The church has been doing the same thing the same way for centuries. We’ve never outgrown our regimented antics. They’re just packaged differently today than they were five-hundred years ago.
Church history is very interesting if you study it. We’ve survived a lot in the last two-thousand years. In spite of that survival, there are some things that are just hard to pin. I don’t know where we learned that piling into pews while staring at the back of people’s heads is the correct biblical model. I don’t know where we learned that one man instead of Christ should be our focus. And I don’t know where we learned that our Christian duty was to be fully present on Sunday morning, yet spiritually inept and absent the rest of the week. Finally, I have no idea where we learned that the fame and fortune mega churches employ and their leaders enjoy is the hallmark of the modern successful Christianity. With that said, it’s time to stop the “monkey-see, monkey-do” scenarios (hence the above photo). There is nothing worse than being declared “dead” while yet living by Jesus Christ, who holds the lampstands in His hands (see Revelation chapter 1-3, and the new study I’m writing about the seven churches). This is serious. We can’t afford to play this game anymore. We will lose.
We need to rethink church.
Christ loves His Church. Yet “church” has become a function instead of a unified Body. It’s a Sunday affair instead of a lifestyle in Christ. It’s something we attend instead of who we are. This is a far cry from how Christ defines His Church. Yet many know no different, because Christian leaders everywhere have embraced and propagated the status quo.
Are you frustrated or dissatisfied with church as usual?
If so, why?
I don’t believe you have to settle. In 2000 I was forced to make a decision, which I will share. If you are ready to challenge the status quo, this post is for you. And the only way we can rightly challenge the status quo is to accurately define it.
Defining the Status Quo
When I read the book of Acts, the New Testament Church put the holy fear of God in every religious and political institution. It set everyone’s pants on fire. A few hundred Jews filled with the Holy Spirit literally turned the whole Roman world upside down. And they gladly sacrificed their lives to do it. In stark contrast, today people everywhere have confessed to being bored, frustrated, afraid, hurt, lonely, confused, spiritually hungry and thirsty, spiritually bound, and even panged with grief when faced with the current condition of the Church. They want more.
God’s people want spiritual substance and sustenance — not sugar-coated spiritual fluff.
Turn on the TV. You can see it and hear it for yourself. The Church is glutted with pastors who cater to people’s carnal appetites and affections. They love to tickle those with itching ears. Christian leaders everywhere cater to the flesh, build their ego upon empires, enjoy the luxury of fame, feed their sheep sugar-coated messages of self-indulgence, while they pander to our insecurities and pick our pockets. And then when things get dull and all else fails — we decide to have a “revival”. For a day or two. And what’s really insulting is that we actually expect God to show up. Then when He doesn’t — we become like kids in a sandbox who pretend He’s there by manufacturing His gifts and holy anointing, convincing ourselves we’ve got the real deal. When we call it a wrap and nothing’s changed, we wonder why. So we hype it up a bit. We inspire excitement. We manufacture Him. We’re like Israel and their golden calf. It’s amazing what spiritually hungry, thirsty, and biblically illiterate people will do to get a spiritual tingle. It’s scary. It’s sad. And it’s wrong.
If the Church were functioning as Christ intended, we would not need revivals.
When I read the book of Acts I do not believe it was ever God’s intention that we pile into a hot car on Sunday, stare at the back of somebody’s head for an hour, shake a stranger’s hand, pay our tithe, pray a mantra, and go home. I don’t believe it was ever God’s intention that we as believers devote our eyes and ears to a singular man or woman who does not even know their own sheep while they rake in thousands of dollars to fund a building, pay staff, and stuff their salary — while little to none of that money ever meets the true and very valid needs of the people who are giving it. Meanwhile God’s sheep return from whence they came, empty and confused, yet sadly convinced that they’ve done their Christian duty because they sat in a pew for an hour or two listening to a message that many times has little to no scriptural significance whatsoever. And why? Because church leaders everywhere have become talking heads. They don’t really know Jesus Christ. They don’t really know the Bible. And they certainly don’t know their sheep. All they know are numbers, and they keep counting them until they can meet their financial goals for a bigger building, a better parking lot, or another pet project that will, in turn, generate more revenue under a non-profit label.
The Church has filled itself with hype — not the Holy Spirit.
It has incubated itself to the degree that we’re of the world and not in it. We’ve exchanged steeples for domes. We’ve exchanged pews for folding chairs. We’ve exchanged sanctuaries for auditoriums. And finally we’ve exchanged the Holy Spirit for hype. The Church has become a model of entertainment instead of a place where people gather in repentance. Genuine care for one another, sharing burdens by either fasting or breaking bread, and becoming unified in loving fellowship and earnest prayer is not “entertaining” or “fun”. The sacrifices needed to meet those needs are too “expensive”. The New Testament Church of Acts could not remain silent. They could not sit still. They could not be anything but one as they committed and devoted themselves to the Lord and each other. Everyone’s needs were met. They knew, loved, and served God. And they knew, loved, and served each other.
