Isa. 1:13 π Ezek. 34:1-10 π Amos 5:21-24 π Mt. 13:2 π Mt. 13:52 π Mt. 20:25-26 π Mt. 23:8 π Jn. 13:34-35 π Jn. 16:2 π Acts 4:7 π Acts 5:42 π Acts 13:1-3 π 1 Cor. 1:11-13 π 1 Cor. 3:3-4 π 1 Cor. 5:9-13 π 1 Cor. 11:1 π 1 Cor. 11:19 π 1 Cor. 12:28 π 1 Cor. 14:3 π 2 Cor. 6:16-7:1 π Gal. 6:10 π Eph. 4:11-16 π Eph. 4:13-16 π 2 Tim. 4:3 π Tit. 1:5 π 2nd π Tit. 1:9
"Catch-22." The phrase refers to a virtual no-win scenario, a paradox where if someone would simply do something, the situation could be resolved. But, due to regulations, traditions or some other man-made restrictions, no one is permitted, capable or willing to take the action necessary to resolve the Catch-22 situation.
The people who have truly received new life in Christ Jesus are to be a "wineskin" capable of holding the "new wine" of the workings of the Holy Spirit. Have you ever given any thought to all the Catch-22 situations the "church" is caught up in as she struggles to be a new wineskin without ever getting rid of the old wineskin? In truth, the "church" is the worst enemy of the body of Christ. Consider the following:
1) True authority from God (this is not to be confused with the manmade authority we see exercised in the average American "church" corporation) is very different from worldly authority and this very different kind of authority goes first to apostles, then to prophets, then to teachers. ( 1 Cor. 12:28 ; top ) However, apostles (being the rarest, numerically speaking, of the giftings and one which requires the recipient to have much spiritual wisdom and maturity), will never be produced by the misguided "discipleship" methods most commonly found in the modern traditional/institutional "churches." Thus the "church" is denied access to the most needed key "officers" of the body of Christ by the established practices of the typical "church." That is, the ekklesia requires apostles and prophets but the "church" remains completely unable to "manufacture" them.
2) Apostles are appointed by God and ratified by spiritually united prophets and teachers of a city or locale. ( Acts 13:1-3 ; top ) One need only mention the word "denomination" or look up "church" in the Yellow Pages to recognize that spiritual unity is virtually non-existent in the American context. (Actually, denominationalism is simply a euphemism for sectarianism, heresy and sin.) But under the present conditions, unified ratification of an apostle by spiritually unified prophets and teachers of a city or community is thus virtually impossible. Thus again the "church" is denied one of her key spiritual "officers" by the very practices of the "church". That is, the unified ekklesia recognizes whatever spiritual gifting it encounters but the "church," precisely because it is fractured and divided, has to segment itself even further so that "those who are approved may be recognized among you." ( 1 Cor. 11:19 ; top )
3) Apostles and prophets are chosen by God whether those in authority recognize that fact or not. ( Acts 4:7 ; top ) In the modern context, those who genuinely speak out as God's apostles and prophets (confronting the rebellious practices carried on by "pastors," teachers, administrators, and in some cases, blatant hypocrites and unsaved heathens), are labeled and dismissed as merely "self-appointed." Thus, the established status quo, the same type as those who crucified Christ, can safely denounce the true apostles and prophets as extremists and wierdos and show them (forcibly if necessary) to their well-cleaned plate glass doors. That is, the established status quo, with their reputations, pensions and salaries to protect are quick to denounce anyone who speaks out against their unScriptural practices.
4) Apostles are specially gifted by God to bring order to disorderly fellowships. ( Tit. 1:5 ; top ) Rogue "pastors," teachers, administrators, etc. refuse to recognize the apostles and prophets God has sent to them and so they remain disorderly and rebellious. With this bottleneck at the "top" of the "church" (even though Christ said there should be no "top" - Mt. 20:25-26 , 23:8 ; top ), there is no hope that an institutional assembly can ever hope to be obedient to the true Head of the Body, Christ Jesus - that is, assuming that anyone who attends that institutional assembly actually desires to obey God. No rogue "pastor," "teacher" or "administrator" can stay in his position for very long if he hasn't attracted a group who will follow him rather than God.
