Is Something Wrong with Church?
 Signs of Apostasy?

 

"For it is time for judgment to begin with the Family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who disobey the Gospel of God?" BSB

Introduction: Having attended, supported and/or participated in church for over 28 years, I came to the point where I felt that attending and/or supporting church services had become a hindrance to my  daily walk with the Lord.  Not long afterward the Lord made it known to me that He wanted me to do my part to expose the modern westernized (so-called) "church."  The following article was the result of that conviction.  The confirmation that it was the Lord who told me to do so, was the fact that He gave me a noticeably deeper peace than what I had the day before this article became public -- Col. 3:15.

 "As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God."  I Pet. 4:10

The above verse is perhaps the number one thing that is wrong with American and western churches: i.e. that each believer is supposed to use his or her gift (or gifts) to serve their fellow brothers and sisters, and not just attend church, sing songs, and listen to sermons.  It may also  surprise most preachers to learn that it was over the issue of serving that God made a distinction, rather than tithing: Mal. 3:18.  And as far as New Testament giving goes, consider what we are told about the first Christians.

"They continued daily in the apostle's teaching,  friendship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayer ...  And everyone kept feeling a sense of awe as many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles.  And all who believed were together, and had all things in common; and those who owned property and possessions would sell them and lay the money at the apostles feet to provide for any who had need.   And they continued daily to meet together from house to house and in the temple with great joy and oneness of heart, praising God, and having favour with all the people. ... " Acts 2:42--47

What they had then seems a bit different from the routine, once or twice a week, worship + sermon services of today: where after singing a few songs and hearing 45-50 minutes of instruction from the man in charge, everyone goes home to their own family (if they have one), and where many attenders have large and/or multiple houses while others are living in their cars, tents or sleeping bags, and are often dependent on food stamps and/or welfare from an increasingly godless government.  In other words, church services have, to a large degree, become a replacement for what true Christianity and following Jesus is supposed to be about.

"We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.  But whoever has the world's goods, and beholds his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?

Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.  We shall know by this that we are of the truth ..."  I John 3:16-19 

Many who attend church often say that theirs is great, yet others admit that something is wrong with what some now call Sunday-go-to-meetin Christianity -- and that God wants more of His people than to just attend church, greet one another, sing songs, give money (to church or foreign missions), hear a sermon, say goodbye and go home ... Only to come back next week to do it again  ... and maybe even have a pot-luck or social gathering once or twice a month.  

Many church goers don't see, visit, or do anything with their church "family" members all week long, and may only see their "church family" members at church.   Many others, who have families of their own are quite content with once a week church, that only wants an offering, yet doesn't impinge too much on their personal family life, nor demand their service -- much less that they "give up their life" to help those who are oppressed, destitute, and/or afflicted.  

Jesus called His followers to take up their crosses and "follow" Him wherever He leads.  He also told them that following Him would mean "losing" one's life -- for His sake and the gospel: Mark 8:34-38. Unfortunately many churches seem more concerned with getting people to "attend" church, live a moral life and give money to church than with ministering to the poor and oppressed and trying to change their communities for Christ.

So let’s consider a few things that may be wrong with, not just your church, but the modern church itself, and whether or not your church is doing its part to fulfill God’s purpose and plan.   The following are a few areas where we think the modern western church has a lot of room to grow.

Relationship  vs. Pyramid Church   
Are Sermons Outdated?

Can Each Member use his/her Gifts?
Does Your Church help the Poor?
Handouts for the Homeless 
Are Church Members Hospitable?

The Foundation of Creation
 
Internal and External Growth
On Lukewarm Christianity 
Tithing vs Giving Yourself 

Be Concerned but Don't Condemn 
On Luke 18:28-30 and Former Dads
On Breaking Heavy Yokes
Putting God's Word to the Test
Being Entertained & Polluted by Evil 
If the Church becomes a Family 
On China and the Emergent Church



Relationship-based vs.  Pyramid Church   

The modern Westernized evangelical church has adopted a pyramid structure that began after Constantine legalized Christianity and called Christians out of their house-based meetings and into the former pagan temples.  This was the beginning of ruling over the people from the top down, where the pastor is at the top and directing virtually everything that goes on in church -- including the discipleship and teaching of all of those under him.  This has been called the 'Big Fisherman' approach where the primary job of church members is to bring people to church so the pastor can get them saved and then hook them into regular (church-service) attendance and spoon feed them the word of God.  This approach assumes that individual church members will not rise above the pastor's personal relationship with the Lord, and even if they do, the pyramid structure often hinders them from exercising their gifts to minister to the body.

In his book Return of the First Church, John Fenn makes the following observations about most of today's modern traditional churches.

“The example of Jesus teaching, preaching, and healing while living with his disciples in ... community is the pattern for today.  (While pyramid church) relationships are  built around (church) work, and then everyone goes home  … (yet the example of Jesus) … is relationships (around our daily) ... life together, perceiving (our various different gifts) ... and (serving) ... each other.”  P. 144

 This cannot happen in a pyramid shaped organization because its structure is about empowering the main man and keeping everyone else silent.  In the flat structure portrayed by Jesus and … (the apostles), each person is free to operate as God created them, (and to operate) in their own gifts, while submitting to one another in love.”  P. 144

The pyramid (church) is built (so) that the top man might be in the spotlight and other staff members are just players on the stage.  That is 180 degrees from what Jesus said the church should look like … (and) a testimony to God’s grace that He can flow through it at all …”  P. 144  

