The Call to Be the Body of Christ, Rather Than To “Attend” Something
It has become more and more obvious to God’s Chosen, worldwide, that the typical expression of what is known as “church” has been influenced by the enemy, and through worldly culture. Our understanding and expression of “church,” in generation after generation, around the world has been led down a Machiavellian path of shallowness, pride, greed, lukewarmness, worldliness, and Ishmaelic infrastructure. In the institutions of today, the quality of the sermons and teaching is sometimes good. I hesitate, after visiting many hundreds of “services” of every conceivable denomination and “non-denomination,” to say that “most” teaching in these assemblies is Truth-filled. But, certainly some of it is quite good. Sometimes the “worship time” is “encouraging” or “inspiring.” We need to add, though, that accomplishing this has often required Spiritual prostitution to acquire “talented” musicians to “lead”—in spite of the fact that they may have little or no real relationship with Jesus. Their unregeneracy, or worldly life is often overlooked in order to accomplish our desired end of a wonderful worship experience to attract larger numbers. Frequently the “programs” of modern religious assemblies have targeted “worthy” objectives, such as feeding hungry unbelievers, building homes in Nicaragua, or distributing tracts to passers-by in an urban area. Many groups have a formidable number of creative efforts ongoing, many or most of which may be good things to be involved in. And yet…
And yet the quality of DAILY LIFE of people in these organizations is what it’s all about. THIS is the TRUE measurement of how much of what is going on is really of Jesus. The lack of the daily application of the Word of God, by the Priesthood of Believers with one another, is cataclysmic. In most religious assemblies, only the 5-10% “committed nucleus” (a number offered by many “pastors” as the norm) even TRIES to be involved in each other’s lives on a visible daily basis as Jesus commands, and demonstrated. And this number is still fairly accurate, even with the “cell group” programs that have sprung up everywhere as an acknowledgment of this crisis. Even within these cell groups, the stories of surprise suicides, rampant concealed pornography, love of the world, gossip, unforgiveness, pride, ambition, and general shallowness are legion. Simply changing the size of the group, “assigning” a less experienced leader, and trading the religious facility and seating for a home and a sofa…doesn’t change its DNA.
By the way, running away from “institutional religion” so that “you don’t have to answer to anyone but GOD!” is usually a deception as well. Caution and wisdom, and learning God’s Ways are in order here. You cannot just run out and “start a group” (the way men typically do such things) and expect to find much more than heartache, confusion, division, and a colossal waste of time and emotion. Ask most of those that have tried it! Let’s proceed carefully with such delicate and Holy matters as Jesus’ Church!
Laying down their lives for one another, being involved in the homes and work places, sharing in the children’s lives together, living in vulnerability, “confessing sins one to another,” “bearing one another’s burdens and so fulfilling the Law of Christ,” the mutual Life and dependency and Priesthood of 1 Corinthians 12-13…these are almost unheard of as a description of an entire congregation of Believers. And such a congregation, Biblical and mandatory as it might be to live this way, would be viewed with suspicion and called names. Yet, the rampant lukewarmness and leaven amongst the general population of most congregations is forbidden by God. It is only “preached to”—rather than resolved. The insanity of deception and worldliness amongst the teenagers of these organizations is beyond words. I could refer you to folks from any number of the most highly-respected congregations anywhere that have been totally devastated by what has happened “backstage” at their congregations. All of these tragedies and fatalities, and more, simply say what Jesus said: “You know a tree by its fruit” and “Wisdom is proved Right by her children.”
There is (as hundreds of thousands are now shouting from the mountaintops in every language) something fundamentally wrong with the understanding and expression of “church” as has been so frequently practiced for the last bunch of years!
HOWEVER! This is still worth saying: Though most churches bear precious little resemblance to the Life-filled Church we read of in the Bible (in spite of their good teaching, good worship, and good programs), most who energetically participate in the organizations of today have had only the highest motives all along.
So, why the “wake-up call” now? Why haven’t we seen all of this before? Some in previous generations have, of course. But most of them were martyred, as Jesus predicted. Some were martyred physically, some by slander and libel and politics. Those with something to lose have suppressed God’s prophets in every generation. Why are multitudes in ever-increasing numbers and courage raising their voices as One today? Perhaps, the “Two Witnesses” are ready to stand, and the Bride is sensing that the time of preparation for the Groom is growing short. Perhaps “the Spirit and the Bride,” discerning the Hour to say to Him, “COME!” is drawing near. And still there’s so much lacking in this Preparation!
Too often, we have been hypnotized by the immensity and traditions of the religious world as we’ve known it (“It’s everywhere, and all we’ve ever known!” “Mom and Dad were good folks. They ‘loved the Lord,’ so what’s the problem?”). We’ve been decoyed by men’s religious sentimentalities and emotional devices (“It’s all so nice, so sweet, so moving, so soothing, so fulfilling….”). We’ve allowed ourselves to be threatened and blackmailed into subservience to it. (“You don’t want to oppose GOD, do you? Touch not God’s anointed!”) Sometimes we’ve even been seduced by promises of advancement within it. (“You could be a leader one day! You have a true calling and gift from God! You could have your own ministry one day! Just ‘work from within’ and you can really help us.”) “Pinnacle of the Temple” stuff, for sure.
