Notes from The Forum Class Peninsula Bible Church of Palo Alto, California



The Church in The Mirror

Tapes of these Classes are in RealAudio

February 17, 2002. The Organized Church as seen by Open Church/Home Church Advocates. The home church movement has some serious criticisms of the way big churches fail to be the Body of Christ in community. What the Reformers failed to fix. Central authority vs committee power. In Spirit and/or in truth? Small or Large? Preserving Kerygma and Koinonia.

March 3. The Church and our World View. These two ends of the Bible are ignored by most churches these days. This leaves a person with a weak-middle view of God--and virtually no Christian weltaungshaung to live by. Developing a sound world-view is essential if one is to live across the grain of the culture which is our calling. Instead, the church today has mostly defaulted to the prevailing secular world view! Biblical illiteracy in the church today! Reversing the dumbing-down of the church.

March 10. Glenn Miller, Farewell Exhortations.

March 17. Spiritual Commandos. Man's lost estate in Adam and its restoration in Christ. Evangelism is only part of what a good church does. The Church is a beachhead of spiritual Rangers and Seals--the advance scouts of the coming world-occupation force led by the Lord Jesus Christ. The Church and the coming Tribulation. Through the mighty weapons given us for spiritual warfare we should at least be antagonizing the "world rulers of this present darkness" and their human counterparts. Toppling Strongholds.

March 24. The Seven Churches. The predicted end of Israel was failure, and sure enough that's what happened. The predicted end of the church is also failure (except for a small remnant)--the same fate as was predicted for Israel in the OT. The Seven Churches and the course of the Age. Should one leave the church? The Remnant (Overcomers).

March 31. No Class

April 7. The Rise of the False Church. The New Testament suggests that the true church will grow weaker as the end of the age approaches, but also a false church will, for a time, dominate the world stage. "Popular" Church formats vs. the New Testament Church. What can we learn from the counterfeit? The parable of the mustard seed. The parable of the woman and the leavened meal.

Lambert Dolphin February 10, 2002

If you prefer cassette tapes of these classes,

Hear the word of the LORD, O people of Israel; for the LORD has a controversy with the inhabitants of the land. There is no faithfulness or kindness, and no knowledge of God in the land; there is swearing, lying, killing, stealing, and committing adultery; they break all bounds and murder follows murder. Therefore the land mourns, and all who dwell in it languish, and also the beasts of the field, and the birds of the air; and even the fish of the sea are taken away. Yet let no one contend, and let none accuse, for with you is my contention, O priest. You shall stumble by day, the prophet also shall stumble with you by night; and I will destroy your mother.

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me. And since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children. The more they increased, the more they sinned against me; I will change their glory into shame. They feed on the sin of my people; they are greedy for their iniquity. And it shall be like people, like priest; I will punish them for their ways, and requite them for their deeds. They shall eat, but not be satisfied; they shall play the harlot, but not multiply; because they have forsaken the LORD to cherish harlotry. Wine and new wine take away the understanding.

My people inquire of a thing of wood, and their staff gives them oracles. For a spirit of harlotry has led them astray, and they have left their God to play the harlot. They sacrifice on the tops of the mountains, and make offerings upon the hills, under oak, poplar, and terebinth, because their shade is good. Therefore your daughters play the harlot, and your brides commit adultery. I will not punish your daughters when they play the harlot, nor your brides when they commit adultery; for the men themselves go aside with harlots, and sacrifice with cult prostitutes, and a people without understanding shall come to ruin.

Though you play the harlot, O Israel, let not Judah become guilty. Enter not into Gilgal, nor go up to Bethaven, and swear not, "As the LORD lives." Like a stubborn heifer, Israel is stubborn; can the LORD now feed them like a lamb in a broad pasture? Ephraim is joined to idols, let him alone. A band of drunkards, they give themselves to harlotry; they love shame more than their glory. A wind has wrapped them in its wings, and they shall be ashamed because of their altars. (Hosea 4)

Notes and Resources:

The End of the Church?

Critiques by the Open Church and Home Church Movements


DANGER: "Live Heresy is Better Than Dead Orthodoxy Any Day," (Horace Bissell)

1. The Church Age Has Ended: Harold Camping and The Family Radio Cult:

"What is going on? Certainly something strange is happening. On the one hand we see churches everywhere becoming more and more apostate. Yet on the other hand we see a ministry like Family Radio becoming more and more useful to the Lord in sending the true Gospel into the world.

"Virtually everyone of us, as we look at the church we attend, and as we look at the other churches in our city, deplore what we are seeing. The worship service has become increasingly a time of entertainment. The preaching seldom, if ever, warns of the immanence of Judgment Day. Church after church feature signs and wonders. Little or no money is available for mission work because of increasing obligations to pay for newer and finer buildings, and greater and greater pastor's salaries.

"Perhaps one of the most shocking experiences of the true believer within these churches is the rejection he will experience if he contends too strongly for greater purity in doctrine. Indeed any spiritually minded believer must admit something drastic has happened and is happening in even the most conservative of the churches. How can it be then that a ministry like Family Radio appears to be increasingly blessed as it is able to share the true Gospel with an increasingly large percentage of the world's population.

"We do know that there are many prophecies in the Bible that indicate that as the history of the world draws to a close the congregations and denominations will be increasingly apostate. For example, Revelation 13 speaks of a time when Satan, called the beast that comes out of the sea, will rule in the churches through false Gospels. In this chapter these churches are called a false prophet that comes out of the earth. These churches have become altogether apostate. But a serious question must be raised. It is true that God brought the seven churches spoken of in the book of Revelation into judgment by removing them. But isn't it also true that throughout the New Testament era churches or denominations do disappear. But aren't they replaced by other churches and denominations that are more faithful. Worldwide hasn't there always been in existence a core group of faithful churches. For example, even today are there not a sprinkling of faithful churches that are at least as true to the Word of God as many churches were several hundred years ago?

"This is true! But there is a larger plan of God that must be looked at. This plan shows that a time will come when God will no longer use the churches and congregations to bring the Gospel to the world. They instead will come under the wrath of God. To see this plan we must carefully examine Old Testament Israel. They, without any question, typify the New Testament church which the Bible speaks of as the Israel of God. (Gal. 6:16) Because we witness this phenomena by a ministry such as Family Radio which in no sense is under the authority of the church and which tries to be as faithful to the Bible as possible, we can know that we are in that time of the great tribulation. The next event will be the return of Christ and the end of the world. And that brings us to a very real but very troublesome question. If we can still find or are still a part of a church that is reasonably true to the Bible, should we remain there. Does the Bible give us clear instruction concerning this very important question. Fact is, what are we to do if we could find a church where it appears that each and every doctrine they hold and teach is faithful to the Word of God. Because the church era has come to an end the churches have become dead as the church of Sardis long ago became dead. (Rev 3:1). The churches of today have had their candlestick removed even as the church of Ephesus of Rev. 2 was warned that God would remove their candlestick if they did not return to their first love. The church has ceased to be an institution or divine organism to serve God as His appointed representative on earth.

"It is no wonder that it is almost impossible to find a church today that will modify its Confessions to make them more faithful to the Bible. Remember the Bible says that it is God who works in us to will and to do of His good pleasure. Therefore, if a church no longer has a candlestick it means God is not working in that church. The elders and deacons are being guided by their own minds rather than by the Holy Spirit. Now the big question. What are we to do now that we have this information concerning the church.

"If the church age has come to an end, what are the believers to do who are members of churches? Obedience to the command of Luke 21:20-24 can be accomplished in various ways. If a person or family is a member of a church they can withdraw their membership and fellowship on Sundays with whomever there may be who are of like mind. Such withdrawal may initiate a move by the church to excommunicate. For that individual that is not a trauma because he has become convinced that the church era has come to an end and the church no longer has any divine authority...If the individual or family are simply attending a church and are not members they can stop attending that church but continue to fellowship outside of the church with individuals of like mind. If a congregation decides to be obedient to this command they can reorganize their congregation from a church congregation, to become a fellowship of believers. The elders will no longer be elders. The deacons will no longer be deacons. The Pastor will no longer be pastor. In other words no individuals will have spiritual rule over the congregation...Those members of this congregation who disagree with this decision to disband would have to find membership in another congregation...In any case the decision to withdraw altogether from the church as an institution is a very personal one. No teacher of Family Radio or any one else has the authority to command this. All passages like Jeremiah 29 and Luke 21:20-24 should be looked at carefully and prayerfully and then each one should make his own decision. This is so because now that the church as a corporate institution has no spiritual authority, each person must answer directly to God...We have learned that in God's predetermined plan for the world that we have finally come to that time which God calls the time of great tribulation. It is the time when the work of the corporate external church has been finished. It is no longer being used of God to do the work that had been assigned it to do as its principle endeavor. That work is to evangelize the world. For more than nineteen hundred years, even though the churches and congregations have had many imperfection's of doctrinal failures, God has used them as a divine organism, as a God blessed institution to spread the Gospel to every area of the world.

"But now the time has come when the era of the church age has come to an end. The time has come for others to complete the task of world evangelization. And simultaneously with the end of the church age God has brought His judgment upon the churches. For more than 1900 years God has tolerated the wrong doctrines even as He tolerated the high places of Old Testament Israel. But now God has loosed Satan and through his deceptions churches all over the world have become apostate, following the desires of men rather than those of God. Satan has been allowed to marshal his forces to surround Jerusalem."

Disclaimer: Harold Camping's ("Family Radio") web site supports his heretical views. What are some these things that make Camping a heretic?

First, he is a false prophet. Camping predicted that on Sept 6, 1994 that Jesus would return to earth. So, how should we view Camping? The Bible tells us concerning him: "When a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not come about or come true, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him." (Deut 18:22)

Second, he has said that God is no longer using the Church (but only Harold Camping's Family Radio) to reach the world. He asserts that Christians should leave their churches and follow his teachings with Family Radio as the sole promoter of the gospel. But the New Testament states: "Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near." (Heb 10:23-25) Jesus said, "no one comes to the Father but through Me" (John 14:6b). Christians hold this truth as foundational. Yet groups, such as Harold Camping's, qualify Jesus' statement by asserting that no one can come to Jesus except through them. No one acts as the guardians of Jesus and salvation. They thus become the guardians of access to Jesus, and therefore guard access to God. God Himself holds access to salvation exclusively through Christ. All can approach Christ independently of any group affiliation. But Camping becomes a barrier between man and God with his "new revelation" and "new dispensation." He is in the same category as such characters as Joseph Smith.

Third, he says that no one can be sure of salvation, though the New Testament tells us: "In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek." (Heb 6:17-20)

Don't let Harold Camping and his crew take away "this hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast" from you!

Additional Resources:

2. Frank Viola: Reimagining Church and

3. Seedsowers (Books)

4. The Open Church (movement)

5. John Loeffler,

6. House Church Resources,

7. No Garbage Books,

8. Book: "What People Ask About The Church," by Dale A. Robbins

9. Whose "Global Kingdom" Come? by Berit Kjos,

10. The teaching gifts given to members of the Body of Christ include apostle (pioneering missionary), prophet (in-depth broad-spectrum instruction), pastor-teacher and evangelism. Body Life by Ray Stedman,

11. The Nature of Heresy, by Ray Stedman,

12. On Expository Preaching, by Ray C. Stedman,

From the Book Beyond Radical (Gene Edwards) Ch. 1: The Story Behind What We Do

We will start by finding out why it is that all of us Christians "go to church" on Sunday. And at 11 a.m. Always having "church" at 11 a.m. Sunday morning was started by Martin Luther. He drank an awful lot of beer on Saturday night at the local pub. The older he got, the longer he stayed at the pub, and consequently, the later he had to set the morning church service. Today 500,000,000 Protestants routinely (and without question) follow this Sunday tradition because of the beer-drinking habits of a German theologian.

The Pastor: Think about it. Where in the New Testament do you find a man--the same man--who (1) preaches every Sunday, (2) marries people, (3) brings a message over a corpse, then (4) buries it with a prayer, (5) visits old ladies, (6) says prayers over football games, (7) CEO's a church, (8) presides over elders and deacons, (9) is virtually always in a dress suit, (10) speaks strangely and prays funny, (11) baptizes all the new converts, and (12) whose office and all the above practices are supposed to be based solidly on the Word of God and found in Scripture.

Such a man is not there in your New Testament is he? Yet, today, the man is the central figure in Protestant Christianity. Just how did the pastor idea get into Christianity? Here is the story. See for yourself if it sounds like it sprang out of "solidly based on the Word of God."

Pope Gregory the Great first popularized the term "pastor" in about 550 A,D. He did so by writing a book on the pastoral duties of the priest! The term pastor appears in no Christian literature before that point other than once in a long list of people mentioned in the book of Ephesians. The practical meaning of the word is unknown. Pope Gregory told Roman Catholic priests to carry out pastoral duties: to visit the sick, teach doctrine, marry the young, sprinkle the babies, conduct the Mass, bury the dead, and bless local events (such as festivals). These became forever the Roman Catholic priest's pastoral duties. No such man and no such duties ever existed in Scripture.

Luther came along a thousand years later and slightly altered this list of pastoral duties for Lutheran priests. Gradually the term pastor emerged into Protestant vocabulary throughout the English speaking world. The word pastor replaced the Catholic term priest. The man does not exist in first-century literature. Neither do these practices exist in the New Testament. We Anglos carried this pastor idea, which Luther invented, to the ends of the earth. It is now Christianity.

If we removed the present pastoral role from Christendom, there would be an almost total collapse of "church" worldwide. Yet the present pastoral practice has absolutely no scriptural grounds. Try to find this man in the first century. If we move away from the pastor being center, we move beyond radical.

Church Buildings: Until a Roman emperor named Constantine came along (about 300 years after Pentecost), the Christian faith was the only religion in history that met in homes. It was the only "lay" led movement in the history of religion. Christianity alone had no institutions, no set rituals, no temples. That was unprecedented in human history. it is what made Christianity unique. And virile. And elastic, flexible, and adaptable. It had low overheads! Costs were minimal. Constantine changed all that.

