Home Enclave The Church of the Love of Christ
Today, the best selling book in America is still the Bible. Churches are constantly encountered at street corners, with new construction underway every week. Talk of Jesus, faith, or the power of God is common. Yet, nothing seems more obvious even to the casual observer than the fact that the United States is no longer a Christian nation.
Students do not pray in the public schools. Stores compete for business on Sunday. Single parent families are prevalent, while the divorce rate soars, and couples do not bother with the legalities of marriage in beginning a relationship. Millions of lives are snuffed out by abortions, as legal scholars have finally determined a human fetus is not a human being. Television and movies pour forth a continuous stream of images of rampant violence and sexual indulgence — adultery, murder, lust, and even outright pornography. Dramatic plots almost always involve the complications of pursuing self-interest and self-glory. And, modern comedy employs crass humor to degrade people at all levels of life and the human condition.
These dramatic images become reality as people pursue power, position, and prestige as the main goal in life, making considerations of morality relative, and disregarding a proper sense of brotherly love. Violence is a routine fact of life. Sex is casual. And, for much of the population, illegal drugs magically anesthetize the misery of living.
In America, Christianity may be considered just one religion that competes with many belief systems. Our schools and universities have adopted Secular Humanism for the foundation of academic study —the religious and philosophic outlook that man alone is the measure of all standards of life, and that humankind will triumph without supernatural intervention. However, after Humanism succeeds in displacing a godly morality, its emptiness and pessimism often cause people to seek another spirituality, such as astrology, New Age religion, or even the occult.
The church prays for revival, without acknowledging its own responsibility for contributing to the overall moral crises. For despite all the religious activity, the church today is more worldly than Christian. Confirming the pursuit of the American Way of Life through the teachings of Jesus and Scripture underlies most worship services. The ideal of this lifestyle and its system of values appears to be the nation's true common religion. This concept of life provides unity to the American culture from a diversity of religious faiths and ethnic backgrounds, as well as the thread of stability to focus on amid all social upheavals and conflicts. (See Bibliography below)
Originally, this belief system was based on a democratic world view — what is the right, the good and the true; freedom of religion, opportunity and expression; faith in education; moving ahead according to personal ability; and enjoying the material benefits of free enterprise. However, increasingly the American Way of Life is coming to represent merely the pursuit of materialism and social prestige according to humanistic values. Formal religion is still accepted, but only for the sake of having religion, without regard to how a biblical sense of ethics even could affect business decisions or political ideas.
It is no surprise that the church has strayed so far from the biblical witness of what it should be. Christ actually was crucified because he was opposed by the best educated theologians of the first century, who held the most prestigious positions among the people of God, the Pharisees. This group ignored the miraculous works of the Holy Spirit and defied Christ, because he did not conform to their traditions.
Today, we think nothing about reading the Bible in English, but those men who made the original translations were burned at the stake and branded as heretics. At the time, an English Bible was contrary to church tradition. Only priests were to read the Bible and only in Latin. Only the church leadership was given the power by God to interpret Scripture, and those who disagreed appeared before their tribunals, just as Christ stood before the Sanhedrin.
Indeed, the history of the church is stained by the incidents of its leaders always opposing any true movement of the Holy Spirit because of its traditions. Every major religious revival in the history of the United States was publicly denounced by prominent leaders within the church, because the techniques used by improperly educated, popular preachers were not traditional. In these revivals God was addressed intimately, and women prayed in public. Choirs were placed at the front of the congregation, and sinners were asked to make decisions for Christ right on the spot. And worst of all, the power of the services always involved displays of emotion.
The abuses among the people of God that led to the crucifixion of Christ or the Reformation were blatant and extreme. Yet, religious hypocrisy is not merely a matter of history, but to this day it exists in the church in subtle and distinct forms, as we have our own customs and traditions to suit modern circumstances. Actually, we find such abuses beginning in the book of Exodus, when the Israelites immediately build a golden calf to worship on leaving Egypt, chp. 32, and continuing throughout the Bible up to the book of Revelation, as Christ addresses the church with scathing criticism, chps. 2,3. One of the first acts recorded after the formation of the church on the day of Pentecost is Ananias and Sapphira lying to the Holy Spirit and cheating on an offering, Acts 5:1–10.
Today, leaders in Protestant churches have brought to the forefront of religious thinking a modern tradition of ideas, which actually are self-serving.
1. A pastor’s salary should be valued at twice the wages of secular employment, according to I Timothy 5:17,18.
Perhaps, this is a correct interpretation for the verse cited; but, at the same time attention is never called to the fact that Paul set an example of preaching the Gospel free of charge to the Corinthians, I Cor. 9:18; II Cor. 12:13–18, and to the Thessalonians, I Thess. 2:9; II Thess. 3:7–10; just as Jesus sent out the disciples to preach the kingdom of God with the directive, Freely have you received, freely give, Matthew 10:8.
