The Way

The Way
My Journey Into the Community God Intended

Monday, October 25, 2010

Halloween and the Church

It's that time of year again, and I feel compelled this year to address a serious problem with Halloween - the church. I know, most folks would clamour to condemn the pagan ritualistic celebration of All Hallows Eve - the witches, vampires, werewolves, zombies and any other assortment of 'monsters'. While the cultural obsession with such things is disturbing, yet more disturbing is the traditional church's contribution to the un-holy day - the Hell House. Running a group of teenagers through a morbid scene of the untimely death of a peer and their impending sentencing to hell because of their failure to 'give their heart to Jesus'. Faced with the choices of going to hell or getting their life in order, many impressionable teen choose the latter - I mean, who wants to go to hell? So, what is the problem with this? However well intentioned, the church is guilty of giving our young people a false sense of salvation. Playing on the emotional instability of many young people, we send a false message that simply not wanting to go to hell will get you into heaven. All too often (not always, but more often than not) we fail to mention confession, repentance and the Lordship of Christ. It's just "believe that Jesus is the Son of God, that He died on the cross to pay the price for your sin and that He was raised on the third day and BOOM! - you are saved". They repeat a prayer to this effect when really what they are thinking after going through this bloody drama is, "God, I don't want to die and go to hell. Please save me from hell!". Effectively, the church is trying to 'scare the hell' out of them instead of sharing the truth with them - as Jesus said, "Unless a man is born again, he cannot enter the kingdome of God". To be born again, we must first die to self - selfish desires, ambitions and motivations. In order to do this we have to agree with God that these things are sin and turn from them - or die to them. We then must respond to Jesus, acknowledging the love He showed when He paid the price for our sin and run to embrace Him, receiving all that He has for us - choosing at that moment to live for Him - letting Him live through us. Like John said, "He who has the Son has life - he who does not have the Son, does not have life". If all these kids are getting out of Hell House is that they don't want to go to hell, then they didn't get the Son. If they didn't get the Son, then they have not been born again. If they have not been born again, then they cannot enter the kingdom of God. And all this because we lied to them and told them if they prayed this prayer, they would not go to hell.

Sadly, the same thing happens in the pulpits of America every Sunday morning. It is just done without the bloody, mangled car and vivid imagery of a fiery hell. We have watered down the gospel, lowering the bar, so to speak, to make it easier for people to 'get into heaven' to make the membership roll numbers look better. Friends, the bar has been set at Calvary and cannot be lowered. If they are running away from hell and not running to Jesus, then we have miscommunicated the gospel.

All that said, yes, I realize there are some true salvation experiences that come from these Hell Houses. But how many countless more young people are leaving these places thinking they have eternal security jsut because they ahve done nothing more than what Satan, himself does? Satan believes that Jesus is the Son of God, that He died on the cross to pay the price for your sin and that He was raised on the third day - he was there when all this happened. He believes all the facts, but he does not have the Son - he has rejected the Son to live out the remainder of his existance in rebellion to the authority of Christ. See the difference? Churches today are filled with the past generations of those who made a decision to not go to hell, but never made a decision to live for Jesus. So, we have large groups of people calling themselves the body of Christ who are in fact still living for themselves with no concern for the lost condition of others because they are still in a lost condition themselves. They may be good at telling you how to become a member of a church organization, but they cannot introduce you to Jesus because they have never met Him themselves.

It is that time of year again, and I feel compelled to implore you, first of all to examine yourselves - "Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith. Examine yourselves. Or do you not recognize for yourselves that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless you fail the test." (2 Corintians 13:5) Look back to your 'salvation experience' and ask yourself, "was I running from hell or running to Jesus?" Weigh heavy the words I have written here for they are the litmus test of salvation. If you were not running to Jesus then I have good news - you can make that right today. Secondly, we have to stop trying to scare the hell out of the lost and start loving Jesus into them. Give them the Truth, the whole Truth and nothing but the Truth - so help us God! When we share the love of Christ, we glorify God. After all, isn't that what the church is all about? Come on, let's run to Jesus!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The End and the Beginning

Well, it is approaching fast. What? The end - and the beginning. This coming Sunday (October 3rd, 2010) will mark our last Lord's day in the institutional church. On October 17, 2010 we will begin our journey on The Way, to my knowledge, the first organic church meeting in Terrell, TX. As of now, we have at least two other families who will be joining us on this journey. My heart is to grab up all of our friends and beg them to join us, but because I do NOT want to cause any division in the church body we are leaving, we are not trying to proselytize any. If any desire to follow, we will counsel with them about their decision to make certain their desire to join us is a calling from God, not running from their current situation.

