A Modern Woman's Perspective On The Kingdom of God on Earth

Showing posts with label The Church. Show all posts
Showing posts with label The Church. Show all posts

December 17, 2023

"Resist The Devil"... Do Not Be Fearful or Deceived! Take A Stand!

How many times have you heard that when we are struggling in this world, we are to just "resist the devil and he will flee from you"? But are you ever told what that means and how to do it? More often than not, in the churches I have attended, I heard James 4:7 quoted over and over, but never received Biblical instruction on what that looked like. Instead, I often heard that we have nothing to fear from the devil because he "is bound and chained" until Jesus returns to destroy him forever in the Lake of Fire. 

But that leaves a lot of details out, and if you seriously study the Bible, the timeline of events just doesn't jive with that explanation. And how are we to reconcile the Scripture that says "our adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour"? Furthermore, how do you explain away the fact that so many Christians are struggling with sin and demonic attacks? And whether the Church wants to admit it or not, the attacks are real and they are demonic.

As hard as it is to contemplate, it all adds up to deception because Christians are confused and ignorant of the ways in which Satan works in the world and in the lives of Believers. I can't tell you how many wonderfully saved Believers we have seen in our ministry who had no idea that Satan was behind all the sorrow and struggles in their lives. They were more likely to believe that God "allowed" their struggles. That is a lie from the pit of hell, and it is shameful that our seminaries have failed to correct that misconception. Instead of teaching church leaders how to Biblically "resist" our Enemy, they usually preach the message to try and "ignore" the devil and "hope" he will flee.

In addition to the denial of the truth that resisting the devil is anchored in spiritual warfare [another subject matter that has been neglected in the curriculum in our seminaries], we find that the understanding of the power of the Holy Spirit in us has also been undervalued. Believers must come to realize that just because you have been Saved, it does not mean that the devil will quit trying to stalk you. Salvation does not guarantee a devil-free life. You are not transported into the magic Kingdom of God, where the devil has no access. 

On the contrary, you are now behind enemy lines, because "the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one" (1 John 5:19).  In fact, you can expect that you have become an even bigger target for him, and he will use all the tricks and schemes that worked before you accepted Christ to cause a crack in that new foundation. What's more he will lie to you and tell you that you are still that sinful, evil person. And because you haven't been equipped to recognize the power of the Spirit or that the weapons of spiritual warfare can defeat the devil, you will struggle to remember and declare that you are a NEW creation! 

Do you know that resisting the devil means "to stand firmly against"; to "withstand"; to "oppose, battle against; fend off, and stand up to"? The Western religious system has done a wonderful job in understanding the fundamentals of how to preach Salvation. But it does not do well when it comes to protecting the flocks from the schemes and deceptions of the devil. How many times, growing up in the Church, did you hear sermons on the strategies of Satan in the world, or how to defeat the demonic strongholds in your life? 

It's sad to say this, but the Western Church has largely ignored the very real presence of Satan and his tactics in our culture and in our nation. And we are even unawares that the ancient deceptive gods of Egypt and Babylon have been resurrected and are flourishing on their altars across our land. By now I'm sure you have heard about the Navy Reserve Officer, Michael Cassidy who decapitated the statue of Satan erected by The Satanic Temple in the Iowa State Capitol building. Citing "righteous indignation" and "Christian civil disobedience", he stated he was offended that this blasphemy was allowed to be displayed. And I found it interesting that his lawyer stated the primary reason our laws don't stop this kind of irreverence against the Lord, is because "they fear taking a stand against Evil". 

So, as we have seen time and time again, our government has NOT resisted the devil and his efforts to corrupt not only our nation, but our faith. It makes me sad to say this, but the Church has not done much better in taking a stand against Evil. In fact, it has compromised with it, instead of resisting it. Can we say that the Church has taken a definitive stand against adultery, fornication, sodomy, idolatry, murder -- because taking a stand is what "resisting the devil" would mean? Or have we trivialized our sins by resorting to deceptive lies and softened the significance of these sins by calling them "an affair"; "safe sex"; "gay love"; "veneration"; and "pro-choice"? Sounds like the Church also has a healthy fear of taking a stand against Evil.