All other religions of mankind had these elements: Temples, priests, vestal virgins ritual, secret vocabulary understood only by the priest, silent laity. Look at that list again. Christianity now has all of these. (Okay, we Protestants do not have vestal virgins!) In the year 327 A.D. (mark that date, as it is pivotal in Christian history) Constantine ordered the construction of nineteen Christian buildings. That had never happened before. Until then, we met in homes. (At first, buildings were seen as shrines.) These nineteen buildings were constructed in three places. One in Bethlehem and two in Jerusalem (for His birth, crucifixion and resurrection), nine in the city of Constantinople and seven in the city of Rome.

Constantine primarily launched these buildings for his brand new city in the east. It was a custom made city, created from he dirt up. The city was uninhabited until it was completed ... with empty streets, grand government buildings, and the nine Christian buildings scattered around the city. The city also had an abundance of pagan temples. These were named after a god or a goddess. Constantine, a pagan in mind if not in soul, therefore ordered that each one to the nine Christian buildings be named after someone. Specifically they were to be named after first-century saints! (Hence: St. Luke's church, St. John's church, etc. Yep! That is how it began.)

In Rome, the same year, Constantine ordered the construction of seven Christian buildings. (One was a shrine placed on the side of a hill just outside the city walls. The slope of the hill was called Vaticanus.) That is how (the curse of) the church building began. Very scriptural, we Bible-practicing Protestants, are we not?

These buildings later came to be known as churches. So it came about that Christianity joined all the other religions of the world and came to have its very own temples. The effect of these buildings was that we drifted further away from the spirit that had permeated the primeval Christian community. Why this should be so becomes clear when we consider that our word church has no equivalent in the original New Testament. The word church goes back to the Greek kyriakon, belonging to the Lord, which was understood to mean house belonging to the Lord. Later the meaning was extended to refer to the people who gathered in a particular locale as well as to whole denominations (e.g. Church of England). The New Testament, however, knows only the Ekklesia, the community of the saints. She is the house of the Lord, built of living stones. With the word church our eyes were turned away from the living ekklesia of the living God to a dead edifice made of dead stones. (Even our creeds that define our denominations are nothing but dead letters.) The damage that was done will never be redressed. Any hope of a true grasp of ecclesiology died not long after Constantine died in 337 A.D.

Following the introduction of the temple into our faith, there came the secret language, the remote priest, the silent followers, the rituals, and the vestal virgins. The loss for all of us has been staggering. These things we acquired have been a curse for the simple faith Jesus the carpenter launched.

The Pew: When the Italian Christians walked into these shiny new buildings which were built in Rome and when the Greeks walked into the buildings in Constantinople, they discovered there was nowhere to sit down. The Italians dragged in three-legged stools and sat down! On the other hand, when the Christians in Constantinople walked into these shiny new buildings, something odd happened. Someone demanded that, out of respect for Christ, everyone should stand. (The name of the man who did this odd thing is lost to us.) No sitting. No stools. Stand! The result? Today the Eastern Orthodox churches still have no place to sit down in their churches ... despite the fact their Sunday ritual is two hours long! Unto this day they have no pews, and scarcely any windows. No wonder the devout Eastern Orthodox church did not grow like Roman Catholicism! (By the way, later the Roman Catholics replaced the three-legged stool with the bench.)

Just before the Protestant Reformation, someone figured out how to put a back on a bench. So was born both the chair and the bench with a back. The Protestants jumped on the idea, and so was born the Protestant pew. Grumblingly, the Catholics of Western Europe are gradually taking out the bench and putting in the pew. (In America, almost from the beginning, the Catholics capitulated to the pew, to compete with the Protestants.) It was not until the arrival of the enlightened minds of us twentieth-century evangelicals that we got really New Testament and put cushions on our pews. (This way we can at least be comfortable while being bored to death.) The pew's future? In our electronic age, perhaps e will see vibrating back rubs? Electric finger massages? Stereophonic earphones to better hear the choir? Who knows! One thing is sure: "Church" will always be a building, and meeting in houses as the ekklesia is never going to be the place Christians gather.

The Choir: Yes, the term is used in the Old Testament. But by no means can we justify the choir because of that fact. Historically the choir you find in a Christian church has its roots straight out of pagan choirs that were present in heathen temples. The Christian choir first appeared in Christian buildings commissioned by Constantine. None existed before Constantine. As the church building fad moved across Europe, the choir became universal. Future choirs were patterned after the choir in Milan, Italy, circa 400 A.D. where the choir was perfected under the leadership of a bishop named Ambrose.

The Pulpit: The pulpit predates Christianity and is of heathen origin. The heathen priest, standing in a heathen temple, moved out onto a walkway which had a banister around it and made his announcements to the pagan onlookers. This arrangement, by which the priest was separated from the people, was called ambo. The word or a similar one expressing that separation can be found in most European languages.

The first Christian church buildings, the basilicas, were also furnished with this heathen arrangement, except that it was now inside the building. It was a platform with a banister around it and it had two elevated parts (the ambos). These ambos, one of which was higher than the other, were used to read from the Gospels and Epistles respectively, but in some instances they were used to make a distinction between a mere reader and a speaker. In the eleventh century it became customary to build only one ambo, which was elevated on a pillar. This is the pulpit with which we are familiar.

Centuries later, when the Protestants took over Northern Europe (by the sword, not by evangelizing), those Protestants inherited thousands upon thousands of Catholic church buildings. In many places they tore out that unapproachable area up front where the priests had conducted their magical mass. But change did not stop there. Especially in modern times, the ambo was taken down from its pillar and placed in front, either to the side or in the center. In churches that do not have an altar, the pulpit is always centered and has a large Bible on it to symbolize the centrality of preaching the Bible as over against the Catholic central emphasis on the Mass.

The Sermon: Not to be confused with a Christian message. It is true there may at first seem to be only a slight difference, but that difference is really gigantic. Long before Christianity came into existence, a heathen philosopher, Aristotle by name, teaching on many subjects, taught on the subject of rhetoric that is, how to bring an oration. (Greek: retorike ...the art of the orator) Speech making had been the great love of the Greeks before Aristotle. He raised it to an art form.

In the days of the Greeks and Romans, the ability to bring a great oration was a guarantee of popularity. Great orators were actually the movie stars of that day. Aristotle's discourse on rhetoric covered many things about speech making, but his main point was that a good speech must have: (1) a clear introduction, (2) a few major points and (3) a conclusion.

No such ideas existed among the early believers. First-century believers, being almost universally illiterate, knew no such thing as the rules of speech making. First-century Christian preaching was characterized by being extemporaneous, spontaneous, and urgent...and it belonged to the entire body of believers, not to a special class of men. The sermons you hear every week are based on Aristotle's concepts of oration. (Often seminary professors who teach the art of the sermon know nothing of these facts.) Now how did heathen speech making ever manage to get into the Christian faith?

In Antioch, Syria, circa 400 A.D., one of the great heathen orators of all time, John Chrysostom (John the Goldenmouth) became a believer. He brought his Aristotelian rhetoric/sermon skills into Christianity. He quickly rocketed his way into being the leading priest in Antioch and in all Syria. The whole city of Antioch turned out to hear his orations. Those messages sound very similar to great heathen speeches in style, delivery, structure and-to some degree-even content. (So also did the sermon you heard last Sunday.)

It is John Chrysostom who not only gave us Aristotelian sermonics, but also gave us the custom of the Sunday morning sermon, that is, the tradition of a Sunday oration being delivered by the same man, in the same place, at the same time, every Sunday. Hence you see the origin of the sermon and the Sunday church services. But John Chrysostom also gave the Catholic priests one of their pastoral duties." The custom of teaching evolved along the way, until today teaching is the central duty of the Protestant pastor. Protestant pastors have no idea they are carrying out a modified version of the seven major pastoral duties of a priest. Truly, then, here is a large hunk of the pastoral role-one man-the same man-sermonizing us every Sunday. Remember these origins next Sunday. The Sunday sermon is the only place left on earth where you can hear an oratory delivered in the grand Greek/Roman tradition of rhetoric! True to the New Testament and nothing but the New Testament, huh, fellow evangelicals?

Funerals: Because John Chrysostom as a heathen had long practiced the heathen custom of bringing a pagan oration over the dead, he continued this practice when he became a Christian orator. So began the "Christian" funeral and the funeral oration that goes with it. Words we use when preaching over the Christian dead are almost word for word the typical heathen orations given over the heathen dead. Read a pagan philosopher's funeral oration. Read a John Chrysostom funeral oration. Hear a Christian funeral sermon. They are virtually the same in their general content, and very much the same in the style of delivery. (Very New Testament, we evangelicals.)

The Practice of Reading Scripture Before a Sermon: This practice is so much a part of our lives we can hardly imagine beginning a Christian message or hearing a Christian message any other way. It is still heathen in origin! When the pagan orator stepped out upon the stage of a Greek amphitheater, he went through a rather odd (but recognizable) ritual.

The orator first walked to the center of the stage, turned his back on the audience, and draped an orator's gown about him. He then turned, faced the audience and opened a scroll. A scroll? Yes, a book. What book? Usually it would be one of the writings of the author Homer or some other well-known Greek writer. That is not all. The writings of Homer and other popular writers of Greek/Roman literature had been meticulously divided into chapters! Each chapter had a number. Each sentence in that chapter also had a number! This pagan practice was carried over into the Christian faith. Dividing the New Testament into chapters and verses grew out of a Greco/Roman practice. So did the practice of reading a passage of Scripture before preaching a sermon. All of this got into the Christian faith from around 400 A.D. to 500 A.D.

Try bringing a message today from a heathen rooted pulpit, with the heathen concept of a choir behind you, and a mute laity sitting on heathen inspired pews. Then, doing all that, try preaching without first reading chapter and verse from the New Testament. In some churches, the people would get up and leave the (heathen-inspired building called a) church because you were not being really scriptural before you preached your Greco-influenced oratorical sermon, without first reading a passage of Scripture. The practice of reading Scriptures before a sermon finds its roots in the Greek habit of heathenism's orations delivered in Grecian amphitheaters.

Think about it, dear student of the Bible! What dare we say of chapter and verse? One day our children may say it was perhaps the greatest damage of all. Why? This heathen practice of chopping up living letters into numbered chapters and numbered sentences caused us to lose the whole first-century flavor of first-century Christian literature. Just think. You have been doing all these things ever since you got saved. Anyone for revolution?

Let us continue our search for the true historical roots of our evangelical practices. It gets worse! Much worse! Let us pause for a moment and catch our breath. It has been wisely said the problems of the Protestant and evangelical faith are not in its teachings and doctrines, but in its practice. Our evangelical practices came to us by pure accident. They bear no relationship to the first century Christian experience. Most of our practices (1) are by happenstance, (2) are heathen in origin, (3) started around the time of Constantine and/or during the Reformation. Virtually every practice we have today came from an accident of church history or from heathenism... (

From the Open Church Folks: Ever Feel Like Quitting Church? (Frank Rutz, 1992)

If you've ever felt lonely and unimportant in church, there's a good reason. You are alone and unimportant. From 11 to 12 Sunday, you're just another pretty face in the crowd. Though surrounded by others, you're cut off. Custom walls you off in your own space and silences your voice - except for song or responsive reading. Surrounded by an audience of trainee mutes, you can find it lonely as a solo trek across the Antarctic. After you've eaten all the sled dogs. The service would be exactly the same without you. You know that. Your impact on it is like an extra gallon of water going over Niagara Falls.

The Problem: What's Wrong Here? The heart of your church is the Sunday service, where the typical communication pattern is about as useful as a jello telephone. No matter what you have on your heart--the greatest joy or deepest sorrow--you are not allowed to share it during the service. Ever. Fellowship is confined to the foyer afterward, please. (Unless you've figured a way to fellowship with the back of someone else's head.) Try to talk, and the ushers will ush you out. Post hastily. This, my friend, is not Biblical. Saint Peter would have wept. In fact, many of the early churches almost demanded you share something every week. They even expected you to sing for them (aaugh!) Even solos! But now you can't say anything longer than, "Hallelujah!"--if that. As a result, you're often more of a spectator than a participant.

How did we ever get into such a fix? Well, around A.D. 300, the church made the worst blunder in her history. We voluntarily decided to give up the three key freedoms that powered the early church to success: (1) open worship (praising God), (2) open sharing (building up each other), (3) open ministry (serving others in the church and the world). Throughout Christendom in the Fourth Century, we professionalized the local church and turned over our Sunday services to the pros, leaving them to do almost everything while we sat and watched. Lay men found themselves stripped of initiative and power, like newly-captured slaves. Lay women were quietly relieved of what little responsibility and leadership they had. (By about 450, even the congregational singing faded to zip, as we turned over the music to professional choirs of men and boys.) All the laity suddenly found Sunday worship to be more distant from their personal lives and daily concerns. They fell into Spectator Christianity, where loneliness doesn't end at church--it starts there.

The Key Malady: Today, at the end of the second millennium, we're still fighting the fallout from that massive mistake. Do any of these sound familiar? Apathy, shallowness, worldliness, failure to tithe, pastoral burnout, teenage dropouts, fear of evangelism, flabby self-discipline, maxed-out schedules, a chronic shortage of strong men.

I'm claiming that all of these maladies and more are caused mainly by one master malady: the closed church, in which laymen tend to be passive observers while ministers tend to be overworked insiders. The Reformation was a great start on fixing the church, but it fell way short in regard to our structures. It succeeded marvelously in getting back to sound doctrine: sola Scriptura (placing the Bible above the Church), sola gratia (salvation by grace), and sola fide (through faith, not works).

But it never got us back to the New Testament church pattern that we see in Paul's letters. It simply exchanged the priest for a minister and put a sermon in place of the Eucharist (communion). And thus the reformers left behind a matched set of migraines that would give St. Paul the yips.

