Recently, a friend suggested that I write my thoughts regarding church. I explained that such a missive would take up many pages, as my thoughts go deep. Just a review on my ongoing series, 95 Thesis for the Evangelical Church, reveals that this the threads on this topic are many. However, in the interest of answering the question, I will attempt to summarize my thoughts here. I do ask that if you, the reader, find offense with anything here, that you consider reaching out to me directly for discussion and clarification. I do not desire to offend with this post.
I believe if one reads the New Testament carefully, you see some broad strokes about those critical elements that characterize a church gathering. Acts 2, specifically, paints that picture with just a few strokes.
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
Love, sacrifice, sharing and worship characterized the early church. Toady, our corporate gatherings do have some measure of worship, but lack a lot of what you read here. As you journey through the New Testament, you will find many more such passages describing early church and the love shared between members. You will also find numerous concerns, many of which Paul addresses.
We read enough there to understand the framework, but you will not find details along the lines of what we have for the Old Testament temples and the such. I believe that God did this by design. He could have easily given us a list of details explaining exactly how church services and gatherings should be conducted, but, instead, instructed us to live and gather by the precepts of love and the prompting of the Holy Spirit.
Despite the few guidelines given in the New Testament, we find ways to completely ignore and violate them. Here’s a great example.
1 Cor 14:26 What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of youhas a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation.Everything must be done so that the church may be built up… 29 Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said. 30 And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop. 31 For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged.
Here we read that if someone has a Word from God, the first speak should hush, and allow the second person to share. When have you seen that in a church gathering? The New Testament has many passages showing that we should teach one another. The idea that only one or two people teach hundreds (or thousands) week after week, exclusively, is foreign to the New Testament. Yet we accept that paradigm without a second thought. As a result, we miss out on so many blessings. I have many more examples and concerns, most of which I detail out on my 95 Thesis study.
Despite the sheer number and weight of these concerns, I do not feel that the church lacks merit completely. God uses the modern church in its current iteration to preach the gospel to many. Many Christians today do find blessings in the instruction, as God’s Word never comes back void. Furthermore, God has never called me to ‘tear down’ church organization as a whole. While I may critique various actions the church organizations take, and the way they organize themselves, I do so in the hopes that it will build up and lead groups closer to Christ. To completely rip them asunder would leave many without direction. Jesus’ analogy of the old wineskin and new wine aptly applies here.
Make no mistake, to describe our current model, the ‘evangelical church,’ as “The church” described in the Bible breaks my heart. First, the church is the body of Christ… the true followers of Christ…wherever and however they may gather as a group of siblings in faith. Second, our current setup violates so many New Testament principles, that we miss out on many, many blessings. We settling for so little, when Jesus offers us so much more. This is nothing new, however. We saw the Israelites fall into similar traps during their journey. For example, they demanded a monarchy over God’s model of judges. God allowed them what they demanded, but He warned them they would pay a price for doing things their way. And, they did. Yet, He always loved and cared for His children. That applies to this day.
Fully aware that this post, and my 95 Thesis study may offend, I close out with another appeal. I do not wish to offend any of my fellow brothers and sisters in Jesus. Please feel free to contact me directly if you have questions, or concerns.
By His Grace,