Yes, I Am a Recovering Christian Leader

Yes, I am a recovering Christian leader (to borrow from the 12-step lexicon).  I was a pastor.  I sought to get people to come to my church.  I thought I was doing it for God, but I should have known better.

I told people that they needed God.  That was true, and I believed it.  What I wasn’t admitting to them, however, was that I needed them.  I needed them in the church when I preached because I would be embarrassed if my church was empty or only had a few coming.  I needed their tithes because without them I couldn’t pay the bills.  I needed them to volunteer because without their time commitments we couldn’t have enough programs to attract more people.

I liked to think that I had surrendered my life to a calling to preach the good news of Jesus Christ, but there was so much I that I had to do to sustain the church that only a fraction of my time went to the original purpose.  There was new member visitation, worship team practice, board meetings, and programs of every description: for youth, for women, for men, for couples, for singles, and on and on it went.

There are successful churches and there are struggling churches.  I’ve been part of both.  Those that do well operate on sound business principles, those that struggle don’t.  In other words, church success has nothing to do with Divine presence and church failure has nothing to do with Divine absence.  Church was an instrument of God in the New Testament, but it’s been a strictly human arrangement ever since – as evidenced by its divided nature (“A kingdom divided against itself cannot stand”).  Any church’s success or failure today can be explained by sociological, not theological, principles.

The point is that church is a structure God has not used since New Testament times.  He blesses faith wherever and whenever He finds it in a human heart.  If that person happens to be in church, fine.  If that person is somewhere else, fine.   People pay attention to church structure, but God doesn’t care.  He’s looking for faith in individual human hearts.

Once I realized that God had abandoned the structure of the church, I did, too.  I have never regretted it.  It is a beast that consumes the resources of people who want to serve God.  I know this not just from the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit, but from my own personal experience.

Having repented of my pastoring, I am now free to praise His holy name – which is precisely what I was wanting to do all along.  Only now, I don’t need people to give me anything or do anything for me in order to accomplish that.

I explain more about how I walked away from being  a pastor in I Left My Church by Letting It Leave Me.

22 Replies to “Yes, I Am a Recovering Christian Leader”

  1. I’m sorry that your experiences have left you so turned off to the Church. I have had times away from the church, too, never expecting to go back. But I discovered that I can’t be a Lone Ranger type Christian. I need to be a part of the Body of Christ, as imperfect as it is. The struggling churches draw me the most, because their need is greatest. Where the Church is weak, Christ can be strong.

    1. A Lone Ranger Christian is just what Jesus was, and what He wants us to be.

      You are a part of the body of Christ by virtue of your connection with Christ – not with anyone else.

      The church of the New Testament was God’s plan to prepare people for the coming of His kingdom. That kingdom has come and doing church today is as useless as sacrificing animals today. It’s the kingdom of God we should be seeking (Matthew 6:33).

      I looked at your blog. You seem to equate today’s churches with the kingdom of God. If so, why then are churches divided? (Jesus made clear that God’s kingdom could not be divided.)

  2. Mike,

    I’m not sure what I have to say that might matter to you. I picked up a copy of your book “A Nonchurchgoe’s Guide to the Bible” at a bookstore this evening, after taking a brief look through it.

    There are any number of things that I am concerned about regarding what I have learned through the blogs I’ve been reading here. I also graduated from seminary, although I don’t have as many years of seminary training as you do. I am also a minister, although I am not an ordained pastor, although, if God wills, I would like to be.

    In reading the blog posts I have read on this site “explaining” why you left the church seem somewhat short of an actual explanation of what you discovered that made it untenable for you to continue to be a pastor or to continue to attend church. Just because there were administrative responsibilities that went along with being a pastor (which is what I derived from your explanation) seems inadequate as a reason to leave. Was there something more? You mentioned that people sometimes get hurt in church experiences; and I can testify to having had that difficulty myself. However, just because a bad experience arises when a person attempts to do something the Lord calls on them to do, doesn’t necessarily invalidate God’s call for the person to do that thing. Did Jesus not tell the disciples to get in the boat and go to the other side of the lake, and then a storm arose? They were in the will of God when they obeyed Him, despite the adverse circumstances.