5) Apostles are the ones who are to appoint elders in every city. ( Tit. 1:5 ; top ) These elders, by virtue of their age, wisdom and experience, are able to advise and instruct all parts of the body no matter what gifting. ( Tit. 1:9 ; top ) Rogue "pastors," "teachers," "administrators," etc. refuse to submit to any authority other than their own. Again, with this bottleneck at the top, one can only expect to find some man-made religious empire and thus will never find a complete or mature expression of the kingdom of God in the typical modern "church."
6) Prophets focus on what the Lord is saying for this time and season. ( 1 Cor. 14:3 ; top ) Teachers focus on what the Lord has said in His Word for all times and seasons. ( Mt. 13:52 ; top ) In order for the word of truth to be rightly divided for the corporate Body of Christ as a whole, these two giftings need to work together as equal partners held accountable by the apostles and elders. Prophets are not being trained in the average traditional/institutional "church" and, should a prophet actually start to "come of age" in spite of the traditional/institutional "discipleship" methods, he is quickly ostracized because he, speaking God's heart for today, stands in stark contrast to what American/Western "church" is all about. Thus again the "church" is denied access to one of the key "officers" of the body of Christ.
7) The "lecture format," as is practiced by most traditional/institutional "churches," can be useful for certain aspects of teaching and even for making converts in some cases. ( Mt. 13:2 , Acts 5:42 ; top ) However, the process of making disciples (which is what Christ commanded us to do - whereas giving lectures to the "mixed multitude" is not), requires personal relationship, involvement, intimacy and two-way accountability. Each of these essential elements of discipleship is restricted to the point of annihilation to one degree or another in the artificial environment of the typical traditional/institutional "church" buildings which, for the most part, have been built to house liturgies and lectures, not to disciple hungry hearts.
8) The New Testament ekklesia is made strong when she is exposed to the ministry of all five of the leadership giftings. ( Eph. 4:11-16 ; top ) Rogues who maintain their status quo, authoritarian positions actually hinder their flocks from being "rotated and reassigned" by the Holy Spirit and thus keep them from being exposed to all the giftings. Thus the leaders of a traditional/institutional "church," who need a consistent audience to maintain a consistent income, because they refuse to expose their people to all of God's "officers," keep their flock in a constant state of starvation and actually cripple more sheep than they raise up. These status quo leaders also isolate themselves from the other giftings too - especially from the true apostles, prophets and elders God has chosen because these true "officers" would only be "critical" of the rogues' "ministries," very divisive to the "work of God" going on in the "church." Thus they prevent both their flocks and themselves from becoming the strong, mature saints of Eph. 4:13-16 ; top . Woe unto the false shepherds who only feed themselves and not the flock! (see Ezek. 34:1-10 ; top )
9) Apostles and prophets have ministries that are unpopular with the status quo because of the confrontational elements of these giftings. ( Jn. 16:2 ; top ) And because the "church" is producing primarily only spiritual cripples and midgets, very few mature prophets are ever produced. Teachers in the traditional/institutional "churches" very often end up not confronting the whole root of sin, in part because they are rogues, in part to increase their popularity or the size of their flock, and in part to tell the people the responsibility-free and duty-free "truth" the people want - and pay - to hear. (see 2 Tim. 4:3 ; top ) The apostasy is upon us - and it is much closer than the average "church" goer is willing or able to admit.
10) God has always commanded His people to live differently than the world and to separate ourselves from those who live worldly lives. ( 2 Cor. 6:16-7:1 ; 1 Cor. 5:9-13; top ) Many traditional/institutional "churches" are so large and the American/Western lifestyle so independent that it is very easy to attend a traditional/institutional "church" for years and live any lifestyle whatsoever. So much for the "sacred assembly." (see Isa. 1:13 ; Amos 5:21-24 ; top ) If there are any true worshipers in the crowd, their sweet, savory offering of heart praise and worship is mingled with the putrid hypocrisy of the others in the crowd who sing just as heartily. But since we only go to "church" to please ourselves, to meet our felt-needs, etc., we need not worry about whether God is offended at our actions or our sinful presence.