The good news in your that today you can probably finish the Reformation in your church within a year or two--because the ten problems above don't have to be solved one by one. They're like a massive log jam that needs only one well-placed explosion to unsnarl the whole mess. By following the New Testament guidelines and opening the heart of your church to the rank and file, you can eventually: (1) Convert those mild-mannered pew warmers into spiritual warriors with clear goals and a total loyalty to your church. (2) Make your services so exciting no one wants to leave. (3) Help your church grow about twice as fast. (4)Double or triple the number of those who tithe--and put your church financial problems in the past. (5) Bring back marginal believers who quit the church long ago out of frustration or lack of interest. (6) Turn your teenagers into your best members (well, at least best in some ways!). (7)Attract more men to your church. Not J. Alfred Prufrock types, but lions! (8) Save your pastor from the tasks he hates and free him to concentration what he likes, (9) Acquire a regional reputation as a rare church where one can find pure, uplifting worship (as in Revelation 4 and 5) along with deep, lasting friendships. (10) Enable most of your members to be soul-winners. (11) End the rat race of unfocused church activities that saps the drive of your best people, (12) Create a whole new feeling of love in the congregation

This list probably strikes you as wishful thinking. I bet I know why: because the last time a majority of our churches were successful in most of these twelve areas, Nero was burning Christians to light his garden at night. Actually, that's unfair. There have been--and are now--many churches that have made most of these changes. Often, however, they are overseas churches greatly purified by persecution. In any case, the world is now careening rapidly toward a whole new political, economic, and spiritual order, and the fate of hundreds of millions of souls hangs on whether or not the church is able to gear up and capture the day.

78 Leaking Buckets: By latest count, there are 78 plans for world evangelization created by existing churches (and Parachurch organizations), each with a budget over $100 million dollars per decade. Twenty-one of them expect to finish the job by the year 2000. That's not to sneeze at. But to the best of my knowledge, all of them are designed to dump their new converts into the same old closed-church patterns and structures that perpetuate the same old leaky-bucket problems. The plans themselves are quite good, but they don't take into account the basic problem: the basis of our operations, the church, is dynamically flawed and needs fixing. Still. After all these centuries. It's time to reopen our churches. This booklet tells you how to reclaim your birthright--pure worship, true sharing, free ministry, and more--without turning your back on the Institutional Church, that nice flock of folks you sit in rows with on Sundays.

You now have a fairly rapid way to simply erase much of the harm that's been done to you and others in your church. Many or most of the quick fixes you've come across before were ways to correct your weaknesses; what you have here is a master plan to correct the cause of those weaknesses. In these pages you'll discover why the average North American church resembles the original scriptural church like a junked '53 Chevy resembles a Boeing 747 with a Dixieland band and 50-foot buffet. A church may have fur-lined pews, stained glass communion cups, and a full orchestra for prayer meetings, but if it's not an open church, the members are being shortchanged.

The Disastrous Success of A.D. 313: How the Church Managed to Hog-Tie Itself

A funny thing happened on the way to the Millennium: In the Fourth Century, the church's wheels fell off. Until then, it had looked like the gospel would reach the uttermost parts at chariot race speed. Or at least before McDonald's did. No such luck. Just after A.D. 300, the church made the biggest blunder in its history and crashed like an Indy 500 racer with a stuck throttle and a full tank of gas. Hardly anyone knows about this blunder today except scholars (who know all about it, but discuss it just among themselves). And yet the effects were disastrous:

Laymen lost the three key freedoms that had fueled the rapid growth: open worship, open sharing, and open ministry. The church degenerated from an army or family into an audience--overnight in some places! Evangelism slowed to a crawl. Or an ooze. Church leaders got the bright idea of diversifying into politics, and took over whole governments. We now remember this period as the, uh, Dark Ages.

Where Did We Go Wrong? Within thirty years of Christ's ascension, the gospel was being preached in every outpost of the Roman Empire. Unencumbered by mortgages, committees, staff salaries, and conflicts between choir rehearsal and church softball team practice, the "followers of the Way" blazed a trail of stunning successes. Then as the church grew in the first three centuries, it thrived on hard times and persecution. In hard times, the church's strong grass-roots mutual-assistance charities held everyone together. In persecution, the government sharply defined the church by pushing everyone together, figuratively. And the act of taking a stand for Christ strengthened each man, woman, and child.

What was their secret? First, the presence of the living God in their hearts. Second, the weekly gathering of the church, an informal and often-boisterous affair with a full-on meal, not just a polite ceremony with an itty bitty breadcrumb and a thimbleful of Welch's. Church life was a floating party, with everyone eating dinner at each others' houses and participating 100% in the festivities. At the weekly get-together, everyone was the star of the show, everyone was needed. Spirits were lifted, problems solved, hurts healed, hearts fed, and the Lord of lords spoke to every soul. But the whoopee part of the meeting, the "love-feast" (Jude 12), resembled a cross between a Super Bowl victory celebration and a frat party (with a few cups of wine instead of the keg of suds).

From our vantage point today, it looks as if they had an unbeatable thing going. A sure-fire, runaway, free-wheeling style of church that was gobbling up Satan's territory like a giant pac-man. Why, then, did the roaring success of the early days fade? When did we cool off? Well, as we grew larger and more popular, our feeling of being a distinct family waned. In a well-churched city, it's hard to think of everybody as a brother or sister in the Lord. "Us vs. Them" psychology doesn't work when almost everyone is us. The church became less of a revolutionary band and more of a static establishment. Eloquent preachers began to attract large followings.

The final straw came in 313, when Emperor Constantine I issued the Edict of Milan, officially tolerating the church and ending the persecutions. Church leaders from popes to local bishops got involved with the government. Many even became officials. At that time it looked like a good idea. ("Hey, we won! Now we can take over!") As it turned out, though, it was a lousy idea. Our top leaders drifted astray on a long, long power trip and let their flocks wander. After this first flurry of church buildings in 327, we ceased being an interactive family and turned into an audience. Spectators.

The Constantine Fiasco: What really killed us was the bricks. In the biggest blunder in her history, the church began constructing lots of buildings, displacing the catacombs and forest glens--and ending forever the warm, precious, meetings in someone's living room. Modeled after the Roman forums, the new buildings held hundreds of Christians. Of course, you can't have intimate, easy interaction with that size crowd. So from the first Sunday it was opened, a new sanctuary put limits on free expression. The new crib strangled the baby. Imagine you were living in that time:

You may have felt at ease confessing a sin to a couple dozen friends over at Josephus and Johanna's (or let's call them Joe and Jane). But in front of five hundred strangers? Whoa! If God taught you something this week and it lay strongly on your heart, you wouldn't hesitate to stand up and spend ten or fifteen minutes sharing it in Joe and Jane's living room. But here in the new hall, there are probably at least a dozen men and women with a message burning in their hearts. So take a number! Over at Joe and Jane's, everybody got into the act in the worship time. You were able to praise the Lord from your heart--again and again as you felt led. It was the most meaningful and healing moment of your week. But here? Take a number!

I could go on, but you get the idea. Without modern acoustics or roving microphones, open meetings became difficult. Not too difficult, mind you, just difficult. So closed meetings took over. All speaking became centralized in a pulpit. And order was maintained. (Again, it seemed like a good idea at the time.)

At Joe and Jane's, you were a participant. Here, you're a spectator. A passive listener. A blip. At first you don't mind it. The change is all so exciting. And being with 500 believers at once--wow! Paradise! Not until years later does it dawn on you that you've been turned into a pew potato. But now, with 1,000 eyes focused on the pulpit, the man behind it has become extremely important. He's very, very good, of course--probably the best speaker in the area. His warmth and wisdom and skill defuse any latent objections to the new state of affairs. Certainly, his polished sermons beat the sandals off the impromptu teachings you used to hear--and give--at Joe and Jane's.

So it doesn't take long before every local church from London to Alexandria has its own building and its own professional Christian standing up in front every Sunday, doing most of the talking. Eventually, the love-feasts get so big and rowdy that they're banned. No prophet or leader comes to the fore, decrying the passing of the house church or condemning the new diversion of church funds into real estate development. No one of any note questions taking initiative away from ordinary believers and bestowing it upon the new priesthood class. And no one points out that the Holy Scriptures don't sanction any of this. By 400, just 87 years later, the Roman Empire had gone from being less than four per cent Christian to eighty per cent Christian...with no conversions! (In fact, true evangelism virtually disappeared from the face of the Earth during that time.) It was arguably the worst disaster since Noah.

Paradise Lost: All the major problems of the church today--other than sin--can be traced back 1700 years, to when the church became an audience. (Go ahead, make my day--try to think of one that can't.) When we switched from living rooms to church buildings and professionally staffed the local church, we lost all momentum. The local church became weak and cold.

Non-priests were termed "laymen," a word not even found in the Bible--for good reason. I have struggled to find a better word to use in this booklet. About the best I've found is player, with the corresponding term for a minister being coach. I'll use those terms now and then. It would be nice just to call all laymen Christians, but what would that make your pastor? A non-Christian?

As a "layman" in a Fourth Century church building, you no longer approached God directly. The priest did so on your behalf. And thus did an architectural problem turn into a doctrinal problem. The priesthood of the believer was lost. The Bible was taken from the hands of the layman and given to the priest. (If you're not allowed to decide what it means, why bother to read it?) With the Scriptures out of the hands of the people, the priesthood was free to play with it unencumbered by the corrective discipline of secular life. For a thousand years, cloistered monks lovingly piled theological baggage atop the Bible until, by the time of Luther, hardly a layman in Europe knew the all-important meaning of "justification by faith."

Without the Scriptures to lift them out of the mud, laymen turned into serfs in the feudalism of the Dark Ages. Ironically, in that darkness the only candle of hope and upward mobility was the church. Becoming a priest was the only way out of oblivion. We commonly laud the medieval church for providing this sole escape hatch from the pit; we should remember that the church helped to dig it.

The Road to Ruin: The early church had so much success and momentum that they should logically have evangelized everyone from Turkey to Tokyo by A.D. 600. Many historians say the problem was that believers felt disillusioned when Christ didn't return right away. Well, we now have nineteen centuries of "disillusionment," and we're the biggest religion in the world.

What really went haywire? As I said, the church got so big and popular that it could erect its own buildings. Unfortunately, this solved a long-standing problem that should have been left standing: Whenever a healthy house-church got too big for its living room, it had to split--into two living rooms. New leadership was thus always being sucked upward through the ranks.

But when church buildings began to sprout across the Empire, congregations no longer had to face the awkward anguish of who got to stay with the favorite elders and who had to split off with the nobodies. Everybody stayed with everybody. Heavenly! Trouble is, sharing and intimacy were tricky in a crowd of 500. And the big crowds put a premium on eloquence. So the stuttering new converts started to stay in their shells. Anonymity replaced fellowship. Communication during meetings began to be dominated by the few who could read and had access to books: In the end, that meant the priests. The laity, citizens of a long-crumbling Roman empire, were turned into spiritual eunuchs and lost the strength the empire needed so desperately at that time. By 476, Rome fell for the final time, and the church led the way into the Dark Ages.

The 2/3 Reformation: A thousand tear-stained years later, Luther, Calvin & Co. (bless 'em) began picking up the pieces. They put Christian theology back together like a lovely jigsaw puzzle. They also worked a bit on the church's practices and functions, and got about half of them glued back together, more or less. Fabulous work. The best fix-it job since Nehemiah.

But they couldn't do everything. Rome wasn't unbuilt in a day. So the Puritans had to pick up some more pieces. In the 18th Century, the Wesleys picked up some more. In the 19th Century, the revivalists and missionaries picked up more. Starting in 1901, the Pentecostal movement picked up even more. And the chap who founded your denomination undoubtedly eclipsed them all.

But there's still a gigantic hole in the church. The "priesthood of the believer," the central goal of the Reformation, has been restored only theologically, not practically. It still exists mainly on paper. In very important ways, our churches remain closed to laymen. Between clergy and laity there is still a big, uncrossable gap--academic, professional, and liturgical. For example:

Even though we acknowledge the common saying, "Everyone has at least one sermon in him," almost no one is ever encouraged or even allowed to deliver that one sermon. This practice is a horrendous exercise in quenching the Spirit. It frosts me that the "one sermon" in the heart of a faithful dentist or truck driver or engineer should forever be deemed less worthwhile than all two thousand of the lifetime sermons of an M.Div. Most of the church is too watery to formulate and enforce Biblical standards for full-time ministry, so we imitate the opposition the world. We don't allow laymen to mature into minister. Jesus and Paul believed in on-the-job training; we put our faith in seminaries.

We almost idolize schools and their graduates. Their lecterns are baptized as pulpits, lectures become sermons, students are parishioners, and degrees are, well, required...from world-approved institutions. But even in college, if you sit still for seven years, they'll give you a Ph.D. and let you stand up and talk. In church, you can sit for seventy years and never get to say a peep. Worse, you'll be conditioned to be afraid to peep. The system is designed to be static! I've even heard of churches where the rest rooms are marked for three sexes: MEN. WOMEN. CLERGY. Gimme a break!

Odds are, God has given a handful of people in your church a gift for counseling. But odds are, that gift will never be developed to a pastoral level. The pastor will continue to be your church's counselor of first and last resort. (Question: How can he "equip the saints for the work of the ministry" when he holds a monopoly on doing so much of that work?) You may have a retired executive who could do wonders with your church's business affairs. You'd love it if he would commit to that work. But he won't. He knows it's part of the pastor's job description. So the pastor will continue to get stuck with that blizzard of details until your whole church understands that they bear the responsibility for the work--and the pastor's only the pastor!

Free the Pastor, Free the People: Laymen today have regained the word of God, but not the work of God. The priesthood of the believer has been restored de jure, not de facto.

The very earliest Christians had plenty of problems, but the pastor-centered church wasn't one of them. Their churches were elder-led, and the burden of God's work was spread like dew on the prairie. You can take a load off your pastor's back by changing your church into one in which the Spirit leads through your laity. You'll have a far more powerful church, one in which the workload is borne by a skilled and equipped army of laymen who know their gifts and work like troopers.

How can you do this? Well, you can begin by opening up your worship service and granting full participation rights to all those nice folks taking up your pew space on Sunday mornings. In other words, unlock your church and unchain the pastor. (See chapter 6, "Liberate Your Pastor!") We didn't lose everything in the Fourth Century. Our doctrine survived well. But among the rights and privileges we lost, open worship, sharing, and ministry are the most prominent by far. In the absence of these freedoms, your church is a closed club, and you're back to the enervating strategies we've all used in the past: trying just a little harder, spending just one more hour in prayer, witnessing to just one more person, working just a little faster, studying just one more chapter of the Bible per day, wasting just a little less time, reading one more Christian book, serving on one more committee...and putting more time and effort into the lives of other believers--who will then go back and rejoin the same frozen-shut system that caused the problems in the first place. Reopening your church would be infinitely easier. Read on and see.