2. The tithe is a part of the Bible that must be strictly observed.
But, the tithe is not found in the New Testament, which emphasizes assuming a spirit of giving, II Corinthians 8:7, while holding up examples of sacrificial giving, Luke 21:1–4; II Corinthians 8:1–5, and calling for a 100% dedication of a believer's life, Matthew 19:16–23; Acts 4:32–35. And, it is never noted by the church that the Old Testament requires the tithe to be shared with widows, orphans, and sojourners every third year, Deuteronomy 14:28,29; 26:12. [See New Testament Giving and Prosperity].
3. A primary principle of Scripture is to plant money in the local ministry as seed in order to obtain whatsoever is desired.
But, Christ emphasized we should seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you, Matthew 6:33; cf. I Kings 3:5–13. Christ taught that we should not be anxious for tomorrow, Matthew 6:25–32; that we should live by truth, love, and humility, Matthew 5:44; Luke 18:11–14; John 8:32; and that we must lose our life to gain it, Matthew 10:39. A Christian must be willing even to bear a cross, Matthew 10:38; 16:24.
4. Meeting set goals for an increase in membership establishes the success of a church.
Ministerial success must be measured according to the work of the Holy Spirit within the body of Christ, in ways that only can be discerned spiritually, which involves helping people acquire true inward change and maturity.
5. The test of a true Christian and holiness is to attend church each week, and to sing songs, pray, thank God, and make offerings during services.
Christians discern whether they are genuine by the Holy Spirit living in their hearts, Romans 8:9,16; by walking in the Spirit, Romans 8:4,5; and by seeking to obey God, John 14:15; I John 1:9. And, holiness is striving to be conformed to the image of Christ, I Corinthians 11:1; II Corinthians 3:18; 4:4. [See What Is Holiness? and What Is the Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus?].
6. Christians must be vigilant of Hebrews 7:17, to place themselves under the leaders of the Church.
But, the possibility of individual maturity is disregarded. John 16:13, states the Holy Spirit will guide us into all truth, and Psalm 119:99, notes a believer can have more insight than Bible teachers.
7. God primarily ministers to his flock from the pulpit.
But, all Christians are priests, I Peter 2:5, and all are gifted for ministry by the Holy Spirit, I Corinthians 12:4–11,28–31; and, this interdependence is the way Christ rules the church and how the body becomes a dynamic organism, verses 12–27.
8. Understanding God is an intellectual process derived from formal training.
But, John 7:38,39, notes that the Holy Spirit will flow like a river from the belly of a believer. Christ is the author and finisher of our faith, Hebrews 12:2. The Holy Spirit teaches us, Titus 2:11,12. God himself disciplines his children, Hebrews 12:5–11. Understanding God is a spiritual experience, I Corinthians 2:12,14.
9. The church is the building where the local congregation gathers.
The New Testament refers to the church as the believers wherein the Holy Spirit dwells, I Corinthians 3:16; Ephesians 2:19–22; I Peter 2:5. There is no directive by Scripture that believers are to construct a building for the church of Christ. [See What Is The Church].
10. The members of the congregation with the most prestige, power, and affluence are the best examples of Christian spirituality.
Christ held up John the Baptist as an example of a great man of God, Matthew 11:11; but, he did not have money, power, or prestige. To be great in the kingdom of God is to be a servant, Matthew 23:11, and to be humble as a child, Matthew 18:4. God has chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith, and to be a respecter of persons is to commit sin, James 2:1–9.
11. Assuming large debt to embellish the church building glorifies God, (not to mention individual ministries).
And, the monthly payments pressure the preachers to adapt their messages to raising money. The rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender, Proverbs 22:7. The church should be a servant to Christ.
12. The theology of other denominations is best learned from the home church, where mistaken ideas can be placed in proper context.
In reference to false doctrine, the Bible teaches that works of men come to naught by their own course, and that works of God cannot be overthrown, Acts 5:34-39. We must have faith in God to guide the believer, or we might be found even to fight against God, verse 39. Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethern to dwell together in unity, Psalm 133:1. We must set aside our prejudices and be willing to trust in an objective study of Scripture.
In reviewing the above ideas that have become a traditional part of the church, it is obvious that the body of Christ has been infected with the spirit of pride and the desire for money.
Self-serving church traditions often begin in the seminary, as students look to the example of their professors, just as church members seek to copy the character of their pastors. However, the sheer glory of being a college professor in the academic world can overwhelm the mere desire to teach the Bible. Seminary courses often are designed to be deliberately difficult, to make even simple premises seem confusing, in order that students can come to the conclusion that each subject specialty is a rocket science only a professor can master. The faculty of the seminary constantly worry over the growing number of Ph.D.s in religious studies, which threatens the security of their teaching positions; and consequently, the rigors of a doctorate program are set to ensure that there will be few applicants.
Many times pastors do not teach the Bible in church, because they were unable to learn it adequately in seminary. They have a degree in theology or biblical studies, but they cannot make the sacrifice of time and expense necessary for the process of learning Scripture on their own.
Church leaders who advocate self-serving traditions most flagrantly, normally have no idea they are abusing their positions of authority. They are certain of their doctrine, as it is firmly grounded in church teaching, and a slew of Bible verses can be cited for support. Sometimes they are actually brainwashed, but usually their justifying excuses are blatant and immature rationalism. They can be identified easily by their emotional and irrational reaction to criticism of their beliefs, and by their complete inability and unwillingness to understand any biblical basis for an idea different than their own.