11) Paul warned the Corinthians strenuously about clinging to one particular leader yet today every Christian is evaluated by the teacher or denomination he submits himself to. (see 1 Cor. 1:11-13 ; 3:3-4 ; top ) Today Paul would say, "One says he is of the Pope, another of Martin Luther, another of John Wesley, another of Chuck Smith." Well, whether we recognize it or not, God still holds us accountable for loving our neighbors as Christ loved us, and especially those who are of the household of God. ( Jn. 13:34-35 ; Gal. 6:10 ; top ) When we blithely drive by our Christian neighbors on our way to "church" so that we can be with others who think, talk, look and smell like we do, we are callously practicing the very division Paul warned the Corinthians about. If we have to drive to "church" and our "church" has a parking lot, it is a construction almost certainly outside of the will of God. Most likely, it is an abomination to Him.
My purpose is not just to slam or bash the traditional/institutional "church" - though I am aware that I have done so with little mercy, approximately the same amount of mercy the average traditional/institutional "church" shows toward true sheep, prophets and apostles that come within its treacherous, rough, greedy, and often lethal grasp. But as someone said to me once, the recognition of this truth (that the traditional/institutional ""church" is filled with unScriptural wierdness, thrives on superficiality, and is a complete travesty of deception - particularly the "non- denominational" denominations) is just the beginning of true spiritual maturity and wisdom.
Before one can build on the true foundation of Jesus Christ, one must tear away the wood, hay and stubble - or lawlessness - that ignorant but often well-meaning men have erected as "church." Just as the kings of Judah and Israel found it necessary to tear down the high places in order to truly please and worship the Most High God, so too must we first tear down our "church" theories and traditions which usurp our obedience to the commands and work of God. God stills says that it is most important that we love Him by obeying Him and that we love others as Christ loved us. "Church" attendance will not be an acceptable substitute for our not having been obedient to Him by loving God and others when this life is done and we stand before Him on Judgment Day.
I write this in the hopes that we could learn from these errors and not perpetuate them in our own lives and fellowships, that we might open our hearts and ears to the Holy Spirit of God who wishes to transform our fellowships into something that glorifies and exalts only Jesus Christ and not some man or method. It is critical in this day and age that we reconsider the role of the modern day apostles, prophets, teachers, evangelists and shepherds in the true body of Christ by the light of God's Word - and not by our American/Western traditions and expectations. I hope that your thinking has been stirred and challenged - and that you will seek all your answers in God's Word by the spiritual illumination of the Holy Spirit.
Having taken the time to tear down the wood, hay and stubble so many revere, I want to leave you with one final question regarding "church," assembly in Christ: In the midst of so many "doing it all wrong," how do we move toward "doing it right"? May we all give that question much prayerful contemplation in the days ahead. And may we all remember that it is Christ's body, His people, and He will assemble them as He deems appropriate. And the pattern of assembly which He uses has not been left up to well-meaning men to invent or tinker with as they please but is clearly portrayed in the pages of the New Testament to any who have eyes to see and ears to hear. I fail to understand how so many so-called "pastors" who claim to know and follow the Word of God have failed to take notice of this fact.
Paul said, "Follow me as I follow Christ." ( 1 Cor. 11:1 ; top ) If you find yourself following some man who is not truly following Christ, do not hesitate to get away from that man so that you may truly sit at the feet of the Man who died for you so that you may have life eternal and abundant. You need a personal working relationship with the Holy Spirit much more than you need to be taught or led by some "man of the cloth" who can't even take the time to find out how Christ really gathers together His people.
Though the "church" is caught up in all these Catch-22 situations, the individual believer does not have to be entangled in them any longer. The way out is as simple as truly listening to the Holy Spirit. And the question to ask is not "Where do I go?" but rather, "What would You have of me now?"
I'd love to hear comments and/or questions from you! Email me!