Sunday, September 14, 2008

God Wants You To Go To Church

Nathan JonesBy Nathan Jones

Serving in a para-church organization like Lamb & Lion Ministries, I frequently come in contact with folks who aren't into going to church. They even sometimes write in to ask if it's ok not to attend a church since we are in the end times when many churches are jumping ship doctrinally and falling into apostasy. They use our show "Christ in Prophecy" and literature as a substitute for attending a worship service. They are still dedicated to absorbing as much personal Bible study as possible and watching various Christian TV shows throughout the week, but they will not darken the halls of any congregation.

Not going to church, though, is not God's will for your life. I encourage you to join in a doctrinally sound church so that you will have Christian fellowship, accountability and worship — something you can't get with a para-church organization. Without those practices, you will be more open to being led away from Christ.

If indeed Christ is the head of the Church (and He is), then as believers that's where we need to be — connected to Him with other believers. As the writer of Hebrews stated in Hebrews 10:25 (NIV), "Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching." The Book of Acts is just full of stories of how important gathering with other believers is for spiritual growth and furthering the proclamation of the Good News.

Certainly there are churches that are falling away, but there are also many faithful to God's Word. It may take a little work to find one, but you can speed up the search by browsing the church doctrinal statement on their website. If it's not on their website, that's a clear indicator to avoid that place.

If you need an example of why following God's will is always in you and your family's best interest, check out this story "Study: Church-Going Teens Have Higher GPAs" by Audrey Barrick of the Christian Post Reporter. Being in God's will by being part of a church affects every single area of your life positively.

17 comments:

Steve Blackwell said...

With all due respect I think you are completely in error regarding the "Church." Clearly you are a product of the institution and promote a building rather than the Body of Christ. God is reviving the Church in these last days and you would do well to study your Church history and discover the true root of the Church, it will be found that it has no likeness to the exhibitionism called the Church of today. If Paul were here today he would no doubt be in agreement with the blogger you address and declare that their "meetings do more harm than good."

I am not in agreement with the efforts of the Mega and Emerging churches, and I do not promote the organizational church, but having said that, there is another Church, the Body of Christ, and He is calling His Church out of the institutional business of lording it over His flock into life in a real family of believers. It is happening.

Blessings,

Steve Blackwell

Nathan Jones said...

Steve, appreciate your comments. Remember that I said going to church was for accountability, fellowship and worship, which has nothing to do with a building.

My point was that if a person's view of "going to church" was to watch a tv screen or monitor, then none of the above can be achieved.

If proof is needed that the Church indeed requires community and yes, some form of institution, then please check with the Book of Acts and see how the Apostles organized the first churches.

God has good purposes in having you go to church, don't shortchange yourself any of His blessings.

Steve Blackwell said...

Nathan,

How can you "go to Church" when you are the Church? That is like saying you are going home when you are sitting in your living room.

There is much confusion today about the Church. Most believe it some where they have to go. This confusion is bred by the institution itself and must stop if God's people will ever understand Ecclesia. Ecclesia is not having fellowship with the back of someones head for two hours, but is a family affair that must take place apart from the shrine.

I have been a Christian for thirty eight years. Thirty three years of that was wasted inside the institution listening to speeches. I never knew, and was not told, that there was life away from the institution. There is, and it is Ohhh so good! I never thought it was possible, and others are beginning to find out what I'm talking about.

Time is running out. We have to get it right, and with His help we will.

Blessings,

Steve Blackwell

Nathan Jones said...

And yet... Hebrews 10:25 (NIV), "Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching."

Steve Blackwell said...

Nathan,

No argument on your use of Heb. 10:25. The question is, does this mean going to a building or just simply what it says, "meeting together"?

I will not labor this point along, but will finish with saying that the institutional Church has yet to experience Ecclesia, even where one or two meet together.

Grace and Truth,

Steve Balckwell

Herbert Pratt said...

Mr.Balckwell,
Interesting analogy on the organized church, " The question is, does this mean going to a building or just simply what it says, "meeting together"?"
With whom do you meet together with, where, how often, and can other Christians meet with all of you? Thanks,

Herb Pratt

Steve Blackwell said...