    Additionally, I am very surprised that a graduate of a Reformed seminary, like Covenant, would arrive at teaching universalism, modalism, and preterism. What happened????

    1. Mike,
      All right. I have now read all of these links. It seems to me that you posit a false disjunction in setting obedience to Christ in opposition to attending church. These are not mutually exclusive alternatives! Indeed, I would offer that obedience to Christ includes–as Hebrews says–“not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some” (Heb. 10:25). These are not, therefore, mutually exclusive alternatives.

      You believe the church is imperfect–IT IS! It is composed of imperfect people, among whom both you and I are numbered! You indicate that there is no church today that completely follows a NT pattern. Part of the reason you believe this seems to be that it has to be incorporated, etc., all of which you don’t see in the NT.

      Well, there are reasons for that: The fledgling church met in homes, as I’m sure you know. I don’t think the church met in buildings for at least a century or more. Of course, as you mentioned, there are house churches today; but you find that they, too, somehow have (or ARE!) “distractions”. from serving Christ. How can this be, when the early church itself met together, out of obedience to Christ?

      Now, if you want to say that there is no perfectly NT church today, then what difference does that make? Is it not better to obey Christ’s desire for His people to gather together, however imperfectly, than not to do so at all? Consider that Jesus Himself, attended synagogue, “as was His custom” (Luke 4:16)–please note that important phrase. Do you think the synagogue of Jesus’ day was “perfect.?” Do you think that they did everything right? If Jesus, as God in the flesh (as we both agree), had followed your logic, He would have AVOIDED going to the synagogue, like the plague! After all, He knew everything they were doing wrong; Alternately, He could have started His own perfect synagogue, in opposition to the existing one–one that perfectly exemplified how He knew it should have been. Did He do either of these 2 things? No, He did not. Jesus, fully aware of the deficiencies and shortcomings of the existing ecclesiastical structure, nevertheless, tolerated their sins, flaws, foibles, and shortcomings, and identified Himself in this way with the people of God; thus, giving us a pattern, that we should do as He Himself did–HE, Who certainly did not NEED to go to synagogue, being God incarnate.

      In Christ,

      Greg

  3. Greg,

    As for Hebrews 10:25, see the post Hebrews 10:25.

    What makes churchgoing distracting to the purpose of God is that it distracts from focus on the kingdom of God.  Urging people to follow Christ by going to church is like the Judaizers in New Testament days who urged believers to follow Christ by participating in the temple worship of ancient Israel.  Temple worship was becoming obsolete.  Shortly thereafter, church would as well (The Feast of Temporary Housing).  In this regard, see:

    You seem to think that my objection to church today is that it is imperfect.  That is not the case.  Even the New Testament church was imperfect.  The difference is that the New Testament church was being perfected by God.  Today’s churches are man-made and humanly-led organizations which are constantly being corrupted by that human leadership.  This following post identifies five distinct marks of the New Testament church, none of which are present in today’s churches:

    Consider also the thematic New Testament prophecy that the church would become apostate in that generation, and just before the coming of the Lord:

    You speak of the church as if Jesus was founding that as an institution for the ages.  Go back to the gospels and see that it was “the kingdom of God” Jesus was preaching as an institution for the ages – not church.  Do a word study of both “kingdom” and “church” in the four gospels and see where Jesus’ focus was.  People who trust in the church tend to not to understand its Old Testament roots (for help on this, see The Word “Church” in the Old Testament), and therefore see it as the replacement for ancient Israel.  On the contrary, it is the kingdom of God that is the replacement for ancient Israel.  

    Jesus went to synagogue to preach the kingdom of God.  If you go to church, I hope you likewise go there to preach the kingdom of God.  If you do, they will throw you out as they threw Him out.

    1. Mike,

      I understand that you are sending me links to your articles and/or blogs because you believe you have addressed these topics there, and that it is redundant for you to have to explain it again. I get that. However, I simply don’t have the time or the desire to read all the different postings you refer me to. It may be that, at some point, I will take the time to do so.