When a structure is built to empower the one at the top instead of the people, the people become anemic and their spiritual gifts and muscles become atrophied and Sunday morning becomes a ritual of entertainment and manipulation instead of empowerment and discipleship.”  P. 144

In contrast, Jesus taught 'servant leadership' where he who is greater is to be servant of all.  In this regard, Jesus said: 

"You call Me 'teacher' and 'Lord' and rightly so, for that is what I am.   If I then, the Lord and teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet.  For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you."  John 13:13-15

In other words we are to become involved in each other's lives and serve each other (I Pet. 4:10), but the 'Big Fisherman' approach does not encourage service and submission (to each other) and allow everyone to use their gifts to serve one another, but rather stresses church attendance, bible study, tithing, and bringing people to church -- for shallow (church-based) relationships.  The pyramid approach is, in essence, a minimum participation / spectator based "Christian" religion that many people mistake for true Christianity; however Romans 14:17 and the verse above from I Peter tell us otherwise. 

Benjamin Franklin was not even a Christian, yet he understood this concept nonetheless, when he said, 'Tell me and I forget, ... Involve me and I learn.'  Getting people involved in more than church attendance creates a commitment that allows people to use their gifts before and after church, and also away from the building throughout the week.  It's the difference between taking up one's cross to follow the Lord vs spectator-based 'church' that encourages members to simply sit in a chair and give their money to be spoon fed the word as if they will always be little toddlers who can't feed themselves -- and who only know and relate to each other at church. 

In his book on the church, John Fenn quotes from a pastor in India who comments on the difference between American and Indian churches:

"You Americans preach a different gospel than we do in India.  You tell people (that) if you receive Jesus as Lord you will be healed, you will be made rich,  you will have relationships healed.  In India we tell them (that) if they receive Jesus as Lord you may lose your health, you may lose your possessions;  you may lose your family,  you may lose your life."  p. 100

The foot washing example of Jesus tells us that we need to get involved in meeting each other's needs and teaching each other what we know -- including the word of God.  This requires more than just church attendance and tithing.  It's the difference between getting to know our fellow brothers and sisters in the Lord on a level where they live, sharing our lives with them and helping them grow in Christ vs just seeing  or 'knowing' them from church. 

The apostle Paul taught this as well when he said that each one of us is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good: (I Cor. 12: 7).  This can only be the case when each person is using his or her gift to serve the body of Christ: which pyramid church and top-down micromanagement hinders, if not prevents.  In other words, being a disciple of Christ and using our gifts to help each other and build up the body is more important than once a week "church." 

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On Sermons that are Primarily for those who
Don't read their Bibles: much less study them

Sermons today seem to be for immature Christians who don't read their Bibles, or who don't have access to the Internet, or a ($20 -- $50) Greek to English New Testament and Hebrew to English Old Testament, don't own a radio, and/or for those who are not yet saved.  

For the fact is that any brother or sister can open up his or her Bible and get a message from God: several times a day.  We can also hear sermon after sermon by excellent bible teachers -- all week long on Christian radio, TV, the Internet, or by reading books by Christian authors.  In fact, anyone who can read can look up the individual Greek or Hebrew words for themselves and compare different Bible translations to each another and also find whole articles on almost any verse of the Bible: Free for anyone with an Internet connection and who knows how to use Google, Yahoo, or Bing to search for virtually anything: including certain verses from the bible.  

This means that Christians who read their Bibles regularly (and have an accurate translation) don't need pastors or teachers to "expound the word" to them, because they can do it themselves. And in this regard we are told that the Holy Spirit, Himself, teaches us and even tells us that we don't need "anyone" other than Him to do so: John 14:27; 16:13; I John 2:27. 

We can also supplement, if not replace, Sunday morning song services with Christian music CD's, Christian radio, youtube, and with "songs" that the Spirit puts on our heart (Psalm 32:7, 40:3) all week long.   

In other words, westernized church services are in need of replacement with something more challenging and engaging: especially for those who read their Bibles regularly and who want to be a disciple of Christ: many of whom have been studying God's word for 10, 20, or 30 years (or more).  For example, services where people are allowed and encouraged to participate – as is described in I Corinthians 14:26-31 -- along with open forums. 

In short, it's time for many pastors to come down from their platforms and stop pretending as if they are more spiritual or more important than those around them and to allow the body of Christ to do what the apostle Paul said should occur: i.e. for each one to participate in more than just seat-warming and paying money to hear sermons ... and allow each person to share and become involved in outreach and in each other's lives: as is described in I Cor. 14:26, which says: 

"What is the outcome then, brethren?  When you assemble, each one has a song, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation.  Let all things be done for edification."

The gospel is supposed to be Free.  And God's people shouldn't have to pay thousands upon thousands of dollars to be spoon-fed the word of God at church, but taught to study it and memorize it for themselves each day.

In Ezek. 34:1-31 the shepherds were told to "Stop feeding sheep."  This was because they  had set themselves above the flock and were "lording it over" or micromanaging (if not oppressing) those under them, and fell far short of what a true shepherd should be.  Verse four says:

"Those who are sick you have not strengthened, the diseased you have not healed, the broken  you have not bound up, the scattered you have not brought back, nor ... sought for the lost; but with force and severity you have dominated them."  Ezek. 34:4

In other words, they put a "church" yoke around their necks and began to oppress them and compel them to support a stagnant, once-a-week ritual. 

