Friday, 28 March 2008

Guns In Church?

Recently there appeared an article in our local newspaper (March 22, 2008) entitled, “Pastor whose church was attacked recommends armed guards.” The article begins by saying, “(Colorado Springs, Colo.) The senior pastor at a megachurch where a gunman killed two teenage sisters before being shot by a church volunteer recommends all churches have armed guards.”

What’s wrong with that story? My first thought was, what in the world was a church volunteer doing carrying a gun to a church service? Granted, the carnage could have been much worse had he not shot and killed the gunman. But do the ends justify the means? Certainly it is sad that anyone gets shot and killed by a deranged madman with a gun, regardless whether it’s in a church or anywhere else for that matter.

What I’m concerned with is the promoting of weapons in general, and armed guards in particular, by church leaders for use in the church facilities. No matter which way one looks at it, I doubt very much that Jesus would have come up with the same proposal to such a problem, even if ten times as many people had been killed.

When Jesus was arrested, certainly the disciples with Him thought they were being attacked. Peter himself even went so far as to draw a sword (probably would have been a gun had the technology existed then) and retaliated by cutting off someone’s ear (John 18:10). Jesus quickly rebuked him for doing that. In the parallel passage in Matthew 26:52, Jesus said, “all who draw the sword will die by the sword.”

In Revelation 2:10, Jesus says to the Church in Smyrna, “Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer…Be faithful even to the point of death.” What is He saying here? Is He suggesting that the believers arm themselves or hire armed guards to protect them if an attack comes? No, He is not. Actually, our Lord isn’t even saying “if” an attack comes; rather He acknowledges that attacks “will” come. Interesting how, knowing that attacks “will” come, still He does not promote any semblance of retaliation by arming the believers. All Jesus did say was “be faithful even to the point of death.” Wow.

The newspaper article in question continued by saying that there was a “forum on church security that drew participants from about 120 Colorado churches.” The article went on to say “Several U.S. churches have been quietly adding armed guards in recent years, while others have avoided the practice because they either don’t have the money or don’t want to appear like a fortress.” However, if churches arm themselves, what else are they saying in doing so? Are they not also essentially saying that they are preparing themselves for retaliation if and/or when attacks come? I believe that they are. Before we go any further, let’s consider a few Scriptures.
Leviticus 19:18. “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbour as yourself. I am the Lord.” 
Proverbs 20:22. “Do not say, ‘I’ll pay you back for this wrong!’ Wait for the Lord and He will deliver you.” 
Proverbs 24:29. “Do not say, ‘I’ll do to him as he has done to me; I’ll pay that man back for what he did.’” 
Matthew 5:39. “But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” 
Romans 12:17. “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody.” 
1 Thessalonians 5:15. “Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else.” 
1 Peter 3:9. “Do not repay anyone evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.”
There are many other Scriptures that also say the same thing, but the point has been made; retaliation is never a part of God’s plan for us. Certainly, like most things in life, that is usually easier said than done. What do we do with deranged madmen who run amuck in our midst? What do we do with maniacal gun-toting murders? I know if someone like that were to harm one of my family members, the carnal side of me would be quick to want to fight back. I suppose we could say that it’s even human nature. However, while that may be my nature to want such a response, it is not God’s nature. God’s nature on such things is pretty clear in the preceding verses. Our carnal side says that we have our rights, including to bear arms, and that we are not going to stand quietly by and be any lunatic’s doormat.

Therein lies the real root of the problem; the constant struggle of living according to the acts of the sinful nature versus living according to the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-26). Guns are only necessary where there is hatred. Hatred is listed among the acts of the sinful nature. The opposite of hatred is love, and where there is love there is also no need for guns. This whole thing strikes me as somewhat ironic in that, while we speak of God as being a God of love, we have those in our midst who essentially want to put a holstered gun on God’s hip! How is that possible? My God is a God of love, who loved me so much that He armed Himself and retaliated at His Son’s crucifixion by blowing the brains out of those who killed Jesus. Is that how the Gospels read? Of course not! It’s sad how we preach one thing and so often live according to a completely different set of values. It really is little wonder that much of the non-Christian world so often looks at Christians and shakes their heads saying, “Hypocrites!”