But it's far beyond the time to recognize that we can no longer play it safe in this war we are in between Good and Evil! And yes, we are in a war for our nation and our faith! We are in a spiritual war, fighting with God's angelic army against the angelic forces of Satan in the spiritual realms. We are in an informational war with the media sources and financial backers of the godless world elite. And we are in a very real earthly military war between the world's super powers. The question is, who are you listening to and following? Do you recognize that Satan and his demons are not myths? Do you understand the truth of the Bible that depicts a battle between God and Satan -- between Good and Evil -- from the serpent in the Garden in Genesis, all the way through the Bible to Revelation, when Jesus throws His Enemy in the Lake of Fire? That's the tension that runs throughout the entire Word of God, and it's the same tension that is at war this very day!

It's time that we see that Jesus is not only the Lord and power behind our Salvation experience, but He is also the Lord over our nation, our culture, our faith, our families and everything in our lives. He is the Lord over the spiritual battles -- and the war of words/information -- and the military conflicts that are threatening to topple this world. But we also need to see that Satan is active in all these realms, too. And we need to grasp the truth that it is our responsibility and duty, as obedient followers of Christ, to resist our Enemy's advances. And having no fear, we are to go forth in defense of God's Truth, His Goodness, and His Sovereignty! Amen!

#deceptioninthechurch #satansdeception #falseteaching #warbetweengoodandevil #evilinourmidst #resistthedevil #thedevilwillflee #thedevilsliesanddeception #james4:7 #spiritualwarfare #demonicstrongholds #jesusversussatan

2 Corinthians 11:3       But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.

March 8, 2021

Do You Identify As The Ekklesia Or The Church? It Makes A Difference!

Do you know the difference between the Ekklesia and the Church? Can you tell the difference? About two years ago I heard a teaching by Pastor Dutch Sheets that put into words what my spirit has been discerning for some time, but was struggling to put into perspective. He was able to clarify the two ways that the Body of Christ operates... as both a Family and a Kingdom government. 

For example, as the Family of God, the Church sees Jesus as the Good Shepherd, the Bridegroom, and the First-born Heir (as the Son of God). In God's Kingdom government, Jesus is King, Lord, and Master. In our Church Families, we are part of Jesus's flock. According to God's Kingdom government on earth, we are the Lord's army. In the Church Family, we are healers and have rights and privileges. In the Kingdom government, we have responsibilities to be destroyers by tearing down strongholds and principalities. As the Church, we are to grow the Family of God until Jesus comes again. As the Ekklesia, we are to grow and extend God's Kingdom and its culture until Jesus returns. As the Family, we worship. As the Ekklesia, we govern. Starting to get the picture?

For awhile now, I have discerned that we have been operating solely as the Family of God [in our capacity as the Church]. It is past time that we mature and grow into our responsibilities as the Ekklesia. All we have to do is look at the state of our nation and the world to understand that God doesn't want [or need] a Church that is willing to compromise with the world. Look at where that's gotten us! The Church has remained fairly silent about ungodly strongholds of abortion, gay marriage, child trafficking, racism, human slavery, corrupt politicians and governments, etc. Oh, we speak up within the four walls of our buildings, but we have little effect on the morality of our culture outside our four walls. Take a look at our nation's laws... do they show the fruit of the Church's representation of Heaven's laws?

I believe that in this age and season, God wants [and needs] an Ekklesia that is taking down strongholds in the spiritual realms and reclaiming territory from Satan's kingdom of darkness on the earth. Since the Book of Acts, the Church has been given great power and authority to act on behalf of God's Kingdom. But to be honest, they don't know they've been entrusted with doing the works Jesus did to destroy the works of the devil. Far too many pastors and teachers don't train or equip their flocks to battle in the spirit, which is where Satan does most of his work! In recent centuries, the knowledge of the Church's power and authority has been eliminated from their identity; they no longer know how to walk in it. Instead they minister to each other, and Satan keeps the Family of God satisfied in the building, and ineffective in the world. Meanwhile the souls outside the building are spiritually dying.