So, what is different about The Way compared to the traditional church? Well, everything, nearly. We are not a cult - we worship the Lord Jesus Christ, son of Yaweh God and are indwelt by His Holy Spirit. We do not have a paid pastor position, as our meetings are participatory and every member is allowed and encouraged to contribute freely and spontaniously in the meetings from their spiritual gifts. We do not have a "church building", as we serve a God who dwells in a temple made by His hands, not one we put ourselves into debt to impress the surrounding community by building. We will meet in homes of our members (who are not voted-in, but born-in when they are born-again.) and will not be restricted to one to two hour services once or twice a week. We will have a set startup time, but will go until the Spirit says we are done - be it 20 minutes or 8 hours. We will work hard to build community and family relationships among the members and will focus on becoming living, breathing disciples of Jesus. We will take meals together regularly, fellowship with each other and really get to know one another - the good, the bad and the not-so-pretty. And we will love each other in a manner that will make the lost community around us want to be a part of that special thing that is growing in our midst.

I have been asked why I can't do this within the confines and under the authority of the traditional church - why break away and start something new? My answer is in the way of a parallel:

Yesterday, we took my wife's car, a 2007 Dodge Charger, and traded it in for a 2010 Challenger. The Charger was a lease and still looked immaculate, aside from a few minor scuffs and stains. We could have purchased the Charger for a lot less than what we would have had to pay for the same car on a dealer's lot. The only problem was this car started using A LOT of oil - about a quart every two weeks. Although it still ran great, looked great and was priced great - internally it is destined to fail mechanically because something in the motor is just not right. The car's ability to drive is inevitably goin gto fail. So, rather than buy the car and even have the engine replaced with a new, better one, we chose to trade and get the more streamlined model that catches the eye of most who see it (as far as we know it is the only one with this color scheme and wheels in Terrell). While the Challenger is brand new, is is patterned after the early model (1970 - 1972 models) and has the look and feel of the original with the punch of current technology.

I think you can connect the dots here and see where I am going with this. The traditional church "model" looks good, for the most part on the outside - it seems to run good most of the time - and can be had on just about every corner in every community in the USA. But, internally, it is built on a flawed system that takes away the priesthood of the believer (the common believer that fills the pews) and places body ministry on the backs and in the hands of a select few, which is totally unscriptural and ineffective. It has created a generation of spiritual zombies and even more misguided souls who believe they have salvation simply by believing the stories - the facts - about God. Church building are filled with strangers for two or three hours a week who's interaction with others can be summed up as "polite acknowledgements". It is no longer enough for me and my family. We yearn for the earlier model that had the spiritual muscle to change lives and positively affect the Kingdom. We want that stream-lined model that will catch the eyes of the unrepentant and cause them to look deeper to see what could have caused such a life-changing joy in our lives and want that same change for themselves and thier families. Putting a new engine in the old model would be alot like putting new wine in old wineskins - it could not hold up to the task you ask of it - because it wasn't designed to do so.

God is placing us as new wine in a new wineskin. It is all new and we are totally dependent on Him to guide, direct and bless.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Control Freak VS Servant Heart

Recently, I was informed that I had been labeled a "control freak", and that when I could not be in control of things at a church that I would move on to another church where I could "take over" and run things - and that I had been doing this for years. It is amazing the things people will make up or even repeat without even trying to discern the truth.

When we set out on this journey to place ourselves wholly in God's will, I knew there would be satanic attacks. In this sense, Satan is always predictable and seldom disappoints. He will rarely attack after you have hit one of those spiritual peaks where God has shown you something amazing, but will almost always throw a constant barrage of blows when you are on your way up to one of those peaks. Mark my words, set your eyes on Jesus and determine in your heart to do those things that will honor Him, then sit back and wait... As sure as the mouse will go for the cheese on the mouse trap, so Satan will show up to try and trip you up to make you miss what God has for you. It is like a road sign that tells you that you are certainly on the right path. If Satan is not attacking you, perhaps you should check the path you are on. Satan ALWAYS sets his path in opposition of God's children set about doing His will. If you are not hitting that demonic opposition, Satan does not see you as a threat - possibly because you are either not moving towards God or you are moving in a direction away from God.

