If you look at the state of the world and society today, I truly believe that we are living in the end times. The signs which Jesus spoke about in Matthew 24 are happening. We are witnessing famines, pestilences (plagues), earthquakes (Matthew 24:7) all before our very eyes. Many are turning away from faith and many false prophets are rising up and deceiving many (Matthew 24:10-11). All of these are a foreshadowing of the time before the Lord makes His return. The question is are you ready?
Religion has left a lasting impression on those who don’t believe. Scandals, child abuse cases, hypocrisy, cronyism, political wrangling, and constant infighting have provided a negative view not only upon those outside of faith but many Christians have also turned away from faith because of it. Far from the love and peace which was intended for us by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. In this series we’ve covered a lot of ground on the issues within churches and religious organisations. By looking at the background behind these issues and by highlighting them, the body of Christ has a choice. The issues remain or we look to change it. I believe that the Lord is preparing for one big final sweep of people before His return. Could what happened in Acts happen again? Could we see another great movement of the Holy Spirit? Yes we could, but it starts with you and it starts with me.
As individuals we need to become rooted, grounded and established in the Word of God by giving Gods Word first place in our lives. Part of this is to separate and distance ourselves from the garbage of this world. Yes we are in the world but we are not of it (John 15:19). We no longer need to participate in the darkness of this world any longer; we have been translated into the Kingdom of light (Colossians 1:13).
Philippians 2:12 tells us to “work out our own salvation”, and the question we must ask ourselves as Christians is who or what has the greatest influence on me? My pastor, the doctrines of my church? Christian TV or radio programmes? Christian authors or televangelists? The answer should be the words of Jesus Christ and the empowerment from the Holy Spirit who dwells inside us. We need to rely upon our teacher the Holy Spirit to teach us and guide us and to empower us in our new life. By meditating on and memorising scripture we will recognise who we really are in Christ. We need to put off the old man and put on the new man (Ephesians 4:24) and walk in newness of life (Romans 6:4). We need to see ourselves as a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17), walk in the spirit (Galatians 5:16) and renew our minds (Romans 12:2).
“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God”
We know that the mind takes in and remembers information and it also thinks. Now only by thinking are we able to discern the good information from the bad. Being led by the Holy Spirit and knowing scripture helps us to do this. So renewing your mind is rethinking and this is what this series is about.
We see in Acts 17:11 how Paul compliments the believers in Berea for checking the authenticity of his own teaching by searching the scriptures. Like the Bereans, this is no different for us today. We can see from 2 Timothy 3:16-17 how knowing Gods Word is of vital importance to us. We need to test and examine what we are hearing (1 Thessalonians 5:19-21) and discern the good from the bad as we are warned in 1 John 4:1
“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world” 1 John 4:1
Many Churches or other religious organisations actually discourage genuine individual study of the Bible with the view that they should rely on their Pastor, vicar, Theologian, Televangelist etc to give them the message which is presented in the Bible. Many of these churches and organisations present themselves as the way to salvation. But by soaking ourselves in Gods Word it is clear that it points to Jesus as the ONLY source of salvation and our Christian lives are an outworking of our relationship with Him. So personal Bible study presents a potential risk for many of these leaders and so they will downplay it and not recommend it lest the congregation finds the truths out for themselves.
So we can see from what we’ve studied the responsibility for change in churches and religious organisations starts with us. Romans 12:1 tells us we need to present ourselves as a living sacrifice for God and this is so He can use us. If we as individuals practice what we’ve spoken about here and we get to this point then we can discern good churches, religious organisations, preachers, sermons from the bad. The traditions of men are making the Word of God of none effect (Mark 7:13) and we need to see change. We should be questioning things. It shouldn’t be confrontational. As born again believers we should be exhibiting the fruits of the spirit – love, joy and peace (Galatians 5:22-23) and so ask the preacher or whoever is in charge of the congregation for a discussion on their teachings or doctrines in private or even in a group.
“But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established” Matthew 18:16-17
If they are not willing or open to accept your words then ‘shake off the dust from your feet’ (Matthew 10:14) and move on. As a ministry we’ve acted upon these verses and have found ourselves in this position a few times already. We have sat down with church leaders for discussions and in some cases for several hours to talk about this subject but some are so rooted in religion and legalism that they just can’t see any other way. But the point is we have positioned ourselves to question things and then it is down to these leaders to study scriptures for themselves to verify what we are saying.
So what should the church look like today? We’ve seen how successful the early church was and it should be used as an example. As we saw in Acts, the disciples spread across the world, preaching the Good News and people repented, believed and accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior. These believers become members of the church – the church being the saved – The body of Christ. The same happens with us today and we should continue to follow the same principals as we’re instructed to do.
I believe that a congregation shouldn’t just be limited to a church building but rather like the early church, congregations should be encouraged to meet up within their homes or any other place for fellowship on a regular basis.
“So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart,” Acts 2:46
“And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.” Acts 5:42
We know from Matthew 18:20 that it doesn’t matter how many attend, whether it is two or more, the Lord is in the midst of them. This gets Christians out of this mindset and mentality of ‘one day a week’ fellowship. Throughout the New Testament we are reminded not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together, but to exhort one another (Hebrews10:25). So that we grow (Acts 2:42), encourage and edify one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11) and stir up love and good works (Hebrews 10:24).
