(Note: The purpose of these articles on Totally Rethinking Church is not to incite a rebellious attitude against the established church or encourage an elitist attitude; but to stimulate your thinking to look at the Scriptures and evaluate the church, so that you can help make the church more like Christ would have us to be.)
Millions of Christians in the last several years have been totally rethinking what “church” is and are looking for a deeper relationship with Christ. A spiritual revolution and revival is quietly sweeping across America led by the Spirit of God, not human leadership. For a rapidly growing number of Christians, a local church building is no longer the place to go for their primary church meeting place. Since 2000, millions of believers are leaving local congregations and are meeting in house churches according to a poll from the Barna Group (www.barna.org). In 2000, most of the organized religious activity took place at or through a local church. By 2005, more than 50 million people practiced their faith through a variety of different faith models. On any given week in 2005, 9% of all adults in America participated in a house church!
Most of the people now meeting in house churches are doing so because they have a desire to have a deeper relationship with Christ, and have had to leave the congregational, building based church to satisfy that need. These people have a heart’s desire to be the church, rather than merely go to church, according to the Barna Group poll.
In stepping “out of the box” of the traditional building based church, we have the opportunity to totally rethink how the church should be. Many of the aspects that Christians have come to assume to be a normal part of what a church is, and what a church should be like, don’t have a specific basis in Scripture. In fact, some aspects are the exact opposite of Scriptural direction. Often when people leave a church and start another, they create another church with much the same same format as the one they left. The leadership is different, and some of the “issues” are practiced differently, but many of the humanly designed aspects of the church usually remain unchanged. True spiritual revival does not occur, and the new church soon becomes another “average” congregation. It was only after our family got “out of the box” of the traditional church structure for several years, that God was able to help us begin to see His design for the church.
There is much more to be learned and understood about God’s design for the Church and for people being fed spiritually. It is important that we do not go back in history and pick out a group of people who appear to have had the results that we desire and follow their example. That is an error of conservatism. Even the New Testament Church was made up of human beings like ourselves who also lacked complete understanding of what God’s complete design is for the Church. Instead we need to look at the Scriptures and find out exactly what God’s design is and follow that. We can look at history and other groups and learn from the things that they did in following God’s design in a particular area and learn from their success and mistakes, but our primary focus needs to be on looking at God’s design.
The church-building-based church most commonly found in the United States is not based on God’s design for the church or on instruction given to us in Scripture. The local church has evolved over the last almost 2000 years from the house churches of the New Testament to a design, format, and money consuming facility that for many aspects of what the church is and its activities, does not have a basis in Scripture. The following are some of the things found in many building-based churches that don’t have directives in the Bible. Some of these items are not sin and are not particularly wrong, but are included to show how much of what we associate as being an expected part of the church is man’s design and is not found in the Bible.
- A special building called a “church” which is the center of spiritual life for the congregation.
- Denominational affiliation
- Church membership
- Connecting baptism with church and denominational membership
- The pastor hired as an employee of the congregation
- An elevated pulpit
- The pastor having a title such as Doctor, Reverend, and Pastor
- Bible School or Seminary education for pastors
- The arrangement of benches or chairs in rows facing the elevated pulpit
- Special seating, parking, and or dress giving honor to the pastor
- Sunday School – age graded classes for children
- Age segregated adult groups
- Youth Groups
- Children’s Church
- A nursery
- A Christian School
- Entertainment – music, drama, videos, etc.
- Music styles borrowed from the world and used for worshipping God
- Sports – a gym, organized ball teams, etc.
- Church Growth emphasis
- Feedlot-style spiritual feeding
You could probably add a few more items to this list. In looking over this list, much of what defines what the conventional church is, how people are fed spiritually, and how money is spent by the church, is not found in Scripture. It is man’s design for the church, not God’s design.
This discussion about totally rethinking church is not to aid those who are reactionary, or those who are rebelling against the traditional church. It is an endeavor to identify those areas of the church that are not instructed in God’s Word so that we can make changes that make the church as much like God would have us to be as we can. Our desire is to follow Christ with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.
Let’s look at each of these areas in more detail:
A special building called a “church” which is the center of spiritual life for the congregation.
We as Christians are the church. The real church is not church buildings, programs, and activities that take place in a building called a “church”. However, with the focus on church buildings today, church for many is attending the meetings in the church building. The view by many is if a person does not attend some of the meetings in the church building, they are viewed as beginning to grow cold spiritually.