This leads me to another point that I’ve often harped on before, and must do again. Institutional churches will always have elements to them that go contrary to Scriptural teachings. Why? Because they are man-made institutions and not what God ordained that His church should be. The institutional church will always teach and do things that promote its own survival and protect its own assets.

So now, according to the aforementioned newspaper article, we see approximately 120 institutional churches in Colorado alone convening a forum to discuss “church security” in their respective institutions. No surprise there! Of course they have to do that, given that they have their own respective “kingdoms” to protect. Jesus said to Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place” (John 18:36). So where then is the Kingdom of God? Jesus said, “the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:21). Notice that He didn’t say that you are “in” it, in the sense that you can be “in” a specific place or building. So if the kingdom is within each of us, then it is spiritual and not physical.

Each man’s work will be tested by fire. Paul says that, “no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 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 it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames” (1 Corinthians 3:11-15).

Isn’t it interesting that God’s Word says that He will test our work with fire and yet we are busy doing everything we can to protect our “work” (buildings) from that fire that, God Himself will sooner or later be sending? The fact of the matter is that, in building our own kingdoms with gold and silver and costly stones, we’re working against God! When will we start to see that God isn’t interested in our institutional church buildings (megachurch or not) any more than He is interested in the supermarket or gas station down the street? The kingdom is within us; it is spiritual. We are not within the kingdom in the sense that we are in some physical place.

Sooner or later that place that everyone is so concerned about protecting, is going to burn. There is no doubt about it. Go ahead an arm yourselves in an effort to protect what you have built, but God is going to test that thing that you have built, and He is going to do so with fire.

“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23). If living according to the “fruit of the Spirit” is really the quest of all true Christians, then here’s my final question: where do guns fit in? I wonder.

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons

Monday, 17 March 2008

What Are the Grounds for Genuine Fellowship?

“There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to one hope when you were called – one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4: 4-6)


Is it my imagination, or is there is a problem today when it comes to real Christian fellowship? It seems that there are many non-scriptural definitions that we have come to accept as being fellowship when in reality they have little or nothing to do with fellowship as taught by our Lord and His apostles.

What is the problem? The problem is that we have often defined fellowship with sectarian and factional values. We often seem to only be able to fellowship with those who think like we do and reject fellowship with those who think differently than we do. We seem to have the mind set that, if you share my doctrinal and denominational values, then we can fellowship. If you do not, then we cannot fellowship because we seem to see each other as being unscriptural at best, and maybe even worse, as being somehow un-Christian.

I’m reminded of a time when I was the pastor of a small church and we had a visiting missionary who requested the use of an overhead projector. Ours was broken, so the suggestion was made to borrow one from another church across the street from us. Some of the elders balked at the suggestion because this other church was a part of a different denomination and so, the implication was, they were somehow inferior to us. As the other church was much more liberal than we were, some even went so far as to question whether or not they even were Christians. Can you believe it?! How sad that they thought that we couldn’t even borrow an overhead projector from them, much less actually fellowship with them or, heaven forbid, invite them to join us to hear this missionary's testimony.

In the aforementioned verse from Ephesians we see seven components that constitute genuine fellowship. We would do well to reflect a little on each of those points before we too hastily decide who it is and who it isn’t that we can fellowship with. Remember, the Lord is not going to segregate us in heaven, so we had better not do so here on earth. God makes no allowance for our denominational or doctrinal views; He simply includes us, or rejects us, based only upon our acceptance or rejection of the Lord Jesus. If we think there are other options, then I would argue that we are sadly mistaken. There is only ONE Body, ONE Spirit, ONE Hope, ONE Lord, ONE Faith, ONE Baptism, and ONE God. Anyone who acknowledges that, not only can, but also must be fellowshipped with. If we dare reject others, then not only are we sectarian ourselves, but worse, we also are essentially rejecting Christ because Christ has accepted them.

ONE BODY
Where do we get off separating ourselves from other believers? There is only ONE Body, not many bodies. The Body of Christ is made up of all who profess faith in the Lord Jesus. Just as my physical body is made up of many different parts (1 Corinthians 12: 12-26), and just as I cannot pick and choose which of those parts I want to accept and which I want to reject, likewise we have no business accepting certain members of the Body of Christ and rejecting others. How silly it would be to cut off my left arm because of some defect that I perceive on it. How silly it also is to cut off another member of the Body of Christ because of a defect that we perceive in them.

