1 Sam. 15:22 π Isa. 1:12-17 π Isa. 58:7 π Mt. 7:21 π Mt. 15:14 π Mt. 23:8-10 π Lk. 7:24-26 π Lk. 14:21-24 π Lk. 22:25-26 π Jn. 10:27 π Jn. 17:21 π Rom. 8:7 π Rom. 16:17 π 1 Cor. 1:10 π 1 Cor. 1:26 π 1 Cor. 3:3 π 1 Cor. 5:10-12 π 1 Cor. 12:25 π 2 Cor. 1:4 π 2 Cor. 6:16-7:1 π Gal. 5:19-21 π Eph. 2:10 π 2 Ths. 2:11-12 π Tit. 2:14 π Tit. 3:14 π Heb. 5:13-14 π Jas. 1:9-10 π Jas. 2:1 π 2 Pet. 2:21 π 1 Jn. 1:5 π 1 Jn. 2:27 π Rev. 2:6 π Rev. 2:15 π Rev. 3:16-18 π Rev. 17:5
When the messengers of John the Baptist had been given Jesus’ reply that He was fulfilling the prophecies of Isaiah and they departed to deliver that message, Jesus then began to speak to the multitudes concerning John, saying,
“What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? But what did you go out to see? A man clothed in soft garments? Indeed those who are gorgeously appareled and live in luxury are in kings’ courts. But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I say to you, and more than a prophet.” ( Lk. 7:24-26; top )
Once we have settled the question of our eternal destiny with our Creator/Father/God, there may be no more important question to answer than this one: “Why do we gather?” Since this question – especially in a post-Christian culture - applies to a broad group of people, let us explore and mark out in broad strokes the differences between various elements of that broad group. On one pole, these can roughly be categorized into two opposing elements: Those who love the truth and seek the will of God for their own lives and those who don’t. On the intersecting pole are those who still attend “church” contrasted with those who have abandoned the “church.” Each individual can be measured by both factors simultaneously and can stand at any place on this two-dimensional grid.
First, whether we like it or not, whether we can admit it or not, it remains a truth that genuine followers of Christ are trapped within the over-under system of authority the Bible calls Nicolaitan ( Rev. 2:6 , 15 ), the system men most often call “clergy-laity.” This system is far more pervasive than many of its participants and adherents realize. It is found anywhere the kingdom of some man or denominational organization of men is given greater value than is the kingdom of God. Nicolaitan clergyism is as at home in the house-“churches” as it is in the institutional “churches” and those who deny this are blind to the reality of what it means to be a Nicolaitan clergy. Nicolaitan clergy and their sycophants (yes-men) and groupies (blindly obedient followers), because they (most often) blindly practice their error without knowing it to be error, are not really interested in truth – they are interested in finding people who will agree with them, who will follow them (or their favorite “pastor”), thus affirming to these Nicolaitans (whether leaders or followers of men is spiritually immaterial – it is still Nicolaitan whether one is “over” or “under”) that they have made the “right choices” in their own life. Blind leaders and blind followers still end up in the ditch together. ( Mt. 15:14; top )
Second, the true seekers of truth and righteousness - though some are still trapped in the man-made, demonically-inspired “church” system - generally work their way free, sooner or later, of the counterfeit “church” that usurps the rightful place of unity and fellowship among believers. But that is often a rather tumultuous period as one discovers that most are quite comfortable under the lies and deceptions of “church” and don’t want to know anything negative or contradictory to their favorite way of “following Christ” that is right and good in their own eyes.
Since there are roughly two groups of people that need to be addressed, let us ask the question posed in this article in two different ways. To those who still go to a “church,” to both the truth seekers and those who couldn’t be bothered, the question goes out: “Why do you go?” Why do you go to a building and listen to a man speak words of and about God but you do not obey what is true?
To those who have abandoned the “church,” to both the truth seekers and those who couldn’t be bothered, the question goes out, “Why do you gather?” Why do you find other people who see what’s wrong with the “church” and meet with them and still not attain to what you seek?
There is a third sub-group of this latter category that must be asked, “Why do you not gather with anyone at all?” but that would probably completely derail this article away from the topic at hand. Those who rightly abandon the “church” but who also wrongly abandon God or the genuine people of God whom He has placed in their lives can only be encouraged to seek out God and obey Him in spite of what men have done and continue to do in His name. False prophets, false teachers and false religion is nothing new – don’t let it keep you from knowing God and living in obedience to Him!
Many people know a great deal about the pagan origins and roots of the modern practice of apostasy and abomination that men most commonly call “church.” But none of that really matters to those who know this and attend a “church” anyway because they willfully refuse to think of their “church” attendance as being paganistic in any way. As long as they are learning something about God or the birth, life and resurrection of Jesus – especially so long as the children are being instructed in these things - then surely God understands and approves.