Yet most of us who have offered our involvement into typical church situations around the world, “staff” or not, have had only the best of interests in serving our resurrected Messiah, Jesus. We have rightfully chosen and attempted to serve Him within a relevant and Biblical expression of His Body, the local visible Church.
The good news: On a level of global magnitude—stuff’s getting better every day. Many everywhere have been awakened by the Holy Spirit to His Call for the Life of Jesus to be lived out DAILY in the local Church, reflecting His Glory and Wisdom and Holiness. Though we get letters literally every day in this season of Awakening, there is undoubtedly far, far more than we could ever be aware of. Even the letters we receive come from a cross section of many countries and languages and cultures, crying out to know about Jesus and the daily Life of His Body in the local Church. I mention this to you for a reason. Many times the letters or telephone calls we receive are moistened with tears. “I’m so happy! I’ve been told my whole life that I’m crazy. I’ve been told that I’m a troublemaker and just looking for perfection that I’ll never find. I should just be content with things as they are, and try to make them better. But I’m not crazy, and God does want to build a VISIBLE Church that lives every day as His Son lived every day!”
He does want a Church that, while not “perfect” of course…still “everyone, from the least to the greatest” loves Him and knows Him and “loves the light!” We mention these other folks out there, because we want you to know that you are not alone, and you are NOT crazy. Or maybe you are crazy like Enoch, like Abraham, like Moses, like Elijah and Jeremiah, like Paul…and like Jesus. So maybe you’re crazy, but you’re not alone.
In Malawi, Africa, a brother and native to Malawi has likened the Call of the Holy Spirit regarding the functioning of Jesus’ Church to this: “David Livingstone brought to Malawi the Good News of Jesus (in 1859). David Livingstone’s Gift to us is like Life-giving Bread in a basket. And now, the Good News of the KINGDOM, and the LIFE of the Body of Christ as a daily Priesthood is giving us another companion Gift. This Gift has given us the ability to truly take the lid off of the basket, take the Bread out of the basket, eat it and be nourished to the full!” Precious insight.
In spite of what we have all been conditioned to accept as “church” for so many, many years, many people now know that the Bride of Jesus must be “making herself ready.” And this real Church is unrelated to sitting in a pew, on a bench, or folding chair, or even in a home or living room. Involvement in a setting constructed and controlled by mere men is still not what God intends. Even if some “amateur talent ‘specials’” are permitted, or some filtered teaching or utterances are allowed in some controlled settings (so that all the “laymen” feel involved), this is not the Real thing—born of, sustained by, and defined by Relationship with Jesus and His Body. A KINGDOM OF PRIESTS, daily LIFE involvement by 100% of the “members” of Jesus’ Body, with one another, breaking down hell’s gates—this is all that will ever satisfy His Heart and fulfill His Prophetic Teachings. And the Valley of Dry Bones, touched by the Wind of the Spirit that brought Jesus Christ back from the dead, shall arise by His Grace and Mercy! I love it. Stuff’s getting better every day.
And so. An inner call of God’s Spirit is precipitating a coming “outside of the camp” to fellowship in His Sufferings and BE His Body—instead of just “studying” about it, or singing about it. DAILY. The Church really becoming the CHURCH! As so many are in a Holy pursuit of His Holy City descending from Above, it is increasingly more important to speak, as Paul did, of “the administration” or the “practical working out” of the “unsearchable riches of Christ” (Eph. 3:8-10). In other words, there are some really practical issues that come up as we move towards being the Church on a daily, interactive, “joined and knit” basis.
They are, of course, mostly irrelevant to those who try to center Christianity around meetings, buildings, hired clergy, and programs. To those religious organizations that have little difficulty or discomfort with known or unknown “leaven in the batch,” there is not much to think about. If someone wishes to move in and “place membership” at such a place, they are always most welcome. At an institutional assembly, the questions are fairly simple. If they’ll “tithe,” have some talents they can offer, and have a commitment to attend regularly, that would nearly universally be sufficient. They would be more than welcome to move and “become a member.” While there are surely many true Christians who are part of these groups, that is not to say that Jesus is happy with those organizations, or that much of anyone will reach their full potential in a place where “a little leaven leavens the WHOLE batch.” Just as Uzzah discovered, when we use the Philistine’s ways to accomplish God’s Purposes, people get hurt and people die. In a Church that is not building God’s Way, even the true Christians will suffer loss. Don’t mistake anything here for saying, “So-and-so can’t be Christians.” We’re not discussing that. This is about how we build. It is shameful that many will never reach their potentials for Jesus because we’ve “tried to grow an orange tree at the North Pole.” It really does matter how we build.
“If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If what he has built is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames” (1 Corinthians 3:12-15).
Now, for those that want to build out of Relationship—rather than org chart hierarchy, programs, gimmicks, human sub-divisions — Philistine Oxcarts, forms, traditions, and calendar-ized times, places, and events…there is much to talk about.