We all became a part of the Body of Christ the very second that we came to believe. What is required by the Lord in order to be accepted by Him? A right doctrine on the mode of baptism? A belief in the rapture of the church? Perhaps it’s the practice of head coverings that we need to be concerned with. While these might be important doctrinal issues to some, the fact remains that the only prerequisite for salvation is calling on the name of the Lord (Acts 2:21). Regardless of what our denominational backgrounds are, if we have received Christ, we belong to that ONE Body and there is nothing that can rightly separate us from it. The fact is that we are ONE. Isn’t it time that we acted like it? Being in ONE Body is “grounds for genuine fellowship.”

ONE SPIRIT
You and I must be prepared to fellowship with anyone who desires to fellowship with us. Again, if they have received Christ, they are our brother and sister and therefore we must be of ONE Spirit in our fellowship with them. Since there is only one Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, then there must also be only ONE Spirit. Why is it that we can often agree with the former and live like we disagree with the latter?

If I say that I don’t believe in institutional church systems (which I don’t) and if I then also make a distinction between Christians in the institutional system versus those outside of the institutional system, then I am just as sectarian as those who differentiate between denominations. There are not multiple Spirits; there is ONE Spirit. God does not send one Spirit to this group of believers and another one to another group of believers. No, God has decreed that there should be but ONE Spirit. If we cannot accept that, then my dear brothers, we are out of sync with God’s holy and perfect plan. Being in ONE Spirit is “grounds for genuine fellowship.”

ONE HOPE
While we each may hope in many worldly and carnal things, ultimately there can be but ONE Hope for all believers; that is an eternity spent with the Lord. Obviously we must live the life of faith day by day as God leads us. I’m not talking, as the old adage says, of “being so heavenly minded that we are no earthly good.” God certainly has His own hopes and expectations for us here and now.

However, the ONE Hope that we are talking about here is an eternal hope with our Heavenly Father. Won’t that be wonderful? Therein lies the test. Are you, like me, looking forward to that day? Do you have that ONE Hope of someday being in Glory with the Lord? That is one of the common denominators that all true believers share. Having ONE Hope gives us “grounds for genuine fellowship.”

ONE LORD
Many years ago I was a Beatles fan. One of the Beatles, George Harrison, had a hit song called “My Sweet Lord.” While the title may sound Christian, the song was far from it. It is no secret that the Beatles had experimented with Hinduism. This is evidenced by some lyrics in Harrison’s song, which mention Hare Krishna, Brahma, and Vishnu; all of which are Hindu deities. While George Harrison sung about those deities as “lord,” the fact is that none of them are “lord.” Why? Because there is only ONE Lord, and that is Jesus Christ.

When Peter addressed the crowd at Pentecost, he said, “God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36). Jesus of Nazareth, who died on the cross and three days later rose again, is Lord. There is no other. If you confess Jesus as your Lord, regardless of your traditions or denominational background, then your Lord is my Lord too. Nothing can, and no one dare, separate those who call on the same ONE Lord, Jesus Christ. Since we call on the same ONE Lord, that calling gives us “grounds for genuine fellowship.”

ONE FAITH
When we talk about ONE Faith, we are not talking about one denomination. We are also not talking about one specific biblical form of interpretation over another one. What are we then talking about? We are talking about “the” ONE Faith that Jesus is the Son of God who came to the world as a baby, born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, died on a cross for the remission of our sin, and three days later rose from the dead and now sits at the right hand of God the Father. By ONE Faith we mean that we believe that He died in our place, for sinners, and by His living again, we too through faith in Him can have new life both, now and in eternity with God.

Those are the essentials of our ONE Faith. Do you believe that? If you do, then you belong to the Lord. However, if you do not believe that, then you do not belong to the Lord. “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). If you and I share “the” ONE Faith, regardless of our other traditions and denominational (or non-denominational) backgrounds, then believing in that ONE faith gives us “grounds for genuine fellowship.”

ONE BAPTISM
Some of my former Baptist colleagues may initially take exception on this point. While personally I believe that “baptism” is by immersion, not all children of God do. Many practice other modes of baptism, which to them, are real and genuine expressions of their faith. Watchman Nee is quoted to have said, “if we make the form of baptism the dividing line between those who belong to the church and those who do not, we shall exclude many true believers from our fellowship.”