Sure, It's a Worship Service- Says so right here in the bulletin. The early church managed the prodigious feat of being healthy without a King James Bible. Or a 700 Club. Or Fuller Seminary or Calvin's Institutes or Amy Grant or Winona Lake or World Vision or Sunday school buses or even one lousy church building.

The secret of their success? Every week, believers gathered for one catch-all, participatory service where they met and worshiped God heart to heart. In that intimate communion, they gathered enormous strength directly from the Holy Spirit and shed the thousand and one cares that weigh upon the human heart. Thus transformed, they dispersed out to the community for the rest of the week as witnesses. That was the pattern. In, out ... in, out. As healthful as breathing. In worship we turn our entire attention to God. Worship is possibly the most valuable act any human can perform, and yet today's "worship" services produce precious little actual worship in the strict sense: praise and veneration conceived and spoken by individuals. I've been in over two hundred traditional churches, and, sadly, found such worship in only three or four.

The great A.W. Tozer said that worship is "the missing jewel of the evangelical church." Precisely. Except for a few minutes of group singing (and perhaps group speaking in tongues), the believer normally has no chance to express his adoration and worship, to make that vital, creature-to-Creator contact. He can only listen to a leader doing these acts on his behalf. His worship is almost wholly vicarious. Charismatic and Pentecostal churches do allow for two or three messages in tongues, interpretations, prophecies, or "words of knowledge." These are usually given by the more advanced members, with beginners too intimidated to try. Moreover, the emphasis is on guidance (a message from God), not worship (a message to God). And of course, having such messages from fifteen or twenty people is out of the question.

You'll find pure worship in Revelation 4 and 5 and such Psalms as 23 and 139 ("O Lord, Thou hast searched me and known me...") But when these sorts of thoughts are brought into a Sunday service, they're always in music or responsive readings. Sam and Sue Christian are never allowed to choose such words and speak them from their hearts to God. That may help to explain why the typical North American who claims to be born again can't even name the Gospels and has all the spiritual depth of a birdbath.

Four Misleading Metaphors: If you can see and hear what's really going on in a traditional church service, you're one in ten thousand. Few of us can see reality through the semantic fog in our heads.

Dr. Robert Webber, often mentioned as the top Protestant authority on worship, says that the image of the church service is heavily colored by three models: School. The teaching model is from the 17th Century, when worship was largely instruction, conveying information. The Enlightenment set that image in concrete. Evangelistic Rally. In the 19th Century, a main purpose of the not-very-frequent meetings on the frontier was to get people saved. The goal of that worship was to feel forgiveness, to feel God in your heart. Romanticism set that image in concrete. Theater. In our time, we've come to view the service as mass entertainment, thanks in part to radio, TV, and film. Like movie shows, the "program" or "performance" may repeat at 8:00, 9:30, and 11:00. The "audience" sits and stares passively at whoever is on the "platform" or sings toward the words on a screen. "We want the whole drama to be played out 'up there' on the platform," Webber says. "So we pay singers to express our spiritual struggles and preachers to re-enact the drama of salvation in their sermons."

To his three paradigms, I'd add:. Ceremony. After the First Century, body life participation began a slow fade, and religious rites started to take over. After Constantine, individual interaction was totally wiped out by pure liturgy. Now ritual celebration can be tremendously inspiring. Ever since the time of David and Solomon, worshipers of the true God have entered into His presence in glorious hours of ceremonial rites. But as a steady diet for a dynamic congregational family, it's very lacking in fiber. Moreover, its magnificence for your soul and emotions may mask malnutrition of the spirit; the part of you that gets thrilled on Sunday may not be the part of you that hurts on Monday.

Also, ceremony is by definition inflexible, and the Bible commands flexibility for gatherings "when the whole church comes together": It says, "And if a revelation comes to someone is sitting down, the first speaker should stop." About 99% of all U.S. churches choose to dishonor this verse. They simply don't understand it. As pastor Clay Sterrett has written, "In the Bible, most of the symbols of the Holy Spirit are fluid--wind, oil, fire, and water. We cannot hold these in our hands. We must realize ... that God will not allow us to 'fence Him in.'"

What to Do About It: If your church is hopelessly mired in one of the above metaphors, here's a workable starting point: Rather than trashing your whole tradition, just add onto your service a period for body life worship and sharing. That's a start. And please don't settle for a disjointed series of pallid contributions where each member's input is unrelated to what went before and after. Strive mightily toward the kind of dynamic interaction that builds, builds, builds. Enable your laymen to think of themselves as players, not spectators. You'll find more varied suggestions in Part III of The Open Church, but in general I would suggest three steps.

You must first create a vision and thirst for involvement in worship. Talk with the key leaders, including the pastoral staff. Paint for them a vivid picture of what open worship could be like in your church. Together with them, make a decision to prepare the congregation for open worship, to meet around Christ instead of just having a scheduled service or program. Come to a general agreement on timing and strategy. Every church is different, but at some point before "opening day," you or the pastor will need to brief the congregation as a whole, and certain sensitive individuals may also need some extra orientation even before that. Depending on the nature of your congregation, you may also want to give them some written materials on what you plan to launch, and why. Our brochure, There's a New Church Coming, may be ideal. In some churches, this booklet will be useful. Your prep period could take two weeks to two months. Every church is different. But in any case, your people must want to grow in strength and maturity.

Create a time in your Sunday worship service when the church can truly function as a body. Few churches will want to devote their entire Sunday service to a wide open format, especially from the start. You'll need to carefully select a point or period in the service when the floor will be open. You may want to lengthen your service. You may want to just rearrange it. Or a bit of both. But don't make the mistake of tacking onto your calendar an extra service on Sunday evening or Tuesday morning at 6:30 "for anyone who wants to experience a new mode of worship" or whatever. They won't come. Bear in mind that the only time your church can truly function as one body is when they're all together, and that's during the Sunday a.m. meeting.

Enable each person in the service to actually start making his own unique, maximum contribution to the service . Just telling them how will not suffice for everyone. Some things we learn only by doing. And some people learn slowly; a certain amount of behind-the-scenes coaching and hand-holding will be needed. A majority of churches will take a few Sundays to warm up. But once they get into it, you've got a cannonball on your hands. They won't know when to stop.

It is my firm conviction, based on experience, that nothing can be more shattering and uplifting to the human mind and spirit than a face-to-face meeting with the God of Heaven in open worship. And true worship will plug that perpetual hole in your bucket; they'll never defect to that megachurch across town or that super-friendly little church down the road. Why? Because they will have discovered what it's like to breathe free, exhaling as well as inhaling.

Worship, Band-Aids and Jammed Schedules. How did the primitive church ever make it without Sunday school?...or music committees?...or high school ski conferences?... or divorce recovery workshops? Answer: community worship met all their needs. Today's worshipless worship meetings, however, leave a vacuum. So to compensate, we create a smorgasbord of time-gobbling activities, each of which is designed to meet a specific felt need, to make up for the absence of something a full-orbed, open service could likely do. Usually, the activity is not rationally planned as part of a tightly-integrated strategy to reach the world or give the devil a splitting headache or whatever.

Take Sunday school for an example. God's plan for religious education is Dad. It's a 4000-year-old plan that's worked like a watch since the days of Abraham. But if your weekly gathering doesn't equip Dad to open his mouth at home and be a teacher of the Word--well, Sunday school is your next-best bet. (Programming Dad would be easier.) Problem is, Sunday school classes aren't your church's raison d'etre. Your other three dozen programs aren't either. They were launched as mechanisms to fill needs. It's a Band-Aid system. The system does work--partly because God is very gracious and partly because we in North America produce such high quality Band-Aids. Of course, the system does nuke your free time, tear your flock away from their unsaved neighbors (and even their own families), and imprison them behind a stained glass curtain.

In fact, as your ad hoc activities proliferate, you may find it impossible to maintain a sharp focus. You may eventually reach what Tom Sine (The Mustard Seed Conspiracy) calls a state of "chronic randomness," doing forty things that as a whole are less than the sum of their parts. Solution strategy: Rather than relying on programs designed to fill holes or meet isolated needs, go for an integrated menu of high-stakes activities that directly transform hearts and pound the gates of Hell into splinters. Live dangerously, as the apostles and martyrs did. Give up some of the predictability and safety of a rigid, fully programmed Sunday service and ask God to meet you in power as you step out in faith and learn to function as a body. You don't need to trash your liturgy or toss your order of worship in the dumpster in order to get started. You don't need to sell the church grounds, give the proceeds to the poor, and regroup into house churches. You don't need to do anything fancy. For starters, just have a back-to-basics church with one or two special periods in the Sunday morning schedule to allow for some open worship and open sharing. Plus a few minutes for lay ministry, like a ten-minute sermonette or a five-minute meditation as an opener for the pastor's sermon. And make sure your elders are primed to expect miracles.

How to Create Something Eternal on Earth: It's all too easy to rob God of worship. If we don't truly worship Him, if all our prayers drift off into petitions instead of adoration, He gets cheated. This is not a matter of tradition or preference about what we do on Sunday. It's cheating! On the other hand, pure worship is pure gold--to Him and to us. If you've ever felt frustrated about the ephemeral nature of your earthly accomplishments, think about this: Stand up and speak one word of worship and awe in the assembly next Sunday, and it will go down in the history of heaven as an eternal monument, a never-to-be-forgotten blessing of the everlasting Uncreated Father. Heaven won't forget, and nothing will ever erase the value of your word of praise!

Sharing Time: The Exciting Fellowship You've Always Dreamed Of: I used to attend a very good church. Friendly, growing. With a minister loved by even the worst grouch. But though it was a model church in many ways, nothing much ever happened inside me. Their punctual "worship" services were actually a warmhearted lecture series, plus songs and offering. Almost never was I allowed to participate, except as the 387th voice in the singing. If I'd never shown up, my absence would have been like a missing spoonful of sand from the Arabian desert. Without me, not one syllable would have changed--and that's about how significant I felt. Fact is, that's how significant I was. So I drifted away.

Likewise, if your own church is typical, there's no opportunity for people to share their grief or joy or even the deepest needs of their short lives. They may die without anyone in church knowing the burning hopes and fears in their hearts--simply because the pastoral staff always has the spotlight. They don't try to hog the spotlight, of course. It's the closed-church system that forces them to center stage and consigns everyone else to the role of a mute non-person, a face without a voice or heart. It's so ironic: The one hour in the week when your Christian brothers and sisters all get together to interact is the one hour when they're prohibited from obeying the scriptural commands about interaction, like: Provoke one another unto good works, confess your sins to one another, let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another, bear one another's burdens, encourage one another and build each other up, respect those who work hard among you, warn those who are idle ... encourage the timid, pray for each other so that you may be healed. (Not to mention, "Greet one another with a holy kiss.")

That's why today's church is dysfunctional--and has been for 1700 years. If you operate within the rules, you will find it impossible to obey the commands of Scripture for interaction among believers. How can silent observers, worship service bulletin in hand, do such things? You'd think the Holy Spirit would have made a dent in this strange system by now. But no, most Christians (including many in the ministry) seem allergic to the free-form revival that open sharing can create. I've been in a number of churches where a pastor has experimented, opening the floodgates just a crack by opening the floor to the laity for part of a meeting. It seldom fails: I see a torrent of pent-up emotions, confessions, praises, tears, new commitments, lumpy throats--and wide-eyed amazement. Instant revival! But of course it's inherently unplanned (therefore "out of control"), so the pastor quickly reverts back to the closed format. (At least for a few months or years.) I've just never understood this. Yes, the pew can be one of the loneliest places on earth.

But sometimes the pulpit can be even lonelier. Sometimes the #1 victim of the system, the loneliest one of all, is the guy who's trying the hardest to make it all work: your long-suffering pastor. Don't blame him! He beats his brains out in the pulpit week after week to make a difference in people's lives. But sometimes he feels like he's been condemned to a lifetime of futility, trying in vain to motivate a sullen pack of foot-dragging spiritual adolescents who never quite seem to see the big picture, never get excited enough to shoulder responsibilities, and never (by the way) come anywhere close to a 10% tithe. Even as you read this, your pastor may be doggedly at work on Plan L (or Q or V) to light a fire under his lovable but recalcitrant flock. His main complaint, surveys show, is that his people just don't respond. I can understand that pain. When you pour out your heart, soul, gizzard, and a wide assortment of other body parts for ten or twenty years, and the impact and response are faint, it has to hurt--bad. At the same time, I would point out that we're talking about an impossible situation. When response is forbidden till the service is over, what can you expect? And it really is forbidden. Suppose, for instance, some gent pops up in the middle of the sermon next Sunday and says: Hey, great point, pastor! The Lord's been teaching me a lot about that lately. In fact, this past week I experienced an amazing example of what you just described. On Tuesday morning...The nearest deacon will invite him to hit the bricks. Straightway and forthwith. The #1 rule for laymen in closed, non-participatory services is, "Siddown and shuddup." Yes, they're supposed to respond wholeheartedly to the sermon... but only after they go home and get down to real life! Things were different in days of yore, when the church of Jesus Christ was turning Rome on its imperial ear. Laymen were free to obey the promptings of the Holy Spirit and speak up when they had something to say. They were born running--talking in church and witnessing outside it. And in the space of three centuries, they had conquered for Christ much of the known world, up to and including the Emperor. Without even any Four Laws booklets. That shows they were better witnesses than most Christians today. And why? Because the church didn't stifle them. It conditioned them to communicate their faith. Church services were different then. Livelier. More off-the-wall. We don't have many specifics about what they looked like, but we do have a few. Such as these...

Three Clues from Scripture: "When you come together, everyone has something to contribute: a hymn, a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an can all prophesy in turn..."

Sunday morning in Corinth was a free-for-all, so Paul was telling them to act more Presbyterian. But notice: He did endorse individual contributions by everyone. (Do you?) "While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, 'Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul..."