In John 10:14 and  10:27  Jesus said, "I  know My sheep and they know Me," and ... "they hear My voice and follow Me.  John 15:4-6 is also pertinent in that we are told that apart from Jesus we "can do nothing."  In other words He is telling us that our relationship with Him takes precedence over everything: including 'church,' if it drains us of energy and resources, more so than builds us up and allows us to use our gifts to bless and be blessed by one another.

Note that it does NOT say that "apart from Church, you can do nothing" (for God's Kingdom) but rather it all centers around Jesus: our Savior, Leader and Founder of the true Church, and of God's kingdom on earth.  In fact, we are told in John 17:3 that eternal life is all about knowing God and Jesus.  See also Psalm 16:3, 34:3, 85:6, John 7:37-39, Acts 20:24 and Phil. 3:8-14.  

Before we leave this subject we think it is appropriate to give examples of "sermons" that are worth preaching, and in need of hearing.  The following are examples.

1. From a video on youbube.com, Francis Chan tells us that:

"On Sundays I preach for about five or ten minutes, and then we all go out to the streets and witness for two hours, and then come back and talk about it."   

2. The pastor gets up and says something like: "We are going to begin to do things differently around here from this day forward.  And to be quite blunt, some of you are NOT going to like it, while others will, but I feel like we have been playing games with God, and I admit that I am guilty too -- if not more so than you since I have been your leader.   So from this day forward we are going to stress being "doers of the word, and not just hearers of it, and we are going to start with us."  "So I will go first"  ... And then he confesses his shortcomings, idols, addictions that have been holding him back from having a closer walk with the Lord ... say for about 1-2 minutes, and then he opens up the microphone for others to come up and do the same -- even if it takes all day and night.

3.   The pastor confesses that he feels like he has been holding back the flow of the Holy Spirit, and not allowing people to use their gifts.  Then he preaches a short (2-5 minute) sermon on Malachi 3:16-18 (or similar passage on getting involved in service to the Lord), ... and then another 3-5 more minutes on Isaiah 58 and /or Luke 14:16-26 and confesses that neither he, nor the church has made a serious attempt to reach the homeless with the good news of Jesus, nor to take them into "the house," nor to find them jobs (and/or give them something to do), nor to find opportunities for saints who are members of the church, or who attend there to serve one another.  And then he asks the following question:

"If you consider yourself a follower of Jesus, then you need to ask yourself, what God wants you to do to serve His people.  If you consider your house to ... be the Lord's house, then you need to offer it up to Him for His use -- and open it up to the saints once a week or every day for fellowship, Bible discussions, open forums, breaking bread and prayer.  And if you consider yourself a follower of Jesus and there are things in your life that are preventing you from serving the saints (such as excessive internet use, computer games, TV, movies, etc.), and you have a car, or an extra car that you are not using, then consider offering it up (and perhaps your time as well) to the Lord, and/or to someone who needs it or who has time to give people rides during the week."

4.  Pastor comes up and says, "Today, instead of me preaching I am going to open up this service to the Lord and allow you to begin to meet one another's needs, and/or to ask questions.  So with that said, is there anyone here who has a need or a question: about God, or the Bible, or anything related to the church and helping one another grow closer to Jesus?"  And instead of me answering, I want to open up the service for others to do so first. 

You may also pass out cards for people to write down their questions or to state their needs.

5. Pastor comes up and says something like: Today I want to do something different.  From this day forward we are going to make a serious attempt to meet one another's needs and share our lives with each other -- and hopefully grow closer to Jesus.  So one way we plan to do this is to begin to move closer to one another, such as in the same neighborhood, or to buy a Ranch specifically for that purpose, and begin working together as if we were a family.  According to the scriptures, we will spend eternity together so why not start sharing our lives with each other now.   Therefore, we need to start living like a family instead of separate lives and only seeing each other for a few hours once or twice a week.  In this regard, we note that Jesus actually lived with and ministered to His disciples every day of the week for Three Years.  To see an example of this type of life, go and visit one of the Twelve Tribes communities that can be found all over the U.S. 

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Can Members Participate?

Does your church have an Open Forum where members can ask questions and get answers?  Did you know that Jehovah’s Witnesses have open forums during their services at least once a week, or that most other orthodox / denominational / non-denominational / evangelical / Bible centered / "Christian" churches do not?  Why is this?  Is it because most pastors are afraid of open discussion or because they like dominating the Lord's flock?

Why is it that few churches have open forums or open services where members can participate, ask questions, and share what God is doing in their lives?  God says in Isaiah 1 to: "Come and reason together ..." and Proverbs 11:14 that "for lack of guidance a nation falls, but with many advisors there  is victory." NIV   See also Psalm 16:3 where David said that the saints were, "the majestic ones in whom is all my delight."  NASB

Could it be that some, if not many, pastors ignore the apostle Paul's admonition for 'every man' (in Rom. 12:3) 'not to think more highly of himself than he ought' because they don't want their brothers and sisters to participate?  Perhaps because they are AFRAID of giving up control to God and His people?   Why else would the saints be excluded from participation when they gather together?  Are they thinking of the church as belonging to them or thinking more highly of themselves than they ought?

In I Cor. 14:26-31 the Apostle Paul encouraged the saints to take part in church services.  See also Ps. 34:3, Isa. 1:18 and Acts 2:41-47 and note the use of the word “together” and having all things in common,” and that people began selling their possessions to meet the needs of the saints.  

And though some will say that the practice of sharing our lives (and possessions) stopped because it wasn't working, the truth is that it stopped because it was working quite well: which is why a great persecution broke out against the saints.  This is explained in Acts 8:1.  Therefore, we should go back to the methods of the early church -- sharing our money, talents, and our very lives with each other -- even if it means shutting  down the once a week church (attendance) ritual in favor of becoming a family who ministers to each other. 