Herbert,

Since Constantine very much has been invested in the institutional church and the idea that someone would question the integrity of such a magnificent structure is beyond comprehension. The relatively small numbers of people who are beginning to see the false position of the organized church are insignificant when viewed along side the massiveness of the visible structure. With such a tremendous vested interest in the system, to imagine doing it differently, cannot be entertained.

You asked about our meetings. We are a family, a real family in many ways. We homeschool together, we vacation together, we shop and talk often, and meet several time a week for meals. The intimate detail of our lives are shared, and we question each others motivations in the things we do. We increasingly separate ourselves from the world. We have meetings for many purposes, including the preparation for a soon coming time of severe hardship. We do not promote growth through marketing techniques or fads, but allow God to build His Church His way. Christ Himself will add to the Church as He sees fit. All He sends us are welcome. We are convinced that the institutional church is not the true Church, although inside the institution are those who will eventually come out.The institutional church is a mission field.

We are a very fragile new organism and protect each other, and admonish each other, and rebuke each other. We are not strong, and only by the Grace of God do we exist, and only by His will, will we continue on to the end.

I do not hate the organizational church, it has taught me much, but only after many fallow years was the seed quickened.

Blessings

Heb 10:19-25

Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, 21 and having a High Priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.
NKJV

Don said...

The reality is that true community in the body of Christ can be found in many different contexts but as Nathan pointed out, an isolated Christian will not be able to stay strong or obey Christ without regularly interacting in a meaningful way with other believers. The form of church organization and activities can vary greatly but there will always be the essential elements wherever there is a healthy body of believers: sound doctrine, prayer with and for one another, Bible study, accountability, decisions made with the counsel of Godly Christians, taking the Lord's supper, public baptism, outreach (evangelism and benevolence), and giving. The type of interaction that Steve described sounds pretty healthy and his getting together with others does require a form of organization even if it is not rigidly defined. When someone considers a less traditional type of church involvement, it's important that they are not doing so just to persue their own selfish agenda.

Steve Blackwell said...

Don,

I do not think that true “community” is taking place inside the organized church, at least not on an observable level, or on a level as described in the Bible on a family level. I have not seen or experienced true family life inside the organized church. I am sure that it must be occurring somewhere, but in my thirty eight years I have not seen it; it is a rarity. Can you honestly say that you see anything remotely resembling a real family in the institutional church? It is easy to see an organization along the lines of a business: CEO, board, customers, and growth analysis. But, do you see anything like a “hundred mothers, brothers, and sisters,” all sharing and contributing to the body? You can’t do that when you have to “go” to church. Only by being the Church is this possible.

The reality is that “true” community in the Body of Christ cannot be found in many different context inside the institutional church. As far as staying strong by isolating oneself from the institutional church, that comment has been proven wrong, and documented. Homeschooling parents faced that inquisition by the public school advocates, and they were rewarded with children who excelled in all areas, and were well adjusted and strong. Can you deny that the statistics of divorce, abortion, drug abuse, teen pregnancy, pornography, or any number of other sins are the same inside the institutional church as it is in the world? What does this mean? It means the world is inside the institutional church. Paul admonished those inside such churches that their meeting did “more harm than good.” The simple “reality” is that if it walks like a duck, and it talks like a duck, it is probably a duck, if you get my drift.


The hard fact is that the “church” is in denial. The institutional church has failed, but the Body of Christ lives, “in isolation,” from the plagues that are characteristic of the “Church of Laodicea.” Christ’s command for the Church to go back and do its first works over again still stands. Christ’s Church is a separated Church, and if the world is in the “church” then we are commended to isolate ourselves from it. The institutional church has so many festering sores that it reeks of decay. The institutional church is dead, it just hasn’t fallen over yet. We like to pick on the Catholics and ignore that the Protestants are its offspring.

I am aware that there are still some who are diligent to do the Lord’s work inside the organization, and I applaud them. I except their labor as brothers and sisters. I will come along side those who are watchmen and expose the apostasy taking place around the world, but even the watchmen need truth.