      However, I continue to believe that you are positing what is called, in logic, a “false dilemma” by setting “serving Jesus” over against “going to church.” This is simply not the case; in fact, my entire argument is that the dilemma you pose is false, because it is not “serve Jesus” OR “go to church;” but “Obey Jesus BY going to church.” Obviously, Christians serve Jesus outside of church, as well as inside; however, serving Jesus and church attendence are complimentary, rather than contrasting, activities.

      As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’m dismayed that you would, in addition to teaching people to forsake the assembling of themselves together (contra Hebrews 10:25), you would also teach the heresies of universalism (the teaching that all will eventually be saved, as the early church heretic Origen taught); modalism (that God has manifested himself in different “modes,” or persons; as opposed to the orthodox doctrine of the one, eternal God eternally existing as 3 persons; yet, there are not 3 gods–which is the heresy of tritheism–but one God in three Persons–more on this below); and the eschatology of “full” preterism–i. e., the idea that all the prophecies relating to the Second Coming of Christ were fulfilled by the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. None of these are orthodox Christian positions, yet you teach all three, in addition to teaching people to forsake the church. If all of these positions are in opposition to orthodox Christianity, as I contend, then how is it that you claim to be serving Christ? Does Christ support the promulgation of false doctrine in His Name?

      As to the teaching of the Trinity: God is NOT One, in the same way that He is THREE; If that were the case, we would have a valid contradiction, because it would violate the law (in logic) of non-contradiction. God is ONE in SUBSTANCE; but HE is THREE in PERSONS. While the Trinity is a mystery, it is NOT a contradiction–there is a difference between a mystery (something the human mind can’t fully grasp, such as the Trinity; or Jesus being fully God and fully man) and a contradiction (such as “a square circle” or a “married bachelor”). The word “Trinity” is not, of course in the Bible, as Jehovah’s Witnesses love to proclaim; however, neither is a word they love to use, “theocracy;” nor the word “incarnation,” which describes the biblical concept of God becoming man in the person of Christ Jesus. Just because a word is not used in the Bible doesn’t mean that a non-biblical word may not describe a CONCEPT that is, in fact, biblical. All disciplines, whether they be science, mathematics, engineering, or anything else–use technical words or phrases that function as a sort of shorthand for describing things that would take more than one word–sometimes many words–to describe to those outside that discipline. These are shorthand ways for describing things among the initiated, that a novice might not understand. Theology is no different. Christianity has theological terms that may not appear in the Bible, but which, nonetheless, describe concepts which ARE biblical. “Trinity” is one such theological term. There are many others, as you know.

      The biblical doctrine of the Trinity follows logically from 2 biblical sets of facts: First, there is only one true God; and the Bible calls the Father, God; the Son, God; and the Holy Spirit, God. Yet there are not 3 gods, but one. The only way to make sense of both sets of biblical facts is the doctrine of the Trinity. To me, one of the clearest presentations of the doctrine of the Trinity that I have seen is in the mid-5th century Athanasian creed. It carefully DEFINES the doctrine of the Trinity, through a series of affirmations and denials, although it is beyond finite man to fully understand the doctrine with our limited minds. God’s thoughts and ways are above and beyond our own, as Isaiah 55:8-9 and Romans 11:33-34 show.

      Regarding “full” perterism (as opposed to partial preterism): Full preterism asserts that all the prophecies concerning the 2nd Coming of Jesus were fulfilled at the time of the destruction of Jersusalem in 70 A.D. The Achilles heel of the preterist view is that it absolutely depends upon the book of Revelation having been written prior to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. However, there is very strong evidence, both internally and externally, that the book of Revelation was written around 95 A.D. Mark Hitchcock, who has an earned Ph.D. from Dallas Theological Seminary, did his doctoral dissertation on the date of the book of Revelation, which you can download for free at http://www.pre-trib.org, if interested. He also discusses this much more briefly in his recent book “101 Answers to Questions About the Book of Revelation,” (see, e. g., pp. 19-20 and pp. 42-51). Stating “The external evidence for the AD 95 date is overwhelming” (pg. 46), his conclusion regarding both the internal and external evidence is succinctly stated in that book, “Taking into account all the relevant evidence, both external and internal, the strongest view is that the apostle John wrote the book of Revelation in the year AD 95 while exiled by the Roman emperor Domitian to the island of Patmos.” (pg. 51) Further discussion can be found in either his doctoral dissertation or in his book, referred to above.

