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Well, I had thought I should avoid jumping in here first every time and taking advantage of being further east than most, but Mike's questions about church are very close to our experience in the last couple of years.

Jesus said: "and on this rock I will build my church," Mat 16:18. HE will build. It was not an assignment to us to build. But that is, in my perception, what we have done. Following in the footsteps of the Pharisees and Sadducees we have set up organizations, traditions, rules, regulations, power structures, hierarchies and a great field for all sorts of political games.

It is curious that Mike uses the word 'instituted' in his question based on Mat 16:18. Is that what Jesus intended? I started to break with the institutionalised church more than a year ago. Others followed us and we have started gathering informally on Sundays. Some of my progress is charted at
http://isthistheway.typepad.com/my_weblog/2005/05/freed_from_chur.html
http://isthistheway.typepad.com/my_weblog/2005/06/at_a_crossroads.html
http://isthistheway.typepad.com/my_weblog/2005/10/extreme_church_.html

So I am very interested to read all YOUR comments in response to Mike question!

Blessings,
Andrew B

Matt 16:8

"And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it."

church: (Gk.) ekklesia - asembly of citizens (members)

Ekklesia only used by Jesus twice in Gospels. The word does not indicate a building or any religious structured system. In a Christian sense it would be "an assembly of believers".

In Israel after Jesus' death, Christians were considered Followers of "The Way". Notice in Pauls confession in Acts 22:4

"I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison..."

When Paul was struck off his horse Christ said: Acts 22:7-8

I fell to the ground and heard a voice say to me, 'Saul! Saul! Why do you persecute me?'" 'Who are you, Lord?' I asked. 'I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting,' he replied.

Paul was not persecuting "the Way" or any "institution" - he was persecuting Christ. Why? Because as believers we are in him and he in us. We are literally the "Body of Christ".

As the "Body of Christ" I believe we should worship in community and fellowship with other believers, but I would prefer to sleep and meditate on my reasons before posting them on this blog.


Exodus 2

Satan's plan,since Cain and Abel,has not changed: kill or corrupt. However, the Devil will never be able to thwart God's plan. As Martin Luther said, "The devil is God's devil."

Sorry, John, you're much too narrowly focused. Allow others to express their honest and valid comments/opinions. To be a Christian means to be accepting of others regardless...even if they differ with the way we look at things.

I attend a church, a “mega-church” and it was not that way when I began, it was large but now it is tremendous. One of the things I’ve learned attending a 25,000 plus body is this: A crowd doesn’t make a congregation.

Like John, I am a “lot” cautious when it comes to the Body of Christ and for those who are new to the OYB Blog this year and have not heard my story, I’m cautious because I experienced tremendous abuse in my homes (foster and birth) and thus the churches that I went to while in those homes. That abuse kept me out of churches, any kind of church no matter the function, for a little over twenty years and a “Knocked” God off (killed Him), as if that can be done, during that time period. So I am probably a little more critical of the body of Christ than many and I will confront abusive behavior when I see it, or think I see it, in my church by challenging those on staff who are abusive.

One of the reasons I just love this sight and am so appreciative of what Mike is doing is because he is encouraging people to read the Word. If we know the Word, and by that I mean have an ongoing relationship with the Word, then we are less likely to find ourselves in an abusive church because after all the church is made up of folks and thus is the sum total of everyone and their experiences. The two churches I attended, as a child did not encourage any kind of Bible reading except if it was the passages they told you to read. Funny, I was given a Bible as a child for memorizing scripture, which I really didn’t understand, and when I began to read the Bible that was given me and started asking questions, I was immediately shut-down by these words, “You haven’t been to seminary so you are not qualified to read the Bible.”

Living in a Borough of New York City, Brooklyn, that has the nickname, Borough of Churches, I think the church is on life support, at least in these parts. No Word, led by emotions and traditions that are not found anywhere in the Bible and what is most important, very few changed lives.