Blessings,

Steve Blackwell
www.indywatchman.wordpress.com

lrussell38 said...

Steve, your comments have struck a reality in me. I have found lately that the church (building) that my wife and I have attended for so many years leaves an emptiness in us. We've discussed this and agreed that our church is leaning tward a social gathering rather than the teaching of God and his ways. I want to blame the new contemporary services that I am not fond of, but it's more than that. I believe that the church of Laodicea is alive and strong today and we must search for churches that are still traditionally gospel. My wife and I haven't found one yet, but our search continues. I still believe, however, that fellowship, communion and titheing are necessary and can't be accomplished without the church building. I'm not ashamed to say that we have found sanctuary in the television. God reaches us in many ways.

Don said...

Thanks for the response Steve. I share many of the same concerns that you do. BTW, I pastor a small house church that consists primarily of my wife and nine home schooled children. It has been one of the most satisfying things that God has ever led me to do.

We, the prosperous church of North America, have had such a fractured sense of community for so long, it is difficult to recognize what it takes to develop that family that you speak of but we all long to be a member of the healthy church family.

We need to encourage others to focus on the essentials and agressively hold out for and help create groups of believers who are meeting together for the right reasons to do the right things. Some organizations are able to facilitate community and others have too much of the world in them. The large churches have a very tough time creating "family" and the ones that do it well don't consume time that should be devoted to family and small group involvement. They also practice church discipline when the world creeps into their midst.

Small churches do a better job of being a family but tend to wear out their leaders.

Personally, I think that it is best for us to concentrate on ministering to our families and neighbors and being very selective about our involvement and exposure to anyone who is not fully devoted to Christ, regardless of where our life intersects theirs. When we encounter worldly people our objective must be intential evangelism and unashamed participation in God's transforming redemptive plan.

Anonymous said...

My grandmother never went to church but she lived the most Christian life of anyone I've ever known. Let know one think otherwise...you do not HAVE to go to church to be saved. Only belief in Jesus as your Savior will save your soul.

Steve Blackwell said...

The "Church" is a most wonderful thing and to think that anyone would purposely deprive themselves of communion with other family members is hard for me to imagine. I have a great family, but I am also aware that many exist within dysfunctional families. There are divisions created by some members that cause deep divides that cause families to split and never enjoy the fellowship experienced by a few. This is family life today, and this is Church life today. I believe this fracture in the Body of Christ is the result of the clergy/laity division that took place in the years following the cessation of the persecution of the Church during the time of Constantine. That division has split the church into an innumerable quantity of sects that all call themselves "the Church." These sects/denominations all claim to have and protect the truth and have closed the doors on other family members. They claim it is necessary to do this to maintain their purity and wholeness, when in truth they are contrary to truth and only perpetuate the fractured family syndrome and promote the isolationism that is apparent in every city across the world. Clan leaders are bred in these institutions and treat those who find their way into these sects as their own property or customers.

Any family can tell you of those within the family who Lord it over the rest as the ultimate authority in every decision.

If every Church would operate as a functional family, and not try as most clergy systems do and either do everything themselves or bind the members with the weight of many laws and regulations, the gifts of each individual would blossom into a living organism, with elders and mothers and adults and little children and infants, all loving, living, and enjoying each other.

I know this sounds like a pipe dream, but this is the Church of the New Testament, living, loving, sharing in all things as equals, none having too little and none having too much.

I love family life, and I do not like dysfunctional members who want to be loose cannons or control freaks, but that is what we have in the "church" today and for many years, so many years in fact, that we cannot remember any other way. ". . . How can we sing the songs of Zion in a foreign land. . . ."

Blessings,

Steve Blackwell

AAaron said...

I find steves input very interesting as i have not heard that view point explained that way before. My experience, is its very hard to find a church that is teaching sound doctrine, and the sad reality today is believers are left with such a wide array of choices they are vulnerable to false teachings. Many churches encourage small groups to meet and study the bible. One advantage to having a home bible study associated with a larger (sound) church, is accountability. Similar to Irussel, I have found some great teachers on tv, but I'm also amazed at how the body of christ as seen on tv, differs so much on their beliefs. not to mention the false teachers you have to weed thru.