Now, it must be asked — is the church today worshipping God in Spirit and in truth? — (Note John 4:23). And, people are turning from Christ in droves, because his witness, the church, seems to be completely lacking in integrity.
For a group of believers to have a truly dynamic spiritual community, a different focus must be emphasized.
1. A Christian must turn from adopting the ways of the world, Matthew 6:24; James 2:1–7; I Peter 2:11; I John 2:15. A prestigious self-image or materialistic life style is not the measure of success. We are here to serve Christ — to love our neighbor, Matthew 22:39; to consider others better than ourselves, Philippians 2:3; to regard sex as a bonding experience with our marital partner, Genesis 2:24; to live in peace, Matthew 5:9. We are a peculiar people, zealous of good works, Titus 2:14.
2. We must seek and accept God’s will for our lives. We must carry out the plan God has for each one of us, which has a primary focus on being conformed to the image of Christ, Psalm 139:13–16 (NIV); Romans 8:28,29. We cannot name it and claim it, when it consists of our own wonderful plans for ourselves. Positive thinking is not what we envision for our lives but what God does.
3. Character is what counts — integrity, love, truth, humility, even though such an emphasis means tolerating the disrespect of the world, Matthew 5:1–11.
4. To love God and our neighbor involves a lifestyle of giving unto others. Being a 10% Christian is not enough. Christ requires a 100% dedication, and every act of the believer must demonstrate love in the name of Christ, Matthew 19:16–22; Acts 4:32–35.
5. Believers must keep a close fellowship with each other as the main concept of being the church. Despite how magnificent the architecture of a church building may be, it is just one place where Christians meet, Acts 2:42; Ephesians 2:19–22; I John 1:3,7. And, the Holy Spirit is more impressed by the inward beauty of believers and their love for each other, I John 4:7.
6. God must be worshipped by the believer’s way of life, as well as songs, praises, and other church activities, Isaiah 1:1’17; Matthew 7:21. But he that doeth the truth cometh to the light…, John 3:21.
7. Believers must focus on their own spiritual gifts to minister to each other, as much as they seek help from religious professionals, I Corinthians 12:4,7.
8. Believers must strive for spiritual maturity by the diligent study of Scripture, even though listening to sermons is profitable, II Timothy 3:16.
9. The Holy Spirit must be considered the Senior Pastor of the flock. Individual pastors may plant or water, but God makes the believer grow, I Corinthians 3:6. Pastors also must consider others better than themselves, Philippians 2:3.
10. The church must carry on Christ's work of spreading the message of the kingdom of God and opposing evil. This was Christ’s directive to his disciples before his ascension, Matthew 28:18,19. The message of the kingdom is that the cross defeated Satan, John 12:31; Colossians 2:13–15; I Peter 3:22. The Baptism of the Holy Spirit was given to believers for service, Acts 1:8.
The Church of the Love of Christ is a spiritual fellowship based on the authority of the Bible. We are a part of the universal church, but we are not overly concerned with outward forms of religious expression, that depend so much on popular social values, legal observances, and a testimony of faith by ritual.
The key to living in fellowship is having respect for the individual. To relate to another person on a spiritual basis requires a recognition that coming to know a person from the soul is a privilege. Every person is as complex as being made in the image of God.
Church leaders should act as assistants to the Holy Spirit. A pastor provides guidance in becoming a part of the process that the believer experiences in arriving at the truth, either theologically or personally, with the awareness that maturity finds as many forms of expression as individuals are unique.
As a Church, we seek to demonstrate the love of Christ by focusing on biblical principles and by avoiding the abuses that arise from tradition. And though the gates of hell may come against us, with Christ as our savior and the Holy Spirit as our guide, we shall prevail.
A Second Call to Reform and The Philosophy of the Church of the Love of Christ constitutes a chapter from Only the Essentials: Clear and Simple Outlines on Complex Theology Copyright 2001 by Montgomery Paul Webb. All rights reserved. However, permission is granted solely to private individuals to make ten copies of any disc containing this book, to include whatever other publications are available therein from the Church of the Love of Christ, for distribution to friends and acquaintances, on the conditions — 1. that the entirety of the contents of the disc is copied;— 2. and that absolutely no change, addition, or omission is made.
From printed material, photocopies only of any chapter can be made privately by individuals for distribution to friends and acquaintances, on the conditions — 1. that the entirety of the chapter is copied and distributed, including the pages of the chapter rendering the name The Church of the Love of Christ, the author’s name, and the copyright notice; — 2. and that absolutely no change, addition, or omission is made.
Chapters include — Introduction | What Is The Non-Institutional Church? | What Is Love? | Seeking Christian Humility | The Image of Woman in Scripture | Corinthians Un-Compromised? | A Brief Synopsis of Jonathan Edwards’ RELIGIOUS AFFECTIONS. | Charles Finney on Evangelism: Brief Synopses of REVIVAL FIRE and POWER FROM GOD.
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