Grace and peace,
Ramona

Thanks for opening up this dialogue Mike regarding the church, what it is, what it isn't? Is it a 'place I go to" which you imply or is it a 'gathering'? Frankly, I don't know if there is a right answer or 'perfect model'. I have served as a parachurch worker and pastor for 25 years and I have been in 'building oriented churches' and I have been in 'house/home churches' and I have also been in parachurches. It's too bad that some feel the need to have to come down hard on the boundaries.
I think that we often are very harsh towards people who don't share a similar view to us. I know i have been. I think that's called 'ethnocentricity'. Seeing things from my own perspective.
I have seeen carnality and abuse of authority in less organized expressions of the body of Christ as I have in the 'corporate CEO' models. I believe God honours those who honour Him regardless of the form of church one prefers to participate in. Operative word here is 'prefers'. Isn't it true that we choose our church expression based on our preferences? I've often wondered, what is a biblical church? Is what we see in Acts 2:42 and following the model for the true church? If it is why isn't it repeated elsewhere in the epistles? Perhaps what we see in ACts 2 is less prescriptive and more descriptive of what could happen when believers come together?

If one thinks of the church a place you 'go to' then I think that kind of defeats the imagery of what Jesus gave us in Matthew 16. He said, "I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it." NOtice it is Satan who has the 'gates/the walls'. The picture I have of the church is that it is a moving force or in the words of erwin McManus the church is an Unstoppable Force for good. I think this vision can be upheld in home style churches, in denominational style churches who have all the bells and whistles, in cathedral like churches, and in no name churches like the one I am a participant in.
Two books that have served me well in my thinking are Church without Walls by JIm Petersen, and The Shaping of things to come by two australian missilogists Frost and Hirsch. Barna's latest book Revolutionaries is an attempt to show that there are upwards of 20 million plus north americans who have ventured out to be the church not so they can be anti church but so they can be the church, and so more importantly, they can preserve their faith which many indicate they were losing in their previous parish experiences.

It's interesting that those who are resisting the new movements of church expressions are those who would hold to a particular ecclesiological or model of church that has to have a pulpit, a certain church governance, sacraments, and so fort, but people who want to experience the bride of Christ are saying there's more and we want to experience what Jesus had in mind for the bride of Christ.

I think we should bless all efforts that people make to discover what church will and can mean to them rather than imposing any one form because in the end so much of what we argue over is our particular form, isn't it?? Let's see that we are one body and there are many legitimate expressions of it.

The church is so important to God and it's messy because it's made up of a bunch of sinners, including me. At yet it's my family, and so I belong and I go regularly to be with them. This way I don't get too narrowly focused on myself and my immediate earthly family. I also have the privilege of worshiping God with people who love Him, too. The people of God will be together for eternity, so I might as well spend time with them now bringing glory to God together.

Charles Spurgeon:

"I know there are some who say, 'Well, I have given myself to the Lord, but I do not intend to give myself to any church.'"

"Now, why not?"

"Because I can be a Christian without it."

"Are you quite clear about that? You can be as good a Christian by disobedience to your Lord's command as by being obedient? There is a brick. What is it made for? To help build a house. It is of no use for that brick to tell you that it is just as good a brick while it is kicking about on the ground as it would be in the house. It is a good-for-nothing brick. So you rolling-stone Christians, I do not believe that you are answering your purpose. You are living contrary to the life which Christ would have you live, and you are much to blame for the injury you do."

Why?
Sin: Living on our own, it is much easier to fall into the temptation of sin. Good fellowship/community keeps us accountable. Heb 3:12-13

Obediance: Church membership is implied and taught by example in N.T. by Jesus and Paul. Matt 18:15-17, 1Cor5:12, Gal 6:10

Christian Purpose: There are so many things a Chrisitan is called to do. It seems reasonable to pool resources, best utilize talents, and be organized in some kind of group format. That is the Church.