Anyway... Back to my thought. In the past 10 years, I have had "membership" with three institutions. The first we left, not because we could not "run things", but because we felt no sense of community. I was active as a scriptural, biblically based servant minister (deacon), which was a position of no certain authority, outside of hosting a deacon family fellowship meeting once a month in our home. I had no more voice in the business or politics in the church than any other member - and I was perfectly OK with this. My family just did not feel the sense of community there that we read about in the New Testament - so we left looking for that. We did not leave mad or angry - just needing that sense of community.

We found ourselves at another institution where community was there and I was "recruited" to lead worship. During our time at this place, God blessed us with many new friends and allowed us to witness many miracles that today have often been relegated only to New Testament times. While God blessed us during our time here, He began closing the doors of the institution itself, moving the majority of membership away to other institutions as the leader of the church had begun to preach sermons downloaded off of the Internet, word for word, every week. (I began taking notes of key phrases he used in his messages and googling them when I got home, only to find the entire message on a website.) Once the community had moved away, we began a search for where God would have us go.

Which brings me to where we are now. After months of searching, we visited this small congregation just outside of our town. From the moment we walked into the doors, we felt the community, the love of Christ fleshed out through His people. We knew this was where God wanted us - to be the final leg in this journey He was soon to reveal to us. Here we experienced ministry with the body, missional work (local and global), and real fellowship. I was drawn in, again, as a servant leader (deacon) and was also asked to serve (after a couple of years) as an interim worship leader, until a replacement was found. I did not ask for these positions, but was happy to be able to serve in these capacities as the Lord allowed. When our pastor left, I was elected as part of a three man pulpit committee and served as a Wednesday nite Bible study teacher. I was approached by members of the church about taking on the position of pastor myself. Now, had I been a control freak, as some have suggested, I would have jumped at this opportunity to take over the reigns of this local body. However, since this was not the case, and I knew this was not God's calling on my life, I dismissed this opportunity as not being God's will for me and my family. As Forest Gump would say, "And that's all I got to say about that."

I have (and have not had in the past) no desire to "run things" in the church. I do have a burden to see that things are done properly and scripturally, which is not the same thing as wanting to be in control. Christ is the head of the Church and as such, should be the ultimate and only authority - I know that I am unable, unfit and unqualified to do His job and hence, have no desire to attempt to do so. God has given me a heart for His people - and those He wishes to become His people. He has given me a heart to build community within His body. He has given me an unimaginable desire to see His name honored and lifted up. It is this desire that dictates my actions, words and thoughts.

"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me." (Galatians 2:20)

This verse has never been more real and alive than it is now in my life. This life is not about me. It's not about you. It is all about Jesus. If you see anything good in me, that is Jesus. If you hear any truth come from my mouth - that is Jesus. My heart is to serve Him. His heart was to demonstrate to us that servant attitude which must be fleshed out in our lives in order for a lost world to see Him.

Friday, August 27, 2010

What is "The Church"?

This week I was challenged to explore the question, "what is the Church?". So I have, and I thought I would share here, for the record, what I found.

The word “church” comes from the Greek word ekklesia which is defined as “an assembly” or “called-out ones.” Nowhere in the Bible is the place where Christians meet referred to as a "church." This word appears around 75 times in the English Bibles, depending on the translation (around 110 times if you include the plural). Never does ekklesia refer to a building in which people gathered, for worship or for any other purpose. This tells us that the Church is not a place we go, but rather a group of specific people. In Romans 16:5, Paul says to "greet the church that is in their house". He refers to the people meeting in the house, not the building housing the people. I don't think there would be any intelligent argument to this fact in most religious circles today.

Now, to be more specific: this people are those who have been filled with the Holy Spirit upon repentance from their sin and conversion to the lordship of Jesus in their lives. This people called the "Church" in scripture are the body of Christ, of which He is the head. Looking at Ephesions 1:22-23, Paul says, "And God placed all things under His (Jesus) feet and appointed Him to be head over everything for the Church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills everything in every way." The New Testament Church is a body of believers who have been called out from the world by God to live as His people under the authority of Jesus Christ. I find in scripture that there are two aspects of the Church manifest in the world - the universal Church and the local church. Let me look closer at the two.