      Finally, (aren’t you glad!), if the 2nd Coming of Christ occurred already, what are we still doing here on earth, experiencing all the problems, temptations from Satan and his demons (not to mention our flesh), etc.? Where is the “no longer any mourning, or crying, or pain” promised to us in Rev. 21:4. Why do we still struggle with temptation at all? Why are there sinners among us (not to mention our own sinfulness)? These are problems I see no solution to concerning the full preterist view.

      Sorry to be so lengthy.

      In Christ,

      Greg

  4. Greg,

    You speak of orthodoxy as if it equates to truth. Do you not acknowledge that Jesus was an unorthodox messiah and His disciples unorthodox heralds? Was not the entire weight of institutional Israel brought down upon them because they did not conform to the prevailing orthodoxy?

    Orthodoxy changes with time.  You consider the Reformers as orthodox but they were unorthodox in their day.  (See The Protestant Reformation Fell Short.)  Orthodoxy is shifting sand.  The truth of God is a foundation forever.

    Orthodoxy is the refuge of those too lazy or too cowardly to seek the truth.  The knowledge of the truth is according to godliness (Titus 1:1).  Those who love the Lord seek His truth.  His truth is the truth, and He Himself is the truth.

    The orthodox seek to label any challenge to their authority as “heresy.”  Yet God sees past all the human labeling.  He seeks purity of heart and purity of love for Him.

    You say that you have neither the time nor the desire to read my posts.  Fine, but why then do you take the time to misrepresent my views?  If you don’t know what my views are, why do pretend to understand and, on that basis, condemn them?  I do not regard all prophecy as having been fulfilled in the 70 A.D. destruction of Jerusalem, but rather by the end of the apostolic generation.  If the book of Revelation was written in 95 A.D., it poses no problem to my point of view.  You accuse me of holding to modalism when I think it is as erroneous as trinitarianism.  Everyone may be going to heaven, but that doesn’t mean God doesn’t judge our every word and deed as universalism suggests.  You are condemning that which, by your own admission, you don’t even understand.

    You want to equate obedience to Christ with churchgoing, but the only commandment from the Lord you can quote in this regard is Hebrews 10:25 – a verse which no church today follows because they assemble separately and not “together” as the verse specifies.  When you yourself assemble this Sunday it will be with a church and not the church, thus violating both the letter and spirit of Hebrews 10:25.  If you are not obeying Hebrews 10:25, how can you condemn others for the same?

    There are tens of thousands of Christian denominations today, each one claiming to be orthodox.  But if all are orthodox, why do they disagree and exist separate from one another?

    You strike me as having a gentle and kind spirit, and that will serve you well.  However, I encourage you to stir up your zeal and love for the Lord.  Forsake the approval of men and seek the approval of your Lord.  He shed His blood for you and He deserves all your devotion.  To Him be the glory!

     

    1. Mike,

      Thank you for your final paragraph especially. Perhaps I have misrepresented you by saying that you hold to a full preterist position–i. e., believing that the 2nd Coming of Christ was fulfilled by the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., and that all Bible prophecy has already been fulfilled. If I have misrepresented your view in saying that, I sincerely apologize. Likewise, if you do not hold to modalism–although it seemed to me that you did–which is the view that the 3 persons of the Trinity are merely “modes” or manifestations of a single Person, as opposed to being one God in 3 eternally existing Persons (the Trinity) I apologize. Perhaps I misunderstood what I thought I read on your blog about this. I do sincerely apologize if I misunderstood what you were saying, and do not mean to misrepresent you.