To “confirm” this fuzzy logic, these folks look to all the “good times” they’ve had at “church” – all the bake sales, faith-pots (or pot lucks), “church” socials, “praise and worship” sessions and all those “good teachings” from the “pastor.” For some, the memories may include years of sights, smells and sounds of good feelings – and it is certainly a vast improvement over the violence of the street or the back-stabbing of the corporate world from which many have come so as to learn more, seek more and hopefully experience more of the loving influence of Christ and God. For a small minority, the good memories include a genuine encounter with God because they obeyed what someone (perhaps even the “pastor” in a more spiritually lucid moment) said about finding and knowing and serving God. The good times at “church” – the “fellowship” (at times perhaps even real godly unity in His Spirit with a few other attendees or at some special “service”), the supernatural depth and lure of the wonders of God’s nature and the warm-fuzzy feel-good sounds of songs sung to and about the Lord - stir up very deep emotional (soulish) feelings. The very better-ness of the “church” – especially in contrast to darker aspects of the world – prevents many from pressing on into the fullness of maturity that is in Christ Jesus. A little bit of light is presumed to be the fullness of Him who is light in which no darkness can be found. ( 1 Jn. 1:5; top )
Meanwhile though, the Bible doesn’t show any of the apostles (or anyone else in what we now call the New Testament) practicing “church” the way it is done now. No, our “church” practices and traditions are authenticated and validated almost entirely by our experiences and our human reasoning processes. In other words, there’s so much “joy,” “love” of family and “praise” to the Lord associated with our feelings and beliefs about “church” that God obviously approves of these man-made traditions and well-meaning attempts to seek, honor and obey Him. Like the song says, “It can't be wrong when it feels so right…” Who cares about Nicolaitans, wolves in sheep’s clothing, demonic deceptions and angels of light when you’ve got your favorite ear-scratching, ear-soothing “pastor”-teacher to listen to and to support in his/her “work for God,” when you sit in that wonderfully expensive and morally reassuring comfort zone euphemistically (and deceptively and mistakenly) called “the sanctuary” and all those wonderful soul-stirring (but not spirit-moving) songs about and toward God? The reasoning is that God must feel good about “church” because we feel good about it. We have fond memories and thoughts, so God must have fond memories and thoughts too. But is this really so?
When the hypocrisy and sin of the Israelites (people, priests and leaders included) became rampant, God said through His prophet Isaiah:
“When you come to appear before Me, who has required this from your hand, to trample My courts? Bring no more futile sacrifices; incense is an abomination to Me. The New Moons, the Sabbaths, and the calling of the assemblies – I cannot endure iniquity and the sacred meeting. Your New Moons and your appointed feasts My soul hates; they are a trouble to Me, I am weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hands, I will hide My eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not hear. Your hands are full of blood.
“Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes. Cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, reprove the oppressor; defend the fatherless, plead for the widow.” ( Isa. 1:12-17; top )
Those who would seek to excuse this away as being merely “Old Testament” need to compare these words to Paul who wrote:
“What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: ‘I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people.’ Therefore, ‘Come out from among them [so-called “Christian” idolaters – see 1 Cor. 5:10-12 ) and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the
“Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” ( 2 Cor. 6:16-7:1; top )
And the Lord Himself said,
“Because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of My mouth. Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’ - and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked - I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see.” ( Rev. 3:16-18; top )
For those who still attend a “church,” you need to face the question that if God is not pleased with our assemblies, our methods of “church” gatherings, our pathetic lukewarm existence, why do you continue to go to “church”? If your answer is that you want to hear the word of the Lord, then know that the “church” is the last place you are likely to be able to even hear Him. Oh, you’ll hear the man up front talk about Him and say “This is what the Lord is saying,” and the man will maybe even invite you to come forward and talk to Him, but the word of the Lord is only spoken personally by His still small voice to the spirits and hearts of contrite, humble and quiet listeners. His sheep hear His voice for themselves ( Jn. 10:27 ) and the anointing of the Spirit which is upon all who follow Christ causes us to not need that any man should regularly and in an ongoing manner be teaching us. ( 1 Jn. 2:27 ) Those who are feeding only on milk, the words of God processed through some other man’s mind and mouth, can only be spiritually infantile at best. ( Heb. 5:13-14; top )
For those who have left the “church” and endured the time of loneliness that accompanies this exodus, the question must be faced: What is it “out there” in the “wilderness” (the spirit realms that we have not explored) that calls us to go out and see what is happening? A prophet? An apostle? Something more? That lure to leave the “church” is God calling us to come and know Him more deeply just as surely as any mistaken desire to continue to know Him through the “church” has roots in His call on our life. But there are two questions before us, not just one. It is not enough to ask “Why did we leave?” we must also find out what it was we originally sought. Before we knew that something was fundamentally wrong with modern “church,” what did we hope to find or achieve or attain to by going to “church”? When we can answer these two questions and examine them in the light of what we now know about genuine spirituality and true religion before God the Father, we are many steps closer to being able to abandon fully our flesh and press on into the corporate fullness Christ has for us to experience, preserve and pass on to future generations (however few or many of those there may be before Christ’s return). When we know why we went to “church” in the first place, we are many steps closer to knowing what the deepest parts of our hearts were seeking and seek even now that we can no longer participate in the “church” abominations. Those who find that they’ve left the “church” for the wrong reasons – personal inability to seize power or set directions for the group, personal grudges, etc. – as well as those whose previous “church” attendance was for wrong reasons – seeking to feel better about one’s self life, seeking to stand behind and follow the right man, satisfying their own desires for the “right” “church,” etc. – will find that they’ve brought all their own stuff and some leftover “church” baggage along with them into their new attempts to gather in the name of Christ.