I want to be clear ... God isn't finished with His Family! But He wants His children to change the atmosphere in their homes, their towns, their schools, their nations, and the world. He wants them to be willing to speak prophecy of His promises in the Bible to the dying, the hurt and the wounded. He wants them to do prophetic acts as representatives of the Kingdom of God on earth. The Church should look like the Church did in the First Century -- healing the sick; raising the dead; declaring prophecy over government leaders; baptizing and making disciples; carrying the Gospels of Salvation and the Kingdom to the far corners of the earth. 

The Church [as Family] should know the powerful tool of prophecy and understand how it works in the spiritual realms, because it can have a profound effect upon the works of the devil. But I'm not even sure we know what a prophetic act is or how it works. A prophetic word is when the Holy Spirit enables one to hear directly from God and you receive a message that is to be spoken to an individual, or a congregation, or even a nation and the world. The key is to discern that what you are hearing is actually from the Holy Spirit. And that requires a maturity that comes from experience with the Holy Spirit and being filled with Him. When that rightly discerned word is spoken, it actually opens up a portal over a region so that God can see His word manifested -- in His timing and His sovereignty.

Thankfully, I believe the Ekklesia is beginning to grow and mature into its identity and function [to see God's justice done on the earth]. We are beginning to show the Family of God that He is more than Love, Mercy and Grace (as powerful as those attributes are in their own right). But, as His Word tells us, God's cup of wrath will one day soon be filled up and He will tell Jesus to mount up on His white horse and dispense His Righteous Judgment upon the earth's wicked and evil. At that time the Church will have finished its mandate to reproduce and grow the Family of God; the number of those who will receive Jesus as King has been reached. It will be time to bring the fullness of the restoration of God's Kingdom on earth that He began in Genesis. Mankind will step into its dominion role and the Kingdom will truly "come on earth, as it is in Heaven". We will see reformation come upon the earth, as we leave the Church age behind, and enter the age of the Millennial Kingdom. That transformation and reformation is beginning now. 

That's why it's important to know how you identify yourself. Because I will tell you that Satan and the citizens of his kingdom of darkness will not easily give up the reign they have enjoyed these thousands of years. And frankly, as the Family, the Church is not equipped to defeat him or his minions. How can they expect to, if they are not walking in their power and authority? But the Good News is that, as we are growing into our identity as the Ekklesia, we are beginning to come together as powerful cohesive groups. And it is amazing to see what a remnant can do when they are equipped with 1) God's Divine strategies; 2) the weapons of our warfare [the shield of faith, the sword of the Spirit, the prophetic word of how to bring down strongholds, and the authority to call on the Heavenly Host to assist us, among others]; and 3) the keys to the Kingdom [forgiveness, prayer, fasting, binding/loosing, etc]. 

But perhaps the most powerful thing we, as the Ekklesia, have going for us is our righteous zeal -- our tireless devotion and determination to see the cause of Jesus and His Kingdom firmly and irrevocably established on the earth. That my brothers and sisters, should be the heart of both the Church and the Ekklesia. But the Church has not taken the necessary risks to see the Kingdom established. Instead, they have reconciled and compromised with the world. Their 501(C)3 status has kept them largely on the sidelines as our families, schools, and nation have abandoned Godly principles. Yes, Jesus is our Savior, the Lamb of God, and our Advocate. But it is time we see Him in His identity as the Lord, King, and Judge of the earth. I honor the Church and all it has accomplished throughout time. But I am excited to welcome the remnant within its walls that sees the truth of the Gospel of the Kingdom and is willing to become the Ekklesia. The world will not welcome us, and our mission will be arduous and not without conflict. But may our faithfulness and fortitude (courage in the midst of pain and adversity) usher in the glorious return of the King of Heaven and Earth!

Isaiah 40:10      Look, the Sovereign Lord comes as a victorious warrior; His military power establishes His rule. Look, His reward is with Him; His prize goes before Him.

November 20, 2020

To The Ekklesia: We Must Fight To Keep Our Faith From Being Redefined!

Dr. George Barna fills an important role in our Christian culture. In 1984 he founded the Barna Research Group and helped it become a leading marketing research firm focused on the intersection of faith and culture [before selling it in 2009]. He currently serves as the Executive Director of the American Culture and Faith Institute, which recently published the results of their survey in its American Worldview Inventory 2020 (AWVI 2020). Sadly, it is not encouraging news. The following is a report by the Cultural Research Center (CRC) on what this survey revealed.

No surprise, the report stated that "American Christianity is undergoing a post-Christian Reformation -- with the nation's major Christian groups rapidly replacing traditional theological beliefs with the culture's secular values." The CRC took a look at Evangelicals, Pentecostals and Charismatics, mainline Protestants, and Catholics and found that they are all "creating new worldviews that are only loosely tied to the Biblical teachings that have traditionally defined them." Instead of the Church influencing the culture, it is as I have stated many times before, the culture influencing the Church. And to state the obvious ... that's not how it should be! The survey revealed some disturbing trends among these faith groups and here is a simplified view of how it breaks down: 

Evangelicals: More than half (52%) reject absolute moral truth; 61% do not read the Bible on a daily basis; 75% believe that people are basically good. The study found that between one-third and one-half embrace beliefs and behaviors that are counter to Biblical teaching and long-standing Evangelical beliefs. My Note: I think we should take a harder look at that statistic, because they could be people like me, who don't necessarily agree with the man-made doctrines which have been corrupted from the original teachings of the Bible. In other words, what are those long-standing beliefs?

Pentecostals and Charismatics take secularism a step further: Two-thirds (69%) reject absolute moral truth; 54% are unwilling to define human life as sacred, with half claiming that the Bible is ambiguous in its teaching on abortion; and 69% say they prefer socialism to capitalism. A full 45% did not qualify as born-again Christians.  My Note: I would like to understand if we are all in agreement on what "born-again Christian" means. Does that mean those surveyed don't believe that Jesus is God incarnate, and do not accept Him as their Savior? Or that He died, was buried and rose again? I would like a little more information on what their "qualifications" for born-again are.

Mainline Christians were the most secular of the four faith groups: 60% of this group's beliefs directly conflict with Biblical teaching. The CRC found that three key values define this group: truth and morality are relative; life has no inherent value or purpose, so individuals should pursue personal happiness or satisfaction; and traditional religious practices are no longer seen as central or essential to their Christian faith. Only 41% of Mainline Protestants are born-again.

Catholics are increasingly secular and permissive. This group's beliefs align sharply with Mainline Protestants, but differ substantially from Evangelicals and Pentecostal/Charismatics. They are most likely to believe in salvation through works (or living a good life), and least likely (28%) to be born-again. They are more permissive than the other groups, being most likely to accept sexual relations outside of marriage, and seeing lying, speeding, and refusal to repay a loan as morally acceptable behaviors. 

It is time that we American Christians face the reality that "the modern Church" has done a poor job of safeguarding and protecting the legacy of the First Century Church. I can look back over my lifetime and see the moral decay that is rotting the foundation of what was established in the Book of Acts. Instead of our Christian churches educating an unbelieving citizenry about morality, values, meaning and purpose, we let the unbelievers influence and impact our worldview so that it is no longer Biblical. We now look like the world, instead of influencing the world to look like Jesus. 

It makes me cringe when I hear this phenomenon called a "Post-Christian Reformation". That title tells me that the impact of Christians in the culture is in the past, and this "reformation" looks nothing like Martin Luther's, which was motivated by a desire to restore Biblical truth and purity to the Church. Our Churches seem to have shifted from focusing on the redemptive and supernatural work of Jesus Christ to a focus on personal efforts and how to be a "good" Christian, instead of an authentic follower of Christ. And in case you think I am over-stating the seriousness of the Church's failings to impact the world, consider some of these statistics from the survey:

• 48% believe a person who is good enough or does enough good works can earn salvation

