By biblical definition, the Church is the Body of Christ. In more human terms, it is the community of the saints, the ones that have been adopted as children of the Most High through the blood of Jesus Christ our Savior. Traditionally, and as a consequence of distorted, and ill intentions and interpretations, it is also the place where Christians meet to listen to sermons, pay their tithes, sometimes learn about the Bible and say “hello” to other Christians.
Sadly, that “hello” is most of the time what many Christians call fellowship, friendship, and God’s call for “koinonia” among brethren. Apart from that, nothing else happens between most brothers and sisters in our church environment. Many attend church services in obedience (and also the pastor’s continual insistence) on verses like “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:25) as if that meant attending a particular meeting, usually once on Sundays in a designated room or building called “the church”. It is amazing how ignorance plays such an important part in today’s concept of what church really means and what God’s eternal purpose is with respect to it. To begin with, there were no Christian temples to talk about when Hebrews was written following God’s inspiration. Actually, it was extremely dangerous or nearly impossible for believers to gather in public places because of persecution from the authorities. So, what is the true meaning of “assembling ourselves together…”? If there were no temples or approved places for many to gather into, what did it really mean?
According the the Book of Acts, early Christians used to visit one another quite frequently to have fellowship, discuss and talk about Scriptures, share Christian love as commanded by Jesus while protecting one another from intrusion from the persecuting non-believers. They were the Church, and still are. If the Spirit of God owns us, either dead or alive we continue to be part of the eternal Church which is also God’s family. As family we love each other, care for each other, visit frequently, help one another, talk (in person, no emails or texts), interact with each other, pray for each other and for the ones that are not yet part of the family but in response to fervent prayer and the will of God will eventually become family themselves. The beauty of the church is that it is not a place where people attend to get bored with lame sermons or follow man made commandments or misinterpretation of Scripture. As God’s people we are the church. The church goes with us wherever we go and the true leader of the Church, Jesus himself, goes along with us!
In many so called churches today we are always visitors. How many times have you been to services where you will always be asked to stand and present yourself in order for people to get to know who you are? Obviously you will never be part of them. You will never attain true fellowship, you will never be visited nor you will be invited to visit them in their homes. How can there be church between people that only meet and say just a “hello” on Sundays? Do you really think that God gave the blood of His only Son so that He could come up with such a distortion of His kingdom?
Let’s be honest. How many times have you been invited to the home of a church member if only to talk about the Lord and about you and them (not to gossip about others)? Personally I have the custom of inviting church people to my home. I want them to share at least a “peace offering” of a cup of coffee with them. I like to hear testimonies and offer mine to strengthen our mutual faith in the Lord. But in today’s church that is a forgotten thing. If you are lucky you will get to see your brethren for about one hour on Sunday morning, say “hello” and hope to meet again the following Sunday. That is the modern church.
We all share the blame for the current state of affairs in our churches. People have been taught that church is the building they are supposed to attend or risk losing their salvation. So, instead of being a pleasure and the result of loving one another, it becomes a chore that must be done every Sunday. And don’t forget to pay for the privilege following the Old Testament tithe “commandment”. All because unlike the old times, modern churches need money to pay for expenses, salaries, maintain “missions” and other thing that are mostly fruits of somebody’s imagination or greed. Churches must be large with a lot of “members” in order to collect lots of money needed to support the “work” of the Lord. Pastors share the blame. When was the last time you heard your pastor emphasize the need for the brethren to visit one another outside of the church building? To open their hearts and homes to their brothers and sisters? To be friends with each other? As a matter of fact many pastors don’t like the idea of member of their congregations meeting outside the temple or in their homes because they might fall into the “trap” of dividing their “church” and sprouting new “churches”. Call it plain and simple insecurity because they know that they don’t have a firm foundation to sustain the empire that they want so desperately to build and maintain. They simply think that the church is theirs.
Do we actually have to “go to church” in order to meet God there? The last I knew was that God was everywhere, actually inside of us believers by His Spirit. But ignorance has dictated that God has to be found within the walls of the temple. I remember when I was a child, I was taught that God was placed inside a small chamber in the main altar of the “church” and secured in there under lock and key. Every Sunday He was freed and shown around by the person in charge (called a priest in those times) and then locked up again until the following Sunday.
Does all this sound like manipulation? You better believe it is. For many years I was a “member” of this “church” and have to shamefully admit, benefited from its perks. For all that and more He, in His infinite mercy and love, made me pay dearly so that I could learn the right way and true doctrine. At the same time I must glorify God because He raised me up from the filth of my own sin, created in me a new heart free to admit that I was an even worse sinner than many, and showed me the way to His freedom for which He paid dearly on the cross.
I thank God that because of the present persecutions, bad press, and ultimate sinful behavior among the so called “clergy”, many good people are returning to the old ways of meeting in their homes, promoting respect and love for God, making friends with neighbors, spreading the Gospel with their own example, and indirectly scraping society from the stain of the modern so called “churches” a term that includes large and small empires and money making corporations. It is time to throw the Pharisees out of God’s temple, beginning with the Pharisee that lives in our own self (the true temple) where it hides behind manipulations, self righteousness, ignorance, false “love”, enmities, jealousy, priestly clothing, titles, position, thrones, and all the many other things whose only purpose is to exalt man instead of glorifying God.
Yes, like God said through His prophet Jeremiah: “Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. (Jeremiah 6:16). Unfortunately, like they said in the past, so they say today: “We will not walk therein.” (verse 17).
The good news is that the King is coming back. He will restore all this mess to its original purpose. Until then, may His love, mercy and grace be with you and with all that love and worship Him, the one and only God, Lord of all, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who gave us His Spirit, the guarantee of our salvation.