See also Luke 14:33, Acts 20:24, Ezek. 34:1-31, Jer. 23:9-22.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On Helping Others 

This would include sharing your time and talents with church members and opening up your home for fellowship and allow church members to meet your needs as well.  In this regard we note that early church members “sold their possessions” to meet the needs of their brothers and sisters in Christ – and that they were taking their meals together daily and breaking bread from house to house, and that “everyone kept feeling a sense of awe” – because the Lord was present among them: Acts 2:42-47 

Colossians 3:3-4 tells us to:

“Set your mind on things above, not on the things that are on earth.  For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory …"  

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Hand-outs for the Homeless 

With regard to taking care of our brothers and sisters, Jesus said, "I was a stranger and you took Me in":  Matthew 26:31-46.  And in 3 John 5-11, the apostle John confirmed this when he told the Church members to take strangers into their homes: and especially those who are believers.  See also Isaiah 58:1-14.  

It's also worth noting in this regard that Jesus, Himself, did not have His own home, or even a place (on earth) that He could call home: or so He said in Matthew 8:20.  His ministry took precedence over having a family and His own home: which is why He and His disciples often slept in the woods, or desert, or at various people's homes.

Does your church have an outreach program to clothe, feed, and house the homeless?  Or even better, does your pastor encourage church members to bring saints into their homes: including poor ones?  If not, then your church is not taking God’s heart and will seriously: as is evident from Isaiah 58.  And, if not, does your pastor encourage church members to reach out to the homeless, and needy to help them find work?  Does your church (at least) provide soft pads for homeless people to sleep on, sleeping bags, rain gear or tents?   If not, then it is safe to say that it is NOT giving itself to serve the poor and/or oppressed: as is discussed in Isaiah 58:6-12. What’s more the church is in danger of the sin of Sodom. 

In this regard Ezekiel 16:49 tells us that: 

“... this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.” NIV  

Isaiah told the religious-minded people of his day  -- who claimed to be seeking God -- to not just share food with and clothe the poor, but to "give yourself to the homeless and take them into the house."  Isa. 58:7.  

 See also The Homeless and Expounding the Word yet Missing the Mark

 

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Are Church members Hospitable?

Have you ever been invited to your pastor’s home or the home of any of your church leaders?   

Do you only see your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ on Sunday?  If so, why? 

Does your church have a place where members can meet every day for fellowship and to help each other or ask questions about God or His word?  Does your pastor encourage people to open up their homes for fellowship, Bible study, and to share their lives with each other?

Has your pastor ever taught on Creation vs Evolution, or invited an outside speaker to do so?  In this regard, are people encouraged to ask questions -- or in regard to anything pertaining to God's word and/or His coming kingdom?

Do you know why the subject of Creation is foundational to what we believe: and to the entire Old and New Testaments?  

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On Being Creative  

When Jesus taught, people didn't fall asleep.  He used parables to drive home His spiritual and ethical points.  Likewise the prophets often gave illustrative sermons that came directly from God, and also performed miracles.  Jesus' stories were taken from the everyday experience of His listeners.  When He healed people He almost always used different methods, one time spitting in the dirt and making mud that He then placed on the eyes of a blind man.  Another time, telling lepers to go to the priest and they were healed as they traveled.   So, if Jesus was unique and creative, and if we are His followers, why are many church services lacking in excitement about what God is going to do next: or use them to do next?  

If we are followers of Jesus, shouldn't we be like Him?   Why has much of the church put the arts on a back pew, not to be used except for music?  Didn't Jesus say that we (His followers) are the light of the world?  And doesn't that suggest that our life itself -- including church -- should attract people?

 

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Creation is the Foundation

A chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and I think this also applies to the church.  And in this regard, we think the subject of Creation is that (weak) link.  

The first sentence in the Old Testament tells us that God is the Creator of both the visible world  and the invisible / eternal realm as well.  And the facts of science strongly support Creation by a Super-Intelligent Being -- and oppose the idea -- or belief -- that even the most basic life-form could come about by time and nature. 

Jesus is not only the Foundation of what faith in God and eternal life and truth are about, but He is also the co-Creator with God: John 1:1-2; Col. 1:15-18, Heb. 1:1-2.  Creation is the foundation of who God is and why we serve Him: because He made us -- not from an ape or ape-man, but from the dust, or independent from other life forms (Gen. 2:7).  In fact, according to Genesis, God made all land animals and birds also from the ground, thus also independent from each other.  This means that there is NO Scriptural grounds for "evolution" from one type to another, and thus NO NEED for "millions of years." 

In this regard, we have noticed that it is often the case that many churches fall short of teaching their members to stand up and defend their faith – in God, Creation, a worldwide flood, etc. – as things that are not only scientific but based on sound logic, historical records and reason.  

Solution: Take back our Colleges and Universities: especially those that are public: simply by going there and talking to students and passing out literature.  See our free College Campus literature or create your own.  

See also
 
Open Letter to an Atheist   Proof of a Creator   Evidence for a Young Earth

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Internal and External Growth

In a book called Prayer that Brings Revival, Pastor David Yonggi Cho talks about a critical change that took place in his ministry.  As a result of His sensitivity to the Holy Spirit and willingness to  allow God to have His way (at church), the church that he started with God's help now has over a million members.   We quote from his book below.   