"The church was on his heart in his work of creation (Eph. 3:9–11). The church was on his heart in his work of salvation (Matt. 16:18; Eph. 5:25). The church was promised his special presence (Heb. 2:12; Matt. 18:20). If the church is so important to the Lord, shouldn’t it be important to everyone who loves the Lord? How can you love the Lord and at the same time steer clear of that which the Lord loves? Doesn’t this imply that every believer should openly identify with Christ’s church?" - New Horizons 2003

"Sorry, John, you're much too narrowly focused. Allow others to express their honest and valid comments/opinions. To be a Christian means to be accepting of others regardless...even if they differ with the way we look at things."

Could the poster please elaborate on why John is too narrowly focused in his view of the church and how he is disallowing other valid opinions and comments? What am I missing in this exchange? I have read through John's comments a couple of times and just can't make the connection. Thanks!


I'm joining a church the 30th of January. I'm 58 years old and this is the first church I've ever felt like joining. I know ther is a lot of good churches out there but this is the first I've felt in my heart was my church home. I feel so much love in this church and I serve in this church. I want to make people feel the love that is in this church. This is my first time reading through the bible in a year. I all ready feel so blessed by it.

I am one who would be happy holed up in my cave reading the Bible, commentaries, listening to CD's on Bible, etc.

But as outlined in above post: I beleive Chrisitans are called to be in community/fellowship with one another. Home church to mega-church is not the issue. Search for what God is leading you to in this life.

There is no perfect church that I have found :) I looked for a Bible Teaching Church with a strong outreach (missions) program. Local and overseas. The rest will fall into place. At first I loved and respected my pastors, but was uncomfortable with other Christians. Then slowly one by one, I have connected with more and more people in my church, and gotten involved in outreaches.

It has been slow, but I think only salvation is fast. My involvement in church may be laborious, but it is a rocket-ride compared to the growth of the original apostles (pre-crucifixion). :)

"Could the poster please elaborate on why John is too narrowly focused in his view of the church and how he is disallowing other valid opinions and comments? What am I missing in this exchange? I have read through John's comments a couple of times and just can't make the connection. Thanks!"

Maybe I am posting too much. Sometimes, because I am new to Christianity, I bubble over with all these little discoveries I run across. I will try to be more judicious in my postings in the future.

Shirly P--I wonder if God allows us to fall out of "love" with His church to remove us from what is causing us distress. Then when we run into a wall and begin looking again, this time we look for Truth, we will see the God that was hidden behind a lot of smoke and mirrors. Just something to think and wonder about.

Like John I too had my '
"issues" with attending church..my fellowship leader was really getting personal,said I was too spiritual(i was a new christian)..but I loved God with all my heart and truly wanted to get to know him but I just really didn't understand how to read the bible or get answers to my questions.Well I believe we all go through things for a reason...I'm sure there were israelites who were born into slavery and died slaves in Egypt not understanding God's purpose or finding it hard to believe in his promise.
In spite of all tha bad experience in church...I did pick up some good lessons(even though the people who taught me did the opposite thing).I believe that church is essential especially to young believers so they can see that we're not all perfect but still struggling with our different crosses(bad habits,character,etc).As we grow in Christ we should be able to feed more from the word and even as we point fingers at members of our church,pastors, check our own lives and be there to encourage young believers from our experiences(testimonies)and our walk with God.
I pray we all learn to love each other....just as we are.
God bless you all

Re John's focus:

I thought his focus was fine. If it is "too narrow", maybe some one could explain.

Don't stop posting John!

Chip Bennet,
I asked myself the same question as you did on blog re: cross.