Steve Blackwell said...

My heart is grieved as I read all these comments, knowing that inside so many there is a deep unsatisfied hunger and virtually no food available. As men have descended into the valley of this present fog they have become disorientated and blinded and reach out to the only available resource of hope, the institutional church, and this is to be expected. When I was in Mongolia a few years ago I was amazed at how the people there loved the Russians. The Russians had killed many of their people, made it mandatory that they learn the Russian language, introduced them to vodka, and when they left they left the people to solve all their own problems, and they immediately became a nation in crisis. They couldn't even repair their own heating systems, in a country where the temperature drops to sub-zero and stays there for many days. Yet, the Mongolian people didn't know any different, to them the Russians were the saviors of their world, and they loved them. The Russians gave them the help they asked for (which was to protect them from the venturous Chinese)in a way that would benefit the communist philosophy of domination. But, the point is, that it all became natural over time, because memories are short and the needs are many.An outsider has a hard time accepting the Mongolian's reasoning, and the Mongols will simply not entertain the idea that the Russians really didn't even like them or that they were a means to an end (vast mineral deposits). The Russians did what they did because it was their nature, the Mongolians accepted it because they had no other solution, and the Church today is no different than either of the groups, those who control and those being controled. "There is nothing new under the sun," just plug in your own data: family, business, or Church.

But, there is a solution, just as Jesus said, "go back and do your first works over again." It is not difficult, although it will be the hardest thing you will ever do, because it means death, and it is here that the real "line in the sand" is drawn, and the definition of faith gets personal.

The truth is there if you want to see.

Blessings,

Steve Blackwell
www.indywatchman.wordpress.com

Rebecca said...

Steve, I couldnt agree with you more. On the subject of gathering together or "meeting together", to my family , this is so much more than sitting in a church every Sunday. As Christians, we are commanded to gather together, hold each other accountable, and when 2 or more are together, it opens the door for Godly counsel and also gentle rebuke.

If I'm sitting in a church filled with 100 to 5000 people, am I "meeting or coming together" with them all. Am I having Spirit filled fellowship with all 100? No, Just as much as the weeds must grow with the wheat, we are lucky to have 1 or 2 others to fellowship with in any given church. So, what benefit does Sunday, hearing a sermon from a Pastor do if I leave without having gotten real and personal with another true convert?

To that point, if I work at the church and volunteer in leadership and am at church 5-6 times per week, teaching, leading, praying, cleaning, planning, organizing...where is the fellowship in that? Is it not all of us coming together to make a good service or Bible study go well? This way, I'm at church, my husband and I may serve in the same ministries mostly, but our children are away from us 5-6 days per week and "fellowshipping" with the babysitter.

Also, how often does scripture require us to meet? I have good friends all over this country who are true believers walking in their faith. We "fellowship" by writing letters, emails, sending videos, blogs, talking on the phone, holding each other accountable, reading the same bible studies together, and getting deep into our lives and relationships in Christ. We also visit annually during vacations.

So, this way, I get my fellowship from some local, some not so local, my food from the Bible and I am left with spare time to take my family out to the streets evangelizing every chance we get. Sharing the Gospel with our mouths.

I just don't see how spending time with a bunch of smiling strangers who aren't willing to give their hearts to Christ inside the mega-church is doing anything good for my walk with the Lord.

Now, not every large church is completely deceived, but, real sold out surrendered believers are few and far between.

Steve Blackwell said...

Rebecca,

It has been some time since this article was fresh and I just wanted to let you know that received your comment and thank you.

So many are beginning to see a clearing through the fog and recognize a haven of real rest. That haven is the authentic Church. It is such a pleasure to know that there is yet another that has a thirst for ecclesia.

Please visit my blog at www.indywatchman.com, or www.indywatchman.wordpress.com for related articles.

Blessings to you.

Steve Blackwell