Loving relationships are central to Christ’s Church — with Him and with each other.
God’s intention was that His Church be a dynamic, living, thriving, fruitful, and fully unified Body that has its origin, identity, power, and purpose solely in Him. The Church is called ‘the Body of Christ’ for a reason. As living epistles read of all men, as living stones, and as temples of the Holy Spirit, He intended that we bring His kingdom from heaven to earth — just as His Son did. Jesus Christ called us to continue what He began. He intended that we bear His fruit in all seasons, and that we be bound only by love with every distinct member intact, supporting the strengths and weaknesses of the others. He intended that when we meet together that we become one, built up, edified, and doing His work. Genuine fellowship with Jesus Christ and the brethren will always produce the fruit of the Holy Spirit.
But is that happening? Let’s find out…
And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are. While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled.
And now come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.
Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth. Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.
Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee: but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me. And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them,” (John 17:11-26, KJV).
This is Christianity 101. Yet there is a broad spectrum of what it means to be a believer in Jesus Christ according to differing denominational doctrines. But when measured by the Word of God, that spectrum suddenly narrows. Jesus Christ said that wide is the path that leads to destruction, and many there be that go in. But narrow is the way that leads to life, and few there be that find it (see Matthew 7:13-14).
Are you ready to challenge the status quo?
Taking the Challenge
I fondly and affectionately remember my college days when we would all gather at the Christian campus house across the street from the university. That little house was probably one hundred years old. And every Tuesday we would pack ourselves like sardines into the living room and kitchen, sitting on the floor, grabbing cushions, and even piling into each other’s lap. The fellowship we had in the Lord was so intimate. It was so incredibly sweet. We all knew each other intimately. We laughed, sang, prayed, and ate together. We didn’t segregate by sex or class, and the unity was infectious. We saw miracles happen — and they happened consistently. We witnessed genuine moves of the Holy Spirit that never ceased to surprise us. We were always holding hands, looking into each other’s faces, and our hearts were so full! The spiritual fruit was lush! We functioned as a Body. In some ways, our pastors at the local churches didn’t know what to do with us! The joy we had was amazing! Oh how I miss those days! They were some of the best in my entire life.
Since that time I’ve had many church experiences throughout my adult life. I’ve seen and experienced the best and worst of the Church — literally. My heart has been healed — and broken. I have wept. And I’m not the only one who has experienced the brokenness, abuse, and heresy within the Church. Some of it is very sad. It’s heart-breaking and even life-altering. Some of it is shocking. I mean really jaw-dropping stuff. And then there is the gross and perverse. It’s just purely demonic under a Christian label.
By the time 2000 came, I had to make an exit. I just could not stomach the hypocrisy and heresy any longer, and the current church I attended had fallen into the abyss of gross spiritual perversion. It was literally making me sick. I could not find a church where I felt spiritually safe due to the movements and doctrine spreading within that area. They were all the same. They all had the same spiritual “anatomy”, platform, and teaching. I longed for a church that was truly biblical — and I couldn’t find one for a long time. During that season when I was away from the Church, God called me to Himself, and I entered into a six-month fast with Him in 2001 that was life-changing. God revealed things to me about His Church that I’ll never forget. Someday I’ll share them.
But for now, God is pressing me to challenge you the same way He challenged me. Are you going to challenge the status quo?
For years I fellowshipped privately with other believers who were experiencing the same frustration and we sought God for direction. After a long season of seeking God and searching, in 2005 He finally brought me to a small town about 45 minutes away, to small country church of about fifty people. Although that church met in a humble sanctuary with a tin roof and sang traditional hymns on a steel guitar, I was the most blessed I’d been in years. When we gathered, the Spirit of God was so present! And to this day, that church stays with me in my heart. The people were family, so full of love, and when we prayed we saw miracles happen. The Word of God was preached in truth, and we gathered every Sunday and Wednesday for fellowship, dinner, and prayer. It was life-changing. During my time with that body of believers God healed my heart, healed my body, and filled me afresh with His Spirit. It was one of the most glorious seasons of my life. Never-mind that it was Freewill Baptist. With that said, there are real churches out there. But I will say, they are very, very hard to find.
Are you someone who is ready to become the Church?
I dare you to do the biblical model:
Don’t go to church.
Be the church.