      The matter of universalism, however, is a little more difficult for me to apologize for; because, if you believe that all will eventually be saved, that is actually the definition of universalism. So, since you seem to believe that all will eventually be saved, that is what universalism means. I don’t believe I have misunderstood you on this; however, if so, you are welcome to show me how I have misconstrued your teaching on this.

      Regarding church attendance, I actually not only quoted Hebrews 10:25, but also gave you the example Jesus set for us in Luke 4:16 (in an earlier post), to show that the Lord wants us to meet with other believers, and not to simply act as isolated members of the Body of Christ. In fact. the apostle Paul also speaks to this very matter in 1 Cor. 12:14-30, when he speaks about the Body of Christ being a Body, and not just a single member. The very figure he uses of the Christians being a body implies some sort of relationship and coherence with the other members. In fact, 1 Cor. 12-14 is given in the context of a gathering of believers with one another–the very thing you speak against. I think it was John Wesley who observed that, “The New Testament knows nothing of solitary Christianity.” I am not a Methodist, but would agree with this. A Christian in isolation (unless by necessity, such as Paul being in prison) is an oxymoron, as Paul’s metaphor of Christians as the “Body” of Christ suggests. By seeking to pit obedience to Christ against church attendance, as though they were mutually exclusive alternatives; rather than complementary functions (i. e., church attendance is actually part and parcel of our obedience to Christ), you seek to separate that which God has joined together. Certainly, church attendance is not the SUM of our obedience to Christ; but it is a portion of our obedience to Him; not some alien construct that is opposed to obedience to Him, as you seem to teach.

      When I said that full preterism, modalism (or non-Trinitarianism), and universalism are not “orthodox” Christian views, I am not merely speaking of Christianity since the time of the Reformation. None of these 3 positions have EVER been normative Christian views, from the time of the infant church until now. So, when I say “orthodox” Christian views, I wasn’t merely restricting my statement from the 16th-21st centuries. Of course, that need not mean they are necessarily mistaken; but it should definitely give us pause to realize that the mainstream Christian church has NEVER considered any of these positions to be accurate blbilcal teaching; although, of course, there have been scattered individuals here-and-there who have, at times, espoused such teachings. The Christian church, as a whole, has always rejected all 3 of these views. Of course, since you say I have misconstrued your view of preterism and of the Godhead, some of what I criticized you for earlier may not apply; however, if the substance of what you believe regarding Bible prophecy and the 2nd coming of Christ having already been fulfilled is what I represented (despite my failure to describe it with technical precision); and if your view of the Godhead approximates modalism, without actually BEING modalism, for some reason; then I stand by the evaluation I gave above by saying that these views have never been a part of orthodox Christian belief. And universalism is not an orthodox Christian view either, despite some people having held the view, or something like it. The Bible simply does not teach that all will eventually be saved, unless you somehow cut out of Scripture such clear passages as Matthew 25:41-46; Revelation 14:9-11; and Rev. 20:10-14, or so allegorize them as to make them meaningless.

  5. Greg,

    I appreciate your apology, but I wasn’t seeking one.  Rather, I merely wanted you to recognize that until you read, to take just one example, The Biblical Case for Everyone Going to Heaven, you have no reasonable basis for saying that my teaching is unbiblical.  You are just arguing with straw men.  Without reading my teaching, the most you can say is that my teaching is unorthodox.  However, as I pointed out, Jesus was considered unorthodox even while He was being thoroughly biblical.

    As for your orthodoxy, I wasn’t trying to pin it down to the 16th through 21st centuries, nor do I understand how it alters your argument to insist that it has earlier roots.  I am perfectly willing to grant you as early a dating as you want.  However, orthodoxy is orthodoxy and truth is truth.  The former changes; the latter never does.  1st Century orthodoxy crucified Jesus. So much for orthodoxy’s reliability.