One small church I was pastor of faced that very dilemma. We had a number of believers start to come from other church traditions. They wanted to join our church through membership but were denied by the church board because they had not been baptised by immersion. I will never forget telling them of the board’s decision that they had to be re-baptised by immersion first before they could join us. One of those dear sisters even then quoted this very verse to me saying, “I thought there was only ONE baptism.” Unfortunately, we were too bogged down with our own traditions to see that truth that she had seen so clearly. She was right and we were wrong.

Still, when asked to baptise someone, I will always do so by immersion, for I believe that to be the correct Biblical example. However, more important than the mode of baptism is the name into which we were baptised. Once we came to believe, were you and I baptised into the name of the Lord Jesus? If so, then we are automatically members in His church and we require no other endorsement by man in order to become members of the church. There is only ONE Baptism, and that is into the name of the Lord Jesus. Regardless of all other traditions that we may have, if we have been baptised into the name of the Lord Jesus, then that ONE Baptism fully qualifies us, and gives us the “grounds for genuine fellowship.”

ONE GOD
There is only ONE God. He had no beginning, nor will He have any end. He always was there. Everything and everyone that exists had its beginning in Him. The theologians of old spoke of this as “Creatio ex Nihilo,” which literally means “creation out of nothing.” There were no pre-existent materials that God used in His Creation. In the same way, our ONE God is also personal and as such we can call on Him as “Abba Father,” or Daddy (Romans 8:15).

Also true is that, as a Holy God, He is to be reverently feared. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7) and means that we reject every other deity and serve only Him. It means that together in fellowship, we lovingly walk in all of God's ways and serve only Him with all our hearts, souls, and minds. This has nothing to do with bondage, as some in error have presumed, but on the contrary it is actually very freeing.

Do you share that belief in ONE God who is supernatural, personal and Holy? If so, then you are my brother and you are my sister, and we belong to one family that no one had better dare to divide and faction. If you share my belief in ONE God, then that gives us “grounds for genuine fellowship.”

GENUINE FELLOWSHIP
It would be really easy for any one of us to faction the Body of Christ due to all sorts of problems that we see in the faith of others. We’ve all done it. We’re all guilty as charged. One needs only to look at the number of different denominations that we have created. Even under the same denomination there are often countless more factions. Let me use my former Baptist tradition as an example. In Canada under the Baptist umbrella there are the General Conference, the North American Conference, the Southern Conference, the Fellowship Conference, and the Baptist Union, and who knows how many others. In truth, every denomination has its own similar story. Every last one of them is carnal! Every last one of them is a faction! Every last one of them is sectarian! The minute you or I make any kind of distinction between ourselves and others, be it denominational or non-denominational, institutional or non-institutional (and I wrestle with this too), we are being carnal, factional, and sectarian.

Sure, every once in a while there is some token effort to do something together, but then we quickly go back to our own little kingdoms. This is not what Jesus had in mind when He spoke of the Kingdom of God. We can and we must learn to have real, unpretentious, and genuine fellowship with one another. The only grounds for genuine fellowship are found in Ephesians 4: 4-6. There is ONE Body, ONE Spirit, ONE Hope, ONE Lord, ONE Faith, ONE Baptism, and ONE God. This can be the ONLY line in who belongs to the Church and who does not. The minute we add any other conditions or requirements, we are going to alienate some brothers and sisters from our fellowship. The minute that we settle for less than these seven ONE’s, we leave ourselves open to non-believers in our fellowship.

I believe that what the Lord is telling us is that, as someone once said, “He wants His church back.” Are we listening? I wonder.

In essentials, unity;
In non-essentials, liberty;
In all things, charity.
(Augustine)

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons

Thursday, 6 March 2008

I Gave Up On Civil Religion!

FIRST, A CAVEAT:

While I am NOT the author of this article, I do agree with much that he says in it. As such, I thought it bears re-sharing. The web address is included for those interested in knowing its source.

However, there is a problem. I tried to contact the author using the e-mail address on the site in order to get permission to repost this, but my e-mail was returned undeliverable. Apparently the e-mail address provided is no longer in service, and since then, neither is website itself.