As a body of believers who want to walk in the Spirit and fulfill the high priestly prayer of Jesus Christ, we must understand a few things:
#1.) The Holy Spirit cannot be summoned by hype. He responds to holiness and humility.
#2.) God does not show up to do magic tricks at our whim. He’s not a ‘sugar daddy’. He’s our Father. He functions in that primary role, to which love and discipline are both key parts.
#3.) The presence of God cannot be manufactured. Nor can His gifts.
#4.) God is not motivated or moved by bright lights, loud music, the latest technology or design, or displays of the flesh. He’s moved by hearts of hunger, repentance, worship, brokenness, and surrender. We need to be much more concerned about what moves God than what motivates us.
#5.) Functioning in unity as a Body has nothing to do with going to a building on Sunday morning, sitting in a pew or chair, listening to a sermon, and then going home. It has everything to do with genuinely meeting, loving, knowing, and serving other people intimately. Being in an environment where that can happen is of paramount importance.
#6.) The Church is not a place. Nor is it something we attend. It’s who we are.
#7.) God did not create His Church to be a place where you can hide — physically or spiritually. God will expose and deal with sin and other issues that are contrary to Him. The Holy Spirit is an agent of sanctification. Nor is Church supposed to be a place where you feel invisible and are neglected. On the contrary, when you become a functioning part of Christ’s Body you also become intimately known, loved, and are truly discovered. You grow, serve, and fulfill your calling and purpose alongside others who support and mentor you, and hold you accountable to God.
Francis Chan, author of Crazy Love, who once pastored Cornerstone in Simi Valley of San Francisco, a church numbering approximately four to five-thousand people, which required several million to sustain, began to realize that he had become the central focus while the spiritual gifts and callings of his sheep were being neglected and unfulfilled (source). That’s when he decided to “rethink church” (see above video) and founded We Are Church. After getting a clear grasp on the biblical view of church, Chan stepped down and sold out, basically telling his congregants that the same Jesus he had also lived in them and that they were meant to do the work of the Gospel. As a result, people began to meet in homes at no cost under the mentorship and guidance of elders, praying and fellowshipping together where their personal gifts and callings were coming to fruition. The impact was astounding. The Holy Spirit was unleashed — literally. Lives changed dramatically. And people who would have never been reached were brought to Christ. The Church became a powerful dynamic entity. It very literally became the living, breathing, tangible Body of Christ (source).
Francis Chan went back to the biblical model, and has received criticism from church leaders (source). See his last sermon here. Yet, this is the pattern we should all be seeking to emulate. When church leaders begin to realize that they are not the focus, but Christ is, and that the church is not sustained by money, but by the Holy Spirit, they will sacrifice to see their sheep set free.
What has your church experience been like?
Have you been dissatisfied? Hurt or abused? Have you felt ignored, unknown, disconnected, confused, and frustrated? Have you felt robbed and cheated? Have you ever wondered if you could find a church family where you could be known, loved, and grow into who Christ created you to become? What has your experience been like?
Would you like to belong to a body of people who follow the biblical model?
I would. And I’ve sought that kind of church for years. Throughout my Christian walk I’ve talked with numerous individuals who have shared deep-seated concerns about the Church. I’m one of them. From casual to clandestine conversations with laymen to leadership — the modern church is often failing to meet the true spiritual, social, and humanitarian needs of its “members”. There’s a great lack of spiritual substance and genuine discipleship. Yet there’s an abundance of fame and fortune that robs people and exalts men instead of Jesus Christ.
Have you ever felt the same convictions as Francis Chan, yet felt powerless to change what you were experiencing?
I have. Many times. Going to church every Sunday has many times felt like jumping through spiritual hoops to meet a standard that a few key men or an organization have established. I’ve longed for and deeply craved what Francis Chan has been brave enough to embark upon. I believe he’s become a forerunner for what may revolutionize the Body of Christ in the end times. I believe other individuals will follow the biblical model just as he has so we can actually begin following Jesus Christ and being the Body of Christ.
If you could describe “church”, what would it be like? What is your heart truly longing for?
My heart aches for the biblical model. I share the same convictions and beliefs that Francis Chan has boldly and fearlessly put into practice. I truly believe this biblical model is an end-time revolution for the Church. We will finish strong in the same way we began. God has a chosen remnant who will not settle. He is bringing everything full circle. I want to be a part of that.
Are you ready to challenge the status quo?
If so, please feel free to share your story in the comments below.
Cheers & Shalom,
Post updated: January 10, 2018
Image Credits: kellepics and Robfoto | Pixabay
Video Credits: Kieth Thompson and We Are Church | YouTube standard license