God does not command or instruct in the New Testament that a congregation should have a special building called a church, where the church meets. Even in the Old Testament, when God commanded the Israelites to build the Tabernacle (and later when they built the temple), there was only one building for millions of people. All the people did not gather to worship at the Temple every Sabbath. Those gathered for worship at the Temple, worshiped outside the Temple under the open sky, not inside. For many, the Temple was a day’s journey or more away. One example is Jesus and his parents when He went to the temple at age 12. It took them three days to get there. The Jews developed the local synagogue, but it was man’s design. God did not command or instruct them to build synagogues.
The use of the word “church” for the building where a congregation meets is unfortunate because it subconsciously confuses the building with the real Church, the body of believers. Many emphasize “going to church” rather than on being the Church and being a part of the Kingdom of Christ. Attending meetings in the church building is often equated with a person’s spiritual commitment. You often hear things like “Is he still going to church?” or “they are no longer going to church”. The implication of those comments or questions is on whether the person is faithful in their Christian life or not. For many congregations, the majority of the spiritual life of the congregation centers around attending meetings in that building.
The term used today, “unchurched”, does not refer to unbelievers per se, but to those who do not attend meetings in a church building.
In looking at the Church through history, the Church was vibrant and grew rapidly when the believers met in homes. For example: The New Testament Church, the Anabaptists of the 1500’s, the underground church in communist Russia, and today in China. Even today one of the fastest growing denominations, the Amish, meets in homes. The cell group concept, used for church growth by large congregations, owed much of its success to people meeting in homes.
God does not command denominational affiliation. We have seen several different statistics showing between 27,000 and 33,000 Christian denominations as of 2001. The proliferation of denominations and the multitude of splits and divisions within denominations are in direct disobedience to God’s command that we all speak the same thing and have the same doctrine and judgment. Participation in denominational affiliation and practices is unwise and is destructive to Christ’s Kingdom, as God clearly tells us in the following passages:
1 Corinthians 1:10-13 Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. 11 For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. 12 Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. 13 Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?
Today we hear: I’m a Baptist, I’m a Methodist, I’m a Presbyterian, or I’m an Anabaptist, etc. However, we are not baptized in the name of a denomination, but in the name of Jesus.
1 Corinthians 3:4-15 For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal? (5) Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? (6) I have planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. (7) So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. (8) Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labor. (9) For we are laborers together with God, ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building. (10) According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. (11) For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. (12) Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; (13) Every man’s work shall be made manifest for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. (14) If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. (15) If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.
- Being a follower of a denomination is carnal (v.4). There are people who are part of a denomination who are followers of Christ, and are not followers of the denomination. Those people are not carnal. But being a follower of a denomination hinders a person’s spiritual maturity and understanding. It creates divisions, envying, and strife. This is why commands and doctrines of man, while appearing to have wisdom in helping to keep Christ’s commands are foolish. People become followers of a denomination and their focus is on its doctrine.
- We are totally complete in Christ. We must not follow the commands of men, doctrines of men, or theologies of men or a denomination to try to be complete in Christ. Following the philosophy, traditions, or wisdom of a man or denomination does not make a person more spiritual or better able to be a Christian – Colossians 2:8-10 “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. (9) For in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. (10) And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power:”
- The current emphasis on church growth is carnal because it focuses on drawing people to a pastor or a certain church.
- V. 7: the size of a pastor’s church does not mean that he is anything. He is not a better Christian because he has a larger church, nor is he more successful. It may be that he is more “successful” in leading people astray down the broad road instead of up the narrow way. We need to always remember that numbers are not a proof of success in a church.
Denominational affiliation or conference affiliation is often viewed as wise because it provides accountability to a larger group. However, accountability is often more of a theoretical ideal then an actual safety net. In modern times, rather than accountability, it is more likely for the leadership of a denomination or conference to lead a large group of churches down the wrong path in disobedience to God’s Word in a particular area.
Congregational membership, as practiced in most building-based churches today is not instructed in Scripture. Church membership usually means joining an organization in addition to the Kingdom of Christ. Often church membership includes accepting certain practices, applications, and beliefs that are not specifically stated that way in Scripture. For example: a specific mode of baptism; requirment of speaking in tongues; specific styles of dress; adherance to doctrines named after men such as Calvinism, Arminianism, etc.
