When we began our journey of walking with God outside the institutional church (IC) we read many books about the natural movement of God in a fellowship. There are more books on the topic now and they use the term 'organic' to describe church life. Books that describe the paganism of the traditions in the IC's have been written and blogged about many times over and that movement that was once fresh is becoming stale again. As natural and organic as people try to make church life, they are still wrapped up in the same rituals they just call it something different and meet in homes. You can leave the IC, but it takes a while for the IC to leave you.
I'm not going to come out and say anything negative about those books or the authors who wrote them and have huge blog followings. God used them to help our family and they teach powerful truths that can lead to freedom. However, I have noticed something and I even wrote to one such author about this and he replied in agreement with me. This 'organic' movement has caught the attention of misled pastors and they are trying to use the same lingo and format to keep people in churches. They are monopolizing on this movement just as several other pastors have over the centuries. When God is moving, those who don't understand His natural moving and flowing through people, will try to mimic that movement, use the same lingo, and continue in their authoritarianism in the lives of the people. We are leery of this and have seen time and time again how people are kept in bondage to a system that is flawed and crumbling. So the question is asked and demands an answer..as the system comes down, what will the people do? How will they learn? Who will teach them? Where will they gather? Who will keep them organized? How will you 'survive' without a pastor?
There are plenty of books out there that already answer their questions and if I try to explain it here it would really be a waste of my time. No matter what author's name is on the book, if you haven't read them by now why would you take my word for it? I'm not going to try to convince anyone they need to leave their churches, or to ditch their pastors and church families. People have the freedom to worship where they want, with who they want, and study the Bible within the groups they choose. The problem I am seeing is that many pastors refuse to acknowledge that we truly have this freedom.
Thankfully we live in a country where we have a Constitution that gives us this freedom and protects it. Sadly, I think if that law changed, the pastors would be the first to force church attendance on all the people. Now that's scary. The very thing the reformers fled from, they actually brought with them. They were really no different that Constantine or King James. When they came to America they forced people to go to church, memorize their creeds, and pledge allegiance to their churches and their Bibles. Some protestants even burned women who didn't go to church...by calling them witches and some of them were not witches. It is never a good thing to burn someone for not believing the same as you do, yet people get 'burned' all the time for just that.
Today we see preachers who label non-church attenders as apostate, rebellious, and even heretics. They practice their own style of persecution called excommunication or disfellowship, spread rumors of fear to keep their church members divided from those who go free and some even send spies out to make sure those who have left aren't talking about their churches and if they are, they start up the persecution all over again. I'm not saying that all preachers and churches do this, but a great number of them do. They will deny they do these things so if you want to really to know if they do, talk to someone who was once a long time member who has left and ask them. If the leadership of the church frown upon you doing so, that's your first red flag that they do.
But that's not what I want to talk about today. If we think Christianity doesn't have problems then we have a hole in our heads or buried deep in the sand of blindness. If you just really don't see a problem with Christianity then be on your way because you won't get what I am saying otherwise. Now some might call me a heretic already for talking about such things and that is fine, it wouldn't be the first time. I actually take it as a compliment, so if someone wants to call me names like that then go right ahead, it's your freedom to do so. Whereas they would despise it if I said the same about them and they'd try to cover it up, second red flag!
There is absolutely nothing we can do to keep control of the reputation of Christianity. It is wildly out of control and not thriving as many would like to think it is. So stop trying to protect the church's reputation. You won't be able to and it's not your burden to bear. So the next question comes in,...has Sisterlisa and her family left God? I can't help but to chuckle at that..if you follow my Facebook discussions or read my blogs at all, you'll know that's a silly question. But for the sake of the conversation and a tender ear to those asking, I have come to look at this from a different perspective and figure out why they would ask this question. Here's what I came up with...they equate loving God with church attendance and serving in their churches. And maybe they think that there is no way for me to love God or serve Him outside the IC's system. That is a false mindset, a stronghold, that keeps people slaved to the system. Now if you choose to stay there and are happy, then that's fine, but please know that we don't 'need' the system to love God or serve Him.
I don't like to boast of the ways we serve God in our family, because I feel that is between us and God, but for the sake of the curiosity of my friends who think we need a church to do so I will share. God has given us a ministry that is different, but still just as needed in the world today. The ministry we are a part of is ordained by Christ, led by Christ, and we are accountable to Him. The next thing we're 'cautioned' about is who are we accountable to? If Christ isn't powerful enough to keep us in His plan, then no man will be able to, but I understand the question. I understand the question, because I recognize that we grow in fellowship and among teachers. I fully believe in the need spoken of in Ephesians chapter 4 where Paul was specific that we need apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. Some pastors will tell you that the only 'position' left is the pastor and the chapter shows us that this teaching is not true. He said specifically that these functions are needed until we are all in unity of the faith. They will claim that we need evangelists, but in today's culture the evangelists are just pastors who travel and help support the pastor's teachings. In addition to that they only approve of a teacher if the pastor controls what is taught. Not only is this belief not found in the Bible, but it leaves the pastors without the kind of 'accountability' they insist my family needs. So who teaches the pastor?
So back to the question of who we are in fellowship with for teaching. God promised us that his Spirit would be our Teacher and He would lead us into all truth, and He does. For anyone to deny that we can be taught and led by the Spirit only, has defied the very power and nature of Christ in us. Although we fully believe His Spirit is our primary teacher, we do glean from others who function in the gift of teaching. We read many of the same books that many of you read and we watch many of the same pastor's YouTube videos that you watch. We have fellowship with local pastors and leadership gatherings just like many other pastors do. Just because we disagree with the IC system doesn't mean that we ditched the functioning of those listed in Ephesians 4.
We do believe it is beneficial to learn from others and there comes a time when you take a transition from being a student only, to becoming a teacher/student. Many pastors feel that anyone who is not a pastor is to always be a student only, but that is not how God designed us. He did not design us all to remain students only. He has a purpose for each of us and as we grow, we grow up in Christ to be what He designed us to be and we aren't meant to be cut-out cookies that look and act like the pastors and their wives. But I'll talk about that another time.
Part 2 (coming soon)
How I serve God outside the IC.