecting a sense of permanence that
denied the pilgrim's vocation.

Yet, many churches look like fortresses built to stand forever. Expensive
to build, exorbitant to maintain, they divert extraordinary attention
from the church's mission.

Some churchmen estimate that as much as 90 percent of all money raised by
local churches is used to pay staff and maintain buildings. That leaves
less money and less energy to do the church's work.

To be sure, Christianity and Judaism were the only early religions to
house the faithful. Most ancient religions built shrines for the deity
alone. The faithful gathered at the holy place to make sacrifice
unprotected from the elements.

Christian and Jewish followers were housed so that they could worship,
study scripture and develop community. Many churches serve the poor and
others from their buildings. While that is laudable, most of that work
could be done more economically using other means.

The early church met in the homes of the faithful. The house church was
the norm until the fourth century when Christianity became the emperor's
religion. Then the church built structures worthy of a king's attention.
Some argue that was the time when Christianity lost its way, gave up its
pilgrim imagery and decided to settle in as privileged residents of the
world it once renounced.

House churches may be impractical today given the size of many
congregations, but most churches have fewer than 150 members. They might
do well to give up their expensive buildings.

That would not satisfy many congregations. Most want their own digs. They
enjoy taking inordinate and idolatrous pride in their property and
spending accordingly.

They suffer from a blasphemous condition that some may call an edifice
complex.


http://www.palmbeachpost.com/opinion/content/accent/epaper/2004/11/05/a3e_gushee_1105.html

for more info on house church or relational Christianity contact us at eaglensky@gmail.com