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Recently we received a letter from a Christian brother who has left the church — but has not left Jesus. In his letter he laments the condition of many churches in our day and speaks of the disconnect of our modern-day churches from the biblically ordained pattern seen in first century churches.  

While we believe that there still remains many, many faithful churches, we know we are in the time period of the lukewarm church that Jesus spoke of (Revelation 3).  There certainly are a lot of churches preaching a social gospel and Sunday morning messages with a to-do list for the Christian rather than an “It is done” message that glorifies the Saviour. Without proclaiming man’s need for forgiveness and our loving, merciful and gracious Savior who offers redemption, restoration, and rest, churches fall short of the mission God has ordained.  

We share this letter with you today, so you can be aware of the slow fade happening in many churches.  This reader has articulated his perception of the church fairly and it is one that many have experienced.  And for those of us who belong to a faithful, Bible believing, gospel preaching church, tis is something we need to be made aware of.  We mustt encourage pastors, church leaders, and all Christians to keep their focus on Jesus, to read and study the Bible, to be witnesses to all people.  Church is ordained to be the place where Christians can go for edification and encouragement, comfort and care.  It is not to be a place to flee from which we flee when life is difficult or we are broken.

Lament from a Reader

I’m not at all convinced that the church structure we have today —  i.e. senior pastor, youth pastor, church building with high real estate and vocational ministerial overhead expenses, etc. —  is anything akin to what we see in Acts, which is the Church that turned the world upside down. Nor is it what we should see today. 

What we see are too many slick versions of the Middle Ages church structure massaged into something more legalistic or user-friendly. or a customized synthesis of both.

Of course, we know from history that the persecuted Church is the one with power. While a positive rendering of ‘Christian’ is no longer near the center of the American public lexicon, we’re far from real persecution. Though I believe it could come upon us quicker than most realize. 

It’s all about context — or the insidious lack thereof.

How often is Romans 8:28 quoted, and even preached, out of context? Or John 8:32? There are prerequisites… “those who love God” and “if you abide in My word, then...” for a couple examples.If those are not adhered to, it all evaporates into a sort of fuzzy cheap grace. Antinomianism. Or a form of fideism.

It was either J.I. Packer or John Stott who, years ago, said something to the effect that it used to be that the pastor’s study was a place where a shepherd prepared to feed the flock, as opposed to now where it’s the Senior Pastor’s office from where he conducts the business of the church.

That is to say, while the church is corporate — meant to be bound and girded in true koinonia (fellowship) — it is not to be a corporation, per se. It is a family… a body. And I increasingly come to think that we’ve now got much, if not the whole thing, wrong.

The Lord certainly uses the imperfect to do His perfect work. 

I guess that’s part of His plan. But where is the line?

In The City of God, I think, (or maybe it was in Confessions), Augustine said something like, it’s not the same thing to view the Promised Land as it is to walk the road that takes you there. 

Pew-warming is inherently, literally, sitting, and viewing. And I guess I’m even a little bitter that true koinonia seems so incredibly rare. That I was subtly becoming conditioned to trip over the bar rather than stretch to reach for it.  

I think it’s because of how we’ve re-imagined the church in our own image. That’s not new. It is once again, playing God…with God. It’s not [necessarily] conscious. But rather certainly default.

Churchianity?

How is it now, a self-imposed, churchianity expatriate, isolated from the flock? Let me explain why.

There are two types (at least) of human hypocrisy. There is the one where you say one thing and do another, but are not really conscious of it. The unexamined life. And there is the hypocrisy that you are aware of, sometimes painfully, yet are unable or unwilling, to act against. 

It’s hard to soar with the eagles when you’re surrounded by turkeys.

In the later analysis, I simply realized I needed no help to be a turkey and just opted out. It is rather dismal. But we must understand that discernment is a two-edged sword, and the iron that sharpens iron can also blunt it.

It is also with discomforting awareness that I affirm my own plank-in-the-eye syndrome. The pervasiveness of it is of small comfort.

I’ve rambled on, ranted, far too long. It is with appreciation and gratitude I commend your perseverance in this ‘bearing up with one another.’

May the Peace of the Lord abide in you. May it once again find me.

J.G.

Our Thoughts

This brother is well aware of his broken fellowship with a local gathering of Christians.  Pray that God will help him find a faithful, Bible preaching/teaching, gospel proclaiming church where he will find community, and all the blessing the corporate body is intended to be. 

So what about you?  Whatever kind of church you find yourself attending, you must be discerning when listening to sermons and teachings.  Be ready to question if something sounds contradictory to God’s Word.  Do as the Bereans did and check the Scriptures (Acts 17:11).   And finally, be determined to proclaim God’s truth to all people…the lost and the saved.  We all need to hear about the love of God, salvation in Jesus, and the Holy Spirit’s presence in our lives to grow us in knowledge and in grace.

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