The universal Church would be all those who have this personal relationship (not a personal knowledge of) with Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 12:13 makes this clear when Paul tells us, "For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body — whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free — and we were all made to drink of one Spirit." Everyone who calls upon Jesus as Lord and has put their faith in Him and His sacrifice on Calvary to pay the price for their sin is a part, or a member, of the body of Christ and has received the gift of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit as evidence of this decision.

The local Church, in mathmatical terms, is a "subset" of the universal Church. In Galations 1:1-2, Paul writes, "Paul, an apostle — not from men or by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead — and all the brothers who are with me: To the churches of Galatia..." Paul was not addressing a group of denominations, ie, the first Baptist Church of Galatia, the Methodist church, the Catholic church, First Assembly of God church, etc... He was writing to the smaller, local bodies of believers (as mentioned earlier in Romans 16:5) who met together in various houses. How do we know this? History tells us throughout the Roman persecution of Christianity that for a local body to own property would have been a death sentence on all attending there. Only after the emporer Constantine declared Chritianity "legal" and ended persecution (from the Romans, anyway) would it have been possible. The first record of a dedicated church building dates back to the mid third-century. Galations was written around 49 A.D. The local Church is the place where the members of the universal Church should fully apply the “body” principles of 1 Corinthians 12: encouraging, teaching and building one another up in the knowledge and grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. A person becomes "a member" of the local and universal Church simply by exercising faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

Now, what is the purpose of the Church? Again, I find a two-fold purpose: the first and primary would be to bring glory to it's Head, Jesus Christ. How do we do this? By fulfilling the second purpose, which is fulfilling God's plan for the earth. Again, I find a two-fold purpose, the first being to edify fellow members of the Church body and the second to be the evangelism of, or sharing the Gospel with non-believers for the purpose of bringing them to making a salvation decision. Acts chapter 2 gives a great description of how this looks.

"Now all the believers were together and had everything in common. So they sold their possessions and property and distributed the proceeds to all, as anyone had a need. And every day they devoted themselves [to meeting] together in the temple complex, and broke bread from house to house. They ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And every day the Lord added to them those who were being saved." (44-47)

By building up each other, rather than just making sure selfish wants and needs were met, the lost community took notice of something amazingly different about this particular group of people. This opened the door to share the Gospel and as a result, people came to give their lives to Christ on a daily basis - which brings honor and glory to God.

This is what I find in scripture as to what the Church is.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Way

Reading through Acts in an in-depth study over the past year, God brought to my attention, yet again, the several references made to the church as "the Way". Until now, I failed to see the beautiful picture of Christ in this reference. In his writings, the author always capitalizes the reference "Way". In John 14:6, Jesus refers to himself as "the Way and the truth and the Life". To me this says the first church was a representation of Christ to the lost world. I believe this should still hold true today. The body of Christ should be a physical representation, or a reflection, if you will, of Jesus in the manner we live, love and linger. Linger??? (I added linger initially because I needed another word that started with "L".) I say, after thoughtful consideration, linger, because Jesus spent His time here on earth always looking to the cross and resurrection - making the most of the short amount of time that He had. He took 12 ordinary, common men (not educated theologians) and discipled them in a manner that they were able to easily duplicate with others after His ascension. He taught them that even though He was far greater than them, because of His love for them He became their servant - and instructed them to do the same for others. Although He had the authority and the right to condemn those in sin, He chose to encourage them to "sin no more" and offered forgiveness in exchange for repentance. Again, He made the most of the short time He was allotted by the Father to accomplish His mission.

Following His example, should we, as His church, not do the same? Shouldn't we make the most of the short amount of time we have here and live our lives in a manner that honors Christ and reflects, accurately, the life which He demonstrated for His followers? Of course, we should! It is to be and it will begin with me.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


The deeper I go into God's word, the more clear it becomes that God wants more from His church than a mere pittance of our lives. Going up to the "temple" once or twice a week and offering up our token hour and a half to two hours of sacrifice (of our time) is embarrassing. Even those who worship false gods, such as Buddah or Islam offer up far greater sacrifices of their time, some even their lives. How pathetic is it that those who claim to worship the one TRUE God do not even rival the devotion of those who worship dead men and graven images? God doesn't want our measley two hours a week - He wants our entire life. let me say that again - He wants our ENTIRE life, not just a portion of it. The love that God demonstrated at Calvary should be the same love we demonstrate on a daily basis - dying to self to serve others. Jesus fleshed this out for us to show us what it looks like. Why has this been ignored in the institution? Jesus defines who we are - He is the difference in those who call themselves by His name - at least, He should be. I have known for quite some time that, just as Jesus Himself said, "Not everyone who calls Me "Lord" will enter the kingdom of heaven - only those who do the will of My Father in Heaven" (Matt 7:21 - paraphrase). I believe those who truly belong to Christ will rise up from the chaos of the institution and either make the move into a real, legitimate, intimate relationship with the Messiah or rise up within the institution to bring reform. Once a true believer has seen the truth in God's word regarding the church and it's design, purpose and function and compares that with what we have enshrined within the institution, how can they NOT come to the conclusion that something is very amiss?