• 44% do not believe history is the unfolding narrative of God's reality

• 44% claim the Bible is ambiguous on its teaching about abortion

• 43% maintain that when Jesus was on the earth, He sinned

• 43% do not believe our purpose is to know, love and serve Him who created us

• 42% seek moral guidance from sources other than the Bible

• 42% do not identify or confess their sins on a daily basis

• 40% do not believe that human life is sacred

• 40% believe that lying is morally acceptable if it advances personal interests or protects reputation

• 39% identify the people they always respect as having the same beliefs as they do

• 36% prefer socialism to capitalism

• 36% fail to seek God's will and purpose for their life every day

• 34% reject the idea of legitimate marriage being between one man and one woman

• 34% say that abortion is morally acceptable if it spares a mother from financial or emotional hardship

• 32% do not thank or worship God every day

Shocking, isn't it? So, in conclusion, I want to once again, exhort the Ekklesia to rise up and change the direction of our nation and the Body of Christ. We need to lead the Church away from secularization and stand for Biblical relevancy in our culture. Do not compromise and do not fear the rebuke of those who do not agree with you. It is quite apparent that we are a society who has strayed far from Biblical truth and it will be our destruction if we don't return to the righteous path of our Savior. Let us show the culture how powerful the faithful remnant can be!

2 Timothy 4:3-4     For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.




April 1, 2020

More Thoughts....


     Way back in 2012, I wrote an article entitled Our Nation's Achilles Heel, and at the time I was focused on how I viewed this world and what I could see going on "behind the curtain", so to speak. At the time, I was concerned about a particular mindset of Americans called "normalcy bias", and I identified it as this: a tendency (or preference) to view the world around us in its usual, customary state. And like I said, in 2012 I was focused on the geo-political state of the world, so someone's normalcy bias might manifest in a mindset that said, "America will always be a Super Power.  No one or nothing is going to take us down"; "I still have a job. Everything's going to be alright"; "I don't need to prepare. If I just believe in God, He will take care of me." "Nothing's really changed in my life; I still do all the things I've always done. What's the big deal?"
     But the condition of our lives today proves that we were walking on shifting sand. Our lives have changed dramatically in the past few weeks. The severity of the threat of COVID-19 is still largely unknown, and people are dealing with the fear of instability and an uncertain future. I can't imagine how those without faith in Jesus are traversing this "new normal". And, in reality, I'm not too sure that many Christians aren't struggling, too.
     However, I see this season in our lives as a blessing and a huge opportunity to "reset" our paradigm of faith. Our mega churches with their "business as usual" agendas are closed to the public. Our normal ways of worshiping and sharing the Gospel have changed. Could we soon see the growth of small Home Churches, and the birth of new ministries that are unhindered by the conventions and norms of 21st Century Christianity?
    To the world, our circumstances might look bleak and depressing, but if we take a closer look in a spiritual sense, we should be able to identify the Lord at work. Perhaps this is a time when He will use the unorthodox and out of the ordinary to reach the world... and will we have hearts softened to receive them?
     After all, He tells us in His Word that "the Gospel of the Kingdom will be preached to all the nations and then the end will come" (Matthew 24:14). We know that Western Christianity has not accomplished that goal and perhaps it's time we gave up our normalcy bias and considered new ways to share the Good News of the Kingdom.
     There are bold, new voices speaking to the Body of Christ; voices that call for us to step outside the box and walk in the Lord's ways. Just as He walked an innovative path in a world dying for evidence that YHWH could still intervene in their circumstances, I believe that Jesus is raising up a generation of fresh and radical visionaries that will unleash a new Kingdom strategy to defeat the Anti-Christ and his agenda. They will walk in unprecedented power and spiritual insight regarding new understandings of our purpose as Christians and Kingdom representatives. We will no longer be stymied by worn out religious traditions that do not attract the world to our message.
     I believe we will see people exhibiting the signs and wonders of our Father in Heaven as He prepares the world stage for the Kingdom message to spread across the globe. Before he died, Pastor Myles Munroe referred to Matthew 24:14 and asked the question, "Have our churches actually postponed the return of the Lord because we haven't been preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom?" Might this pandemic and the changes it is bringing to how we "do Church" be a way that allows God to hit the pause button so we could realign our purpose with His? I'd like to think so.
     And that's why I'm excited about this time we find ourselves experiencing. I have great hope that we will see changes for the better. To those who view our circumstances from a secular viewpoint, it might be a scary time. But I know there is always God's perspective, and within that realm there is hope and opportunity to see what He wants to accomplish and then to look through a Kingdom lens to find the ways to join with Him, Jesus and the Holy Spirit to see His will done on the earth.
     So, please join me in praying that new voices will proclaim the Kingdom agenda for our lives and that the Body of Christ will have ears to hear. And let us live each day as if tomorrow we will see Him descending from Heaven with a cry of command!

