Church Rethink is a series about gaining a clearer understanding about the real intention of Christianity – A relationship with Jesus Christ. We will be looking at how religion, legalism, false doctrines and false preachers have created and influenced current churches and religious organisations and from this we should be able to recognise and acknowledge why many are going in the wrong direction.
Churchianity is what I believe Christianity has become. Many Christians around the world have based and are basing their salvation around churches, organisations, pastors, vicars, bishops, etc instead of Jesus Christ. When the Bible talks about church, it isn’t talking about a building.
The word church in the New Testament is the translation of the Greek word ‘ecclesia’, which is mentioned 76 times in the KJV and below are some examples of how the word is referenced to;
From this we can see there is no connection of hierarchy, buildings, rituals, and the like which are strongly linked with the word “Church” today. To summarise, the real church is not an institution, but rather people who were bought by the sacrificial death of Jesus and have now been redeemed, saved and forgiven of their sins by the one sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The misconception has been that by definition ‘Christianity’ and ‘church’ are the same. And since the era of Constantine this is the way we have all been taught to think. Churches and organisations gladly accept this as they peddle the message ‘this building is the only place you can have a relationship with Jesus’. To the disappointment of some, Christ will not be returning to take an elaborate or grandiose building built by man with Him but rather the body of Christ – The real meaning of the word ‘church’. When Jesus spoke of building his church he was saying he would call people to be his people, for a specific purpose. They would be "a called out" people, ‘a church’.
Now it’s important to remember that although there are issues, churches have been and can be beneficial if they are operating how they were intended. Over time through the different early European churches, much of the World has heard about Jesus Christ and those who acknowledge Christ as their Savior will naturally head first to a church. For some it may be that a Church or religious organisation, a tract or website played a part in that person’s conversion. But as we know from scripture, the power for Salvation comes only from Jesus and it is to Him only who the born again believer is to be committed to. Salvation is not determined by how many times you attend church or whether or not you give to the church as many are preaching today. We are not compelled to go to a building to have a relationship with God but we go to church for many other reasons which we will look at in this series.
It’s interesting when you look at church attendance because in many places it is declining and we ask ourselves the question why? Well I can only speak of churches here in the UK from experience but most churches in this country are open one day a week out of seven for the congregation. This time is a precisely scheduled 90 minute service which consists of 45 minutes of worship, 15 minutes discussing the church then a 30 minute sermon. Most of these sermons are just passages of scripture read out and explained with virtually no spiritual interpretation or meaning at all. The congregations are left week in week out spiritually starving due to the lack of spiritual understanding of scripture and congregation setup.
On top of that churches are becoming more like a social club and if you look at the definition of a social club it’s not too dissimilar to what we are witnessing today.
The definition of a social club is a ‘group of people or the place where they meet, generally formed around a common interest, occupation or activity. All clubs have some form of membership – a standard or expectation which you must meet in order to join and they will require a form of payment being made to join such a club.’
Many churches can relate to this setup. The membership fee is the tithe (which we will come onto in our article tithing), the common interest is Jesus and the standard of expectation is the statement of faith/beliefs which almost every church or organisation has. The member must adhere to these strict statements otherwise they will have to leave unless they are willing to change their mind by allowing the church leader to try and persuade them to do so. I remember one occasion at my former church they were running a course about a Christian’s identity in Christ which was a great idea. I myself signed up and I asked the pastor whether two of my neighbours who were Christians could attend also as I really felt it would benefit them. He firmly told me No as they were not members of the church. Even though they were part of the body of Christ, they weren’t part of the body of this church which is a far cry from the messages which you see outside the church on posters which say ‘church is for everyone’.
There are many churches that won’t open their doors to the congregation during the week unless it’s for some sort of course. The church needs to be a place which encourages believers to fellowship on a daily basis if possible for them like we read about in Acts 2:46 and 5:42. They need to get out of this ritual of ‘one day a week church’. I believe that this is another reason why Christians are spiritually starving because they view church attendance as performance related. If they go on a Sunday and sign the register, their salvation is secure. No! God wants a relationship with us 24/7 365 days a year.
Now fellowship with our brothers and sisters is so important, I’m not denying that. What should be happening is that we should be soaking ourselves in Gods Word, being taught by our teacher the Holy Spirit and then meeting up to share revelations and uncoverings to encourage and edify one another. But many who have this performance based mentality will listen to a sermon which is 30 minutes long and that may be all they hear until the following week. As we have mentioned but will go into more detail in our following articles, what is the quality of the sermon itself? Is the preacher being led by the Holy Spirit or are they operating from their carnal mind? If our brothers and sisters are not searching and testing the scriptures for themselves then how do they expect to grow spiritually and in their relationship with Christ?
So I believe that churches should be open more often for the congregation not just for other uses. We have all seen the great things that churches have done and continue to do for congregations and in communities. To name just a few they have soup kitchens, allow the use of their facilities for food banks and other similar uses which benefit the poor which we know is scriptural (Matthew 19:21, Luke 12:13). In some cases areas have been regenerated by churches especially those in poverty stricken places in the world. But many have gone down the route of hiring the church out for anything other than what the alleged purpose of what the building is for namely bingo, sports, dance to give just a few examples. For some this is to continue to finance the business type hierarchy within the church, maintain aging buildings, buy audio or visual equipment, the list goes on. So we must ask ourselves is this really furthering the kingdom? More detail on this is in our article tithing.
So as we’ve seen there are now many uses for the church and some could even be mistaken for a nightclub instead of an assembly to worship. Churches are trying so hard to make the Gospel attractive to this generation, that they have turned it into a marketing scheme that people can buy into. In an attempt to draw in unbelievers and even ‘so called Christians’, the Gospel has been mixed with pizza nights, comedy nights, and beer and a Bible nights. If the Holy Scriptures alone aren’t enough for a person to repent and accept salvation through Jesus Christ then entertainment is not going to take them in that direction either. I’m reminded here of what happened when Jesus saw what was going on in the temple and His reaction to that in Matthew 21:12-13.
In an attempt to appeal to the masses they forget their real purpose and what started as a desire to glorify God and share the Good News now appears to be less priority. The power of God has vanished and there is a lack of desire to pursue Him from church congregations and like Samson in Judges 16:20, they ‘know not that the Spirit of God has departed them’. Sadly because of this ‘my people are destroyed though lack of knowledge’ Hosea 4:6. There needs to be a change of direction but more and more are following the existing setup adding to the growing number of Christian denominations which we will look at in the next article 48,400 denominations.
Church Rethink Series
Part one: Churchianity
Part two: 44,800 Christian denominations
Part three: Religion
Part four: Legalism
Part five: The Tithe
Part six: The Early Church
Part seven: The Future Church