Mt. 25:40 π Mt. 25:45 π Acts 7:48 π Acts 17:24-25 π 1 Cor. 1:10 π 1 Cor. 5:11 π 1 Cor. 14:26 π Gal. 5:22 π Eph. 4:3 π Eph. 4:11-13 π 2 Tim. 2:24 π 2 Tim. 4:3-4 π Jas. 1:27 π 1 Pet. 2:5
This is the question that is often asked when someone begins to speak the truth about modern assembly practices. And the question is so broad - which reveals only the extravagant efforts of the enemy to deceive the people of God - that it is difficult to succinctly answer. This is exacerbated by the obsessive pursuit of the simple "bottom line" concept that will explain the whole matter. But there is no one single answer - except perhaps to say that the "church" is a design of the spirit of antichrist perpetuated by the traditions of men that wars against the work of God in His people. But having said that, in such grand and sweeping terms as it is, is almost to have said nothing. Or at least, nothing has been said that will do little more than stir the ire of good "church" folk.
But to those who are truly committed to obeying the Word of God and not the traditions of men, there are indeed a plethora of specific answers to this question. One could list the deceptions of "church" rather quickly but spend quite some time explaining them. Let us do the former, trusting that those who need the explanations will receive them from some other source than this writing.
The "church" often has a "pastor" and a board of "elders" or "deacons" who act as CEO and a corporate board over the interests of their own peculiar sect. This is in contrast to the New Testament where the apostles are appointed by God and who then recognize and appoint elders for local communities. Also, the "pastor," no matter what gifting(s) he may or may not have, is expected to fulfill a teaching role for his congregation. (We would do well to heed the warning about how the people of the end times will heap to themselves teachers who tell them what they want to hear - 2 Tim. 4:3-4; top ) This reliance upon a "pastor" is also in contrast to the fivefold ministry of apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers which, according to the New Testament, is the only method God has set in place to equip the body and bring it to maturity. ( Eph. 4:11-13; top )
The "church" allows for any and all people to come visit them and "worship" God with them, no matter what their lifestyle is. This is because the people are distant from one another and have no real interaction in one another's lives. They drive in on Sunday morning and drive right out again. And included in the list of people who will come to a "church" meeting and claim to be a believer are those who are fornicators (lustful, adulterers, sexually active outside of marriage), covetous (living a lifestyle devoted to the possession of things or status), idolaters (putting anything as a higher priority than the worship of and obedience to God), revilers (gossips, backbiters), drunkards (those who constantly abuse some substance to avoid reality), and/or extortioners (manipulating others to gain some advantage). With all these people who live such a life and yet claim to be a believer, Paul said not to even eat with them. ( 1 Cor. 5:11; top ) Yet, within the "church," especially a mega-"church," it is common practice to receive them as brothers in the Lord.
The "church" building is often a vast and expensive monument to Mammon or to some man's personal "ministry." However, the body of Christ, the people of Christ, the true house of God, is not built by human hands. ( Acts 7:48 ; 17:24-25 ; 1 Pet. 2:5; top ) Thus with all this labor, expense and sacrifice, the wrong kingdom is being attended to. The orphans' and widows' needs remain unmet and the least of Christ's brethren do without. (see Jas. 1:27 ; Mt. 25:40 , 45; top ) But the "church" has a magnificent palace in which to practice it's pseudo-Christian religion, so all is assumed to be as it should be.
The "church" often puts together a list of "ministries" which the "faithful" can participate in. This allows the "good deeds" of the "church" to be practiced whether these deeds are actually initiated by God or not. Instead of obedience to God, in the "church" there is a frenetic, frantic hurrying and scurrying about to do "the work of God" - as if He were not capable of doing it Himself or as if even He were becoming desperate to get all the work done before His return. One of the key elements of the Holy Spirit is patience ( Gal. 5:22 ) and the servant of the Lord must not strive to get done the things of God. ( 2 Tim. 2:24; top ) Any work that relies on impatience, quarrelsome straining and/or the strength of men's intellect, will or emotions is a work of man - not a work of God.
The "church" often sends out "missionaries" to propagate their own peculiar twist on the Scriptures. These "missionaries," instead of being the apostles, prophets and evangelists who can do the initial work of establishing a genuine assembly, simply go to an area and initiate the beginnings of one of their own sects. Instead of sharing the life of Christ, these people manage to transmit something other than a pure gospel.
And there could be other things mentioned - but these are indeed severe indictments against the modern "church." Only those who resist the Holy Spirit and insist on remaining blind will be able to dismiss these charges as false and demonic assaults against a "work of God."
There is one more aspect of the deception of the "church" which needs to be examined, however, and that is how the meetings are conducted. In many "churches," there is usually one kind of "service" practiced in virtually every flavor of churchianity. The congregation gathers in the "sanctuary" (often but not always just an ornate lecture hall), sits down, perhaps sings some songs and then hears a "sermon," a message concocted by the speaker (usually the "pastor"), which is purportedly supposed to provide the congregation with enough spiritual food to sustain them until the next such meeting. To simply dismiss this as totally unScriptural is to commit the same error of over-simplifying the matter which the "church" does.
The New Testament speaks of many kinds of meetings - and it speaks of them in different ways. First, it speaks of the general meeting of the ekklesia, the called out people of Christ. Paul wrote, "How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification." ( 1 Cor. 14:26; top ) This is the "agenda" for the meeting whenever the people of an area gather together for the purpose of fellowship in Christ.