If anyone reading this knows who the author is, please do send me a message with the details so that I may properly contact him regarding this post. I would very much like to secure proper permission for it's reposting, as well as to be able to give credit where credit is due. If the author does not wish to grant permission for this reposting of his material, I will promptly take this post down. Thank you.
_______________

I GAVE UP ON CIVIL RELIGION!

When I was a child, I joined the Boy Scouts. We often met in church buildings. I learned about how to help little old ladies across the street, and about how America was good, and righteous. I was raised in the South, and so tradition was deep in my bones. I went to the First Presbyterian church every Sunday, even though my Daddy was an atheist. There I saw the first black people who had ever tried to attend turned away, and the news made the national press. Up in the balcony where I sat and tried to stay awake every Sunday, a very fat and very loud woman assured everyone who was listening that it was all Communist inspired. I went to Sunday School, where I heard our sheriff talk about the educational crisis. Several years later I read a book by conservative educational writer Max Rafferty, and it was word for word the same, because my local sheriff had plagiarized it. He, the good Christian man that he was, later left office in the midst of scandal. In the midst of all this, I began to wonder if being a Christian was smart.
I still do not understand why those who incessantly preach the inerrancy of the Bible, completely and utterly fail to practice the church as revealed in its pages.
At the University of South Carolina in the radical early seventies, I almost lost my faith, and then I found it, courtesy of a small group of misfitted Jesus people radicals. It was through them that I learned about radical, biblical, New Testament house church Christianity. That oasis of heaven in the midst of a radical leftist hell is something that marked me for life. The exhilarating experience of church life in the midst of a radically antichristian culture, and reading Watchman Nee's Normal Christian Church Life, set me on a course from which I have not deviated. I want to know the church as it was in Jesus' mind when he established it, and commissioned his apostles to plant it.

Now I am getting old, and I am no longer thrilled about America. It is pagan to its roots. Its media, its universities and colleges, its think tanks, its political parties, its businesses, its entertainment and popular culture, its public schools, and worst of all, its church institutions (for the most part) are apostate. When its politicians incessantly invoke "Gawd," I try to restrain the nausea.

I looked to the conservative church to fight the rot, but the church was not there for me. The stifling ecclesiastical bureaucracies, the preening professionalism of its pastorate, its shallowness, its cowardly compromises, and in many cases, its downright immorality left me looking elsewhere.

I never stopped believing the Bible. I believed it when I was told it was the inerrant, infallible, inspired word of God. But I looked in there, and I never could find the "church" as I saw it in America. I could not, and still do not, understand why those who incessantly preach the inerrancy of the Bible, completely and utterly fail to practice the church as revealed in its pages.

My scepticism about the American Constantinian church started in a Presbyterian Sunday School class. The teacher, a college professor, was teaching us about church government. I asked a completely innocent, and logical, question: where's the Scripture reference for the pastor? When I was met with dead silence, I was astounded. A Presbyterian college professor couldn't tell me where in the Bible was the pastor?

I've learned since then there's a lot of things in the American mercantile church that aren't in the Biblical New Testament house church. There are no sermons there. No Christian religious church buildings to house passive pew potatoes listening to a professional orator dishing out three alliterative points. No church budgets. No salaried clergy. No clergy period. No religious furniture pointing all the somnolescent "laity" in the direction of the "clergy," putting on his one-man show, paid to perform week in and week out. No Sunday School. No children's church. No juvenile segregation. No church business meetings decided by a majority votes, or votes of any kinds. No elders meetings held apart from the rest of the church, where decisions are handed down to to the rest of the brothers, who don't know what's going on. No funereal communion services where the communicants sip little shot glasses of grape juice, and eat soda crackers. No big tongue up front wagging for a bunch of little ears in an audience.

What you do find in the New Testament are meetings held every Sunday around the Lord's Table, which is a table that holds a full meal, as well as the bread and wine. Decision-making by consensus. Children who meet with their adult brothers and sisters. Mutually participatory, and mutually edifying meetings in which EACH member speaks, with no pastor directing the meeting. Churches meeting, eating, and hanging out together where families live, eat, and hang out together: in their homes. Churches which discipline themselves, and where phoniness can't be hid, and where real people share their lives with each other, and whose members grow quickly up unto the head. Churches where the members weep for one another, and rejoice with one another.