    Based on the things you had said about yourself, I expected you to have a high view of Scripture – even sola scriptura.  Yet you seem to place the output of church councils on a par with it.  For me, Scripture is supreme.  The latest Scripture we have is from the 1st Century.  Therefore, no church pronouncement from the 2nd Century onward can possess the authority of “Thus saith the Lord” as the prophets (Old Testament) and apostles (New Testament) did.  I base my arguments on Scripture, not orthodoxy.

    Therefore, your arguments between orthodox positions and heretical ones are like the arguments between the Pharisees and Sadducees – off point in the light of Jesus’ teaching.  Your argument for churchgoing from 1 Corinthians 12 is like the Judaizers telling Paul he was wrong for not insisting the Gentiles become ritually pure and offer animal sacrifice.  You are arguing for a letter of the law and ignoring its spirit just as Jesus’ opponents did.

    You are actually preaching Churchianity and not Christianity.  The church is not supreme; Christ is supreme (Psalm 81:13).  Man-made church is obsolete.  By contrast, God’s church – that is, the kingdom of God – will never be obsolete.

    I admire John Wesley for many things, but not for that quote.  It’s as if he never heard of Abraham.

    I did not ignore your reference to Jesus attending synagogue in Luke 4:16.  I pointed out to you that He went there to preach, and was thrown out for what He said.  He wasn’t just thrown out of the synagogue in Nazareth, He was cast aside by the entire Jewish hierarchy – just as you will be cast aside from the entire church hierarchy if you go to church and proclaim the kingdom of God (“Go everywhere and proclaim the kingdom of God”  – Luke 9:60).  See also John 9:22 for how the fear of being ostracized squelches the pursuit of truth.  More sing “Though none go with me, still I will follow” than who practice it.

    I am not tearing asunder what God has joined together.  Rather, Churchians are adding their word to the word of God.  They are joining their traditions with His truth as if the two are of the same substance.  They are exalting the church and thereby making the kingdom of God of no effect.  Your references to Matthew 25, Revelation 14 and 20, are just such cases, for you are displacing the kingdom of God with church.  That is, you are displacing the gathering of God with the gathering of men.

    You and the other Churchians have re-written Micah 6:8 to extol those who walk with each other rather than those who walk with God.

    I am willing for you to forget everything I have written to you if you will remember just this one thing:

    Isaiah 31:6 Return to Him from whom you have deeply defected, O sons of Israel.

    This thought was echoed in Jesus’ own words:

    Revelation 2:4 ‘But I have this against you, that you have left your first love.

    It is He who I am proclaiming.  What I say to you, I say to myself and to all: Return to Jesus our Lord, from whom we have wandered.

    1. Mike,

      Thank you for what you wrote. Your post was very irenic, and I thank you for that. What I fail to understand–and this may be something you explain in one or more of your postings–is that you seem to pit serving Jesus over against church attendance. To me, this is not only a non-sequitur, but directly contrary to New Testament teaching on believers gathering together. Believers gathering together as the church is seen, not only in the book of Acts–where it is writ large–but also throughout the NT, even in the book of Revelation, where the apostle John is instructed to write letters to the 7 churches. This instruction would make no sense if there were no believers gathering together as the church in those places. Again, the very metaphor that is used of believers as the Body of Christ is meaningless, unless people are gathered together as a functioning unit. That is one of the points of the metaphor of believers as a body–the Body of Christ. Why you would think this no longer applies is a mystery to me.

      I do believe that some of the first councils in church history “got it right” concerning certain issues–such as the Trinity; the divine and human natures of Christ; etc. Since you are someone who went to a Reformed seminary like Covenant, I’m surprised that you would not also believe this. Just because the councils were not “inspired” in the same way that Scripture was inspired doesn’t necessarily mean that they failed to arrive at the truth on some issues–particularly the early councils. In fact, the first church council was actually convened by the church itself, as you know, in Acts 15. And its decisions are recorded in Scripture as being the very word of God. Now, obviously, neither you nor I believe that subsequent church councils were inerrant in their decisions; nor that they had the force of that first one. However, I think those within the Reformed tradition that you come from would tend to agree that the early church councils, such as Nicea and Chaceldon I (at least) did come to some conclusions that were true and biblical.