Just as Jesus struggled with the Pharisees and Saducees over the gross mis-management of God's house in that day, (the one time in scripture that Jesus visably was angered to rage) we today must take a stand against what is masquerading as the church. I covet your prayers as I seek God's will on how to most effectively do this.

Friday, July 23, 2010

It's been a while...

It's been almost a year since last I posted - and much has transpired in that time. I have spent the last 11 months pouring over scripture, the four Gospels and Acts to be specific. I have focused intently on the words and actions of Christ in context to really understand what His heart was as far as His followers and then the founding and inception of the first Church in Jerusalem - you know, the one Jesus He would build based on faith like unto that which Peter displayed when he proclaimed Jesus as the Messiah and the Son of God. THAT Church. I believe I now have a greater understanding of why God did some of the things He did - mainly because they accomplished His purpose and not necessarily the desires of man.

Man's desire is to be in control. Unfortunately, we are not qualified to effectively take on this role and do it in a manner that honors God. God is, however, well qualified and has a great deal of experience at being in control as He created all that is and holds all things together. Truth is, God did not create man to be in control, but rather to bring glory to Him. But, just as Satan managed to deceive 1/3 of the angels in heaven to rebel against God and deceived Adam and Eve into rebelling against God, he has also managed to deceive mankind that the church is an institutional organization that one must obtain membership into and be voted upon to gain "member status". I do not find this in scripture anywhere! How could the church have gotten so far off track? How have we, who call ourselves His children allowed this farce to propagate as long as it has? It is past time to give control of the church back to God and allow Him to reform, transform and make it uniform so that the Bride of Christ may present herself pure before Him when he returns for the Marriage Feast. It is time for the body to return to the commonism that created community in the first church which resulted in thousands upon thousands being added to the church - the body of Christ - on a daily basis.

Can the institution be reformed? I do not know. Jesus dealt with much the same situation in His day with the Jewish religion. It had disintegrated into a mere image of ehat God intended and become corrupt to the point that they plotted and carried out the assassination of their founder - Jesus. (I am pretty sure that was nowhere in the law of Moses!) The religious leaders saw their livelyhood threatened by the teachings of Jesus and went to extremes to make certain (they mistakenly thought) that the threat was neutralized. Will the institution of today see this movement to rebirth the church as the same threat? If so, what extremes will it go to to see this "threat" neutralized? For years I have waited for the persecution of the church to start from the government. What if the persecution we read about in the Word is not from the government but from organized religions that see "The Way" as a threat to the power and financial security of their system? Yes, there are governments out there on the other side of the world that are persecuting christians, inprisoning them and even taking their lives for their stand for Christ. And while this persecuted church may worship in secret merely to preserve their lives and those of their families, the governments would not be killing them if they were denouncing Jesus under pressure. They willingly go to their deaths holding to the name of Jesus. If given a choice between dying because I am an employee of ABC Company or quitting my job with ABC Company and having my life spared - what do you think I am going to do? My life is certainly more important than my position in the company - right? Exactly! I am going to bale, denouncing any affiliation with ABC Company so that my life would be spared. That position is not one i am willing to die for. OK, in the same light, will a member of a church institution under threat of certain death due to that affiliation be more likely to die for that affiliation or will they more likely than not renounce that membership in order to live? In that same light, would a bride sacrifice her life for that of her Husband that she truly loved? Absolutely! She would, of course, do this because her Husband set the example - He laid down His life to ensure the bride would be saved!

I think it is safe to say that it is relationships, not memberships, that bring people together and bind us in unity together. My hope, prayer and goal is to see the Church, the Bride of Christ, the Body of Christ come together in the unity of this relationship, forged in the blood of Christ and become what God intended us to be.

There is a movement of the Spirit already among the true church. That Spirit lives in me and is moving me - and I cannot and will not fight this move. May God be honored in my life as we begin this journey.