So now I, who started so conservative, am a radical. It's been a long, lonely fight, trying to get people to look at the Bible to see what it contains. The inertia is terrible. Many don't even want to look. They say that its been done this way for centuries, it must be right. I respond: the Catholic Church did it their way for centuries, I'm glad someone decided to buck their system. The prejudice is also terrible. Over and over I hear the same defence stratagems: you can't expect the church to be perfect with imperfect people. Why do you hate the good people in the institutional church? Not all pastors are tyrants. The Bible never commands the church you describe, it merely describes it, so ecclesiologically we therefore can do what is right in our own eyes. And so on.

Of course, all these objections can be answered. I don't expect the church to be composed of perfect people, I just expect it be biblical. Every house church I know is composed of imperfect people, just like the institutional church is. The difference is this: the biblical house church has ways of dealing with that imperfection, and has means of putting spiritual treasures in those earthen vessels. And of course I don't hate the people in the ecclesiastical system, I hate the system that has ensnared them, usually through no fault of their own. And of course not all pastors are tyrants. Of all the victims of the antibiblical Western church, none are more tragic than the lonely pastor, many of whom took the job thinking this was the best way he could serve the Lord he loves. And I'm not saying that institutional church people are bad, rather, I'm saying that the institutional church system is bad. But I am saying that just because the Bible doesn't command that we do church a certain way, we are therefore free to do it however we want to, free from the guilt of transgressing the Lord's commands.

This last point is crucial. Until we all realize that the house church is not optional, but imperative, we are doomed to defeat. The marginalization of the church and all she stands for will continue, no doubt to the point of persecution. More and more will turn from the grace of Christ to other gods. The pain and misery of good people trying to make their Christianity work in a system that won't let them be what Jesus called them to be will continue. And it needs to stop.
And look at church history. Is anyone prepared to make the preposterous statement that we have actually figured out a better way than the apostles?
How can I say that the biblical home church is imperative, and not a mere option? Let's take the logic of those who say if there are no positive commands in the Bible to do something, we don't have to do them. Well: there are no positive commands to stay unregistered with the state. To have meetings. To meet once a week instead of once a year. To have church leaders. To have the Lord's Supper more than once every ten years. There is no specific command forbidding us to baptize infants, or to baptize the dead. So let's just do what's right in our own eyes, and forget Jesus' apostles. Let's became a dead- and infant-baptizing state church, with no leaders, eating the Lord's Supper every ten years, and meeting once a year. Who will there be who can point out a Scripture to us that we are violating the Scripture? There will be no one, because on this silly hermeneutical principle, we have violated no positive command of Scripture!!!

But I tell you, there are lots of Scriptures which do positively tell us to follow the apostles' examples. I'll mention some in a minute, but first: what is the main thing apostles do? They establish churches. Now, why in the world would we not follow their lead and example? Why would we have the sheer, unmitigated gall to think we can do it better than they did? And look at church history. Is anyone prepared to make the preposterous statement that we have actually figured out a better way than the apostles?

What are some of the Scriptures that exhort obedience to the apostles? In I Tim 4:16, Paul exhorts the Corinthians: "Therefore I urge you to imitate me. For this reason I am sending to you Timothy – He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church." I will ask you a simple question: when is the last time you heard a church leader tell you that he is trying to imitate Paul, to imitate what Paul was doing "in EVERY church"?

Here are more Scriptures. I Cor 11:2 : "I praise you for remembering me in EVERYTHING and for holding to the teachings, just as I passed them on to you." I Cor 11:16: "If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have NO OTHER PRACTICE - nor do the churches of God." Phil 4:9: "Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me - PUT IT INTO PRACTICE." II Thess 2:15: "So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings (traditions) we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter."

I will end with one last question. What happens when you reject the practices of an apostle? The answer is very simple. You reject Jesus Christ, who said: "whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me; and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me." (Jn 13:20) Jesus also informed his apostle that if the world obeyed Jesus' teaching, they would obey his apostles' teaching also. (Jn 15:20) So what does that say about church builders who build their way, and not the apostles' way? It means they have disobeyed Jesus' teaching.

I believe in radical obedience to Christ. And that ineluctably leads to a biblical house church. And that means no more long-robed, solemn-voiced professional holy men praying at high school football games and business dedications. No more civil religion. Real church. Church, Jesus' way.

Story Source: http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Academy/8395/civil.html
Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons