12th Mar, 2009

Rethinking Church

I was thinking about churches this morning. I was also thinking about the Kingdom of God. It seems like most things in the Kingdom are “upside down” from the way we generally look at things.

At the Last Supper Jesus told His disciples He was giving them, present tense, the Kingdom, just as the Father had given Him the Kingdom. Luke 22:24-29. This occurs in the context of Jesus addressing their conversation about which disciple was the greatest. He tells them that the greatest is the one who is the least. The best leader is the one who serves. This is just one of many of the upside down principles of the Kingdom of God.

In America we have learned to build big companies to effect big profits. We run big businesses. Churches have followed this model. We tend to think about building bigger buildings, having larger congregations, and doing “bigger” things.

I know it’s not a new thing to say this, but I think we are missing the Kingdom with this philosophy. The Church isn’t the building or the corporation. It is you and me and where two or more agree.

What may be a bit more groundbreaking is how to reverse the trend we seem to be stuck in.

I think we need to get small to get bigger.

What I mean is that instead of focusing on bigger buildings and bigger churches we need to focus on small groups. The gathering of the Body of Christ in small numbers everywhere – in homes, in coffee shops, in parks – wherever. These small groups, if not focused on giving money to support huge church building costs, utilities, pastoral staff, and maintenance staff, would have a lot of finances to minister in their neighborhoods, cities, states, and to the ends of the earth. If they truly leaned on one another in every way they would be that much more freed up financially to minister more and more.

As for the larger Body of Christ, why wouldn’t entire cities and counties meet once a month at the local football stadium or basketball arena or other large meeting area? How inspiring would it be to see the Holy Spirit show up at a gathering of 20,000 or more believers? How amazing would it be to have huge prayer rallies of the local Body of Christ without everyone worrying about being a this or a that?

If we focused more on ministry and praying together and less on the right clothes to wear to church, the right way to do a baptism and the right way to talk about doctrinal points, we might just be more unified. And when we see more unity, John 17, we will see people looking at us and realizing Jesus is alive and at work in the world.

What do people really do at church buildings on Sunday mornings anyway? Do they grow closer together? If you ask someone on Wednesday what the sermon was about on Sunday do they remember? Even if they do, if you ask them the next question, about how it changed the way they lived that week, will they have an answer?

But, if you ask them about how God has answered prayers for people in their small group, will they know? The odds are much higher. If discipleship is happening at all, is it more likely happening in the small group people are a part of or through the sermons at church? Does discipleship more likely happen when we are out in the community serving together or in a home talking and praying together or when we sit in a pew or folding chair listening to a lecture?

I’d sure like to see more people reaching out across communities, beyond their church boundaries, to seek first God’s Kingdom and not the financial interests of their church business. I want to write more, but this has gone long. I’m curious as to others’ thoughts.

Responses

If we don’t pray that prayer along with Jesus, then we probably don’t believe that what Jesus prays as the Son of God will certainly come to pass.
We say that we want the world to be ‘saved’ but we don’t pray that prayer in John 17:23 which will accomplish what all the missionaries that have ever been have not been able to accomplish. But when we do realize that it’s supernatural and that God will do what the Son prayed, we will pray that prayer and then we will surely see the glory come down.

Jerald’s last blog post..THE OFFER OF THE KINGDOM – A New Lifestyle

Amen… I’m finding it amazing how God is speaking to so many of us in a similar way. I’m on a similar journey, but just in the thinking stage… but not certain yet what path God is calling for me. God bless!

Jonathan Hutton’s last blog post..Who was instructed to baptise?

I like your thoughts and perspectives. Good stuff. However, the Scripture about “where two or three are gathered” you have taken out of context. That has to do with confrontation and discipline. It has nothing to do with that being what church looks like. So basically what you are saying is that two guys can meet in a bar, drink beer and throw darts and then say afterwards that they got together for church because where two are gathered together than that’s where GOd is? Not good theology. Plus, YWAM’ers are notorious for saying that they don’t have to go to church anyway or be a part of a local church because YWAM is like a church and so that is good enough. Well, in some ways it is but in other ways it is not. Please keep your scriptural references in context.

I wasn’t trying to be theological, not in an academic sense. The gist of this post is that our culture’s idea of getting big with regard to churches is all wrong. Perhaps we should think small to be truly big in the Kingdom. We see that pattern from Jesus in the scripture.

As to my use of that particular principle, where two or three gather in His name, are you saying that where two or three gather – even if not for the purpose of discipline – God isn’t there? I understand the context of that passage, but isn’t the principle normative? Moreover, I believe God is always there, even with one. Jehovah-Shammah and Emmanuel – names of God that demonstrate His nature and character. God is with us. Each of us – His children. But He uses gatherings of His followers to build up the individuals and to spur us on.

JP, I’m not desiring an argument or to defend, but your recharacterization of what I’ve written isn’t true. I didn’t say people can meet in a bar and throw darts and call it church. I also didn’t say they couldn’t do that. Those things don’t offend me or God. The point of that entire paragraph, about meeting, is that the meeting’s purpose is to edify and prepare for minsitry. We don’t need big meetings – they haven’t made us any more effective at ministering and being the gospel. It’s difficult to describe because we immediately equate the word church with a place or a building, but this post isn’t about either of those things.

The problem, in my opinion, is calling a place church or calling any section of life spiritual versus secular. It seems we must be living sacrifices 24 hours a day and seven days a week. We are the church – all the time. And the big meeting places we now call church don’t appear to be making disciples who are taking up their crosses and radically making a difference in the world by being living sacrifices. It makes me conclude there must be a better way – the biblical way, not the American or Western way.

There may be some YWAMers who feel the way you describe. Many YWAMers also travel so much they find it hard to be in any one church building and among one church body very often. The word I’ve always heard from every YWAM base leader I’ve been around, however, is to find a local body to be a part of. This isn’t the sole reason they say it, but it really is difficult for any YWAMer to survive without being a part of a local body, as those relationships often form the basis of their financial support.

It seems the point of assembling together as Jesus followers is to spur one another on to good deeds – just as is described in Hebrews 10 – and to edify one another as is described in Ephesians and Colossians. As we are building one another up, we then are equipped to go out and minister the love of the Father.

I feel like i’ve written a lot, and it makes it less clear. Sorry for that. If any of this makes sense, let me know.

I like your thoughts. I wanted to respond back concerning the comment that was left regarding the scripture “when two or three are gathered”. God said that where two or three are gathered He is among us. Its not just any gathering – you cant say we gathered together at a bar, drink beer and throw darts and then say afterwards that they got together for church… well they could have gotten together for “church” whatever their definition is for the word church – but that doesn’t mean God was with them. The purpose of the gathering is to glorify and honor and learn more about God and who Jesus is. If two people are together and within the bottom of their hearts wanted to worship and praise and love and know more about God of course God is there. If two people are gathered together to drink and party well.. you know the answer. Their inital gathering was not founded on the Lord.

For those of you who are pastors if you’re in need of or looking for church chairs for your sanctuary check out http://www.sanctuaryseating.com.

A Voice Crying Out In The Wilderness
June 17, 2009

I feel like a voice crying out in the wilderness, because that is where the Lord has had me for 26 years. Yes, I am crying out that there is great destruction coming upon this country, warning people what the Lord is about to do to the USA because of its wickedness. But it is also a call to “Prepare ye the way of the Lord”! Prepare yourselves for the coming of the Lord! Prepare yourselves by repentance, forgiveness, prayer and fasting. Prepare yourselves by not rejecting how God has been training you for the times ahead. Realize that it is He who has been testing and trying you in the fires of affliction in order to make you pure and holy for when the Bridegroom comes for His bride. To make gold pure, you put in in the furnace under extreme temperatures – that is what He has been doing to many of you. To make a diamond, you get a lump of coal and put it under immense pressure for many years – He has been doing that to many of you.

He has pulled many of you out of the godless and unholy churches and put you in the wilderness for many purposes. One is so that you can see what actually goes on in the churches by looking at them from the outside. He has pulled you away from them so that you won’t be pulled into their false doctrines and theologies. He is teaching you by His Spirit. He is preparing you to minister to those who will have lost faith in their churches, pastors and their own personal faith during the time of judgment which is about to befall our country. He is preparing you to teach them what the truth actually is, not what the foolish “great teachers and prophets” of today have been telling them. He is preparing you to comfort, encourage and build them up, because they will be in great turmoil, in great distress and great doubt when God’s judgment is poured out upon this country in the next few years. He has been preparing you to bring in the harvest during that time.

You are His holy remnant. Some of you will be protected and provided for during the coming years. Others of you will be called upon to suffer great persecution, even to death, for your faith. “He that endures to the end will be saved.” Many of you already know what great persecution is, I certainly do. Before it is all over we will know even greater persecution than we do now. That is something that God has promised us – persecution and suffering. We are told to “Share in the fellowship of His sufferings” – many of us very intimately know what that is all about.

I call upon you to turn off your televisions and turn on your prayer life and Bible-reading time. Husbands, read the Bible to your wives and children every day without fail. Wash them with the Word. The time for cleansing is at hand. Prepare yourselves and your families for the coming of the Lord, for He is coming back very, very soon! But He will come like a thief in the night, and you must be ready!

