Guest Blogger: Jose Bosque
I have had this article on my heart for months. I am both intrigued and broken hearted as I contemplate this issue. Why do born again brothers and sisters that I am acquainted with come so close to dealing with the issues of organized church in their own Christian walk only to pull back and never truly engage? They claim to be hungry for a genuine Christ-centered walk, yet they seem incapable of escaping the trappings of a church-centered religion.
Now when I speak of the “real church” I am talking about the One Church of the Lord Jesus Christ – the Church He is building. I am not talking about a physical structure but of a people in whom the God of Love dwells. That is the true church – the ekklesia. Unfortunately, the counterfeit is well known. These counterfeits often look like glorified amusement parks and country clubs that masquerade as the church of the Lord Jesus Christ.
It’s not about the name game, either. I don’t care what an organization calls itself. They may be Independent, non-denominational, Pentecostal, Baptist or Catholic etc. These names are man-made labels used for identification and separation that will find no place in the Lord’s eternal redemptive plan. What I am talking about is a Bride for a King who is pressing in to break free of the bondages of human religion and embracing the freedoms and joy of a life in Christ.
In this journey toward Christ-likeness there are many degrees of maturity. Some, like a deer caught in the headlights, have no idea what I am talking about and will dismiss this article as the ranting of a hurt leader. Others know exactly what I am talking about but have compromised their commitment and surrender for the cause of a specific agenda. Recently a person came to me and said, “Brother Jose, I know I am not growing there (speaking of a large congregation in the area) but my kids have all their friends there.” I also have friends that hope their children will marry “up” in society. This desire seems more important to them than pressing in to God’s purposes for their lives. I could write a small book describing many reasons and/or excuses such as these.
Finally, there is the third kind. These are those that have tasted of the freedom, joy and love found among the true and tested relationships of the real church. Return….never! These are contending to be an earthly manifestation of the sons of God and will do so to their dying breath. They know that the whole earth is waiting for their example as the living Body of Christ. A special fragrance emanates from these peculiar pioneers that cannot be copied or counterfeited.
With the above in mind I want to share with you the 10 reasons used for not engaging the real church.
1. Those who fail to trust the Holy Spirit’s leading without the guidance/approval of church sanctioned pastoral leadership.
These have been so programmed by the Babylonian religious system and its many forms that when presented with freedom they don’t know how to act. They either cannot be quiet before the Lord or they have never stepped out in obedience to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, these people feel completely unprepared, unequipped and wholly inadequate in the use of their legitimate spiritual gifts. Consequently, they almost invariably feel they must return to the familiar programs, rituals, liturgy, bulletins, protocols and other styles of man-made worship. This sense of familiar safety keeps them away from the real church.
2. Those who are ashamed to be criticized and ostracized for their beliefs
Odd isn’t it? How often we prefer to be liked by others (who really don’t care about us) rather than to risk their displeasure and follow after God. Many cannot handle the heat that comes from friends and family when they choose a path that doesn’t conform to the traditions of men or the opinions of the majority. Peer pressure is very real and many simply are not willing to be at odds with the accepted religious culture.
Mark 8:38 If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”
This verse is so true! If you are not a pioneer this Way will be very difficult for you! But that doesn’t mean God hasn’t called men and women (maybe you) to walk this path. It is this choice, a choice to be at odds with the accepted religious culture that keeps many away from the real church.
Heb 13:12-13 Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered outside the gate. 13 Therefore let us go forth to Him, outside the camp, bearing His reproach
3. Those whose minds are filled with human measurements of Success
The religious “church” today has adopted the values of the business world. Congregational size, budget size, theological degrees, and titles and positions are how we measure Christian success today. Just as Facebook and Twitter learned, the institutional system has learned that money can buy friends and followers. Everybody wants to identify with a winner! Therefore, we tend to think that if something is the largest and the biggest it must be God. When we give the people what they want we will always have the numbers. But then what will you do with verses like the one below?
Matt 7:13-14 “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.
When success is based upon appearance rather than obedience, we risk failure in the spiritual realm. In America, numbers and strength measure success. So big churches with big programs appear to be successful but a small gathering in a home may not even be viewed as a church and it certainly doesn’t look successful. The wrong measure of success may well keep many people away from the real church.