Church membership is not sin in that it is not disobedience to Scripture. It is just something that has come to exist and to be expected as part of the church that has not been instructed in the Bible.
The pastor hired as an employee of the congregation
God has instructed the church to support pastors financially. However, God did not say to make the pastor a hireling or an employee. Making the pastor an employee, has resulted in many pastors subconsciously or intentionally being concerned that what they say from the pulpit doesn’t make someone mad or offended. The result is a watered down teaching of the Bible that is less “offensive” to those who want to sin or continue in their sin. The pastor knows that if the congregation doesn’t like what he says, or he does not bring the money or people in, he loses his job.
John 10:12-13 But he that is a hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. 13 The hireling fleeth, because he is a hireling, and careth not for the sheep.
God’s design is that the pastor be supported by the congregation through gifts.
The pastor having a title such as Doctor, Reverend, and Pastor.
Titles of honor and authority for the pastor are not directed by God. Instead, God commands the opposite.
Matthew 20:25-28 But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. (26) But it shall not be so among you, but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; (27) And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: (28) Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.
- Minister – “to run on errands; an attendant, that is, (generally) a waiter (at table or in other menial duties); specifically a Christian teacher and pastor (technically a deacon or deaconess): deacon, minister, servant.” Strong’s Greek Dictionary
- A pastor must not do things to receive honor of others – special titles, special dress, special seats, parking, fancy or high pulpit.
- Jesus gave the example of feet washing.
- A doctor’s degree is a great hindrance to a pastor viewing himself as a servant.
Matthew 23:8-11 But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. (9) And call no man your father upon the earth’. for one is your Father, which is in heaven. (10) Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. (11) But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant.
- Rabbi – “my master, that is, Rabbi, as an official title of honor; Master, Rabbi”. Strong’s Greek Dictionary
- Master – “a guide, that is, (figuratively) a teacher. master.” Strong’s Greek Dictionary
- A pastor should not use the title “Doctor”, “Ph.D.”, or “Pastor ‘So and so'”
- Highly educated persons in the church should not be acknowledged as such in the church. It is not beneficial to them or the church.
- Titles of honor hinder a leader from being a servant and having humility
- The relationship of pastor to the congregation is not father to sons, but as brothers. v. 8
Mark 10:42-45 But Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them. (43) But so shall it not be among you but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister; (44) And whosoever of you will be the chiefest shall be servant of all. (45) For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.
- Jesus repeated this instruction that pastor is to be the servant of the church. It is an important instruction that is often acknowledged but ignored.
- A position of honor and authority is not what the role of a pastor is.
- Administration of others and the church is not the primary job of a pastor. He is not to exercise lordship or authority over the church.
Luke 22:24-30 And there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest. (25) And he said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors. (26) But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he that is chief, as he that doth serve. (27) For whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? is not he that sitteth at meat? but I am among you as he that serveth. (28) Ye are they which have continued with me in my temptations. (29) And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me; (30) That ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
- It is important that we understand the secrets of Christ’s kingdom and how it works. To a large degree the secrets of the kingdom of God have been overlooked by the church. Understanding the nature and organization of Christ’s kingdom is important because it is different than natural thinking and the examples around us.
Jesus instructs us that leadership in His kingdom is different than leadership in government or society. The pastor’s focus must not be on greatness and leadership but on serving others. (V.27) The pastor elevates others to greatness by serving them and showing them how to serve others. We keep from focusing on being chief or being in a position of honor by focusing on serving others. It is the only way to keep a proper application of church organization and leadership.
I Corinthians 15:9-11 For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. (10) But by the grace of God I am what I am and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. (11) Therefore whether it were I or they, so we preach, and so ye believed.
- Humility of a pastor:
- Realizing that he is less important than others (v.9).
- Realizing that it is only by God’s grace that he is who he is. It is not his own ability or education that enables him to be a pastor. One of the dangers of seminary education is that it subconsciously makes a man think that he is who he is because of what he has in education — a root of pride. Paul was more educated than any of the other apostles, but he recognized that his education was nothing and did not make him who he was or what he could do.
Bible School or Seminary education for pastors
God does not instruct that being educated is one of the qualifications for a pastor.