"The Cell System is the very basis of our church.  I discovered this concept during one of the most difficult hours in my ministry.  ...  (When our church was at) ... three thousand members, I felt that I could do everything, and I tried to.  I would preach, visit, and pray for the sick; yet, as (the) church grew, I became weaker. ... (until) One Sunday as I interpreted for an ... evangelist, I collapsed ... (and) was rushed to the ... hospital. 

(The doctor told me that to live I) "must give up the ministry!"

" ... God (had) ... my attention ... and the days that followed were times of reappraisal for my life.  Yet, during that dark hour, I discovered the basic ingredient to ... unlimited  ... (church) growth ... (is) the cell system."

"Luke records a similar incident in Acts 6 ... When ... the apostles ... (had to appoint) deacons (to take over) the administration of the church ... (so they could focus on) ... their original calling (of continual) prayer and to the ministry of the word." (Acts 6:4)

(Their willingness to) receive the wisdom of the Holy Spirit (caused) them to delegate their authority to others (and) thereby (allow) for unlimited growth."

"I noticed that in several places in Acts, the disciples met in large and small groups.  The following are some quotes from Acts and Romans that opened my eyes to the validity of the cell system:

 "And they, continuing daily  with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart ... And the Lord added to the church daily  ..." Acts 2:46-47

Pastor Cho also quotes Acts 5:42, 20:20 and Romans 16:5, and then states that: 

"These and other scriptures gave me the direction I needed.  Since then, our cell system has grown to ... over thirty thousand cells in our church. ...  (Their) meetings consist of five to ten families.  They meet in homes, which (are) convenient for evening meetings and women's meetings, schools, which is best for our student cells; factories,  for our worker's ... meetings; (and) they also ... meet in a room of a restaurant, which is good for businessmen's meetings.  (They) ... are our church in action ... (and even though we still conduct services at our) large building ... our church is really meeting in thousands of locations ... in our area." 

" ...  the members pray for each other's needs.  The cell leader visits them when they get sick and prays for their healing.  Our people ... pray over everything."  pp. 85-88
 

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


On Lukewarm Christians

In his book Crazy Love, Francis Chan says the following with regard to Lukewarm Christians:

"Lukewarm people attend church fairly regularly. It is what is expected of them, and they believe 'good Christians' do, so they go." p. 68

"Lukewarm people gauge their morality or 'goodness' by comparing themselves to the secular world.  They feel satisfied that while they aren't as hardcore for Jesus as so and so, they are nowhere as horrible as the guy down the street.

"The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men -- robbers, evildoers, adulterers -- or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get"  Luke 18:11-12

"Lukewarm  people say they love Jesus, and  He is, indeed, a part of their lives.  But only a part.  They give Him a section of their time, their money, and their thoughts, but  He isn't allowed to control their lives."   p. 72  

See also the Western Secularized Church

 

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Tithing vs Giving Yourself 

Is your pastor more likely to preach on Malachi 3:10: with regard to tithing to the church, or Malachi 3:18 on dedicating your life in service to the Lord?   

Mal. 3:18 says that:  “… the Lord makes a distinction between those who serve Him and those who do not serve Him.”  Jesus taught on this as well.  For example in John 12:26 He said, “He who serves Me, My Father will honor,” and in Matthew 9:9 He said, "Follow Me."   Is this not what  serving God and Jesus is all about? 

This is stressed even more in Mark 8:34-38 in taking up one’s cross and following the Lord wherever He leads.  And in Luke 18:28-30 we are told that God and His kingdom are (supposed to be) more important than our own family, wife, children and possessions -- especially if, or when, they come between us and our relationship with the Lord, or get in the way of fulfilling God's call on our lives.  This was made even more clear by the apostle Paul in I Cor. 7:29 where he said:

"But this I say, brethren, the time has been shortened, so that from now on those who have wives should be as though they had none ..."  See also What will it be Like?

Matthew 25:14-30 and I Peter 1:17-25 also tell us to make the most of our time, talents, and money to promote God’s kingdom during our short time on earth -- as opposed to building bigger barns to store up our worldly goods: Luke 12:13-21.  See also Luke 14:33 ... and think about what Jesus actually said: and whether or not it is a MAJOR thing that holds many Christians (and whole churches) back from being (and doing) what they can (and ALL they can) to make the world a better place.       

Is God more interested in our “service” or our tithes?  If tithes, then why did God bother to give us a "Spiritual Gift" when we got saved?   If service, then are you using your gifts to serve others?  Does your church emphasize getting involved in service to God -- even if your gift is to serve outside the church and make the world a better place to live?  

If the church you attend is meeting your needs, has a place for you to serve, and/or is meeting the needs of the poor and ministering to the community, then give your money to that church.  However we think it is time for churches to de-emphasize tithing and emphasize getting people involved in using their gifts: and that God wants more of your life than just a tenth of your money and Sunday morning.  Several ways to do this are as follows: 

1.  Put an offering box on the back wall, or hallway, or the foyer, and stop passing them around each Sunday.  Let the people know where you have placed it.

2.  Take an inventory of the people in your church: both their assets and talents, or anything they want to offer in service to the saints (who are in the church) -- and to people who are outside the church.  For example, wealthy people may wish to open up their home for food and fellowship after church on Sunday afternoons, and/or also during the week.  Other people may wish to open up their homes to the homeless, and/or needy for coffee, tea, smoothies, etc. one or more days a week -- for fellowship, friendship, or a listening ear, etc., while others may want to offer their personal skills to people in the church: either for free, or at a discount.  