But there are other types of meetings depicted in the New Testament. There is what could be termed a "message meeting." That is, someone stands in front of a crowd and delivers a sermon. There are two types of these "message meetings" seen in the New Testament - we see an apostle speaking chiefly to believers or speaking chiefly to non-believers. It is interesting to note, especially in light of today's "church's" aberrant methods, that no one (except Christ Jesus Himself) is ever said to be a pastor - and no pastor is ever seen giving a sermon in the pages of the New Testament. All message meetings depicted in the New Testament were conducted by apostles. Make of that what you will - but also know that if you ignore the pattern, you do so at your own risk.
Two other types of meetings are spoken of plainly in the New Testament: prayer meetings and bread-breaking meetings. Each of these have a special focus. The prayer meeting is where the people are encouraged and instructed (by demonstration and not just instructed in some lecture) to turn their requests toward God. When this is done in true subjection to the Holy Spirit, the training of the corporate body to operate in the flow of the Spirit that is accomplished in such meetings is priceless. And the bread breaking meeting is where the people are enabled to recognize and remember just who Christ is and what He has done for them. It has a focus on the broken bread of Christ's physical body and on the new wine of His covenant with His people. Thus, there is a focus on the work of Christ on the cross but there is also a focus on the ongoing work of Christ in His body. Any who fail to recognize His body, past or present, eat and drink to themselves damnation if they partake of the bread and wine which are the symbols of Christ.
There is one last type of meeting: a Bible study meeting. The only meetings of this type specifically mentioned in the New Testament were teaching sessions conducted by the apostle Paul. However, it is only right to believe that when the ekklesias met in the various homes mentioned throughout the New Testament, that Bible studies were conducted. It is not to be presumed that they were conducted along the same lines as a message meeting, however, as that would not be consistent with the local meetings. Rather it is most likely that they conducted their Bible studies more in line with the method prescribed for the general meeting of the ekklesia. This is the most fruitful method of sharing the Scriptures - where everyone shares what the Lord has shown them about the passage being studied. When only one person shares his views, only a limited version of the corporate Christ is presented to the people. In effect, the people are only being robbed of the full expression of Christ by one man's efforts to be a local guru.
This is a list of six different types of meetings. And every believer is expected to participate in all such meetings. But if you read that and still labor under the "church" paradigm of having to drive over to the "church" building to conduct such a meeting, you will find this to be an excessively burdensome requirement. Of all these types of meetings listed here, however, not one of the meetings depicted in the New Testament ever occurred in a "church" building. "Church" buildings did not come into existence until the New Testament was about a century and a half old. "Church" buildings, an incorporation of pagan practices into Christian practices, are completely foreign to the New Testament.
So, where are these meetings to take place then? The meetings of the local ekklesia - the general meeting, the Bible study meeting, the prayer meeting and the bread-breaking meeting - are to take place in the homes of the elders and leaders of the body of Christ. The message meetings - whether apostolic or evangelistic - are to be conducted wherever is appropriate. In a theater, in homes, in lecture halls, on top of hills where philosophers gather - it doesn't matter. Wherever the saints or the non-believers are gathered is an appropriate place for a message meeting.
But when the message meeting becomes the normal fare of the people, deception has crept in. The local ekklesia requires the other types of meetings to be healthy. And they must be freed from the deceptive constraints of the "pastoral" system, the "church" building and denominational divisiveness if they are to enter into the reality of ekklesia meetings. The ekklesia cannot fully express the corporate Christ if they must answer to some "pastor"-despot. They cannot fully express the corporate Christ while submitting to the deceptions of "church" building architecture - from the row of pews which demand their silence to the pointed roof which speaks of an unreachable God who lives far away, "church" architecture incorporates many false teachings into the very structure of the building. The ekklesia cannot fully express the corporate Christ when those who do not agree with every point and sub-point of a list of creeds and doctrines are pushed out the doors.
The local body of believers must meet in their diversity of gifts, submitting to true elders so that the process of becoming one body is maintained. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, "Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment." ( 1 Cor. 1:10; top ) How is this to be accomplished? Do we take the Catholic creeds and memorize and adhere to them? Or the Lutheran creeds? How about the non-denominational "distinctives"? No!
The only way we can ever hope to come to a place where there are no divisions among us, where we are perfectly joined together in the same mind and judgment is when we have the mind of Christ. Only when we set aside our own agenda and understanding and receive His agenda and Spirit of understanding can we ever hope to be in the unity of the Spirit. And we keep the unity of the Spirit through the bonds of peace. ( Eph. 4:3; top ) Whenever we meet a brother or sister with a different view, we receive them as a brother or sister in process. And when the time comes, the Lord will reveal which one (if either) held the proper view of the matter. But until such time, true servants of Christ are not to quarrel over disputable matters.
This is not to say that there are not blatant truths and doctrines which must be upheld. Indeed, there are. Errant brothers and sisters are to be instructed and corrected as the Lord leads. But until the Lord leads, we are to bear one another's faults humbly, knowing that the list of our own faults is no short document. But we must never forget that there is a vast difference between forbearing with one another until Christ is formed in us and merely tolerating one another's sins and lawlessness.
The "church" is a systematic assault on the ability of the body of Christ to lovingly interact with one another. As such, it can only be viewed as a worldly system that is at enmity with God. Anyone who chooses to be a friend of any system of the world simultaneously chooses to be God's enemy. Those who try to be on both sides of a war are most often the first casualties. We must choose, this day, whom we will serve.
As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. And we will reject all notions and practices of a divisive "church" that inhibits the abilities of the body of Christ to love and serve one another according to the will and purposes of Christ Jesus, the Head of the body.
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