We do not find the example of education in the life of Jesus
- John 7:14-15 Now about the midst of the feast Jesus went up into the temple, and taught. 15 And the Jews marveled, saying, How knoweth this man letters, having never learned?
We do not find the example of education in the life of the disciples
- Acts 4:13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marveled; and they took knowledge of them,that they had been with Jesus.
God tells us education is worthless
- Luke 10:21 In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes: even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight.
- Mat 11:25 At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. 26 Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight. 27 All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him.
- Mat 13:11-16 He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. (12) For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath. (13) Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. (14) And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: (15) For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. (16) But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear.
- 1Co 3:18 Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness. 20 And again, The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain.
Paul rejected his education as worthless for preaching the Gospel.
1 Corinthians 1:17-29 For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. (18) For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. (19) For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. (20) Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? (21) For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. (22) For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: (23) But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; (24) But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. (25) Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men and the weakness of God is stronger than men. (26) For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: (27) But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise , and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; (28) And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to naught things that are: (29) That no flesh should glory in his presence.
- Preaching must not be with wisdom of words or it will make the preaching ineffective.
- Higher education does not make a pastor’s preaching more effective; in fact, the education makes it worthless! (v. 17)
- Wisdom – “wisdom (higher or lower, worldly or spiritual): wisdom.” Strong’s Greek Dictionary
- The church needs to recognize that education disqualifies a man for spiritual leadership positions in the church unless he has renounced the value of his education like Paul did.
- Verses 27, 28 say even clearer that education is worthless for spiritual training and preaching. The educated person’s education is worthless, and what he teaches will come to nothing.
1 Corinthians 2:1-8 And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. (2) For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. (3) And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. (4) And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: (5) That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. (6) Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect, yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to naught. (7) But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory. (8) Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
- This is an example of what a spiritual leader should be like. He needs to be humble and show people the power of God and that God is real.
- A pastor does not need higher education or seminary education. It does not help his preaching or understanding. Nor does it help others to put their faith in the power of God.
- An evangelist, missionary, or pastor does not need to use stories, jokes, or other creative things to get and keep people’s attention. Enticing words of the wisdom of men is not worth much in showing people God’s power. People’s focus needs to be on the power of God not on the attention getter. Often people will remember the illustration, but not remember what it was illustrating.
- When a pastor uses his higher education (human reasoning) in preaching, it leads the church to put their faith in the wisdom of men – the pastor and those he is drawing his information from. This subconsciously leads people to mindlessly accept the teachings of men because these educated men are put on a pedestal as men who know, because they are more educated than anyone else in the church.
- Higher education is more destructive to the spiritual health of the church than it is helpful.
An elevated pulpit.
The larger the church building, the more of a perceived necessity there appears for an elevated pulpit. But an elevated pulpit is not instructed in Scripture. Pulpits are usually elevated above the people and it puts the pastor at the center of attention and importance center stage. The pastor is not the one to be elevated in the church, but rather Jesus Christ. In addition, when a pastor stands in a pulpit or podium, he “shuts up” the congregation, in the sense that he speaks and they listen and don’t ask questions or make comments.
While Jesus most likely did not sit down every time He taught, it is interesting how often it mentions that Jesus sat down to speak to a group of people. In a house church, there is not a need for an elevated pulpit. The pastor can sit to deliver the message like Jesus did.
Matthew 5:1-2 And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: 2 And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying,
Matthew 13:1-2 The same day went Jesus out of the house, and sat by the sea side. 2 And great multitudes were gathered together unto him, so that he went into a ship, and sat; and the whole multitude stood on the shore.
Mark 9:33-37 And he came to Capernaum: and being in the house he asked them, What was it that ye disputed among yourselves by the way? (34) But they held their peace: for by the way they had disputed among themselves, who should be the greatest. (35) And he sat down, and called the twelve, and saith unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all. (36)And he took a child, and set him in the midst of them: and when he had taken him in his arms, he said unto them, (37) Whosoever shall receive one of such children in my name, receiveth me: and whosoever shall receive me, receiveth not me, but him that sent me.
Luke 4:20-21 And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21 And he began to say unto them, This day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears.
John 8:2 And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came unto him; and he sat down, and taught them.
The arrangement of benches or chairs in rows facing the elevated pulpit
This is not found in the Bible.
Special seating, parking, and or dress giving honor to the pastor
This is not found in the Bible.
Sunday School — age graded classes for children
The conventional Sunday school is not found in Scripture. Sunday School instead, has been patterned after the public school system of graded education, the same system of education that home school students have proved to be an inferior method of education. God’s command for the spiritual training of the children is not Sunday School but for each father to train his own children in the way of the Lord.
Sunday Schools became popular because fathers were not training their children, and the children were Biblically illiterate. Instead of giving the fathers the tools and training that they needed to train their children, the Church took over the fathers’ God-given responsibility. Men, by their very nature, if they allow others to take some of their responsibility, tend to turn the entire responsibility over to others. The Sunday school appeared to be the answer. Children learned more about the Bible. But as the years have passed, the Church as a whole has moved further away from the Bible, and become more like the world. We are now at a point where a survey from the Barna Research Group has found that the beliefs and practices among born again Christians are basically no different from non-Christians. We have come full circle with the Sunday school and the children in the Sunday school are little different than those who do not attend Sunday school. The answer is not to reform the Sunday school which is based on the wrong method of spiritual education of children, but to return the responsibility of the spiritual education of the children to their father.
Age segregated adult groups
God does not instruct the church to put people in the congregation into groups according to their age. Instead of age segregation, there needs to be interaction between the age groups. God instructs older men to teach the younger men and the older women to teach the younger women.
Youth groups are not instructed in Scripture, yet almost every church has a youth group. The youth group, by separating the young people from their parents, and placing them with their peers causes them to have their hearts drawn toward those their own age rather than toword their parents. There are serious spiritual consequences when young people’s hearts are taken away from their parents. God tells us in Malachi 4:5-6: “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: 6 And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.”
God has not instructed that the children be separated from the rest of the church. Church programs usually separate children into their own group so the adults can have the important part without distraction. The children grow up not being included in the rest of the church. In many churches the children’s growing up years are spent in children’s church, Sunday school, and later the youth group. When they become adults they do not really feel a part of the church and many leave.
Luke 9:46-48 Then there arose a reasoning among them, which of them should be greatest. (47) And Jesus, perceiving the thought of their heart, took a child, and set him by him, (48) And said unto them, Whosoever shall receive this child in my name receiveth me, and whosoever shall receive me receiveth him that sent me, for he that is least among you all, the same shall be great.
- Children are a very important part of the church not the least important. They are the future of the church.
- Mat 21:15 And when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying in the temple, and saying, Hosanna to the son of David; they were sore displeased, 16 And said unto him, Hearest thou what these say? And Jesus saith unto them, Yea; have ye never read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise
- Luke 17:2 It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones.
- Jesus says that receiving Christ means turning our hearts toward the children and including them in the church service.
- A pastor needs to receive, accept, children.
- Receiving children is a prerequisite for receiving Christ and the Father (Luke 9:48). This shows the importance of a person’s heart being turned toward children. It is of equal importance as receiving Christ. This explains why John the Baptist’s mission was to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children.
- A pastor that does not see the importance of receiving children, cannot truly help others develop a close relationship with Christ or the Father.
Mark 10:13-14 And they brought young children to him, that he should touch them: and his disciples rebuked those that brought them. 14 But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.
There is no instruction in Scripture to remove babies and small children from their parents during the worship service.
A Christian School
The closest example in the Bible of a Christian School for children, is the Jewish school system in Jesus’ day that produced the scribes and Pharisees whom Jesus called hypocrites. That school produced men who did not know who God was. When God came in person (Jesus), they rejected what God had to say to them and ridiculed Him. They killed Jesus because their spiritual understanding was so destroyed and made foolish by their religious education.
It is interesting to note that neither Jesus nor John the Baptist were educated in the Jewish school system. If Jesus had been educated in the Jewish schools, He would have provided an example for us to use that method of education today.
- Jesus — John 7:15 And the Jews marveled, saying, How knoweth this man letters, having never learned?
- John the Baptist – Luke 1:80 And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his showing unto Israel.
Entertainment – music, drama, videos, etc.
God has not instructed us to use entertainment in the church. Much of the entertainment in churches today is music and art forms borrowed from the world and brought into the church building. The purpose of the Church, as believers, is to worship and give glory and honor to Jesus. When the focus is put on “going tochurch” (the building and the activities of the building), entertainment is often used to attract people into the building to increase and keep attendance.