This couldn't happen in the church today! Our worship patterns don't allow it, and we don't do fasts. Our missionaries get their calls straight from God, then spend eons convincing supporters they did. If it weren't for the "extrabiblical" requirement of running around with a tin cup before getting a passport and shots, we'd have four or five times as many missionaries on the field. "Speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs..." Precisely what does "one another" mean? Group singing? Hardly! Tertullian tells us what it meant in his day: In our Christian meetings we have plenty of songs, verses, sentences and proverbs. [obviously individual] After hand-washing and bringing in the lights, each Christian is asked to stand forth and sing, as best he can, a hymn to God, either of his own composing, or one from the Holy Scriptures. Try that next Sunday!

In Tertullian's time (160-230), there were many churches that were interactive powerhouses, not audiences. So how, then, did St. Murphy's Law derail the church from such a fast track to the millennium? Simple. By abandoning house-churches, we ran afoul of a Murphy corollary, Gall's Non-Additivity Theorem: A Large System, Produced by Expanding the Dimensions of a Smaller System, Does Not Behave Like the Smaller System...

Open Ministry: In the Steps of the Blues Brothers: Listen, and I'll tell you a shocking fact about yourself, something you never knew. You were kidnapped as a small child, and no one ever told you about it. You were born into a wealthy and loving family where your potential in life was awesome indeed. You lived in a huge mansion, and all the servants were anxious to help you with anything you needed. Your thoughts were welcomed, your ideas treasured, your future boundless. With your vast resources, you could easily have become an inspiration to everyone, the sort of person poets write about. You'd have had few of the limitations you struggle with today, and you could have helped the world immensely. But alas, you were spirited away to live with a poor and eccentric family of kid-swipers who took a liking to you. They lived at the end of a dead end road in a big old house that never knew an architect, just a series of single-minded occupants who tacked on whatever additions they needed at the time. They were a large and friendly family that took decent care of you, but in a stifling sort of way. The most exciting thing that ever happened to you was watching the tar come up through the cracks in the street on a hot day. They meant well, but the main rule in the house was, "Behave yourself and be quiet!" Worst of all, they've kept you in the dark about your real identity to this day. It's hard to be mad at folks you love--especially those who adopted and raised you, but then it's hard not to be mad when you think of what's happened to you:

Your self-image has been miniaturized. You've been cut off from your brothers and sisters. Your potential has been shrunk dramatically. Your role in history may be headed for the wastebasket. You've lost your past, your future, and your birthright. A lot of your time and money was wasted. And they've convinced you that all this was done for your own good! It's hard not to be angry. Now, the reason you don't remember any of this is that it occurred right after you were born ... but of course I'm talking about your new birth, your spiritual birth into the great and magnificent family of God, where freedom is the rule and only Jesus Christ is Lord. As a member of that family, you had all the rights and privileges of royalty, such as:

Servants!--millions of brothers and sisters worldwide, dedicated to loving and serving you day and night. High Standing--instant respect and a listening ear from everyone. No one but the Lord Himself outranked you! Personal Impact--powerful involvement in others' lives. Heart to heart, life-changing sharing with many people. And the nice family of shleps that kidnapped you--well, I'm afraid that was the Institutional Church, a warm-hearted but professionally-run organization that froze into a closed form by the end of the Fourth Century. At their gatherings, you had the right to remain silent, and not a whole lot more. Your royalty was never recognized. You were treated amiably, but like a commoner. Well, actually, the term they used was layman. Only one problem with that: You're not a layman or laywoman. You're royalty, a child of the King, and don't you ever forget it! The whole concept behind the word "layman" is spurious and harmful, and I'd like nothing more than to erase it from memory. Why do I want to wipe out all Christian laity? Four reasons. The category of "layman" (and laywoman) is: 1. Unscriptural. The Greek root word for laity is "laos," and it simply means "people." It has nothing to do with not being in the ministry. 2. Dead wrong. If you're an earnest Christian, you have a ministry (I Corinthians 12:7, 11, 13, 27). 3. Negative. It defines you by what you aren't. 4. Offensive. The connotations of layman are in the same ballpark as peon, peasant, amateur, yokel, and the great unwashed. Sorry to be so wordy here, but this is a major point. You must realize that although you may not make your living from the church, you are a minister of the gospel. A ministry is simply the sphere in which you exercise your gifts. And you do have a spiritual gift. You do! You do! You do!

Liberate Your Pastor! Your Pastor Jones is there at each bedside in illness and death. He's there as a wise counselor at crucial turning points. He's there to point inquirers to the cross after evangelistic sermons. Good old Pastor Jones--he's there for everything! Unfortunately, that means a lot of your church's spiritual experience is funneled through him. Thus he keeps growing faster than your laymen. Thus the clergy-laity gap is self-widening. Laymen in your church usually ease the pain of that gap by identifying with the pastor. It's less frustrating for them if they just learn to experience much of the Christian life through him; after all, they can't do everything the pastor does, so why try? Paul Tournier once put his finger on this maddening problem. This is worth reading twice: Even the most saintly and humble person--the revered and much loved leader of a devoted congregation--inevitably makes his followers dependent upon him, like little children. It is not his faults, but his virtues, his richness of spirit, which hold them back and prevent them from growing up themselves. They will do so only when he is gone. Translation: The greater the pastor, the more dependent the laymen! The greater he becomes, the wider the gap. Sad but true. Unless he is that rare exception who can transmute followers into leaders, his followers will remain hunched in his shadow--because they like it there.

Your Alter Ego in the Pulpit: The pastor serves a vicarious function like a second self, a designated saint, a spiritual proxy. By his exemplary and important life, he "lifts" the whole congregation. Each person feels the pastor is "a part of me" somehow--a vibrant, solid, undefiled, strong part of me. Every pastor knows the admiration and adulation that goes with the job. (It helps compensate for the long hours, heavy demands, and never-quite-enough salary.) Watching him in the pulpit is emotionally like going to a play and identifying with the main character. I am not decrying this psychological process. It's healthy. It's needed. But it must be spread around. If all the admiration in your church is always focused on your pastor, you've got a sick state of affairs. To be specific, if Mike and Mary Lunchbucket can sit in your church for sixty years and never have anyone come up to them and say, "I really appreciated what you said in church today," you're creating spiritual midgets. You're starving them to death in the pews. You're stomping on their hands as they grasp for a tiny shred of their share in the spiritual life of the congregation. Am I being overly dramatic? Sure. But if you're Mike or Mary and you're eighty years old and facing the end of your life and you've just come to realize you've only achieved a tiny fraction of your potential and you're sitting here reading about open churches for the first time in your life, you can probably think of some comments that are even more dramatic than mine.

The Medium Is the Mess: When the pastor stands in the pulpit to preach, his mind is filled with all the right things: the person of Christ, salvation, the cross, eternal life, freedom from sin, a new life of joy, etc. But that's just speech, one avenue of communication. There's also the body language, seating arrangements, social impressions, clothing, group actions, expectations of response, time limits, symbolic actions, emotional ties, and other dimly-understood semantic processes going on. So the message may be fine, but all this other stuff can almost overwhelm it. The facts of the message tend to get obscured by the overpowering wattage of the churchy medium, namely that you're sitting there in rows in fancy clothes, doing nothing but listening to a gentleman who is doing nothing but standing behind a wooden box and talking. In other words, the medium is the message, and the #1 nonverbal message is that you have nothing worthwhile to say--which is in direct conflict with the message that Christ has redeemed us to be His fully-functioning body.

The Pastor as Hub: Let's shift from the psychological level to the organizational. In any fair-sized, pastor-centered church, you'll find an elaborate program revolving around one highly-trained, overworked man or woman. Typically, he dominates the Sunday meeting. The usual result: The laity suffers, in the words of C.S. Lewis, from "shriveled manhood." But the pastor suffers, too. He's only one person, and when you make him ultimately responsible for all your programs and goals, you overload an extremely valuable servant of the Lord and diffuse his talents into a sieve. The reason he went to seminary was to learn to guide a spiritual steam roller, not push it. (And definitely not carry it!) Too many capable pastors have been fired because they came to be seen as the fall guy for the predictable failure of a jumble of clashing programs. Thousands of competent ministers have seen their careers crash because they were blamed for the chronic inertia of a flock of wing-clipped birds forbidden to fly. That should never happen. And in fact, in an open church it's highly unlikely--because progress is viewed as everyone's responsibility, from the least to the greatest. "Whoever would be great among you must be your servant." A servant is a minister and vice versa. A true minister leads by example and by coaching/equipping/teaching others in the right direction. In a scriptural style church, he doesn't lead by hierarchical authority because he doesn't have much of it. The hierarchical authority lies--if anywhere--with the elders. If it didn't, Paul would have directed Titus to go all over Crete and appoint pastors in every town, not elders. (Titus 1:5) And if we're supposed to center our church operations around our pastors, how come the word "pastor" only shows up once in the New Testament--in passing as part of a list of gifts? I keep hoping that someday some famous theologian will note that the Bible has a whole string of requirements for elders, bishops, and even deacons--but none at all for pastors...and draw the logical conclusion.

Equipper, Enabler, Example- But not a C.E.O.: Don't expect your pastor to wave a magic wand and make all this happen for you. He's only one guy, and you can't expect him to do everything. Right now, in all likelihood, your minister is extremely busy, and his individual counseling is limited to reactive type cases, putting out fires, handling crises, and keeping lives and homes from falling apart. He would love to be able to transpose into the kind of powerful personal ministry that he used to dream about in seminary, and the open church is the only kind that will usually enable a senior minister to do that.

A Modest Proposal: Want to do your faithful pastor a little favor? Fire him. Then hire him back--as your minister. Or chief equipper (Eph. 4:12). Or enabler specialist. Or consultant in spiritual husbandry. Or liaison between heaven and earth. Or anything that emphasizes his spiritual ministry! Actually, I suppose "pastor" is a nice, warm title. But do absolve him of the responsibility for all the administrative and procedural flotsam floating around your church. Relieve him of the sole responsibility for the success of everything in sight: the men's golf fellowship, the new building fund, the choir retreat, hospital visitation, vacation Bible school, the stewardship committee, the works. Tell him you only expect one thing of him: to turn everybody into a spiritual giant. Or at least an industrial strength saint. Then get busy and make that possible. Take some of the steps you read about in previous chapters. Tell the congregation to put on their boots and crampons, grab an ice ax, and get ready to climb a very tall mountain. Quote for them Hebrews 10:38, "But My righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, My soul has no pleasure in him." Oh, and give your minister a little raise. I guarantee you'll be getting more results for your money.

Let's Stop Playing Church: The time has come to end our 1700-year experiment in spectator Christianity. Like a doting parent, God the Father is glad to take whatever He can get in the way of worship, but I'm here to tell you He'd be a whole lot happier if for once, just once in his life, Sam Christian were allowed to stand to his feet on a Sunday morning and say, "I love you, Lord. You mean everything to me." What harm could come from that? Would the walls buckle or the organ explode or what? I live for the day when Sue Christian can stand up and tell how the Lord changed her life this week. Are only men allowed to testify to God's grace? Would the steeple be struck by fire from Heaven if a woman (say, your mother) were to put in a good word for the Lord without first stepping outside the sanctuary door? Why can't we, just for a few minutes a week, simply be a family together--God and His kids--doing what good families do: sharing their hearts and lives? We don't need to turn the church upside down or torch the Sunday school rooms. But on the other hand, we don't simply need to get better at what we do on Sunday. We're already past masters at listening to sermons and announcements and singing. What we desperately need is to do something different: to learn to interact in depth with God and each other. And in that, we're still in kindergarten.

No More Business As Usual: We can no longer afford church customs and patterns that turn dreams into hamburger, Sunday mornings into a school-like game, and Christians into ineffectual wimps. Laymen have to start behaving like men again, not standing around and waiting till they're asked to do something. Why change now? Because the King of Heaven sets the pace, and His pace is jumping toward the moon. For instance, between 1980 and 1990, the percentage of the world's people who are unevangelized plummeted by 8.0%. Amazing! And yet 65 countries are now "officially closed" to all foreign missionaries (up from zero in 1900) and about four more close each year, forcing us now to launch a massive tentmaker strategy. If your church is statistically average, the Holy Spirit would like you to send several of your families abroad as tentmakers within the next twelve months. Believe it! Because of the power that God is unleashing worldwide, business as usual won't do anymore. And because you now know what an open church can accomplish, business as usual won't do in your life and your church anymore, either. It's too late for you to turn back and forget you ever read all this, even if you wanted to. You must go forward.

Pray: If you're the one who's spearheading the effort to open your church, you need to pray for awhile. An hour or two wouldn't hurt. Don't bother to ask God to clear the problems out of your path. That's your job, pilgrim! But do ask Him for three things: wisdom, power, and love. Also, it would be very smart to ask for at least one kindred spirit among the church leadership you can pray with and dream with. Lone Rangers don't get very far in the church restoration business. Whatever you do, don't let your efforts create friction or dissolve into a factional issue. Keep it friendly! Keep it brotherly! Concentrate on telling people about the benefits of an open church and how they'll enjoy the closer fellowship, growing, and learning. I guarantee you that a you-versus-them scenario is the last thing you'll want.

(Disclaimer: Read these opinions with discernment!)

Example of Old Covenant Teaching slopping over into New Covenant churches:



by Paul Winslow

The purpose of this paper is to discuss the subject of tithing as it is presented in scripture, particularly in the Old Testament.

The first mention of tithe (a tenth) is in Genesis 14:20 where Abraham meets Melchizedek on his return from the defeat of the kings who had attacked Sodom and carried Lot away captive. Melchizedek is identified as not only the king of Salem, but a priest of the Most High God. In the brief account it seems clear that Abraham gave him a tenth in recognition that the Most High God had delivered his enemies into his hand, and therefore really owned the spoil resulting from the victory. In Hebrews 7, beginning with verse 4, the author points out that it was legitimate for God's representative to collect a tenth from those with the promise, whether it was from Abraham (given to the priest of the Most High God) or from the children of Abraham (given to the Levites, the priests of God). The question is, where did this idea come from of paying a tenth of something to a representative of someone who is in an ownership position?

Keil and Delitzsch in their commentaries both on Genesis and Deuteronomy refer to the fact that in the ancient world it was well established that a land owner could collect a 10% fee, i.e., a tithe, from those who used the land for making their livelihood. Also, it was generally accepted that if one king, for instance, assisted another king in battle and made possible the winning of the battle, then he was entitled to the spoil---that is, he became owner of the spoil. It is therefore not hard to make the connection that God, in His revelation of Himself to both Abraham and then the children of Israel, would utilize this principle to remind them that He was really the owner of the land of Canaan (in the case of the Israelites given the land through the power and strength of God) and owned the spoil as a result of Abraham's victory by the power of God (Abraham only had 318 men with him when he pursued 5 kings from the north and defeated all of them).

In Deuteronomy 26, starting with verse 1 through verse 10, you have God establishing the tithe which is called the first of the produce of the ground which the children of Israel are to pay each year. Now this is mentioned a number of other places in Deuteronomy; for example in 14:22 where it says,

"You shall surely tithe all the produce of what you sow which comes out of the field every year."

Now in addition to the ownership fee (the tithe) which the Israelites were to bring to God each year, they were to additionally give the Lord free-will gifts and offerings. Generally speaking, these free-will gifts and offerings were used to build the temple, repair the temple, furnish it, and in effect keep the religious activity of the nation operational economically. In addition, the Israelites were to give gifts to support the prophets. (Tithes were never used for prophets or teachers rabbis.) However, the tenth God specifically set aside for certain purposes.

The first purpose for the ownership fee was that it be used by the Levitical priests as their inheritance or portion since they received no apportionment of actual land in Canaan like the rest of the tribes. This is stated for us in Deuteronomy 10:8-9, plus Numbers 18:21-24. It's interesting to note that in Numbers 18:26 the Levites themselves, after receiving the tithe from the sons of Israel, must pay a tenth of that to the Lord as well.

So far we see God has instructed that His ownership fee be used each livelihood of His priests, the Levites. (This certainly makes sense did not receive land as an inheritance, but rather the ownership fee from all the land of Canaan as their inheritance.) God does add one more bit of instruction for His tithe. We find this back in Deuteronomy 26:12. Here we find a change to the usual practice of giving the tithe to the Levite each year. Every third year according to God's instruction, the tithe is to be divided in thirds: one-third going to the Levite, another third going to the stranger in town and and last third going to the orphan and widow. This is even clear in Deuteronomy 14:28-29 where this third year's tithe is to be retained within each community for distribution among these three classes of people. The result of this instruction from the Lord was that God, being the owner of the land from which all wealth came, was saying to Israel,

"My ownership fee is to be used for three purposes: One, to maintain a priesthood for all of you which will mediate your relationship with Me and act as a bridge whereby redemption from Me can flow to you, and whereby sacrifices of repentance can flow from you to Me. Two, all strangers (merchants, tourists, travelers, those seeking truth, etc.) are to be treated with hospitality when they come to My land. You Israelites, therefore, are to be stewards of My funds set aside for this purpose and offer food and lodging in your own homes for all Gentile visitors."

(Incidentally, the result of such a program would be that there would be no motels or other impersonal traveler facilities in Israel, but everyone is welcomed into a home to be included with a family in their daily worship, thanksgiving, eating etc. What a beautiful way to acquaint pagans with the One True God.)

"Three, you Israelites are to personally be stewards of My funds which are earmarked to take care of all widows and orphans in your community."
God says He is responsible for widows and orphans, and thus His social security system is administered by each Jewish family to help those who do not have produce coming from the land rather than depending on some government operation to care for them.

As can be seen from the above, God designed a beautiful system to take care of specific needs as well as demonstrate His ownership and benevolent control of the prosperity for Israel. After all, He's already promised that their crops would be abundant, the rains be adequate, and protection from wild beasts and enemies would~d always be available provided they worshiped Him alone. It was a perfect system of economics. The problem, of course, is that Israel, most of the time, failed to be obedient and ultimately you have God chastising them because they not only didn't give appropriate offerings to Him, but they had "robbed" God by not paying the tithes as Malachi 3:8-10 states clearly. As a side note, it is ironic that by the time of Jesus' birth Israel had commercial inn establishments with their cold and impersonal nature, though there was no room found in such an inn for Jesus to be born and He ended up in a stable. How sad!

In the New Testament there is no mention of believers paying tithes, nor any command that they do so. This makes sense since the Body of Christ is a spiritual kingdom, not connected to any land at all, but spread throughout the whole world, its members being neither Jew nor Greek but a new race of people in Christ Jesus. Therefore, it makes no sense for believers to pay a tithe which was largely used in the Old Testament for maintaining a system of priests, since all believers are priests and do not need a go-between themselves and God. Actually, believers are to consider that all they own and receive economically belongs to God. For example, we are told we are not our own but are bought with a price. Further, we are told that we are stewards of all that God has given us, and that He has the right to tell us what to do with our time, resources, income, etc.

It may be advantageous for a New Testament believer to decide to give the Lord a percentage of his income as a sort of guide or planned program for giving, and that percentage might be 10%. But such a plan or percentage should be arrived at through prayer with the Lord Himself, rather than an automatic acceptance of the Old Testament tithe. Furthermore, New Testament truth makes it very clear that all believers are responsible to care for widows and orphans and to extend hospitality to strangers in whatever age or social economic structure they live in. Obviously, this varies greatly depending on the indi-vidual circumstances of a Christian. At one point he might be a slave and totally unable to do much in this area, and at other times a Christian may have the freedom and capacity to do a great deal in this area.

In conclusion, it is my prayer that the Lord will guide each person in his stewardship of resources which the Most High God has graciously provided us.


1. "Tithe" means ten per cent, and, in the Old Testament, the Israelites were told to give a tithe. They had to give ten per cent, it did not matter whether they were poor or rich. Ten per cent to a poor person might be very difficult to give, while ten per cent to a rich person would never be missed. There has arisen, unfortunately, in Christian circles the idea that God wants ten per cent and you can do what you like with the rest, you can indulge yourself to the full. That, of course, is entirely contrary to the principle the New Testament is teaching. No, if God has richly blessed you, then increase the percentage of your giving so that it is ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty per cent. There are Christians I know of today whom God has richly blessed who give ninety per cent of their income away. They live on the remaining ten per cent and they live abundantly well on that. Now that is what this is talking about. Nowhere in the New Testament do you find tithing taught or laid upon Christians. But proportionate giving is, for God does not give us wealth in order to lavish it in abundant measure upon ourselves but that we might share it more abundantly with those who have pressing needs. If this simple principle were thoroughly grasped, all the needs of Christendom would be abundantly met by those who give as God has prospered them.--Ray C. Stedman "Giving and Living."

2. Tithing was part of the Levitical system to support the Levite Priests and temple activities. Israel was a theocratic nation. The Levitical system was destroyed when Christ was crucified. The temple veil was ripped from top to bottom. The temple and Jerusalem itself was destroyed a few years later. I can find no passage that describes the N.T. church as "another system" with a physical structure with a professional staff. Many churches still employ the "tithing" concept as a "principal" to encourage funding however it does not come from any N.T. teaching. We are instructed to give; the "Lord loves a cheerful giver but not out of necessity or grudgingly, II Cor 9:7. The context was Paul collecting funds to help the suffering Macedonians. Christ's primary concern is how we treat the hungry, stranger, widows, orphans, those in jail. He will judge nations on that basis, Matt 25:40-46. In light of this each believer must pray about where and how he/she gives money and time as a good steward. --Lynn Bernston, former elder. (

3. See: The Christian and his Possessions, by Ray C. Stedman (

Paul Winslow, Pastor | Valley Bible Church | 507 N. Sullivan Road | Veradale, WA 99037 | 8/84

Forum Class Notes

From "The Young Church" by Ray C. Stedman


So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. {Acts 2:41-42 RSV}

In that brief paragraph you have set forth the four fundamentals of Christian growth, after you become a Christian. You become a Christian by being related to Jesus Christ. He is the Lord of glory, and you become part of him when you receive him into your heart. But then what? Is that all there is to the Christian life? No, that is just the beginning. If you have received Jesus Christ into your heart, then you have begun a Christian life. But the whole of it lies ahead for you to experience. Now it is time to move on, to move out and begin to experience this exciting and vital new life that God has given you in Jesus Christ.

Four things are necessary to do that: First, as these new Christians in Jerusalem, be baptized. Baptism is a clear identification of your life with Jesus Christ. We plan to have a baptism service two weeks from now, because there are about forty young people from the high schools of this area who have become Christians in the last few weeks, and they are eager to declare themselves as members of the body of Jesus Christ. For that purpose we plan to have a public baptism where they can tell before the world that they belong to Jesus Christ. In fact, we want to make it so public that we are trying to get permission to use the Stanford University fountain for the baptism. I hope we can, because these 3,000 people were baptized this way on the day of Pentecost. What do you think was the effect on the city of Jerusalem when these 3,000 people openly identified themselves with the despised Nazarene who had been crucified by the rulers of this city only fifty days before? What do you think was the effect when this crowd, so moved and stirred by all they had seen and could not deny, publicly identified themselves with Jesus Christ? No wonder a great awakening broke out in Jerusalem. So that is the first thing -- a clear declaration, a clear step to indicate that you have identified yourself with Jesus Christ.

The second thing is, they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching. This teaching was the Scriptures, the Word of God. These mighty apostles were commissioned by the Lord Jesus, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to tell us the truth about life. And we will never learn to understand ourselves, or the world around us, or the society in which we live, or what is happening in the world and why it is happening, unless we begin to understand the apostles' teaching. That is the only hope you have of working out your problems in this world and in this life. All the vast ecological issues which are pressuring us today are explained in the apostles' teaching -- why they occur, and what is going to happen because of them. So if you want to understand the world, then you, like these early Christians, must devote yourself to the apostles' teaching.

The third thing they did was to devote themselves to fellowship. As you know, fellowship means holding all things in common -- in other words, sharing together. They began to know and to love one another. Here are 3,000 people suddenly added to a little band of twenty. Most of them probably were strangers before this time. Many of them had come from other parts of the world into Jerusalem for that occasion. They did not know each other. But now they are one in Christ, and they begin to love each other and start to talk to each other, to find out what each other has been thinking and how each has been reacting, and to share their problems and burdens and needs, to talk about these together and pray together about them. There was a wonderful sense of community, of commonality, of belonging to each other. That is the fellowship which is the intended life for the body of Christ.

You see, God has designed that his life should be manifest through a body. If the body is not operating, then the life is not manifest. And that means there is no power, because the life of God is always power. The reason the church has been so powerless lately is that it has been so fragmented and broken. We have estranged ourselves from each other. In Ephesians, the Apostle Paul says, "Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God," {Eph 4:30 KJV}. Then he lists the things that grieve him:

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. {Eph 4:31-32 RSV}

If that is not happening, then the Spirit of God is grieved. And when he is grieved, he does not act. There is no life. The church becomes dull and dead and sterile and mediocre. All this is manifest in an empty ritual, with no vitality in it. God intends that Christians should have fellowship, should share one another's lives and thoughts and problems -- bear one another's burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ. It is not an option; it is an essential. This is why, when the Holy Spirit of God begins to move in any congregation, or in any assembly of Christians, he starts at this point. He begins to heal the brokenness of their lives and their relationships one with another, to get them to admit to each other their malice and their anger and their frustration and their grudges, and to forgive one another. This is when life begins to flow once again through the body of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The fourth element is worship. They broke bread and prayed together. The breaking of bread is undoubtedly a reference to the communion service, not merely to their eating food in their homes. They were sharing together in that symbolic testimony to the basis of Christian life -- the life and death of the Lord Jesus. That is the basis of our living and of our union and of our power. In the breaking of bread and praying together, we are related to God, and speaking to God, and identified with him. This is always the source of Christian power. There are the four fundamentals of Christian growth. Without them you cannot grow. With them you cannot keep from growing. In the last paragraph of this chapter we have a beautiful picture of the practical effects of Christianity upon the world around, upon the church within, and even toward God himself:

And fear came upon every soul; and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common; and they sold their possessions and goods and distributed them to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they partook of food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. {Acts 2:43-47 RSV}

The first effect was upon the world around: "Great fear came upon every soul; and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles." Why this fear? Well, suddenly everyone who was in that city at this time saw that God was working through these people. An element of the supernatural was very visible, and it baffled them. There was obviously something more than human power at work.

As the text tells us, this power was manifest in wonders and signs, in miracles. Many today feel that this is what is necessary, that we have to recapture this wonderful age and reproduce again these marvelous miracles and signs. But what they do not understand is that these are always only the place where God begins when he meets with men. Because unregenerate men, by and large, are shut up to a world of visible things, believing only what they can see, God, in his condescending grace, begins at that level. But this is not where the most important work is done. The Lord Jesus made clear all through his ministry that the healing of the body was not ever as important as the healing of the soul. That which is done in the realm of the spiritual is far greater than that which is done in the physical realm. The physical miracles are often the mark of an immature church. And as they grow, God moves from that physical level into the deepest level of humanity -- the realm of the spirit. What happens in the spirit of man is the mightiest manifestation of God's transforming grace. This is why today the presence of the Holy Spirit most usually -- not always, but usually -- manifests itself not on the physical level -- though God certainly can move on the physical level today if he wants, and in some cases he does -- but it is most usually manifest in what happens in the inner life of individuals. There is still this same mark of supernatural power at work, the manifestation of lives which baffle other people.Then he closes with a quotation from John 2:17:

The zeal of thine house has eaten me up. {John 2:17 KJV}

Well, the Spirit of God is working, and he is doing the same things as he did on the day of Pentecost. The first effect upon a community is the awareness of a force which baffles explanation, which is doing something no other force can do. The second effect is within the church: "And all who believed were together and had all things in common; and they sold their possessions and goods and distributed them to all, as any had need."

A lot of nonsense has been written about that passage. There have been those who said that the early Christians gave up their "capitalism" and became "communists," sold everything they had and put it all into one pot, and divided it up among themselves. But that is not what this passage says at all. They retained their right to private property. They bought and sold as they had before. This is not a new government or a new economic system. All this is saying is that they established a common fund, from which the needy among them were helped. To do it, some of them sold some property and gave up some of the things they owned in order to have an adequate fund. And that is Christianity in action, always -- to be concerned about the needy.

