Psa. 11:3 π 1 Cor. 3:11 π Heb. 12:28
"When the foundations are destroyed, what are the righteous to do?" ( Psa. 11:3; top ) The psalmist wrote this at a time of personal trauma and political upheaval in the nation of Israel. As a student of the Word of God living in a similar time, it is easy to succumb to the despair that is inherent in those words.
First, this nation is plummeting morally. There are no adequate social or political remedies and no political leaders call for the only remedy that will work: If those people who claim to be God's people will humble themselves, pray, seek God's face, and turn away from all their own wickedness, then perhaps God, who approaches with final judgments, will turn and leave a blessing instead. However when a vast majority of Americans claim allegiance to God but also display a vast ignorance of His truth and an overwhelming inclination toward apathy and apostasy, why should we castigate our leaders for failing to pursue God's solution? After all, they are only doing that which we apparently want them to do. Our actions, or more correctly our inaction, speaks louder than any words.
Second, the people of Christ are confused. "Church" has become a place to learn, discuss and argue about the subtle meanings and nuances of Scriptures while being surrounded by "good people." Lost is the notion that we are the sheep of God's pasture who are to enter into His gates with thanksgiving and into His courts with praise as we move toward His altar of sacrifice. Gone is the inclination to "Go and personally make disciples" - perhaps because many of us are not really disciples ourselves. Forgotten are the despicable depths of our own depravity and wickedness.
The problem is exacerbated as we experience the beginnings of yet another "changing of the guard" as one generation begins to fade out of existence and the next begins to replace it. Many who are "pastors" today became Christians in the 60s or 70s and are seeing their pastors, mentors, teachers and role models go the way of all the earth. The systems they have formed or inherited are now the symbols and realities of their own status quo which must be zealously guarded and defended. They have forgotten the many mistakes they have observed or made themselves to get where they are now and are determined to educate the next generation so that no one commits their same mistakes - thus they prevent the next generation from gaining the experience required to be strong and vibrant in the faith. May God help the one who learns to look outside their little systems so as to objectively analyze and spiritually discern the subtle compromises upon which our whole American "church" system is built.
In truth, how could it be otherwise? If the ekklesia were strong and uncompromised, she would exert a tremendous godly influence on our culture and our nation. If the ekklesia were all that she is supposed to be, God would not need to bring judgment on the nation. We cannot pretend any longer that foundational flaws exist only in the culture and not in the very fabric of the ekklesia as well.
One of the first traits that must go is our thin-skinned, petty defensiveness about our traditions. Jesus blasted the Pharisees because they paid such close attention to their traditions that the authority of God's Word was usurped and over-ruled. We are not much different.
The tradition of building "church" buildings was begun around 200 AD, having been borrowed from the pagan worship practices. It reached the heights of extravagance and opulence during the early middle ages. The idea of needing local "church" buildings was brought over to this country by the Pilgrims and Puritans who, while seeking to depart from the Roman Catholic remainders within the Anglican traditions, were not willing to make total, radical departures from all their traditions. Now the practice of building "church" buildings once again threatens to overwhelm and damn us as every little sect and denomination must have its own building where their particular brand of sheep can huddle together to ward off the influence of the world and the influence of other "Christians" with differing opinions.
In the whole history of mankind, there are only two recorded times when God requested that a structure be built in connection with worshiping Him - and one of those buildings was a tent! Now we are spending thousands and millions of dollars on buildings while over 60% of the world lives and dies without hearing about Jesus Christ in any real way. We condemn the animal activists who weep over baby seals and dead whales while the human abortion industry remains unchallenged. We are simply not much different or better.
Many have spoken long and loud about needing to return to the basics of the first ekklesia and yet perhaps we have not been able to see the forest because of the trees. There is one thing that the first ekklesia did not have that we have always had - the "church" building. The first ekklesia had the Scriptures, albeit only the Old Testament and a growing collection of writings for the New. The first ekklesia had apostles, teachers, evangelists, prophets, encouragers, servers, everything. They had the weaknesses and the failings common to all mortal flesh. But they had no "church" buildings. They had to meet in one another's homes and therein lies the secret to the first ekklesia's ability to transform the world.
The home represents an atmosphere much more conducive to the actual transference of godly character than does a lecture hall. And it represents a more frugal approach to the stewardship of our resources - an attitude we in this country who are "blessed" with unprecedented abundance have forgotten about. In countries where poverty is the rule, the inhabitants are shocked by our wastefulness. I believe God would be too if He didn't already know just how evil and wickedly self-centered we are. If only we could learn that truth about ourselves.
We need to dismantle our "church" buildings and truly raise up the real temple of God - the Body of Christ. Given the deteriorating political situation in this country - strangely reminiscent of the situations in pre-Nazi Germany and pre-Communist China - our "church" buildings are most likely to soon become centers for government propaganda while our homes become the real strongholds of God's kingdom.
In order for this to happen, those pastors and full-time ordained leaders will need to relinquish the stranglehold they have over their fellowships. Perhaps they see the ministry as the golden goose which lays golden eggs for them. These should never be in the pulpit in the first place - after all, the pulpit has no place in the New Testament either!
Or perhaps - in the case of those who are in the ministry because they truly want to lead people closer to Jesus - they somehow believe in the deceptive depths of their hearts that God has only revealed His truth to them and has gifted only them with the ability to disseminate it properly. In their way of thinking, very few people can be trusted to teach God's truth correctly. Perhaps these who have such an exaggerated opinion of their own importance should remember that God can speak His truths through children, rocks, donkeys, greedy prophets, and uncircumcised Midianite soldiers. While there is obviously a place for pastors, teachers, apostles, prophets, etc., perhaps we see so few of these types (in comparison with the huge "church" populations) because the star players cannot bring themselves to relinquish the reins of "church" rulership and break the hordes of people into more appropriate and more functional units of measurement. This is especially true of the mega-"churches" but it is true of smaller "churches" as well.
Those "churches" who are becoming more involved with the home fellowship or cell group mentality are steps ahead in this area. Now all that remains is for them to divest themselves of the "church" building and the worldly corporation hierarchical authority structure and invest their time and resources into reaching out into their various neighborhoods and into the world. This task has been greatly neglected in comparison to our "church" building efforts - a fact that has not been overlooked by God.
There is an interesting picture drawn of our superimposing a man-made structure of authority over the top of God's rightful pattern of worship in Solomon's Temple. Solomon's Temple was huge and fabulously decorated. Directly inside the main gates were two statues of seraphim (lamb-like beings with human heads and eagles' wings) that towered almost 1 1/2 stories high. And according to at least one Biblical scholar, the dimensions between the two seraphim is the exact same dimension of the width of the original Tabernacle. If this scholar is correct, Solomon built up his fabulous structure to house the Tabernacle within! While this is nothing more than an illustration of the principle, it is nonetheless a graphic picture of the man-made "church" stretching its own man-made hierarchy authority structure over the true woship of God which occurs in such real life settings as the home.
The attitudes and actions which the American ekklesia needs to grow into are exactly those which are produced as a result of persecution. Of course, the ekklesia will be greatly reduced in number and our ability to utilize our abundant excess to reach the world for Christ will be gone. And of course, that comfortable lifestyle which we use as an excuse for not going out ourselves will be gone also. One wonders what excuses we will have at that time for our not being real Christians then. But I'm sure we'll find or manufacture some sort of fig leaf or another.
The next attitude that must go is that of believing "bigger is better." Jesus taught things that were hard to receive, watched the crowds leave, and then asked His disciples if they wanted to go too. Now much of the pastor's income depends on keeping a certain number of warm, giving bodies coming coming to "his" "church" on a regular basis. Again, this problem is cured in the home where no superstructure must be financially supported and where no one can rely only on being spoonfed God's truth by the paid spiritual nursemaid and nursing staff. God's children are by far stronger and more reproductive when they are forced to mine for God's deep truths on their own. What is needed is not someone to expound God's truth to us but someone to teach and encourage us to dig more deeply for ourselves. What is needed is for someone to explain and demonstrate in tangible ways that we can be obedient to God's Word. What is needed is for us to have more examples about doing God's Word - not just lecturers and Bible professors standing behind a podium and lecturing us on the Word of God. We must always remember that only we, the ones who leave the Word undone, are the deceived ones. We alone are responsible for our own disobedience no matter which superstar it was that first led us down a wrong path.
And when we refuse to confront and, if necessary, expel those who claim to be born-again disciples of Christ but yet display worldly or self-serving actions and motives, we introduce leaven into our fellowship. Leaven, those imperfections of the soul which corrupt our spiritual life with God, has been present for so long in our fellowships that we think it belongs there. And we have no clue what God really means when He says, "Call a sacred assembly..."!
This too is more easily cured in the home where it is much more difficult to remain a stranger. Whereas we can hide for weeks and months and even years in some of these vast monoliths we call "churches," a visitor to my home quickly becomes a part of my family. I must take the time to know this person. I cannot just shake his hand, say "Hi. How are you?" and turn to the next person without waiting for more than the obligatory grunted answer. I am obligated to make him feel welcome by expressing a genuine interest in him. And when my home gets too full for me to know everyone, it's time for someone else to open their home and start another fellowship taking some of my guests with them. The home is where the true temple of God is to be built. And if there were not so many huge monoliths to hide and huddle in, perhaps we'd be more prone to inviting the strangers to come to our homes so that they could personally get to know this Jesus who has so incredibly changed our lives. Of course, this presupposes that Jesus has truly and incredibly changed our lives - a fact that may not be true about very many of us.
There is a key element to the psalmist's lament: to him the foundations (plural) of his life had been destroyed. For us there is to be only one foundation: the Lord Jesus Christ who can never be destroyed. ( 1 Cor. 3:11 ; Heb. 12:28; top ) If we could just get back to our real Foundation, many things around us would simply cure themselves. But since our apparent foundations are something other than Him, it will probably take our having the rug jerked out from under our feet to realize that there is no floor there anymore.
May God help us to stand strong for Him in that terrible day.
I'd love to hear comments and/or questions from you! Email me!