Friday, 6 September 2013

Do You Belong to the Ornamental Church?

“For flesh and blood [men] have not revealed this to you, but My Father Who is in heaven.” (Matthew 16:17; Amplified)

Do You Belong to the Ornamental Church? It seems that many today do. For them church has become a place to go to and to be seen by others, but little more. It is essentially a social club where they can catch up on the latest gossip. It is a place of teaching, but not always biblical teaching, as in the time I visited a church and was forced to hear a sermon on the attributes of Harry Potter (no, I’m not kidding).

Statistics tell us that today there is actually a higher divorce rate among so-called Christians than there is among non-Christians, and the irony is, we seem not to care. Pornography, fornication, alcoholism and drug abuse – all are found in the church just as they are in the world – and again, we seem not to care by virtue of the fact that the church often remains silent about such things. Members of many churches today are just as worldly as the world that Jesus called us to transform with the love of God. Instead, the world appears to have transformed the church into its ideology. Even the very word “church” has evolved from its original “Body of Christ” meaning into something strangely anti-Christ, as in a building I saw recently with a sign over the door saying “_______ Buddhist Church.”

Has the church today become ornamental? With a few exceptions here and there, I believe it unfortunately has. Anyone who has followed this blog for a while will know that I’m a Watchman Nee fan. Here’s his take on this:

“The church’s foundation is not only Christ but the knowledge of Christ. The tragedy today is that many of us in the churches – indeed many so-called churches – lack such a foundation. We do not know Him. To us He is a theoretical or doctrinal Christ, not a revealed Christ. But theory will not prevail against hell, which is what Jesus declares His church is to do. Have we perhaps forgotten what we are for? Visiting Western homes I have sometimes seen a beautiful porcelain plate, not put to use on the table, but wired and hung up to the wall as a treasured ornament. Many, it seems to me, think of the Church like that, as something to be admired for the perfection of its form. But no, God’s Church is for use, not decoration. An appearance of life may seem to suffice when conditions are favourable, but when the gates of hell come out against us, we know well enough that what we each need above all else is a God-given vision of His Son. It is first-hand knowledge that counts in the hour of testing.”

So where do we go from here? I would suggest that the first step is to recognize that, just because we’ve always done church a certain way, doesn’t necessarily mean that way is God’s way. Several years ago I sensed God calling me to seriously examine my own faith-walk and what I was doing (and not doing) with church. “Test everything. Hold on to the good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21) became my mantra.

I came to see that if it isn’t in the Bible, then there’s probably no need to waste any time on it, regardless what other so-called Christian leaders would like us to believe. I came to see that I, and those in the pews that I was supposed to minister to, really could hear God for ourselves, and that there were some within church circles who were actually “trying to lead you astray” (1 John 2: 26-27). Wow! I came to see that, like the Bereans of old who “examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true” (Acts 17:11), it would probably be wise for me to do likewise in my quest to learn what “church” was really supposed to be all about. In the process, I came to see that I could safely discard many previously dearly held religious doctrines, but at the same time, I found myself embracing others all the more.

Many years ago, while still in the pulpit, I used to regularly say to people, “Don’t just blindly take my word for it; look it up for yourself.” Perhaps if more of us were to do that today, there would be less “ornamental churches.” Perhaps if more of us were to do that today, there would be more Spirit-filled Christians, listening more to God than man, and less pseudo-Christians. Perhaps if more of us were to do that today, we would be more comfortable as the church without all the religious and institutional trappings.

Above all, earnestly pray about it. Ask God if there perhaps is something ornamental in your church life, but if you do, be prepared for a revelation that may stretch you out of your comfort zone.

Perhaps ornaments are not what God is interested in after all. Peace.

Watchman Nee quote taken from: A Table in the Wilderness

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