3. Others may be able to put people to work, teach them a skill, or simply lend a helping hand  to serve the saints during the week.  For example, many people could easily give rides during the week to people who don't have cars, or who don't drive.  This includes retired people, the disabled and/or people who are unemployed or not working at this time. 

Why should we give a tenth of our income to a church that is not meeting our needs for a deeper – and deeper / growing – relationship with God?  Because of a sermon on Sunday morning, or because we got to sing a few songs (at church) with the saints and attend a mid-week Bible study? 

In this regard, does the church have a place where you, or anyone else, can go to – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week – for fellowship, friendship, and/or where you can ask questions and get plugged in to serve, or to go out "into the highways and hedges"  (i.e. among the homeless, lonely, and oppressed) ... and to compel them to come into a home (perhaps) while opening up their hearts to Jesus: Luke 14:16-26.

In our opinion, the only type of church that is worth tithing to is one that takes care of the needs of its own: meaning that there are no people in its midst who are either in need of a job, or living in their car or on the street, or who need someone to listen to them, or find them a place where they can serve the body of Christ.  

When speaking on the subject of Tithing, Joyce Meyer stated the following: 

"That just amazes me, because they didn't just give their money, but they gave themselves.  

I wonder how many of us are willing to write our name down and stick that in the offering plate.  Romans 12:1 says we should offer all of ourselves as a sacrifice to God.

This means living for God outside of church.  It means being willing to give money, but it also means being ready to love anyone God brings across your path.  It means being willing to use any resource you have for His kingdom." 

Excerpted from Day 268 of her Daily Devotional Guide, Promises for your Everyday Life.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On Condemning others

In Luke 6:37, Jesus sternly warned us not to condemn, yet in spite of this we have noticed that it is not uncommon for Christians to condemn Jehovah's witnesses as having a false gospel.  In this regard, we are not saying that Jehovah's witnesses are "saved," or "born again," but simply point out that Jehovah's Witnesses actually do what Jesus told His followers to do in Luke 14:21-23: i.e. to "Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame."  And while the JW's take this command very seriously, many Christians have never gone door to door, or even out in public -- much less to the "back streets" to share their faith.  And in this regard, it is quite common that -- after attending "church" -- many Christians feel as if THAT was their duty to God for the week and then (when it's over) they rush back home to  their families, or back to their TV or video games: rather than talk about or do something to reach their neighborhoods for Christ: or to support local brothers and sisters (in Christ) who have a burden to do so: but simply don't have the resources.  

In this regard, many American Christians are more interested in giving handouts to Radio and TV preachers and to support "foreign" missionaries, than in making an attempt to help and or reach their own communities for Christ.

Note: we realize that Jehovah's Witnesses are preaching false doctrine.  For example, although they often assert that Jesus isn't God, nor ever was God, nor equal to God, which the Bible clearly teaches that He is and was worshipped as God (Matt. 14:33), however, it is not our job to condemn them.  And in this regard, we have found that JW's will often "listen to us" when we talk to them (I John 4:6), that they read and study their Bibles more than most church-going Christians (I Pet. 2:1-2), have open services (I Cor. 14:26-31) and that in many ways are more "set apart" than many (professing) "Christians"  (Rev. 18:4, 2 Tim. 2:19).

Note: We felt that it was important to put the above statements in this article because in many ways the Jehovah's Witnesses are a better example of a commitment to promote their beliefs, or  version, of the kingdom of Jehovah -- than many Christians.  In this regard, it can be said that many churches are more interested in promoting their church (or cause) than the kingdom of God.

See also Is Jesus God?

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On Unpopular Scriptures and Former Dads
... and Warning the Flock about Wolves 

Contrary to popular belief, there are many divorced fathers who wanted to remain involved with their children -- during and after divorce, but were FORCED OUT of their lives by mom and the family court's cohort of professional liars and thieves: and we say this from our own personal experience with how we were treated by America's (so called) "Family Courts."

Although Jesus spoke of leaving one's house, family, wives, and children for the kingdom of God (Matt. 19:28-29; Mark 10:28-31; Luke 18:28-30) and of making one's commitment to God and His kingdom above commitment to one's family (Matt. 10:34-39; Mark 8:34-38; Luke 14:20), and the apostle Paul also spoke of "forgetting what lies behind, and pressing on to what lies ahead ..."  (Phil. 3:11-12), this would simply mean that when family comes between you and your walk with the Lord, that the Lord comes first.  However, this does not mean we should remain silent about the anti-father culture of the end times, and the governments that are using children to generate income: even like the ancient Israelites were doing -- or so the scriptures say. 

When mentioning deadbeat or 'missing' dads, we have noticed that it is almost never also mentioned what the child's (or children's) mother and/or the court's officials may have done to discourage fathers from spending time with their children: such as telling him to get out -- not only of the house but -- of his children’s lives, or forcing him to pay money (to professional liars and thieves) to see or spend time with his kids.  In the case of one of the authors of this article, the Family Courts made $120,000 from his own child and the 5.5 year custody battle that took place: via almost endless harassment, and court and attorney fees ...  and the ONLY reason they didn't make MORE was because dad was out of money and NOT willing to keep playing court games -- after having seen first-hand what court officials and (private) social workers are ALL ABOUT. 

In this regard, we have noted that -- to our knowledge -- the only Christian leaders to speak out on the corrupt Child-Traffic (so-called) "Family Courts" that exist in  North America and Europe are Phyllis Schlaffly and Professor Stephen Baskerville.  This also applies to Focus on the Family and even the 12-week long Divorce Care classes that are sponsored by many large churches.  