      One final thing is that Proverbs 18:1 contains this solemn observation,

      “He who separates himself seeks his own desire, he quarrels against all sound wisdom.” (Proverbs 18:1)

      My fear for you is that this Scripture might apply to you and your unique Scriptural understandings. While it is certainly possible that you are right and that 2,000 years of church teaching is wrong, I think it is unlikely.

      Sincerely yours,
      in Christ,

      Greg

  6. Greg,

    As to your first paragraph, perhaps you would have a better sense of what I’m driving at if you were to remember all the occasions in the New Testament – and there are, of course, very many – where a “great expectation” is referenced. That expectation is referred to in various ways, including “the coming of the Son of Man, “the coming of the kingdom of God,” “the coming of the Lord,” “the day of the Lord,” “the day of judgment,” and many others. There’s hardly a page of the New Testament that doesn’t make some reference to that great expectation. And whenever its timing is referenced, it is always regarded as imminent in the lifetimes of Jesus and His contemporaries. The question this should raise for us some two thousand years later is this: Did the kingdom come when and as they expected or did it not? There can be no denying that the church of the New Testament lived in expectation of the coming of the kingdom of God. Their expectation was “the blessed hope.” If the kingdom was the main thing for them, haven’t we corrupted the word of God to say that church is the main thing?

    As for your second paragraph, it sounds like we are agreed that church councils subsequent to New Testament times got some things right but are not to be considered on a par with Scripture. We just disagree about which things they got right.

    As for your admonition of Proverbs 18:1, I think it is appropriate. I have let it judge my life. I have not separated myself from humanly-led church, but rather the word of God has separated me from it. That is, the Scriptures instruct us to be gathered to the Lord. I cannot say that the apostles were wrong about the timing of the coming of the kingdom of God but right about everything else. They had to have the timing right, too. Therefore, the kingdom is here and we have the privilege of entering it. Meanwhile, every Christian denomination and non-denominational church has separated itself from the rest – unless you want to blame God for all the schisms in today’s church. If your argument is that unity is good and separation is bad, you’re standing in the wrong place to stand with the 21st-century church instead of the 1st-century one.
    I do not say that 2,000 years of church history has been wrong. I only say that whenever saints have focused on Jesus and His kingdom they have been right, and whenever they have focused on other things – including the institutional church – they have been wrong.

    1. Mike,

      It was Jesus Himself Who instituted the Church, just as it was God Himself Who instituted marriage. (You didn’t bring up the issue of marriage, I did, just now). My point,however, is that neither of these are humanly-created institutions, but they were instituted by God Himself. You talk about the church as if it were a human institution. However, Jesus Himself said, “upon this rock I will build My church.” Without getting into the matter of what “the rock” that Jesus was speaking referred to–since that’s not the matter under discussion–Jesus clearly said that He Himself would build His church. I part company with Reformed theology in believing that the Church never existed in the Old Testament. Part of my reason for so believing is that Jesus says that He will (future) build His church. I, along with many others, hold that this began to happen on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2.

      I don’t think your making a dichotomy between the church and the kingdom of God can withstand scrutiny, given (as just one example) the book of Ephesians, which speaks of Christ being the head of “the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.” (Eph. 1;22-23); “to Him [i. e., the Lord] be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.” (Eph. 3:21); and Paul’s discussion of the relationship between a husband and wife, after which he states, “This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.” The church is the bride of Christ. How, therefore, can you make a dichotomy between Christ and His bride, the church? Is this not putting asunder that which God has joined together? I’m reminded of the words of Cyprian here (which I don’t put on a par with Scripture–I’m merely using his words as an illustration of the truth) that, “He does not have God for a Father, who does not have the church for a mother.” Again, I’m not saying I agree with this statement totally; however, I think it makes the point that the church and Christ are inseparable, and certainly not inimical to one another.