Music Styles Borrowed from the World and used to Worship God
God’s instruction in Scripture about the music used to worship Him, is to sing a new song to Him, not to borrow music styles that have been used to worship Satan or that have been used for worldly entertainment. Many have brought the world’s music, rock, rap, new age, ethnic music, etc. into the church in an attempt to win people to Christ. God tells us to do the opposite to win people to Christ; we are to sing a new song. Psalms 40:3: “And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the LORD.” We are not to use worship music borrowed from the world in the church to worship God. That includes hymn tunes borrowed from the world.
The contrast of singing a new song and music borrowed from the world is given to us in Psalms 144:7-12: “Send thine hand from above; rid me, and deliver me out of great waters, from the hand of strange children; 8 Whose mouth speaketh vanity, and their right hand is a right hand of falsehood. 9 I will sing a new song unto thee, O God: upon a psaltery and an instrument of ten strings will I sing praises unto thee. 10 It is he that giveth salvation unto kings: who delivereth David his servant from the hurtful sword. 11 Rid me, and deliver me from the hand of strange children, whose mouth speaketh vanity, and their right hand is a right hand of falsehood: 12 That our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth; that our daughters may be as corner stones, polished after the similitude of a palace:” One of the results that people are discovering as rock music is removed from the lives of young people, and is replaced by good Godly music, is that there is an increased brightness of the young people’s eyes and countenance, which is what God tells us will happen in verse 12. The right music is an important part of ensuring the spiritual maturity of the young people in the church.
God is a musical God and enjoys music. Music is a very important part of worshiping God. However, God tells us that not all music is acceptable to Him, and that some music that is used to worship Him; He hates and wants it removed from the church. Amos 5:21-23 “I hate, I despise your feast days, and I will not smell in your solemn assemblies. 22 Though ye offer me burnt offerings and your meat offerings, I will not accept them: neither will I regard the peace offerings of your fat beasts. 23 Take thou away from me the noise of thy songs; for I will not hear the melody of thy viols.” If God hates our music that we have in the church, it is not worship music and is worthless.
Much of the rise of borrowing music from the world has been fostered by the poor quality of music and singing in the church in the past. Hymns sung too slowly and in unison are not enjoyable to listen to. The music in the church should not be poor quality. Instead, we need ask God for new songs and hymns that are even better than the hymns of the past. We need to ask God how to play musical instruments the way He wants us to play them that produces the best music in the world. The music that the church has, the new song, should be such good music that it draws the world to Christ (Ps. 40:3).
Sports – a gym, organized ball teams, etc.
We are not to bring the idols of the world into the Church. It only creats a distraction from a deeper relationship with our Heavenly Father.
Church Growth Emphasis – building a large or larger congregation
An emphasis or focus on building a large or larger congregation is not found in Scripture. God tells us that a pastor is not to focus on numbers. Instead he needs to focus on planting the seed and watering it. Then God gets credit for the increase not the pastor.
1 Corinthians 3:5-8 Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? 6 I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. 7 So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. 8 Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labor.
John 13:13 Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. 16 Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. 17 If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.
It is interesting looking at this passage from the perspective as applying to pastors. The last supper was in actuality a ministers meeting, not a meeting of all of Jesus’ followers. There is often a lot of competition between pastors today as each pastor tries to build up his own congregation. Each pastor is concerned that people from his congregation will go to a neighboring congregation. Jesus instructs these spiritual leaders that they were to help one another and serve one another (wash each other’s feet). We are all working for Christ’s Kingdom, not to build our own congregation. We need to help other congregations achieve that purpose.
Imagine how much could be accomplished for Christ’s Kingdom if pastors worked together and helped each other (washed the other pastor’s feet), rather than each one trying to build their own church.
House churches of the New Testament time period would have helped reduce the competition between pastors because the size of the congregation was limited to the size of the house. That promoted multiplication of congregations. When a congregation meets in a church building, competition becomes more of a factor because the size of the building can be more readily increased.
Much of what defines what the conventional building-based church in America is, how people are fed spiritually, and how money is spent by the church, is not found in Scripture. It is not God’s design for the church, but instead it is man’s design. You will notice that we did not address the feedlot-style of spiritual feeding found in most churches, that will be addressed in part two. In part two of “Totally Rethinking Church” we will look at God’s design for the church and what we can do to pattern the church after His design.