Cliff Hilbert’s last blog post..A Dire Warning

Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Spiritual Babylon – Today’s Church

Revelation 18
After this I saw another angel coming down from heaven. He had great authority, and the earth was illuminated by his splendor. 2With a mighty voice he shouted: “Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great! She has become a home for demons and a haunt for every evil[a] spirit, a haunt for every unclean and detestable bird. 3For all the nations have drunk the maddening wine of her adulteries. The kings of the earth committed adultery with her, and the merchants of the earth grew rich from her excessive luxuries.”
4Then I heard another voice from heaven say: “Come out of her, my people, so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues; 5for her sins are piled up to heaven, and God has remembered her crimes. 6Give back to her as she has given; pay her back double for what she has done. Mix her a double portion from her own cup. 7Give her as much torture and grief as the glory and luxury she gave herself. In her heart she boasts, ‘I sit as queen; I am not a widow, and I will never mourn.’ 8Therefore in one day her plagues will overtake her: death, mourning and famine. She will be consumed by fire, for mighty is the Lord God who judges her.
9″When the kings of the earth who committed adultery with her and shared her luxury see the smoke of her burning, they will weep and mourn over her. 10Terrified at her torment, they will stand far off and cry: ” ‘Woe! Woe, O great city, O Babylon, city of power! In one hour your doom has come!’
11″The merchants of the earth will weep and mourn over her because no one buys their cargoes any more— 12cargoes of gold, silver, precious stones and pearls; fine linen, purple, silk and scarlet cloth; every sort of citron wood, and articles of every kind made of ivory, costly wood, bronze, iron and marble; 13cargoes of cinnamon and spice, of incense, myrrh and frankincense, of wine and olive oil, of fine flour and wheat; cattle and sheep; horses and carriages; and bodies and souls of men.
14″They will say, ‘The fruit you longed for is gone from you. All your riches and splendor have vanished, never to be recovered.’ 15The merchants who sold these things and gained their wealth from her will stand far off, terrified at her torment. They will weep and mourn 16and cry out: ” ‘Woe! Woe, O great city, dressed in fine linen, purple and scarlet, and glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls! 17In one hour such great wealth has been brought to ruin!’
“Every sea captain, and all who travel by ship, the sailors, and all who earn their living from the sea, will stand far off. 18When they see the smoke of her burning, they will exclaim, ‘Was there ever a city like this great city?’ 19They will throw dust on their heads, and with weeping and mourning cry out: ” ‘Woe! Woe, O great city, where all who had ships on the sea became rich through her wealth! In one hour she has been brought to ruin! 20Rejoice over her, O heaven! Rejoice, saints and apostles and prophets! God has judged her for the way she treated you.’ ”
21Then a mighty angel picked up a boulder the size of a large millstone and threw it into the sea, and said: “With such violence the great city of Babylon will be thrown down, never to be found again. 22The music of harpists and musicians, flute players and trumpeters, will never be heard in you again. No workman of any trade will ever be found in you again. The sound of a millstone will never be heard in you again. 23The light of a lamp will never shine in you again. The voice of bridegroom and bride will never be heard in you again. Your merchants were the world’s great men. By your magic spell all the nations were led astray. 24In her was found the blood of prophets and of the saints, and of all who have been killed on the earth.”

The USA is physical Babylon, the church in the USA is spiritual Babylon and she is about to be dealt with accordingly.

“She has become a home for demons and a haunt for every evil[a] spirit, a haunt for every unclean and detestable bird. 3For all the nations have drunk the maddening wine of her adulteries. The kings of the earth committed adultery with her, and the merchants of the earth grew rich from her excessive luxuries.”

The churches have literally become a haunt for every type of evil spirit imaginable. A church I attended in Dallas for a year had a coven of witches and warlocks who were very, very close to the leadership and who, literally, controlled the spirit of the church. In most churches the people have brought in all types of evil spirits with them and the churches have become so spiritually polluted that it is difficult for most of the sheep to differentiate between holy spirits and evil spirits. There is no discernment in the Body of Christ and the shepherds are blind. Holiness is not preached nor even known about in today’s churches.

The “unclean and destestable birds” are the false doctrines and abominable teachings that fill the churches today. The church is the Great Whore of Babylon who has spread her legs to every imaginable doctrine that comes along. She has slept with every wind and wave of doctrine that has arisen out of the depths of hell. She has become pregnant with all these abominations and God is about to destroy her. She has preached every false doctrine you can think of in order to get more members into the churches who will give more money, so that they can hire more staff, have more programs and build bigger churches – all to the glory of the pastors. Then they say “See what a great church we have!! See how great we are!! Come join us and give us your tithes so that we can become even greater!”

The nations have drunk her false doctrines, her wine that makes them feel good. The kings of the earth (the pastors) have committed adultery with her in teaching her lies in order to make the people feel important and powerful so that they will give even more money to the church. The merchants of the earth have become rich by all the books that the churches have bought from them and sell at the church, all the CDs, all the t-shirts, all the signs, all the bumper stickers. The merchants have become rich from everything that has been needed to build bigger churches and develop greater programs. The churches have become like the money changers in the temple.

