Gen. 3:8 π Dan. 7:21 π Dan. 7:25 π Mt. 13:49-50 π Mt. 24:10-13 π Lk. 11:49-51 π Jn. 4:24 π Jn. 16:2 π Rom. 8:9 π Rom. 16:17 π 1 Cor. 3:1-4 π 1 Cor. 5:11 π 1 Cor. 14:26 π Eph. 4:3 π 2 Ths. 2:3 π Heb. 8:10 π Heb. 12:14 π Jas. 1:27
The statement that the institutional "church" is the worst enemy of the body of Christ is hard for many to understand and even harder for others to accept as truth. Yet it remains so. Let me attempt to explain the basis of this statement that you may judge for yourself what is the truth in this matter.
First, it would probably be best to outline just what is ekklesia, that is, what is the life of the body of Christ. In a word, the life of the body of Christ is the abundant life of truth, liberty, unity and love in and by the Spirit of God in the kingdom of God, that realm of godly and spiritual peace, joy and true righteousness. This is a spiritual life realized only in God which governs over the realms of the soul (the mind, will and emotions) in each individual member. The ekklesia is built (its various parts assembled) by Christ Himself through the work of the Holy Spirit and it is this assembly that we are not to forsake at the risk of losing all we have gained.
That is a very brief, perhaps too brief, synopsis of ekklesia. But let's turn to "church." And again, please keep in mind, I am using the terms in their antithetical senses, not in their interchangeable senses. Sorry for any confusion, but hey, I didn't invent the English language, I'm just trying to overcome it!
Even the word "church" is a deception. "Ekklesia" is the "called out people of Christ who are to attend to the work of His kingdom." "Church" is the "house of the Lord." Those are two very different meanings entirely and, if you were to substitute "ekklesia" for "church" in every passage in the New Testament, you will find that each passage reads much differently. And when you reinsert "church" into the two places where the word that became "church" is (Greek - "kuriakon"), you can easily see that our modern notions are quite different from the notions of the writers of the New Testament.
The "church" is patterned after pagan temples and/or the synagogues of the Jews. When Constantine "Christianized" the Roman empire, he saw that the pagan gods had their temples and he figured that the Christians needed theirs. The pulpit and the choir are also two carry-overs from these pagan temples that cannot be found anywhere in the New Testament pattern for ekklesia. The writers of the New Testament knew nothing of a "church" building and even rejected "synagogue" as a way of describing what they were and how they met.
"Church" buildings were built to house the ritualized liturgy that had evolved by the 3rd century. Before 200 a.d., there were no "churches." The first "church" building comes from that time and it was a large Roman home converted to "church" use. I suspect it was willed to the "church" by some well-meaning Christian who died and left his house to be used in the work because he no longer needed it to live in. But before this time, Christians met in homes where much "one anothering" occurred and changed the world from the bottom up.
In the middle ages, cathedrals and chapels were so designed as to point out the unreachable nature of God. The steeples and arched roofs are designed to point to the untouchable transcendence of God. The New Testament speaks of the indwelling Holy Spirit - hardly an unreachable, untouchable God.
"Churches" perpetuate the clergy/laity distinction. The platform upon which the clergy stands is a direct descendant from the pagan temples. The priests (the pontiffs - "bridges") stood between the people and the god being worshiped. They acted as mediators between god(s) and men. Constantine, because the Christians had already embraced the idea of a single bishop for each town, simply instituted the pagan priesthood. The authority structure of the modern "church" is a direct mirror of the authority structure of the Roman empire and has no basis in Scripture. Thus when one man stands up to preach and this is the consistent spiritual diet of the people, the message that is most powerfully transmitted is that the people cannot hear God for themselves and need a mediator, a priest, a "pastor," to go to God for them. This caters to the innate nature of sinful man to hide from the holiness of God (like Adam - Gen. 3:8; top ) and it prevents the people from ever truly walking in the holiness of God. And it is still true that without holiness no one will ever see God. ( Heb. 12:14; top )
"Churches" are designed to accommodate clergy/laity communication. One man speaks down to a crowd. While there is place in the New Testament for apostolic meetings in this fashion, no other gifting is ever shown to deliver a "sermon" as we know it today. Nor is this the regular spiritual consumption habits of the people of the New Testament. Whenever the ekklesia comes together, each one has a teaching, a song, an instruction, a tongue, an interpretation, a prophecy, a revelation. ( 1 Cor. 14:26; top ) Thus "churches," in their architectural design and in customary practice "subliminally" send out the message that Joe Layman has no opinion or message worth hearing. He is thus stunted in his spiritual growth because whatever the Spirit has deposited in him is never given expression. The task of spiritual leaders is not to get the truth into a person - the Spirit of truth already lives in them and He is writing His laws on their hearts. ( Rom. 8:9 ; Heb. 8:10; top ) No, the task of spiritual leaders is to participate in the training God is doing in the followers' lives so that the truth can come out of them in a way that truly represents Christ.