Now there are many verses which direct us to organisation within congregations and this is where it is crucial to recognise whether a Christian has been called to serve in certain positions. From Ephesians 4:11-12 we can see how those who have been appointed to different roles within a congregation are to equip Gods people so that the body of Christ may be built up.
“And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers,” Ephesians 4:11
In 1 Timothy 3:1-12 we read about bishops which some translations refer to as overseers. Deacons are also mentioned and in these positions we see what their character must be like. In Acts 14:23, the apostles ‘appointed’ elders and again in Titus 1:11, Paul tells Titus – a man of faith to ‘appoint’ elders.
We know that someone who had been called by God was the apostle Paul. He himself knew he had been called to such a position as he tells us in scripture he was ‘appointed’ (1 Timothy 2:7, 2 Timothy 1:11) as an apostle, a preacher and a teacher. So how do others know that they’ve been called to fill such positions? It’s about knowing what gifts God has given us and what we are called to do. As we’ve seen here, Paul knew his gifts and he knew he had been appointed and if you look at Acts 14:23, the apostles who we know were full of the Holy Spirit ‘appointed elders in every church.’
In Acts 6:1-15 we read how the widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. The twelve apostles didn’t want to give up preaching the Word of God to serve tables. They summoned the multitude of the disciples and told them; “Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business” (Acts 6:3). Look at verse 5; “they chose Stephen a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit”. These Christians knew. Now how many churches are using this as an example today? This selection process should be used like the early church. But what you end up seeing, especially in institutionalised religion is an ad in a paper or on a website looking for a ‘job of vicar etc’ to be filled and then it gets filled by someone with the most qualifications. What we need is Christians to fill these positions who are strong in faith, filled with the Holy Spirit and who are soaking themselves and living by the Word of God regardless of worldly qualifications. They need to know that they are called and we should be able to discern whether they have been called just like we have seen in Acts 6.
“Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” Acts 20:28
The same is for us, we need to find our place in the body of Christ. We need to know our calling. Romans 12:1 tells us we need to present ourselves as a living sacrifice for God and this is so He can use us. Church leaders should be helping the assembly to grow by seeking the gifts they have. Jesus has given us all gifts (Romans 12:3-8, 1 Corinthians 12) and we need to know what they are in order to edify the body of Christ.
The measure of any church or religious organisation, regardless of denomination is not the name it is called, not what it looks like nor how well it is organised but instead how faithfully it adheres to the Word of God. Churches are made up of people who are capable of error, so no church is perfect. We see this in Galatians 2:11 when Peter, the first apostle, gave into pressure by the Judaizers to separate himself from Gentile believers. Paul tells us that when Peter had come to Antioch, he withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed’ (Galatians 2:11). Paul was able to confront Peter not because he was an apostle but on the revealed truth of Gods Word.
So to summarise what we think the future church should look like. As individuals we have a personal responsibility to soak ourselves in the Word of God, being led by the Holy Spirit. We need to search the scriptures and test all things that we are hearing and be able to discern the good from the bad. Within congregations we should share and discuss revelations and uncoverings of scripture as revealed to us by The Holy Spirit. Every Christian should be sharing their spiritual insights so that others within the fellowship have opportunities to relate to their spiritual knowledge (2 Peter 1:20). These revelations and teachings should be shared and open for discussion not only with the rest of the congregation but also for interested non-believers. The congregation should be organised and led by someone who has been called or ordained to be within that position. Instead of just one single speaker, at least two or three people should speak at every assembly as they feel led. If something is revealed to someone by the Holy Spirit, then the speaker should allow that person to interrupt to share that revelation. As a congregation we should then assess and discuss what we have heard by whoever has spoken, sharing our opinions and then reaching an overall view on its authenticity in line with scripture. Brothers and sisters, the traditions of men are making the Word of God of none effect (Mark 7:13) but as we’ve seen change starts with us. We are the church – the saved – the body of Christ and we need to encourage, edify, and love one another and grow together being part of a congregation where its leaders are helping to make disciples and seeking the gifts they have.
As you may have read on our other pages, our ministry is founded by a group of believers who broke free from religion and legalism and recognised that there are many issues with current churches and religious organisations. Christianity is about relationship with Jesus and not religion. So as a group we have become rooted and grounded in the Word of God and we listen to our teacher the Holy Spirit (John 14:26). It would be rather selfish and unjust for us to just criticise the church, fellowship with one another learning spiritual truths and not sharing them. So that’s why we founded this ministry to raise awareness of these issues and to share spiritual truths that we have learned about scripture through our articles. We feel as a group that this is what God has laid on our heart and what we have been called to do. We continue to upload our articles on a regular basis and we have been meeting up with leaders of various different churches to see if they themselves recognise these issues, discussing scripture and whether there could be opportunities for change. Since starting as a ministry we have attracted many like minded believers who feel the same way about what we have spoken about and so for the foreseeable future we will continue with what we are doing and allow the Lord to direct our paths (Proverbs 3:5) for His Glory.
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