4Then I heard another voice from heaven say: “Come out of her, my people, so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues; 5for her sins are piled up to heaven, and God has remembered her crimes

God is calling His holy remnant, His bride, out of the churches today and cleaning them up from the filth that is in the churches. He is preparing His holy remnant for the hard times that are about to come upon the USA. He is giving them the faith necessary to make it through those times. He is purifying His bride and making her ready for Jesus’ imminent return. He is pulling his holy remnant out of the whore so that they will not share in what God is about to do to the so-called Body of Christ.

Give back to her as she has given; pay her back double for what she has done. Mix her a double portion from her own cup. 7Give her as much torture and grief as the glory and luxury she gave herself. In her heart she boasts, ‘I sit as queen; I am not a widow, and I will never mourn.’

The churches are about to be judged very, very severely. They are about to be destroyed. The evil that God is about to unleash upon them will make even the holy remnant quake from afar with fear. Demons will be released in untold numbers in these churches. Church members will be absolutely terrified by what they see happening. Remember the “Exorcist”? What God is about to unleash upon the churches will make that movie look like child’s play. It will be a time of incredible terror! They will learn that they are not queens who sit high in the heavens, and they will mourn night and day. There will much weeping and gnashing of teeth and fear like man has never known.

8Therefore in one day her plagues will overtake her: death, mourning and famine. She will be consumed by fire, for mighty is the Lord God who judges her.
9″When the kings of the earth who committed adultery with her and shared her luxury see the smoke of her burning, they will weep and mourn over her. 10Terrified at her torment, they will stand far off and cry: ” ‘Woe! Woe, O great city, O Babylon, city of power! In one hour your doom has come!’
11″The merchants of the earth will weep and mourn over her because no one buys their cargoes any more— 12cargoes of gold, silver, precious stones and pearls; fine linen, purple, silk and scarlet cloth; every sort of citron wood, and articles of every kind made of ivory, costly wood, bronze, iron and marble; 13cargoes of cinnamon and spice, of incense, myrrh and frankincense, of wine and olive oil, of fine flour and wheat; cattle and sheep; horses and carriages; and bodies and souls of men.
14″They will say, ‘The fruit you longed for is gone from you. All your riches and splendor have vanished, never to be recovered.’ 15The merchants who sold these things and gained their wealth from her will stand far off, terrified at her torment. They will weep and mourn 16and cry out: ” ‘Woe! Woe, O great city, dressed in fine linen, purple and scarlet, and glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls! 17In one hour such great wealth has been brought to ruin!’
“Every sea captain, and all who travel by ship, the sailors, and all who earn their living from the sea, will stand far off. 18When they see the smoke of her burning, they will exclaim, ‘Was there ever a city like this great city?’ 19They will throw dust on their heads, and with weeping and mourning cry out: ” ‘Woe! Woe, O great city, where all who had ships on the sea became rich through her wealth! In one hour she has been brought to ruin.”

This is self-explanatory and needs no further words regarding it.

20Rejoice over her, O heaven! Rejoice, saints and apostles and prophets! God has judged her for the way she treated you.’ ”
21Then a mighty angel picked up a boulder the size of a large millstone and threw it into the sea, and said: “With such violence the great city of Babylon will be thrown down, never to be found again. 22The music of harpists and musicians, flute players and trumpeters, will never be heard in you again. No workman of any trade will ever be found in you again. The sound of a millstone will never be heard in you again. 23The light of a lamp will never shine in you again. The voice of bridegroom and bride will never be heard in you again. Your merchants were the world’s great men. By your magic spell all the nations were led astray.

Yes, we will rejoice over her destruction because we know the lies she has told, the people she has led astray and the abominations she has committed. There will be great joy in Heaven and among the saints here on earth when the whore is thrown down and burned up. No music will ever be heard in her walls again. Never again will workman build these “great monuments to God”. Never again will light ever shine in her again. Never again will God inhabit her buildings. In fact, He has already left most of them. They are like empty tombs.

“In her was found the blood of prophets and of the saints, and of all who have been killed on the earth”

God has sent prophets to her for years, but she has persecuted them, kicked them out and tried to destroy them. I speak from many years of personal, first-hand experiences when I say that. The wounds that the churches have inflicted upon me and other prophets like me have been grevious. God is about to vindicate His prophets. The great whore is about to be destroyed!

Revelation 3:14-18
14″To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. 15I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked

Substitute “the church in the USA” for “the church in Laodecia

Cliff Hilbert’s last blog post..Spiritual Babylon – Today’s Church

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