"Churches," especially large "churches," are supposedly places where any and all can come in to hear the gospel. What is constructed however is a place where many (often as much as 90% or more of a congregation) can be lazy (they never serve, never volunteer, never get involved even in a social or moral sense let alone a spiritual sense) and remain anonymous while they continue to live a sinful lifestyle. Many of these claim to be Christians - after all, they "go to church" regularly - but yet they continue to fornicate, covet, commit idolatry, get drunk, slander, gossip and manipulate others. With these kind Paul said not to even have lunch. ( 1 Cor. 5:11; top ) But because the "church" is now so large, now it's okay to "go to church" and "worship God" with them because we neither know them nor how they live.
"Churches" rely on "tithes and offerings." And while many expensive buildings are built and made "beautiful," orphans and widows remain in distress. (see Jas. 1:27; top ) The storehouse, an Old Testament concept often misused to promote giving to the "church," is to feed and maintain the priesthood. In the New Testament, every believer is a priest. When all the priests have eaten their fill and all of the orphans and widows are cared for (and not just in our own community but around the world), then we can think about building a building. Otherwise our religion is not pure and acceptable before God.
"Churches" divide the body of Christ and enable one to say "I'm of the pope," another "I'm of Martin Luther," another "I'm of John Wesley," another "I'm pre-trib," another "I'm post-trib," another "I'm non-denominational." The very existence of "church" doors says that division is both appropriate and necessary rather than abominable. There is no need to make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace ( Eph. 4:3; top ), we can just have the bouncer ministry escort those who disagree with the head clergyman out the door. Paul said to have nothing to do with those who are divisive ( Rom. 16:17; top ) and the most divisive man of all is the "pastor" who will allow no one to remain in the congregation who disagrees with his position on various Scriptures. In addition, this fostering of dependence upon one man to set the doctrinal standards is a guarantee that the followers will never develop any spiritual maturity whatsoever. ( 1 Cor. 3:1-4; top )
"Churches," especially the modern ones that are built using marketing techniques, are only catering to the souls of those who attend. God is a Spirit and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth. ( Jn. 4:24; top ) If one attends the "church" of one's preferences instead of doing all things in obedience to God, that one is serving the I-god and not the Most High God of Scripture. But many "churches" see nothing wrong with attracting those who prefer this, that or the other attribute that caters to the whims and wishes of its attendees. But these are nothing but soulish counterfeits which imitate worshiping God in spirit. The works-based counterfeit is available for those whose wills dominate their souls. The events-and-experiences-based counterfeit is available for those whose emotions dominate their souls. And the teaching-based counterfeit is available for those whose minds dominate their souls. But none of these are a spiritual, obedient walk with God based on the moment-by-moment leading of the Holy Spirit.
This then is the basis of the statement that the institutional "church" is the worst enemy of the body of Christ. What is amazing to me is that the ekklesia can still exist and even thrive in the midst of any number of these "church" pollutants. And God has permitted this mixture because the tares were among the wheat - and to uproot the tares would be to uproot the wheat. But as we near the end of the age, the angels will be sent to uproot the tares first so that the wheat can then be harvested. In other words, God is no longer going to tolerate the mixture and He is calling all those who are His ekklesia to truly be wheat lest they be uprooted as a tare.
In the history of Germany and the Communist countries, "churches" were able to remain open and functional. All the "pastor" had to do was preach the party line. If he wouldn't, he was removed and replaced with someone who would. This is why the true ekklesia had to go "underground." In Russia for example, it was well known that many "pastors" were KGB informants or agents. Why should we think it will be much different in the days of the anti-christ of whom Hitler and Stalin were simply types and shadows, ambitious contenders for the title of world emperor?
Paul and Jesus both clearly prophesy of a great falling away of many (not of a few or of some but many) from the faith. ( 2 Ths. 2:3 ; Mt. 24:10-13; top ) I believe that in the coming days, you will never need to leave the "church" to fall away from the faith and that it will become increasingly harder if not impossible to find the real faith in the context of "church."
Within these prophecies, it is also stated that many will put the true followers of Christ to death thinking that they are doing God a service. ( Jn. 16:2; top ) It is also true that it was the religious leaders of that day who had Christ crucified and it is they who have always persecuted the prophets and servants of God. ( Lk. 11:49-51; top ) Many look to the coming government of the anti-christ to be the source of much of the persecution against the saints - and on the global level that will be very true. ( Dan. 7:21 , 25; top ) But on the local level, it will be the "church" leaders and spiritual groupies of these "church" gurus who will be the most vehement in their persecution of true believers.
The end of the age is a time of separation - the righteous from the unrighteous. ( Mt. 13:49-50; top ) Those who are righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of God. Those who are unrighteous will be just as obviously so - but they will ultimately be cast out into outer darkness where there is weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth. The time for us to choose which we will be is now.
I'd love to hear comments and/or questions from you! Email me!