Few can honestly say that only God specifically and directly told them to attend their traditional “church” with its man-made traditions and doctrines (teachings that distort the truth of God’s Word and divert people from a pure practice of the Way of following only Christ and God) anymore than they can truly say they gather now only as the Lord and Spirit leads them. Most often, the choice of which “church” to attend is a process of trial and error. Those few who did “pray about” what “church” to attend will, when probed, also admit that they also “weighed” certain factors (like the children’s ministry, the teaching or the “praise and worship” performed there, or the size and apparent “success” of the “church,” etc.) and made their decision about which “church” was best for them. And even if God did tell a certain person to attend a “church,” did He really send them there to support the things that are not godly? Is God spiritually and morally schizophrenic?
Once the paganistic roots, man-made traditions and demonic teachings are exposed, “church” attendance suddenly becomes something other than a method of seeking and finding God – it becomes a test of whether one’s loyalty is to God or to a man, to a denomination or even to one’s own religious preferences. When the light and the truth are revealed, “church” is transformed from the feel-good way by which we learn something of God into the very instrument by which we are kept from knowing God in spirit and truth. The “church” was always that instrument but because we are seeing the beast from the insides of its belly, we do not quickly perceive that God’s restraining hand against our enemies and His transcendent power that overcomes all the schemes of men and the devil is alone responsible for our (or anyone else, for that matter) being able to escape alive from the “church.”
Why do we gather? First, let us lay aside some preconceived misconceptions about what the body of Christ is supposed to be. We are not to be
- A social club for the wealthy and elite. Paul wrote, “For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, nor many noble, are called.” ( 1 Cor. 1:26 ) The poor are always to be more than welcome – they hold the places of greatest honor in Christ’s kingdom. ( Jas. 1:9-10 ; 2:1 , etc.) Only the crippled, poor, blind and lame get into His kingdom ( Lk. 14:21-24; top ) - all others will be excluded because they were too righteous or too good (in their own opinions, that is) to really need the blood, mercy, forgiveness, reconciliation or righteousness of God. Rich folks (and that’s a category that includes more – especially most Americans - than most will readily admit to it) who show off their latest acquisitions (clothes, jewelry, cars, boyfriends/girlfriends, the hireling up front, etc.) and who remain welcome and even honored so as to be emulated are only demonstrating that the “church” is of a different kingdom than the kingdom of Christ and God.
- A collection of “perfect” and “beautiful” people. All the letters in what we now call the New Testament reflect the many flaws and imperfections of the human existence and church history is nothing short of a vast collection of all manners of various errors and distortions men have committed in the name of Christ and God. So it is not the perfect people with no problems whom God calls to gather but He calls the broken, crippled, maim and destitute to Himself and expects those of us who have received anything of Him to comfort others with the comfort we have ourselves received from Him. ( 2 Cor. 1:4; top ) The affairs of the kingdom of light (the basis by which we are called to gather as ekklesia) include the removal of the powers and schemes of darkness – life, especially genuine abundant and eternal life, is still a messy business!
- A “gentleman’s” club where sin is tolerated and overlooked. Sin is sin – a violation of God’s laws or commandments – and is to be confessed and forsaken, not overlooked and allowed to continue. And certain sins, like power-mongering, gossip, slander, divisiveness, lording over, self-exaltation, etc., must be eliminated from our midst entirely.
