Purpose : Should we start over in doing church?
When I first became a Christian, back in 1978, the reality of God was a shock to me. I did not grow up in a Christian home and therefore I knew nothing about Christianity other than a few sermons I may have flipped through on TV. I did not get saved in a church, but getting saved opened a door for me. I immediately began going to church because you were supposed to. I started searching for answers and the Truth about God.
Eventually, I realized that the church was a social organization. It needed lots of your money to function, pay for buildings and programs, and it modified Bible verses to justify its un- biblical existence. It was controlled buy a group of people who planned every meeting down to the number of communion thimbles, and made sure they had an exact and growing account of your continued attendance. There was very little actual love, personal contact with you or involvement in your life. Once you joined, you were expected to be under all their rules for life and had no say-so in how the organization operated. Any questioning of how they ran the organization was considered rebellious heresy and was squelched quickly to prevent an argument, mutiny or a church split. Most churches disagreed with each other in teaching and practice and would never corroborate with each other unless they were of the same denomination, and even then it was quite limited. People within the ranks often disagreed with each other, had no skills for resolving conflicts, and often left the fellowship over these episodes. People in the church always looked and acted spiritual, but after getting to know them, you realized that they did not live or handle problems any differently than the world.
Many people came and went through the revolving door of the church seeking Almighty God and eventually leaving in disappointment and disillusion. But, my interest was different. I wanted to know the Truth and the person who claimed to be the Truth. I also wanted to know other Christians intimately and have lasting relationships with them. I began to study the Bible in-depth, to figure out what it meant. I asked too many questions and ruffled too many feathers, because I really wanted to know the Truth. I realized a hard and painful struggle was at hand. After much struggle and confusion, searching for the Truth became nearly an obsession. As the years passed and I tried several different denominations and Churches. I gleaned as much as I could learn from each group before I moved on. But, I never really got the satisfaction that Christians were living and doing things according to the Bible.
I went to seminary and studied Greek, Hebrew, History, Archaeology, etc. to learn for myself what the Bible said and what it meant. My hunger grew and grew as I learned more and more. Yet, to most people, church seemed like a hobby or a spectator sport. My frustration with church grew, as did my peaceful relationship with the God of the Bible. The God of the Bible seemed to be very different from the God of the church. He was the only one I could really share my struggles with. I eventually discovered what it meant to be Spirit-Filled, yet the churches were divided over it. I discovered how music could boost my joy and enjoyment of my Christian walk, yet the church didn't get it and argued over what songs we could or could not sing. I realized that in-depth study of the Word of God answered my questions about life, yet the churches could not agree on any of it. As I got into church history and Archaeology, I began to understand how whole denominations, along with their so-called scholars, could disagree on so many doctrinal issues and yet claim to know the Truth. Years of being involved in church ministry work lead me to quite an eye opening behind-the-scenes insight into the ministry, most of which appalled me to the point of giving up on my dream to become a pastor.
Finally it dawned on me that people were extremely imperfect in an extremely imperfect world and that ministry was no exception. Scripture tells us in Matthew 5:48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
Only further Greek study could reveal to me that perfect, meant mature, not perfect. God is perfect, we are not. Yet, we are commanded to strive for perfection, and it looks like maturity as we achieve it. And so, God calls us to a life of maturity as Christians, maturity in understanding the scripture and relationships. The goal of discipleship and the example Christ set for us is one of being mature and bringing others to spiritual maturity that we can fulfill this verse:
14. That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;
15. But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:
So now I ask these questions: What is a church according to the Bible? What is the purpose of a church according to the Bible ? How should a church function according to the Bible?
The answers are quite simple and if we followed the Biblical answers, I think we would start the church completely over and allow it to function as did the early church.
According to the Bible, a church, EKKLESIA in the Greek, is simply a gathering of 2 or more in the name of the Lord for the purpose of fellowship with the Lord and each other. They met in each other's homes. They shared their lives, their meals, communion and all that they had on a daily basis. They were in agreement and of one accord on everything they did. Organizations, money, buildings, hierarchies and large numbers destroy the personal love and devotion that drove the early church. Church should be a simple gathering in homes of committed individuals who love the Lord and each other and who are willing to help each other and share the message of Christ with the world. It was the original Apostle's who set the teaching and those teachings are now contained in the Bible for us to learn and share. The church existed in homes and they attended the temple to evangelize the Jews. When souls were saved, even as many as 3000, they were discipled in homes of mature believers a few at a time. The church is a living breathing sharing of the lives of loving individuals, not a religious organization. They actually feared to displease the Lord, not to displease the apostles.
Act 20:18 And when they were come to him, he said unto them, Ye know, from the first day that I came into Asia, after what manner I have been with you at all seasons,
Acts 20:19 Serving the Lord with all humility of mind, and with many tears, and temptations, which befell me by the lying in wait of the Jews:
Acts 20:20 And how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have showed you, and have taught you publicly, and from house to house,
Acts 20:21 "testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.
Act 2:36 Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.
Act 2:37 Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren,what shall we do?
Act 2:38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
Act 2:39 For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.
Act 2:40 And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation.
Act 2:41 Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.
Act 2:42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.
Act 2:43 And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles.
Act 2:44 And all that believed were together, and had all things common;
Act 2:45 And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.
Act 2:46 And they,continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,
Act 2:47 Praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.
That my friend, is the purpose of the church and the purpose of this site; to bring all believers together in maturity, in purpose, in the gospel, in study, in communion, in Spirit-Life fellowship with both God and man. May God help us in this pursuit.
Charles Michael Lassiter