We learned from the Christian World Liberation Front in Berkeley that they take an offering on Sunday evening and announce beforehand that anyone that wants to give can give, and anyone who has a need can take out enough to meet that need. Last Sunday night we started this here at PBC as a regular policy, and our offering was the biggest we have had in a long, long time! This is the right attitude for a Christian to have.

Then the last thing is the glory all this brings to God. Notice how this paragraph closes: "And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they partook of food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved" -- God at work, glorified in the midst of his people, worshiped and praised by them. That is Christianity at work in society. That is what it is intended to be. Praise God, that is what it is becoming again in our day.

Maybe you have never received the Lord Jesus, have never known him, and you need to change your mind, your thinking, about him. You can ask him into your heart right where you are. You can say, "Lord Jesus, come into my heart and be my God, my Lord." Or perhaps you who need to settle some problem with one another, to forgive him, to clear up some grudges. Settle those things, will you? Call up the person, go to the one you have offended or who has offended you, and straighten this whole matter out, so that God's Spirit may move in unhindered power and glory in our day, as he has begun to do. We do not want to hinder the working of God.

Expository Studies in Acts | Message #5 | Date: March 8, 1970 |

The Diversity of the Churches

 The Apostolic Church  The Persecuted Church  The State Church  The Roman Catholic Church  The Church of the Reformation  The Evangelical Church  The Lukewarm Church
 "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last," and, "What you see, write in a book and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia: to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamos, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea." Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire; His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters; He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength. And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, "Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last. "I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death. "Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this. "The mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands which you saw are the seven churches. (Revelation 1:11-20)
 ~33 - 96 AD ~100 - 316 AD  ~316 - 500 AD  ~500 - 1500 AD  ~1520 - 1850  ~1850 - 1950  ~ 1950- present
 Rev. 2:1-7 "To the angel of the church of Ephesus write, 'These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands: "I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; "and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name's sake and have not become weary. "Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. "Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place--unless you repent. "But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God."'   Rev. 2:8-11 "And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write, 'These things says the First and the Last, who was dead, and came to life: "I know your works, tribulation, and poverty (but you are rich); and I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. "Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death."'  Rev. 2:12-17 "And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write, 'These things says He who has the sharp two-edged sword: "I know your works, and where you dwell, where Satan's throne is. And you hold fast to My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days in which Antipas was My faithful martyr, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. "But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality. "Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate. 'Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth. "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it."'  Rev. 2:18-29 "And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write, 'These things says the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet like fine brass: "I know your works, love, service, faith, and your patience; and as for your works, the last are more than the first. "Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. "And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent. "Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds. "I will kill her children with death, and all the churches shall know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts. And I will give to each one of you according to your works. "Now to you I say, and to the rest in Thyatira, as many as do not have this doctrine, who have not known the depths of Satan, as they say, I will put on you no other burden. "But hold fast what you have till I come. "And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations-- 'He shall rule them with a rod of iron; They shall be dashed to pieces like the potter's vessels' --as I also have received from My Father; "and I will give him the morning star. "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches."'  Rev. 3:1-6 "And to the angel of the church in Sardis write, 'These things says He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars: "I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. "Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God. "Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you. "You have a few names even in Sardis who have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy. "He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels. "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches."'  Rev. 3:7-13 "And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write, 'These things says He who is holy, He who is true, "He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens": "I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name. "Indeed I will make those of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not, but lie--indeed I will make them come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you. "Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. "Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown. "He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. And I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name. "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches."'  Rev. 3:14-22 "And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write, 'These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God: "I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. "So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. "Because you say, 'I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing' --and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked--"I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. "To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches."'"

Mystery Babylon The Great

The true church is both a City and a Woman

The false church is both a City and a Woman

If the false church has this much influence and leverage on secular society and if she is guilt of so many heinous sins, then surely the converse is true of the real church of Jesus Christ. Christ's church as a having a great "behind-the-scenes" influence on the world acting as salt and light: as the agency of truth and life in a fallen world.


Revelation 17:1 Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and talked with me, saying to me, "Come, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters, 2 "with whom the kings of the earth committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth were made drunk with the wine of her fornication." 3 So he carried me away in the Spirit into the wilderness. And I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast which was full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. 4 The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the filthiness of her fornication. 5 And on her forehead a name was written: MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. 6 I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. And when I saw her, I marveled with great amazement. 7 But the angel said to me, "Why did you marvel? I will tell you the mystery of the woman and of the beast that carries her, which has the seven heads and the ten horns. 8 "The beast that you saw was, and is not, and will ascend out of the bottomless pit and go to perdition. And those who dwell on the earth will marvel, whose names are not written in the Book of Life from the foundation of the world, when they see the beast that was, and is not, and yet is. 9 "Here is the mind which has wisdom: The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sits. 10 "There are also seven kings. Five have fallen, one is, and the other has not yet come. And when he comes, he must continue a short time. 11 "And the beast that was, and is not, is himself also the eighth, and is of the seven, and is going to perdition. 12 "The ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have received no kingdom as yet, but they receive authority for one hour as kings with the beast. 13 "These are of one mind, and they will give their power and authority to the beast. 14 "These will make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings; and those who are with Him are called, chosen, and faithful." 15 Then he said to me, "The waters which you saw, where the harlot sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues. 16 "And the ten horns which you saw on the beast, these will hate the harlot, make her desolate and naked, eat her flesh and burn her with fire. 17 "For God has put it into their hearts to fulfill His purpose, to be of one mind, and to give their kingdom to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled. 18 "And the woman whom you saw is that great city which reigns over the kings of the earth."

Revelation 18:1 After these things I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth was illuminated with his glory. 2 And he cried mightily with a loud voice, saying, "Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and has become a dwelling place of demons, a prison for every foul spirit, and a cage for every unclean and hated bird! 3 "For all the nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth have become rich through the abundance of her luxury." 4 And I heard another voice from heaven saying, "Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues. 5 "For her sins have reached to heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities. 6 "Render to her just as she rendered to you, and repay her double according to her works; in the cup which she has mixed, mix double for her. 7 "In the measure that she glorified herself and lived luxuriously, in the same measure give her torment and sorrow; for she says in her heart, 'I sit as queen, and am no widow, and will not see sorrow.' 8 "Therefore her plagues will come in one day--death and mourning and famine. And she will be utterly burned with fire, for strong is the Lord God who judges her. 9 "The kings of the earth who committed fornication and lived luxuriously with her will weep and lament for her, when they see the smoke of her burning, 10 "standing at a distance for fear of her torment, saying, 'Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city! For in one hour your judgment has come.' 11 "And the merchants of the earth will weep and mourn over her, for no one buys their merchandise anymore:12 "merchandise of gold and silver, precious stones and pearls, fine linen and purple, silk and scarlet, every kind of citron wood, every kind of object of ivory, every kind of object of most precious wood, bronze, iron, and marble; 13 "and cinnamon and incense, fragrant oil and frankincense, wine and oil, fine flour and wheat, cattle and sheep, horses and chariots, and bodies and souls of men.14 "The fruit that your soul longed for has gone from you, and all the things which are rich and splendid have gone from you, and you shall find them no more at all.15 "The merchants of these things, who became rich by her, will stand at a distance for fear of her torment, weeping and wailing, 16 "and saying, 'Alas, alas, that great city that was clothed in fine linen, purple, and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls! 17 'For in one hour such great riches came to nothing.' Every shipmaster, all who travel by ship, sailors, and as many as trade on the sea, stood at a distance 18 "and cried out when they saw the smoke of her burning, saying, 'What is like this great city?' 19 "They threw dust on their heads and cried out, weeping and wailing, and saying, 'Alas, alas, that great city, in which all who had ships on the sea became rich by her wealth! For in one hour she is made desolate.' 20 "Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you holy apostles and prophets, for God has avenged you on her!" 21 Then a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea, saying, "Thus with violence the great city Babylon shall be thrown down, and shall not be found anymore. 22 "The sound of harpists, musicians, flutists, and trumpeters shall not be heard in you anymore. No craftsman of any craft shall be found in you anymore, and the sound of a millstone shall not be heard in you anymore. 23 "The light of a lamp shall not shine in you anymore, and the voice of bridegroom and bride shall not be heard in you anymore. For your merchants were the great men of the earth, for by your sorcery all the nations were deceived. 24 "And in her was found the blood of prophets and saints, and of all who were slain on the earth."


For Commentary:

"The Whole Counsel of God"

When the Apostle Paul met with the elders of the church at Ephesus on his way to Jerusalem, he reminded them that they had been fully instructed and equipped for the work each local church is called to. "Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all of you, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God which he obtained with the blood of his own Son. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears. And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified" (Acts 20:26-32) Paul's remarks are especially noteworthy in view of his earlier teaching investment in the people of Ephesus.

"Evidently the Apostle Paul made tents during the morning hours to support himself. But at eleven o'clock he came to the hall of Tyrannus and lectured for five hours every day for two years. Now, five hours a day, six days a week, fifty-two weeks a year for two years, adds up to 3,120 hours of lecturing. That equals 130 days of lecturing continuously for twenty-four hours a day. The content of those lectures was the great truths that we find in The Epistles of Paul. What a fantastic time of teaching! Wouldn't you like to have been in Ephesus, and had Paul teach you The Epistle to the Romans? And The Letter of Paul to the Ephesians? And all his other great books? Imagine the tremendous impact of this teaching! No wonder we read in Verse 10 that, 'all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.' That was an entire province, an area larger than the state of California, filled with many cities.

"Of course, it was not Paul who was teaching throughout this area. It was the Christians who heard him in the lecture hall of Tyrannus, and who, captivated and galvanized by these truths, began to spread the word throughout the whole area. They formed churches in other cities which evangelized in turn, so that in two years this whole province was reached by the gospel of Christ. Is not that amazing? "It was during this time that the church at Colossi was begun by Epaphras and Philemon, who carried the gospel up the Lycus valley into the cities there. Others, perhaps Trophimus and Tychicus, young men from this province, were involved in preaching to other cities of the region. They may have been the founders of the churches to which John later wrote his letters in the book of Revelation -- Smyrna and Sardis and Thyatira and Pergamum and Philadelphia and Laodicea, all of which are in this area and were begun by these Christians, largely unnamed and unknown, who heard the Apostle Paul proclaiming this fantastically revolutionary truth in the hall of Tyrannus in Ephesus. What power there is in the Word of God!" (Ray C. Stedman,

"[Paul] always sought to set forth the whole counsel of God. He tried to teach them the whole truth. He did not want them to be short-changed in any way. Sometimes he stayed up long hours in order to cover all that God has said to man. This, of course, was because he knew and understood that it is the knowledge of the Word that sets you free. I wish I could make that clear to people today, to people who are struggling with problems and internal tensions and pressures, and with boredom, frustration, and a sense of restlessness -- all the negative qualities of life. God has never intended for you to live like that. That is why he has given you the Word. It is the word of truth that sets you free. When you learn it and understand it and operate on it -- it will always set you free. One of the exciting things about this last year or so around here is to see so many people who have simply been transformed, caught up, changed by the truth they have learned, and have been set free from habits and attitudes that have hurt them and ruined them for years. That is why Paul emphasized this ministry so strongly. Notice the commitment to it of his own heart. He was faithful in its delivery not only in public but also from house to house, testifying of it everywhere. Also, see how practical it was. It always could be reduced to two concepts: Repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. There is the Christian message, all summarized for you very neatly in two words: repent and believe.

"Repentance is looking at the way you have been living -- at what you have been drawing upon, at your dependence upon the old life -- and changing your mind. That is what repentance means. To repent means to stop thinking and acting and living the way you have been. Instead, step out in faith. Trust the living Lord who is in you to operate through you, and venture out, move out! "The Christian life is intended to be exciting, compelling, always interesting, always different, always lived on the verge of adventure and danger. That is why it must be characterized by faith. So, you see, there are the two basic steps, and you must take them over and over again. The way you begin the Christian life is to repent and believe. And that also constitutes your walk through the Christian life. A walk is more than a single step. When faced with a situation, you should take the first step and repent, think through the old way of life and say to yourself, "I've been going at this the wrong way." But that is not yet a walk. You must take the next step and believe, have faith, trust in the work of God in you. Then, on the next occasion that comes, you go through the same procedure over again -- you repent, and then believe -- repent and believe -- repent and believe -- and you are walking! That is what the Christian life is all about. In every circumstance, every situation, this is the two-fold way by which the Christian lives in the power of a living God: repent and believe." (

Can it be said of churches today that they have a program in place to insure that the membership knows the entire Bible thoroughly in, say, five years? The Number One calling of the church is to communicate a full, well-rounded body of knowledge to each generation. Jude felt this urgent need in the First Century. "Beloved, being very eager to write to you of our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints."

The Apostle Peter outlines a day by day plan for Christians which involves growing in the knowledge of God, and then applying that newly-gained knowledge on a daily basis (because truth not acted upon is lost).

"God's divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, that through these you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of lust, and become partakers of the divine nature. For this very reason make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these things are yours and abound, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these things is blind and shortsighted and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins. Therefore, brethren, be the more zealous to confirm your call and election, for if you do this you will never fall; so there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." (2 Peter 1:3-11)


The Church in the Mirror

Forum Class Number 3 March 17. What the Church Doesn't Do--Neglected issues: The priesthood of all believers, Vigorous evangelism. Ministry of all the people. Cell groups. Aggressive spiritual warfare against the status quo. Decentralize.

 For some extraordinary reason, the Church moves in an atmosphere of antiquity. I have no doubt that it makes for dignity; I have also no doubt that there are times when it makes for complete irrelevance; for, if there is one thing that is true of religion it is that it must always be expressible in contemporary terms. Religion fails if it cannot speak to men as they are. --William Barclay (1907-1978), In the Hands of God

Summary, Review, Discussion:

1. The Church is a Family: From the critiques raised by the open church and home church movements, we are reminded that the church is a family of brothers and sisters. In our broken-down society, many new Christians need "reparenting." Elders and pastors should exhibit a fatherly heart of compassion as they "lead by serving." The basic structure of society is the family unit and only the church understands how families are to operate. The church is a mixture of young and old, it is multi-cultural, multi-racial and diverse-but all one family, the family of Jesus, the Second Adam.

