Of late I've been buried with work and family, but I've been hearing snippets of dialogue concerning the viability of the modern day church and the error of those who attend organized churches. My initial internal response was, "How arrogant!" Secondly, the Jim Jones fiasco came to mind as an example of what happens to those who start following independent, self-acclaimed spiritual experts and leaders and have no accountability. Then recently the Holy Spirit brought to mind the vein of scriptures below.
- Matthew 18:17, "And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector."
- 1 Corinthians 12:27-28, "Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually. And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues."
- Ephesians 4:12-14, "And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ. . .
- Matthew 13:24-30, "The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared. So the servants of the owner came and said to him, 'Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?'"
"He said to them, 'An enemy has done this.' The servants said to him, 'Do you want us then to go and gather them up?' But he said, 'No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. Let both of them grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, "First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.'"
Before there was the internet, there was the church. Before there was TV, there was the church. Before there was the telephone, there was the church, the ecclesia (EKKLESIA), the gathering of believers together under one "roof;" be that someone's home or a larger structure. Christian programming and instruction via TV, internet, blogs, books, seminars and the like are not to replace the church, but enhance it.
What is a shepherd without sheep? What good is it for God to give the gift of pastoring if there's to be no congregation? Are there corrupt pastors? Yes, too many, but that condition wasn't foreign to the early church as well. There will always be false teachers and charlatans, i.e. "tares." Does this mean you should abandon the church? Some, yes, without a doubt, but by no means does that mean one should renounce the divinely instituted congregating of believers who gather for corporate worship and instruction in a small or large building. (God instituted corporate worship from the times of ancient Israel.) Should one condemn all churches or relegate them to be "of the devil" because of a proliferation of secularism and sensationalism? Not according to the spirit of the parable of Matthew 13:24-30. God will avenge. God will expose them for who and what they are in his time.
Has God called you out of church, or at least a particular church? Then be obedient. He will lead you to a flock where you can grow and where your gifts can be used to edify others. It is rare and not without special purpose when God calls one out of a church fellowship. Every church group is not a fit for every Christian. (I've experienced this personally.) This is not heaven. We are to love each other and work towards peace and unity with each other, but people are in different places of spiritual growth and have different needs at different times in their lives. You should always seek the Lord as to what fellowship to join.
The church has and will continue to be under attack. And yes, I am fully aware of the difference between the corporate gathering of local believers and the church at large-- the body of Christ. The local church is comprised of members of the body of Christ, those seeking Christ and those who are "tares" and "goats".
Have you read Romans chapter 14? Do you understand the spirit and principle of Romans 14? Then let me finish with this, "Who are you to judge another's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand. One person esteems one day above another, (or one form of fellowship over another), another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. . ."
Church or no church? If you don't believe that the church is an organism created by God to build up the body of Christ, then be fully convinced in your own mind, but don't judge those who do believe. God is able to make them stand.
For those who do believe the Scripture and the sanctity of the church as Jesus conferred on her by calling it the "house of prayer" and his treatment of the temple when he cleansed it of those treating it as a commerce center instead of a holy place to reverence God --stand. Stand and pray. As in the days of old when the Israelites desecrated the temple, so many have desecrated the church today with lust, adultery, thievery, greed and lies. Come out from among those that are corrupt lest you become influenced by their corruption. Pray and trust God to lead you to a fellowship where they worship him in spirit and truth and reverence his holy Word. Remember, it is in unity of the spirit that we're able to stand.
May the love of Christ and the peace of God pervade your heart and mind.