In fact, when discussing divorce, it is rarely, if ever, mentioned what our Lord said in Luke 14:20 or 18:28-30 with regard to fathers who “left everything” for the cause of the gospel: including houses, wives and even children to follow the Lord.  See also Psalm 34:3 and I Cor. 7:29. 

When discussing missing fathers, is your pastor more likely to mention reconciliation with the children, or a Replacement Dad Philosophy?  Applicable End Time Scriptures are Malachi 4:1-6, Joel 3:3 and Revelation 18:11-13 (esp. vs 13, or "slaves" and "human lives").

Solution #1: Acknowledge that many Dads did NOT abandon their children, but rather had them taken away by corrupt courts and/or angry or malicious moms. Applicable Scriptures are: Mal. 4:1-6; Joel 3:3; Isa. 58:1-12, Luke 14:16-20 and 18:28-30. As a result many "would-be-fathers" are now "former Dads."  And to date, the media and the church as a whole has barely even addressed this issue: if even acknowledged it (?).

Solution #2: Start Former Dad support Groups and acknowledge that many fathers in America and Europe were literally Forced out of their children's lives.  This was also made evident from Dr. Sanford Braver in a book he wrote called "Divorced Dads."  In this regard, Dr. Braver was the first researcher to interview BOTH the moms and dads who were going through a divorce.

Solution #3: Ask if there is anything that the church can do to try to reconcile former dads with their children.  This may involve calling mom on the phone and/or sending someone to speak with her and intervene --- according to I Cor. 6:1-8. It also may involve warning parents about what they can expect if they seek justice from our courts.  

See also What God thinks of Using Kids to get Rich 

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On Heavy Yokes

In Isaiah 58 we are told to "break every yoke," and in Matthew 11:28-30 Jesus said the following:

"Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you shall find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy and My load is light."

On a practical level this means that when you are in the center of God's will, you will not only have peace, but rest, and the things that you do for God will not seem like a burden but rather joyful.  So if  your energy level drops as you head to church, or think about going, then something is wrong.  It could be that you are not using your spiritual gift that God gave you to serve His people: Eph. 4:11-13.  This may be because the leadership in your church doesn't allow for people with your gift to use it, or perhaps because God wants to use you elsewhere: such as outside the confines of a church.  Jesus said that we are to follow Him.  So if your pastor or church leaders get in the way of doing God's will, or don't encourage or allow you to use your gift, then perhaps it is time for you to find another church, or to begin serving outside of it.   In this regard, note that the 144,000 "bond servants" of Christ "follow the Lamb wherever He goes ... (Rev. 14:4).  See also Matt. 9:9 and Mark 3:31-35

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On Putting God to the Test

In regard to giving oneself to meet the needs of the "homeless poor," speaking up for the oppressed, and "breaking every yoke" (of oppression, lies, etc.), God made promises that in our opinion are very similar to that found in Malachi. 3:10 with regard to giving (or tithing) ones income to God's kingdom.  They are from Isaiah 58 and include the following: 

1. Your light will break out like the dawn
2. Your recovery will ... spring forth
3. God will make your good deeds (or righteousness) evident
4. God will divinely protect you and "be your rear guard."
5. God will quickly answer your prayers
6. God will "continually guide you, ..." and
7. Satisfy  your deep inner desires and strengthen you.
8. God will also use you to restore safety to the streets.

The passage ends with the prophet saying, "For the mouth of the Lord has spoken" vs. 14.  This is the equivalent of saying something like "Test Me now in this," that we get from Malachi 3:10:  yet for some reason, these verses are rarely preached on.  Perhaps that's because it will cost More than just a 10th of one's income to achieve: Matt. 9:9; Mark 8:34-38.

"For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich."  2 Cor. 8:9  NASB

 

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On Violent Entertainment

Does your pastor ever discuss the danger of simply watching TV, worldly movies, and/or playing video games: simply because of the violence that is depicted in them?  If not, then he is not doing his job to warn the flock to not be polluted by the world and its evil desires.  One reason we bring this up is because we've noticed that many Christians watch violent forms of entertainment (that depicts all sorts of evil -- including murder) as if there is nothing wrong with doing so; however, according to the Scriptures below, God does NOT approve of those who like looking at evil: Ps. 11:5, Isa. 33:13-16; 2 Cor. 6:14-7:1; I John 2:15-18, and Rev. 18:4.

For example, Psalm 11:5 says that God "hates those who love violence," and Isaiah 33:14-16 says that:

"Sinners in Zion are terrified: trembling has seized the godless, 'Who among us can live with the consuming fire?  Who among us can live with continual burning?'  He who walks righteously, and speaks with sincerity, He who rejects unjust gain, and shakes his hands so that they hold no bribe;  He who stops his ears from hearing about bloodshed, and shuts his eyes from looking upon evil;  He will dwell on the heights; His refuge will be the impregnable rock;  His bread will be given him; His water will be sure."   NASB

In this regard, the apostle Paul instructed us to focus our attention "on things above, and not on the things of this world ..."   Col. 3:1-4.  See also Philippians 4:6-8, where we are told to:

"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, that surpasses ... comprehension, shall guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is ... anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things."

Note that the TV and movie industry DOES NOT agree with what God says -- nor are they in submission to God -- but instead would have us constantly seeing, and/or dwelling on murder, kidnapping, rape, violence, sex, drugs, crashing cars, and on anything goes -- get it while you can -- philosophy of me, my family, and ALL we can accumulate. 