Below is one commentator's interpretation:

16:24 Now the Lord Jesus plainly states what is involved in being His disciple: denial of self, cross-bearing, and following Him. To deny self is not the same as self-denial; it means to yield to His control so completely that self has no rights whatever. To take up the cross means the willingness to endure shame, suffering, and perhaps martyrdom for His sake; to die to sin, self, and the world. To follow Him means to live as He lived with all that involves of humility, poverty, compassion, love, grace, and every other godly virtue.
MacDonald, W., & Farstad, A. 1997, c1995. Believer's Bible Commentary : Old and New Testaments . Thomas Nelson: Nashville

Genesis 50:1 - Exodus 2:10

All day I couldn’t get out of my mind what would it have felt like to grow up in a country that you are a stranger in? Even though you were born there and possibly died there, you were still a stranger in the land... Clustered in a designated part of the country, you keep your customs, your language and your belief system. Yes, a few might venture off into the other part of the land and may even assimilate into the predominant culture, but most are grouped together within the same community unchanged for hundreds of years. Imagine being a stranger in the land of your birth. Imagine having to be removed from your promise in order to maintain your identity to receive that promise.

Israel/Jacob is called the church in the wilderness (Acts 7:38), the called out ones, the ek-klay-see'-ah. The church was called out to be in the world but not of or apart of the world.

What happened to Israel back in the day, is what we are experiencing in this day. We are the called ones, the ones given the promise yet separated from that promise while we mature in becoming Christ like. We are strangers in a strange land given a mandate to separate, not isolated, from the world. While strangers in a strange land we are to be to those we live amongst, a peculiar people, a royal priesthood, a chosen people (1 Peter 2:9).

The pressure and resentment those who are born in a country where they are estranged, “aliens,” to assimilate is undeniably strong. Just think of how nuts people who live in the United States get when they think that a group of people are not becoming “American” enough for their taste. We cry out for closed borders, we demand that these immigrants/aliens get on board, learn the language, and stop consuming “our government programs,” without contributing anything to society and the tax roles. Think about it, that more than likely was spewed out on Israel while she grew to be a mighty number in Egypt. Do you think they might have had a “Egyptian” only cry when creating directional signs and such like?


The same pressures exerted on Israel to confirm, the same pressure we in the United States exert on the foreign born, even when they are born here to confirm is the same pressure Believers are met with while trying to keep on the path God has predestined all those that call on His name to walk.

Israel, the church in the wilderness: what things can we learn from her, what “type” and “shadow” can we find in her that we can relate to the messed up churches we find ourselves attending?

Grace and peace,
Ramona

John,

Thanks for the insight... gives me some thoughts, but I think I'll sleep on them!

p.s. "Bennett" :)

On the cross showing Jesus,the many members one body. Where are the Black,Brown,Red,and Yellow faces in that cross? The Lord wants His people to come together as one body with many members. Amen

I agree Joyce. Take a look at today's posting - Jan 27 - and you'll see 2 pictures from churches that capture more of the beautiful diversity of the body of Christ. Grace, Mike

Joyce-Any picture or collage, piece of art, be it a sculpture or painting, is a reflection of the artist and the viewer of that piece brings into their observation what they see and what they have experienced.

By your comments, are you making a statement or an observation? Are you saying that Mike is making a statement because of what you see or fail to see in the picture he used? Although I haven’t met Mike personally, I have journeyed through the One-Year-Bible Blog for a little over a year and during the previous year many times I was the only one posting. I’m saying that because I am a “black” woman and I have never taken offence at any of the pictures he has used. In fact I have even supplied pictures (landscapes/seascapes fresco’s from the walls of a church from my vacations) for him to use or not use if he so desires.

I am grateful and thankful for this Blog, and remember it is Mike’s Blog. He receives no payment from us to sustain it nor is he part of a Non-Profit that sustains it, at least I think not. He is doing this because he believes he is led by God to do this. Mike has a full time job outside of this endeavor, as probably many others on this site. (I happened to be home merrily typing away because I am waiting for someone to come fix my apartment door, so I’m not at work).

Remember assumption is the lowest form of communication. If you have discussed your concern about the “cross” he used off-line, then I have stepped way over the line. However, if not please learn to temper judgment before you know anything about a person.

I will now step down from my soap box.

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