Monday, October 24, 2011

The True Church

It has been a while since I got behind the computer to write. I struggle sometimes with the politics of what I write when I am staying with or working in ministries that are struggling to set people free through the truth of The Gospel of Christ. Often in the process of attempting to breath life into a ministry you run into people so bound by traditions rather than scripture that the old wine skin needs to be discarded so that a new one can be found to contain the new wine. Such is the situation I found when I rode my bike from Seattle to Illinois to help and old friend.
    On my previous trip to Atlanta Illinois (not Atlanta Georgia) Dan had just started to pastor this small church that had been closed for many years. people were beginning to re-dedicate their lives to Christ, He helped to bring unity to the local churches and often local pastors would preach from each others pulpits or have common outreach events. Missionaries from around the globe would come to visit, there was door to door evangelism, street witnessing, revival meetings in the park, regular baptisms of new believers, and kids giving their lives to The Lord.
   You would think to yourself hearing this that under such conditions there would be rejoicing in the streets and praise from the 4 corners of the earth for such a servant of God who would be used to bring about such things. You would of course be wrong. You see this is all happening in the mid-west of the USA where most everyone has heard The Gospel but has chosen to either harden their hearts against it, or has become so wrapped up in religion and self-righteousness they would most likely kick Jesus out of the church if he were to show up because he did not wear a tie, and his bloody feet might stain the carpet.
   What most want these days is to come to church a time or two each week hear a happy feel good message, be entertained by good music (but nothing with convicting lyrics) and restrict the membership to people who dress like them and are from the same social and economic class. They have no tolerance at all for people who are just coming to Christ, preachers that tell them to talk to the people around them about Christ, or God forbid praying for the persecuted church or encouraging people to go to the missions field.
    So on the first visit about to this town when things were getting started there was a massive increase in the church, on the second the older crowd was doing their best to use political and social manipulation to remove Pastor Dan. The result was that almost all the new converts and those that had re-dedicated their lives ceased to meet in the Church building and moved to home groups where they decide things like how best to go out and evangelise their towns. Meanwhile the building the old guard removed their pastor from is all but empty, and looks very much like it is on it’s way to a full downward spiral.
     I often wondered why The Lord had me drive 2000+ miles on my little 700cc bike to such a thing and slowly it comes into focus, the why of the whole thing. while I was there I was able to help a few missionaries as they past through, and fill a short gap of time when Dan was without a helper. The big thing I see though this is a change in the way church happens. I am seeing more and more that the real life of the church is not so much in buildings and the old traditional worship services, but in overstuffed houses full of believers where kids are running between adults standing packed shoulder to shoulder in living rooms worshiping.
    I have since got on the bike and drove another 1500+ miles to the 4 corners reservation near Gallup NM where there is a ministry starting up in a little double wide mobile home. A handful of men live in the home full time recovering from their addictions while they continue to study the word and challenge each other with the word and prayer. On friday they feed anyone who shows up and pack out the living room.  This last Friday there were at least 40 adults in the livingroom of the double wide trailer and many kids running around (no idea the number would be like trying to count fish in a bowl). The fun part of this model is that because little is spent on buildings the church size is self limiting. when things get to big for the space the group is forced to raise up new elders so the group can divide and plant a new house church.
      This model is not limited to only the house church of course, just last night I went to a church on the rez where they have planted 4 churches in 3 years. While this is still a lot slower than the multiplication found in most house churches this church has also a few people raised from the dead and multiple healing from diabetes and cancer documented by doctors so I think perhaps they get a hall pass for slower multiplication as they seem to be giving strong evidence of God’s blessings.
       In short what I have been learning is that groups of people who function from fear and tradition tend to be so controlling the quench the work of God. While in theory there should be no reason why God can not move just as well in the traditional style of church we see in Norman Rockwell paintings that play organ music and are filled mostly with grey haired old people and their grandkids the tendency is for us to lean on our old perceptions of what WE think church should be rather than what the bible says it is in such enviroments.
     The word Ecclesia that was translated into the word Church in most bible translations literally means The Called Out. The word Church has it’s roots in a totally different place. the word Church comes from the root Circe and the gathering of people who worship Circe is of course..... The Circus. Now I do not blame the language for the state of the modern church, but as of late it has become more a place of entertainment than discipleship and true worship of God. What is needed in today's church climate is a drastic change, enough so that it is impossible to lean on old unbiblical traditions and force people to turn back to the bible to learn how to behave.
     The current church has failed to be salt and light to this country. With so many claiming to be Christians and all the buildings with crosses on them one can not help but wonder why we kill the unborn, allow homosexuals to adopt children, remove the bible from schools but allow the teaching of almost every other belief, and change our law of "freedom of religion" into "freedom from religion". There is a desperate need for us as Christians to lean to trust and lean on The Bible alone and to chuck this luke warm ear tickling vomit that comes out of the mouths of most of the board controlled 501c3 corporation, government regulated, hirelings we have placed behind our pulpits and allowed to lead us astray.
      Time has come for full surrender to God as the bible commands. As things are going in this country now it will not be long before the persecution we hear about in other countries comes here. This may be one of the many reasons that it would seem God is moving more in small groups, cell groups, home church, and other more persecution resistant venues than the traditional church. Jesus said a servant in not greater than his master, and that if they persecuted him they will do the same to us. The time for going to a big building with a cross on the front with weekly feel good entertainment, money chasing, like warm, and living like the rest of the world but with a fish bumper sticker will thankfully be over soon.
    If you are reading this and getting upset and feeling like I am pointing a finger at you please feel free to open your bible and dig out some scripture in context to try to justify your current behavior. However if on your search you come up empty and find nothing please do what John the baptist commanded and then later Christ himself “Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand”. He is coming back soon and repentance is not something you do once to get fire insurance it is a lifestyle choice to daily die to self and take up your cross and follow him (not dead traditions). May the lord help us through his Holy Spirit to see the truth and walk in it.

Yours in Christ,
Donald C Phinney II

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is so right on....I am weary of traditional church even in full gospel, charasmatic circles. Then again it seems that some have moved so far from tradition that they are just flakey. Clouds without rain. Looking like something spiritual is going on, but it is nothing but soulish hype and expression. As people of God need repentance, a return to Biblical discipleship. Christ Himself enthroned in our midst. I really enjoyed reading this. Royce