      I think the kingdom of God encompasses MORE THAN the church: I believe the kingdom of God includes everything over which God exercises His rule. Therefore, the kingdom of God is more than only the church, but certainly encompasses and includes the Church over which Christ is Head and Lord.

      Regarding your point about the disciples, etc. expecting Christ to return within their lifetimes, the only Scriptures I can give with regard to those things is 2 Peter 3:8-9; Luke 17:22-24; and Luke 19:11-12 coupled with Matt. 25:19 (notice the words, “a long time”). I admit to you that I have often wished for a more complete resolution to the time-frame “problem” than these verses, and I simply plead a lack of understanding. In any event, I don’t think the events in 1 Cor. 15 and the latter chapters of the book of Revelation have been fulfilled, which I believe that they would need to be, in order to say that Christ has returned. We are still “watching” with expectation, as those early followers of Jesus were. If Jesus has returned, He certainly hasn’t done much to resolve all the problems we see taking place all around us, not to mention natural catastrophes, etc.

  7. Regarding your first three paragraphs, your definitions of church and kingdom will actually work as long as you acknowledge that Jesus came for His bride when promised.  Since that time, the true church has been what has been called “the church invisible” and the false church has been what is called “the church visible.”

    Regarding your last paragraph, your admission of uncertainty on this subject is a good start.  Keep focusing on the Lord Jesus and He will show you the way.

    1. Mike,

      Thank you for your post. There is certainly an invisible aspect to the church, as your link to the true church says. There are actually at least 2 aspects of Christ’s church: The church universal and the local church. The church universal is comprised of all true Christians. The local church is what we normally think of as a “church,” a local assembly, or the like.

      Anyhow, thank you for the exchanges we have had through these posts. You seem convinced of the correctness of your positions, so I’m not sure anything there’s anything further I can say that might persuade you to review and reconsider your positions on the matters we have discussed. I’ve attempted to present Scripture for what I believe–what you would doubtless consider the “traditional” views of church attendance; the destiny of believers vs. unbelievers; the Second Coming of Christ; and the Trinity. As I say, you seem convinced of the rightness of your positions on all these subjects, despite my best efforts to persuade you to reconsider your views in light of what I believe (and have attempted to display) the Scriptures teach on these things. I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree.

      In Christ,

      Greg

  8. I appreciate what you have said here and I believe you are right on… can’t say I agree with your theory that everyone (believer or not) is going to heaven – read I John 4:4 and 5, especially 5:11-12: God has given us eternal life and this life is in His Son… He who has the Son has the life, he who does not have the Son of God does NOT have the life… there is a difference… not everyone is a believer, therefore, not everyone is going to heaven…

    I am glad you gave up on mainstream church, because I couldn’t agree more that it’s just not the way Jesus “did” church… He is still our example in everything – especially how we “do” church… it’s not an institution, it’s relationship… with Him and with each other….

    keep on pressing on brother… I pray God raises up people in your life who love you the way Christ loves the church, and who will come alongside you and encourage you in your walk… I do believe we need fellowship with one another… to share meals (in remembrance of Him – some call this communion, I call it sharing a meal together), and especially to worship together, pray and seek His face together (even if it’s only 2 or 3 gathered in His name… we need Him brother, we don’t need more head knowledge…

    and we NEED to grow in Him and in our intimacy with the Father, so we will do only what we see Him do and say only what we hear Him say, and learn to truly love each other the way Christ loved the church.- it’s only then that He will hear our prayer, forgive our sin and heal our land…

    God bless you.

    2 Chronicles 7:14
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)
    14 and My people [a]who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

  9. Mary,

    Jesus does not define “eternal life” as “going to heaven when you die” but rather as “knowing God” (John 17:3). Death removes the veil of this world which prevents people from seeing Him now.

    Eternal life – which can also be defined as “the kingdom of God” – is the inheritance of all those who submit to Jesus and live for Him. Thus, he who has the Son has the life. Blessed are those who receive and walk in eternal life on this side of death. They are the light of the world for their Lord shines through them.

    Keep on showing people how to listen to God, and keep on listening to Him yourself.

    God bless.

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