We are also told in Deut. 5:7 to "have no other gods" before the true God.  So if we spend more time being entertained by the world than thinking about God, talking to Him, serving Him and doing His will, or reading and/or meditating on His word, then it's likely that whatever is taking up so much of our time, may have come between us and (the relationship we could be having with) our Maker. 


 --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On Porn and other Stumbling Blocks

According to the following verses, a follower of Christ needs to make a serious effort to "clean house," and stop sinning: Rom. 6:12; I Cor. 15:34; 2 Cor. 7:1; 12:21; James 1:27; Heb. 12:1; I Tim. 5:22; and Jude 24So if your computer, TV,  DVD, Smart Phone, etc. causes you to sin, then we can say with near certainty that the Lord probably doesn't approve of it: meaning He would want us to get rid of it.  This also means not looking at pornography, and/or listening to sexual connotations, or watching sex scenes on TV and/or in movies: and especially if doing so causes you to stumble in or with sin -- or to lose your peace with God: Jude 24, Col 3:15. 

Whether we all attain this level of commitment and walk with the Lord is dependent on our striving to do so -- and according to the verses above, it is both possible: and something we should strive for.  Note also that in regard to this type of sinless walk we are told that our Lord's prayers were always answered, not just because of who He is but also because of His piety (or holiness): Hebrews 5:7. 

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

If the Church becomes a Family

In an attempt to micromanage "their" own churches, many pastors have exalted themselves and stifled the flock, hindered their spiritual growth, and chased off many who otherwise could have served there: if only they had been allowed to use their gifts.  So with that said, what would a (so-called) "perfect" church look like?  To which we can only offer up a general guide and state that it would be something between the Twelve Tribes and a vibrant AA group (otherwise known as Alcoholics Anonymous), or in other words, a "Jesified" AA  or a Twelve Tribes Community without the false doctrine and condemning spirit that they exhibit toward other Christians. 

For example, the Tribes have become experts at putting homeless people to work and making them feel like they have a family that Loves them and cares about them.  They also home school their kids, don't watch TV, and allow their members to participate in their twice daily open services.

And, for those who don't know, Alcoholics Anonymous meetings are, for the most part, open meetings.  In addition, their members, and visitors can attend meetings every day, and in many cases, 3-4 times a day, or more -- all week long.
  And because members are encouraged to share their lives with each other and to participate, they are much more like a family than about 98 to 99  percent of American churches.  See also Isa. 58:6-10, Matt. 19:27-30, 10:35-42 and Luke 14:15-23   

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On China and the Emergent Church


A founder of the "Emergent Church" movement talks about how the church in China grew from about two million Christians (in 1957) to 60 million in less than 20 years.  This took place during time when all foreign missionaries were deported.  It was also a period when Christian leaders had to work Underground, since their buildings and assets were taken over by communists.  This took place from 1957 to 1975, during the Vietnam war, when approximately 60-70 million Chinese were either arrested or murdered by the communists: most of whom were Christians or Buddhists.    

In other words, the Chinese church multiplied (at least) 30-fold during a time when there were no pastors, no church buildings, no worship teams, and when few Christians (if not whole churches) even had a single bible.   

To learn more, see The Forgotten Ways by Alan Hirsch

 

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Summary

Isaiah 1:10-17; 58:1-14; 59:1-15 and many other Scriptures tell us that God is not fooled by our religious meetings, or how many of them we have, or even how long they are, nor in how much we pray or read our Bibles, etc.  And that if our knowledge of God doesn’t move us to action, then we have become what Jesus warned not to be: i.e. tasteless salt that is good for nothing except to be trampled on by men: Matt. :5:13.  In this regard, the apostle James said that we are “to be doers of the word, and not hearers only ...”  James 1:22  

It’s time for pastors to get themselves, and/or their pride, out of the way, and STOP hindering the flow of the Holy Spirit.  The people who attend your church belong to the Lord.  Your primary job is to make disciples and teach the people how to evangelize their neighborhood, town, and community.  Therefore, if you have people with the gift of evangelism in your midst, or your town, are you seeking them out or doing anything to assist them?  In essence, it is time to send your, or rather the Lord's people out and stop trying to micromanage them and what the Holy Spirit wants to do through us.  The following suggestions are intended to create an atmosphere where the Holy Spirit’s work will manifest more fully in the lives of the people.

1.  Shorter sermons and open up Sunday --  and other -- services to the Holy Spirit: and for other people in your midst to come up and share what the Lord is doing in their lives.

2.  If there is an evangelist in your midst, or in your area, ask him, or her to share how the Lord is using them, and to teach, or help to teach a class on this topic: Ephesians 4:11-16.  In fact, we think it is time the church start employing such people, and/or to do more to encourage and support a gift that is listed before the pastor-teacher, yet is treated by most churches as if it doesn’t exist.

3.  Open up the microphone to the congregation and allow them to share what God is doing in their lives, or for questions, or for spontaneous praise and worship. 

4. Allow people who have creative abilities of all sorts to use their gifts: including those who are gifted as artists, computer gurus and geeks, painters, writers, web-designers, graphic design, actors, sculptors, auto mechanics, baby sitters, etc. 

Perhaps it's time for us to be the church and not just attend it?  Isaiah 2:12-17, Jer. 22:13-22.


See also: 
  The Forgotten Ways
Return of the First Church
Crazy Love and  The Forgotten God 
See also The Rope and the Balance Beam 
So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore 
What is Wrong with a Pre-Tribulation Rapture ??? 
Homeless man Sleeps on Bus Stop Bench for Five Years
 


Questions and Comments

www.earthage.org