John 14:1   Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me.

November 17, 2019

A Historical and Biblical Argument In Favor of Women

Once more, it seems as if Beth Moore has found herself the target of religious men. This time it is Reformed Baptist pastor John MacArthur who has her square in his sights. Although MacArthur lists his church as non-denominational, his doctrine of salvation is clearly founded upon Calvinist theology. [It has been my experience in a church I attended for 20 years that many Baptist churches move to a "non-denominational" designation to appeal to a wider audience]. But let me be clear, this post is not about my views on any particular belief system, but about the good Pastor's recent statements regarding the place of women [such as Beth Moore] in the the leadership of "the Church".
     During a panel discussion among male preachers, MacArthur was asked his opinion about including Beth Moore as part of the Church's circle of leadership. He responded that he would tell her to "Go Home", and then followed that comment with, “There is no case that can be made biblically for a woman preacher. Period. Paragraph. End of discussion.” According to The Christian Post, MacArthur argued that 1 Corinthians 14:34, which reads: “Women should remain silent in the churches,” shouldn’t be “hard to understand.” “You don’t say anything,” he stressed, later adding: “Women need to get themselves under control and realize they are not to speak in a church.” But MacArthur wasn't through. He went on to say, “When women take over a culture, men become weak; when men become weak, they can be conquered. When all the men have been slaughtered, you [women] can sit there with all your jewelry and junk. You’ve been conquered, because you overpowered your protectors.”
     Okay, Pastor, I think I have presented your argument fairly. Now, let me bring another point of view to this little controversy you've stirred up. In fact, I am borrowing from a post that I originally wrote over four years ago. I still stand by it. So, let me first share another Scripture that is often used to substantiate Pastor MacArthur's position: A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet (1 Timothy 2:11-12). By the way, although both verses in 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy refer to women remaining silent, the latter verse is the only I could find in the Bible that refers specifically to women's authority in the Church. So, without a confirming witness, I decided to take a deeper look at this conflict and see within what context the Apostle Paul made this statement.
     As always, I find that our English translations of the Bible leave something to be desired when comparing them to the original Hebrew and Greek manuscripts.  Such is the case with the central word in the argument against women leading men in instruction ... it's the word, authority.  It seems that a study of Paul’s letters shows that he regularly used a form of the Greek word “exousia” when referring to the use of authority in the church.  But in this particular verse, Paul used the word "authentein".  This unusual Greek verb is found only once in scripture and rarely in extrabiblical texts, where it is usually associated with aggression.  Authentein is translated as “domineer” in the Latin Vulgate and New English Bible and as “usurp authority” in the Geneva and King James Bibles.
     So if Paul used the word exousia when talking about the use of authority in the church in 1st and 2nd Corinthians, Colossians, 2nd Thessalonians, and Romans; why would he choose to use authentein to refer to the same thing in 1 Timothy?  Could he have been referring to something else?
      This is where the context of this passage is so important!  In the case of 1 Timothy, Paul was writing a personal letter instructing Timothy about how to deal with heresy being spread by false teachers in Ephesus. This is spelled out at the beginning of the letter: "As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer or to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies…".
     On the surface, there are a few things to consider when correlating this warning with the suggestion that Paul meant women had no authority in the church.  1)  Could it be that most of the teachers of false doctrine in Ephesus were men, and that women might have had little training in theology; making them subject to repeating these false doctrines?  It would seem to me that Paul might have been warning the Ephesians that any interest in these false doctrines by women might become dangerous to the Church.  If that is the case, then this warning in 1 Timothy is specific to that church in Ephesus, at that time -- not meant to be a permanent restriction on all women for all time.