4. Those distracted and deceived by this Society’s information overload
I was speaking to a sister the other day and she shared with me how difficult it was to maintain faith these days. She spends hours daily on the web and television keeping up with every move on CNN and Fox news. Daily murders, political abuses and lies fill her mind. It’s not a wonder when she needs to make a decision she can’t hear God. Even though she is greatly gifted the devil happily keeps her distracted chasing tangents (political issues and other injustices). Most of the time she is unhappy and depressed and she tells me she doesn’t know why. Deception is real! Here is a Christian whose judgment and decisiveness has been incapacitated by the cares of the world. For Christians like this, fear and confusion are common. Unfortunately, faith and obedience often suffer as a result. So, for Christians like this, maintaining their current course is their first choice. If they did hear God concerning the real church, their weakened faith could not carry them to risk obeying God and they would likely choose to remain in the relative safety of the institutional system.
5. Those who don’t really understand their own heart
“Oh Yes, Brother Jose, we will be there! Count on us!” I think BLAH, BLAH, BLAH…… It’s moments like this when you wish you were not prophetic. Many people have good intentions but when put to the test by something like their own simple and courteous response to an invitation, they fail to follow through. Did they mean well? Of course they did. But the Bible says the heart is deceitful who can know it. This kind of behavior is rampant in the institutional church and it is often overlooked. The institutional church is focused on growth and maintaining a congregation rather than the maturing and spiritual growth of the individual. So, simple disciplines are often discarded in favor of keeping the individual happy and content so they will continue to attend services. Consequently, the individual fails to learn how to hear God and become disciplined. A person like this does not even know the corruption in his or her own heart. To be a disciple requires utter obedience to Christ. To make more room for Christ we must push the delete button, clean out the cache and defragment our minds. The Apostle Paul tells us to renew our minds. Commitment and surrender are not add-ons or upgrades to a corrupted system. Without this a person will never understand his or her own heart, much less, God’s heart. Some years ago the Lord gave me this verse:
Matt 6:21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Do you understand your heart? Does your heart yearn to be part of the real church on earth? Or does your heart yearn for the temporal pleasures of this life? What do you treasure?
6. Those that are not properly relating to Christ as Head
Allow me to pose a question you may have heard before. Is Jesus your Savior and Lord or just your Savior? As Savior, Jesus saves us from our sin. But if that is how you see Jesus and that is all you see Him as, you might continue to sin – almost taking His forgiveness for granted. Or worse yet, you may like your sin and then practice it totally convinced that God is OK with it. Many have been brainwashed by the watered down gospel preached these days. Christianity is not about you and your wants!
Gal 6:7 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.
But if Jesus is also your Lord, then you have surrendered your life to Him. He is now in control and it is not about you any longer. Rather it is all about Him – He has become your King and your Lord. This is what I mean by properly relating to Christ as your Head. When Jesus is your Savior but not your Lord, it’s easy to think selfishly. This in turn leads to worshiping where you feel good. With this mindset, one will never want to be confronted with one’s own sin. But in the real church, making disciples is serious business and that’s why many prefer to stay hidden somewhere in the back rows and large groups of organized religion.
7. Those not willing to die to Self
As we have spoken above the Christian life will kill the old self within. For a disciple it’s not about learning how to live with our old carnal nature with its passions and desires. Rather, we press into a life in the Spirit that literally controls and subdues our old self.
But, if we think the church exists to provide us with benefits and we leave God in the building every Sunday when we exit, we have not exchanged our old self for life in Christ. We have divided life between God time and my time. For this type of person, the real Church is too unpredictable and he or she is satisfied with giving God one hour and twenty minutes a week. No More! After all, I have a life! Too often, this is the attitude people have until something unforeseen breaks in to their little bubble.
Eph 4:22-24 that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, 23 and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.