2. Teaching: The Number One Task of the church is to equip the members for the work of the ministry, and to build up the Body of Christ. "Preaching" (oratory) as we know it today was unknown in the early church. Instead there was intensive apostolic teaching, evangelism in the world outside the church, and pastoral teaching to maintain the health of the Body. A Christian world-view (which we all desperately need) comes only from a thorough knowledge of Scripture. We can not live as "strangers and pilgrims" in the present evil world and make wise decisions without this weltaungshaung.

3. The Number Two Priority of the Church is Corporate Prayer. This means prayer by the congregation as a whole. This is evident from Chapters 1-2 of First Timothy (see, and .

4. The Church is the Body of Christ. When Christians assemble together they become "the house of God" and the collective ensemble is indwelt by the Holy Spirit and becomes the temple of worship, prayer and communion with God.

5. The Church is to engage in constant vigorous Evangelism. This includes missionary endeavors around the world.

6. The Church is an assembly of priests who serve Jesus the Great High Priest of the New Covenant

7. The Church operates under the terms of the New Covenant not the Old!

8. By means of aggressive, strategic, spiritual warfare, the church antagonizes the power structures of this world system and prepares a beachhead for the coming invasion and return of earth's rightful king.

Travelers Unaware

"Why do people in churches seem like cheerful, brainless tourists on a package tour of the Absolute?...On the whole I do not find Christians, outside of the catacombs, sufficiently sensible of conditions. Does anyone have the foggiest idea of what sort of power we so blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up batches of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies' straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews. For the sleeping god may wake someday and take offense, or the waking god may draw us out to where we can never return."

(Annie Dillard in Teaching a Stone to Talk).

News Item:

Africans Fill Churches That Celebrate Wealth
March 13, 2002
Copyright 2002 The New York Times Company

OTTA, Nigeria - It was just another Sunday morning in the new home of one of Africa's fastest-growing churches, the Winners' Church, which is only a dozen years old but already has branches in 32 countries on the continent.

Nearly 50,000 faithful had entered the gates of its three-year-old headquarters, perhaps Africa's showiest symbol of the growing influence of America's religious culture of giant churches and lucre-minded television preachers. Called Canaan Land, it is a 565-acre walled campus with a hotel, gas station, bank, restaurants, shops, the foundation of a university and the continent's largest church auditorium.

Inside, half a dozen members gave testimonies that warmed up the crowd before the pastor's sermon. Soon after joining Winners, a man said, he had won a $12,000 contract. A computer salesman named Peter cannot sell his products fast enough now. James, his prayers answered at long last, testified that a new job had flushed the anxiety from his heart. "I had a rest, the kind of rest you have if you have a big account somewhere," James said as the crowd in Canaan Land laughed appreciatively.

Christianity is growing faster in sub-Saharan Africa than in any other place on earth. Roman Catholicism and the major Protestant denominations are gaining more followers every day, but new churches like Winners are leading the boom. They are Pentecostal churches, often led by men influenced by American evangelists in the South and Midwest who preach a similar message that success comes to those who pray. On Sundays in nearly every African city these are the churches drawing the biggest crowds, especially among the youth.

But many traditional religious leaders and ordinary Nigerians say the new churches are less concerned with saving souls than with making money. "The quickest and easiest way to make money in Nigeria is to carry a Bible on Sunday and start preaching," said the 66-year-old Roman Catholic archbishop of Lagos, Anthony O. Okogie.

The boom in Pentecostal churches began in the last decade, a particularly troubled period in Africa, which had lost its economic and ideological moorings after the end of the cold war. Nigeria, adrift more than most, populated by one in six Africans, has had the biggest religious explosion. According to the Pentecostal Fellowship Movement of Nigeria, 50 Pentecostal ministries had registered with it in 1990; today, the number is 250.

These days, every other billboard on the highways of Lagos and every other hand-painted sign in its neighborhoods seem to point to a new church. If South Africa is the leading exporter of business to the rest of the continent, Nigeria may be its leading exporter of religion. Its churches are gaining footholds across the continent and even in Europe and the United States.

"It will be our main exports to the world, our assets of highest value," said the Rev. David Oyedepo, 47, who in 1989 founded the Winners' Church in Lagos, a two-hour drive south of here. He moved to Otta three years ago and recently bought 2,000 additional acres of land nearby, the phenomenal growth fueled by the simplicity of his message. "Prosperity is acknowledged worldwide as the identity of our ministry," Mr. Oyedepo writes in a pamphlet for new members. "God prospers people here. He will prosper you too!" In a country where nearly a third of the 120 million people live on under a $1 a day and 40 percent are illiterate, according to the World Bank, the message resonates. Nigeria's two million barrels of oil a day have produced only deepening poverty for the ordinary Nigerian. But in the Pentecostal churches, members buy what is called Prosperity Theology. Wealth is celebrated.

Consider the Rev. Chris Okotie, 43, a pop singer who turned preacher after studying at a Bible college in Tulsa, Okla. He founded the Household of God church in his house in 1987. With a ballooning congregation, he moved it into a warehouse in 1993. He then bought all the other warehouses on the block, a total of 20 acres with, among other things, a 1,500-car parking lot and a six-story school under construction.

After leading a visitor around his street and walking by his new black Mercedes-Benz, Mr. Okotie said, without any prodding, "Maybe we should take a picture by this car." Dressed all in black, in a tight T- shirt, jeans and sneakers, he posed by crossing his arms and leaning against the hood of the car, which came equipped with two small television screens. Several bodyguards, also in black and wearing combat boots, followed him around, barking commands into walkie-talkies.

In his office, a mirror covered a wall, a closed-circuit security television sat on his desk, a guitar and a photograph of Muhammad Ali lay on the floor. Mr. Okotie said the drums, electric guitars and dancing at Pentecostal churches allowed for a closer connection with God by focusing on the outpouring of emotions. "It's like being at a party," he said. Mr. Okotie's empire extends on a block formerly named after the National Bank. After independence in 1960, the bank provided loans to most Nigerian businessmen in this region to develop an industrial base, but it later collapsed. Today this is called the Household of God Street. But Mr. Okotie is hardly alone. Many new churches seeking space in Lagos large enough for their booming congregations have converted warehouses into church auditoriums.

"The warehouses were all empty because of the decline in manufacturing," said Rasheed Adegbenro, director of corporate affairs for the Manufacturers' Association of Nigeria. "Then the churches came along. Now you won't find any machines in those warehouses, only worshipers."

Some, too big even for the warehouses, have bought land on the highway from Lagos to Ibadan, now known as church highway. Still others have found undeveloped land in places like Otta. On a recent Sunday, the highway to Otta was crowded with dozens of white school buses the Winners' Church had sent to pick up members in Lagos. At a tollgate near here, hawkers sold 15-cent white handkerchiefs that members wave during services and one-cent white envelopes for making donations.

Mr. Oyedepo delivered an hourlong sermon on faith, obedience and sacrifice. Members started taking notes, a common practice in Pentecostal churches. He asked for 100,000 donations of $35 each month toward completing a university. The service ended. As Mr. Oyedepo left the auditorium, about a dozen bodyguards walked closely around him, and ushered him into a Toyota Land Cruiser with tinted windows for the short drive to his office.

Steve Akadiri, 37, a reporter for Nigeria's public radio, was one of thousands streaming out of the auditorium. Raised an Anglican, he said he had joined the Winners' Church in 1995. When members were called to donate money in 1999 toward the construction of Canaan Land, Mr. Akadiri said he sold his old Volkswagen Beetle and donated the $175. "Six months later, some business came my way and I was able to buy a better car," he said.

In his office the next morning, Mr. Oyedepo said he had modeled himself on the Rev. Kenneth Hagin of Tulsa, Okla. Most Pentecostal preachers either studied in the United States or learned from men who had, he said. He waved away the possibility that any social and economic reasons might lie behind the boom in Pentecostal churches, saying only, "It's a divine time."

The Pentecostal churches, their critics say, willfully ignore Africa's problems, especially if they entail confronting corrupt regimes. In Nigeria, ruled by brutal generals for most of its independent history, Pentecostal ministers have never challenged the military rulers, as Catholic priests have.

At the Catholic archdiocese in Lagos, civil servants and market women attended Mass on a recent morning. In the Yoruba language, Archbishop Okogie, who has held his post for more than a quarter of a century, talked of the wisdom of Solomon. After communion, he led a "Prayer for Nigeria in Distress." Written during the depth of military rule, the prayer has been revived as rising lawlessness has threatened the country's fragile democracy.

"God of infinite goodness, our strength in adversity, our health in weakness, our comfort in sorrow, be merciful to us, your people. Spare this nation, Nigeria, from chaos, anarchy and doom. . . ." In his small office afterward, the archbishop shook his head at the new churches. "They know people are poor - they need money," he said. "Why not exploit that need? They are not helping this society at all."

Even some Pentecostal ministers acknowledge abuses in the movement. In Lagos, Mr. Okotie has been engaged in a long-running feud with another minister, accusing him of peddling miracles and healing, though some newspapers have described the feud as mere rivalry. "There are many charlatans out there who want to turn the work of God into an emporium," he said. "There are many young ministers who want to become millionaires overnight. Others will take a piece of item from you and tell you some miracle will happen. But for you to acquire the miracle, you must give money so that the minister will pray for you."

Nevertheless, the new churches are thriving, so much so that in the industrial area of Ikeja in Lagos it is easier to find a warehouse occupied by a church than by industrial goods. During the oil boom of the 1970's, factories ran at full capacity and warehouses were stocked with goods, said Mr. Adegbenro of the Manufacturers' Association. Today, factories are operating at a worrisome 35 percent capacity.

On a personal level, however, he is not too worried. In 1996, during a particularly difficult period in his life, he, too, joined a Pentecostal church, the Redeemed Christian Church, one of Nigeria's largest, with branches in Africa and America. "One night that year, there was a blackout," Mr. Adegbenro said, recalling how he had found his church. " I walked around in the dark and I passed several churches I knew. And eventually I saw a big building, a three-story building I had passed many times but never stopped to look. It was built to house a warehouse. Now it was a church."

From the New York Times:

PBC Doctrinal Statement

Peninsula Bible Church, Palo Alto, California

The Board of Elders has adopted the following doctrinal statement. It is intended to summarize, but not comprehensively review, the basic doctrinal specifics emphasized at Peninsula Bible Church. It is subscribed to by the elders and the pastoral staff, but agreement with all its statements is neither required nor expected of those worshiping or seeking the Lord with us. We believe that the Christian faith is a progressive, individually unique, process in which we are all at different points. Wherever you are in this process, you are welcome to fellowship with us.

Concerning the Bible
We believe that the original writings of both Old and New Testaments were breathed out by God to prophets, apostles, and apostolic associates by means of the Spirit, who chose the words employed according to the personality and background of the human author, and that these writings were without error and are of supreme and final authority in the lives of believers in any age.

Concerning God
We believe there is but one true God, who eternally exists as three distinct persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who exclusively share in the work of creation, maintenance of the universe, redemption and judgment.

Concerning Man and His Need
We believe that man was created in the image of God, but because of Adam's sin that image was damaged, and that all human beings are now born with a sinful nature, are unable to function in moral responsibility before God, and need a spiritual regeneration before they can become what they were meant to be.

Concerning the Son
We believe that the Eternal Son entered the human race as the virgin-born son of Mary, was named Jesus, fulfilled Old Testament prophecies of the Messiah, was rejected by Jewish leaders, condemned by Pontius Pilate, crucified by the Romans, buried in a borrowed tomb, but on the third day arose bodily from the dead in accordance with the predictions of the Old Testament scriptures.

Concerning Redemption
We believe Jesus died upon the cross as a sinless substitute for sinners of all ages and times, and that the Father was thus, by means of the Spirit, reconciling the world to Himself. All who receive the risen Jesus as Lord, by faith, are spiritually born into permanent membership in the family of God.

Concerning the Holy Spirit
We believe that the resurrected Jesus ascended to heaven and on the day of Pentecost sent the Holy Spirit to indwell, guide, teach, and empower all who believe by imparting to them the life of Jesus so that they may live godly lives and engage in loving service to any who are in need.

Concerning the Church
We believe that the Church consists of all who have been regenerated by the Spirit, and finds expression as local churches, operating under the direction of Jesus as Lord and Head of His body, through elders, pastor-teachers, and evangelists, who equip the saints to fulfill the work of the ministry as described in the scriptures.

Concerning Ordinances
We believe that salvation is a gift of God to all who place their faith in His Son Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Jesus directed new believers to follow that step of faith with water baptism as an outward symbol of their spiritual identification with His death, burial, and resurrection. Jesus also directed His followers to participate together in the memorial supper to remember His death until He comes again in glory.

Concerning the Christian's Responsibility
We believe that all believers have been made new persons in Christ, through spiritual rebirth. We are still capable of acting on the urges of the sinful nature (the flesh) with which we once were identified. When we do so, we can produce only works which are not pleasing to God. We can choose, rather, to rely upon the Holy Spirit and His love living within us. The choice leads to a fruitful life that glorifies and pleases the Father.

Concerning the Future
We believe that Jesus Christ will return to this earth in visible, human form; judging the evil of the world, calling the Church into eternal companionship with Himself, and recalling Israel, through judgment and cleansing, into fulfillment of the prophetic promises of a millennial kingdom on the earth. The prophetic predictions of the kingdom describe both the present spiritual blessings upon the Church and the future literal establishment of this kingdom. It will conclude with a last resurgence of evil which will be totally and finally overcome by God, and the new heaven and earth will be created, in which righteousness alone shall eternally dwell.

We believe that all human beings will be raised from the dead, at their proper time, to participate either in the eternal life prepared for those who have been redeemed, or to participate in the eternal punishment reserved for the devil and his angels.

For a series of 10 audio messages explaining each point of this creed go to the PBC web site,

RevisedApril 8, 2002

Update: God's Land, God's People: The Middle East in April 2001