- A do-gooder charity cause. God has indeed foreordained good works and intends for us to walk in them ( Eph. 2:10 ), Jesus warned us that those who do not do His will won’t be welcome in His kingdom ( Mt. 7:21 ) and Paul taught that all people who belong to Christ should be “zealous for good works.” ( Tit. 2:14 , also 3:14 ) But that’s not necessarily the same thing as starting up some “charitable organization” that routinely performs some ritualized assistance to certain needy portions of the population so that we can feel better about ourselves and our “beneficial” treatments of “the poor.” To obey is still better than sacrifice ( 1 Sam. 15:22 ) and one’s ministry starts with one’s spouse and family and then overflows into whatever particular directions God has foreordained for each person. Any flaws or imperfections or sins left undealt with in one’s primary relationships will result in contamination of and a quenching of the flow of God’s Spirit in one’s secondary relationships. God still requires His people to deal personally with the poor and needy ( Isa. 58:7; top ), not to hire professional clergy who will do all that “dirty work” for us.
- A meet (meat) club. While God indeed is the Architect and Designer of the family, He is not gathering His people together just so that single, lonely people can find others with whom to practice sin and, ultimately, idolatry.
- A top-heavy, trickle-down authority/blessings pyramid scheme (most often called a “theocracy”). This abomination among men is only an excuse for someone to feel superior over others. We are all called to be brothers and none are to be called “teachers” or “leaders.” ( Mt. 23:8-10 ) It is the nature of the worldly Gentile authority structures to have lords (so-called “benefactors”) over the people but it is not to be that way among the people of Christ. ( Lk. 22:25-26 , etc.; top) Those who insist on being called “leaders” (when in fact they are spiritual infants at best – let those who take issue at this demonstrate enough spiritual maturity to talk rationally and calmly about this!) are taking on the attributes of the spirit of antichrist who seeks to sit “in the place of Christ.”
- A sectioned-off, isolated group of “believers” who find no problem with distancing themselves from other “Christian” brothers and sisters. God created the body so that there would be no sect or schism formed ( 1 Cor. 12:25 ) Forming a dissension (Greek dichostasia ) known today as a denomination or denominational sub-group, is a sign of one’s carnality ( 1 Cor. 3:3 ), that is, one’s enmity against God ( Rom. 8:7 ), evidence that one is operating in a kingdom that belongs to someone other than God ( Gal. 5:19-21 ) and the sign that we are to separate from and avoid those who practice such things. ( Rom. 16:17 ) God did not compose His body so that we would separate in little groups who followed little leaders’ ideas and “theologies” but rather so that we would be one as Christ and God are one ( Jn. 17:21 ), “that [we] all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among [us], but that [we] be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.” ( 1 Cor. 1:10; top ) This can only be achieved when we all submit to the Headship of the mind of Christ and stop building up men’s kingdom at the expense of His.
At the root of all reasons to gather with other genuine followers of Christ (a reason complicated by the overwhelming presence of so many deceptions and counterfeits) is the oneness which is the nature of God. We are called to unity as surely as we are called to love. Neither of these can be practiced by “lone ranger Christians” alone in their “rightness” and self-imposed, unique “orthodoxy.” To avoid being lost for eternity, these loners must resubmit themselves back to the Head just as surely as those who have gathered followers after themselves must resubmit themselves back to the Head. There is only one Body – if we belong to another body, we can only belong to the counterfeit whore of Babylon, the mother of the abominations or the earth, or one of her prostitute (religion for profit) daughters. ( Rev. 17:5 ) We would be better off if we had remained in the world and oblivious to the claims of Christ than to have known the way of righteousness and depart from it. ( 2 Pet. 2:21; top )
Simply put, we gather to obey God and to serve and love one another. If we have any other agenda, we are not gathering as Christ’s ekklesia, His called out people that are charged with attending to the affairs of His kingdom of light, but we are gathering as our own kingdom, our own sect, our own heresy and we will earn our own condemnation. God will soon begin to – if He is not already – allow people to come under strong delusion so that they will practice whatever lie seems right in their own eyes because they did not have the love of the truth. ( 2 Ths. 2:11-12; top ) God wants men and women to choose clearly and finally whether they will follow Him or some other. The games of false religion have caused many to walk some fuzzy nebulous “middle ground” and God is saying, “I would that you were either cold or hot. Choose you this day whom you will serve.”
Let he who has ears hear.
- Simplicity in Christ - Neil Girrard
- Ekkaleo - Ekkletoi - Ekklesia - Neil Girrard
- One Another Commands - Neil Girrard
- Ekklesia - A Word Study - Neil Girrard
- Church Home - Neil Girrard
- In Search of the Perfect Church - Neil Girrard
- The New Testament Pattern of Ekklesia - Neil Girrard
- How to Be a Local Ekklesia: or, Where the House “Church” Movement Failed - Neil Girrard
- How We Gather Bible Bullet: Matthew 18:20 - Neil Girrard
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