8. Those who will not accept Confrontation
The real church is built on the strong ties of love and interpersonal relationships. The usual response to the friction created by relationships in the religious system is for the offended person to break fellowship and/ or leave. Not so in the real Church! There is no sitting on the other side of the sanctuary and considering that brother that offended you dead. The real Church is a family and whatever happened will be confronted and healed. It’s the nature of Christ and the real church will not allow the bar to be lowered to the lowest common denominator. Many Christians come from a place where a toxic leader caused wounding and hurt and it’s hard to trust again. But we must not reject the fact that only in His Body is the healing we need from the Balm of Gilead today.
9. Those not ready to Love others with the love of Christ.
The real Church exists to be a living model of the love of Christ. To love as Christ loves, to be “one another” centered is the aim of the real church. Every correct doctrine and principle flows from proper relationship to Christ and to each other. We must not get the cart before the horse!
Conditional membership is as far as many Christians want to go. Sharing and having ALL things in common is an alien and ancient practice to these people. Compare the humble Biblical practices to the pride of prosperity strutted before others as has become common in some religious circles. It’s as though our net worth somehow proves superior spirituality. When discussing the plight of the poor I have heard comments like, “If they got saved, if they worked as hard, or if they were as wise as I am they would not be in that condition.” God have mercy on that day! Attitudes such as these can’t live long in the real Church.
1 John 3:16 By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.
10. Those that believe that Unity in the Body is based on Doctrine
If “getting it right” conforms a person to man-made systems, then it will hurt people, separate people from others who don’t conform to the accepted doctrine or practice, and/or run over other people of faith. Practices like this are not IN Christ. The real Church is made up of brothers at all levels of Christian growth. We are not to be each other’s Holy Spirit! It’s the religious system that works to conform people to doctrine as though the goal is to create clones of the pastor, priest or denomination.
Being in the same place at the same time will never create unity. No more than a cat and a mouse in the same box are in unity! Unity around doctrine may bring similar hearts together for a time, but doctrinal unity usually serves to divide and separate us from the rest of the Body of Christ. Separated hearts can pray together until the cows come home but they will never produce unity. Walking in Christ together, submitted to Him as our Head, is the only way to see unity in our cities. Only the rubbing of soul-to-soul and the sharpening of iron-to-iron can produce the fragrance of Christ called unity. When another Christian or congregation becomes “them” as opposed to “us”, we have failed to be the Body of Christ. Our unity is – and must be – positional “in Christ”.
Too often the little foxes of distinct (separate) doctrines have destroyed the vine of the real Church. Modern Christians have settled for far less than they really want by believing their group or denomination has some doctrine(s) right and others have them wrong. Inadvertently, we have sacrificed the power and authority Jesus intended the real Church to have on the altar of “getting it right.”
John 17:21 that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.
At present our division has been the enemy’s greatest weapon! Not just giving him a foothold to bring destruction against the church but against every part of our society.
These 10 reasons people use for not engaging the real Church come directly out of my recent experiences and conversations. There may be a few more reasons that could be added to this list but presenting an exhaustive list was not my intent in writing this article. My real hope was to engage you in the conversation. You may agree or disagree with my list, but that is of little consequence. I would rather ask a more poignant question: What is your heart’s cry concerning His church?
Is your heart crying out for bigger and better programs at your place of worship? Perhaps your heart is crying out a nicer building and a paved parking lot? Maybe you believe you would be happier with a better spiritual leader or new pastor. What if your pastor had a radio or TV ministry – would that improve your spiritual walk? When you think about your church experience what is it that makes your heart cry out? I would doubt it is any of the things I just mentioned.
As for me, my heart yearns for clear, authentic relationships based upon the love of Christ. I no longer want to “go to church.” Instead I want to “be the church” with my fellow brothers and sisters. I want my Christian experience, my life in Christ to be full and whole. My heart cries out for the real Church! I want to be more than a pastor; more than a pew warmer; more than a performer who shows up on time, attends every Sunday, and dutifully gives my tithe. I want real Church! I want church that expects and demands that we all grow in faith. I cry out for a church that can actually make disciples who function in this world with kingdom principles to change and transform their cities and nations. I want a church with men and women who can actually equip others to do the work a saint is called to do. My heart cries out for a church that loves me more and judges me less, that is better at praying than complaining and considers joy in the Holy Spirit to be normal. My heart cries out for the real Church.
What is your heart saying to you right now?