     2)  Keeping the context of this letter and these verses in view, remember that Paul was writing to the Church in Ephesus; a city known for its worship of goddesses, as well as heretical Gnostic teachings.  Some of the Gnostic texts of the time sometimes described Eve as Adam’s teacher. She is also depicted as superior to Adam, as preceding him, and as giving life to him in some way (part of the goddess obsession).  His admonition that women should not assume authority over a man might have been in answer to these Gnostic teachings.  (The Gnostic teachings on Eve could be what Paul is referring to in 1 Timothy 2:13-14 when he pointedly explains that Adam is the superior one, not Eve.  Reading these verses out of context to what was going on in Ephesus gives a completely different meaning).
     3)  Then there is the contradiction between other examples of Paul's writings where he provides instructions for women praying and prophesying in church (1 Corinthians).  When Paul mentions the spiritual gifts, he does not state that women are restricted from receiving any of the leadership gifts.  And it is interesting to note that he takes special care to record commendations to a number of women serving in leadership positions (Romans 16).  Can we agree that Paul is generally supportive of women’s participation, which contradicts the idea that women must be silent? 
     But I keep coming back to that word authentein.  The mystery of why Paul used that particular word instead of his more common use of exousia drove me to dig deeper.  Why did he include this passage about women and authority in a letter that began by warning against false doctrines and myths?  As expected, the uncertainty of 1 Timothy 2:11-12, has resulted in much historical study of the times.
The goddess Cybele and her consort, Attis
     It seems that in Timothy’s time and locale, the goddess Cybele (called Artemis by the Greeks) was worshipped through violent rituals against men that symbolized the murder/suicide of a false god named Attis.  In his letter to Timothy, Paul repeatedly warns against false doctrines, mythology and extreme forms of self-denial (1 Timothy 1:3-7, 4:1-5, 6:20-21), even referring to the false teaching and related practices as “demonic”.  The violent act symbolizing the death of Attis was indeed an extreme form of self-denial.  Male priests of Cybele and Attis renounced all sexual feeling, irrevocably, through ritual castration.
     When the 5th Century Christian theologian Jerome translated 1 Timothy for the Latin translation of the Bible, he forever changed the meaning of our contested verses.  Let me explain.  He translated the key verb authentein as "to exercise authority", and rendered it more in terms of “having dominion over” or “dominating” a man.  Prior to Jerome's translation, the word more commonly referred to the instigation or commission of an act of violence, suicide or murder.  In the Greek Septuagint, for example, a noun form of the word (authentas) refers to those who engaged in ritual violence in the worship of a false god.
      Are you starting to see the connection between Paul's initial warning against false doctrines and false gods or myths, and the more accurate interpretation of giving his prohibition against women teaching or instigating ritual violence against men?  It's all in the context of what was going on in Ephesus!  The nature of Paul’s concerns, the most common meanings of the verb “authentein,” and the religious and cultural context in which these verses were written are all lost in Jerome’s Latin translation of 1 Timothy 2:12-15.  Subsequent translations into German and English followed Jerome's misleading example.  Concerns about women becoming involved in false teaching and violent rituals were replaced with warnings against leadership and teaching roles for women in the Church.  It seems very possible that Paul's true counsel was lost in translation!
     I recognize that this new understanding I have projected is only a theory; and I also discern that it will likely not change the 1600 years of bias against women as having a place in the Church's ministry as teachers ... or in the case of John MacArthur .. as preachers. Believe me, I am no feminist looking to usurp the leadership of men -- I am simply trying to put forth the argument that the Lord has bestowed the spiritual gifts of teaching and prophesying and wisdom upon women as well as men.  Why would any man deny himself the benefit of learning from a woman whom the Lord had blessed?  Certainly, Priscilla played a major role in furthering Apollo's education on the full gospel of Jesus (Acts 18).  And then there is Phoebe, whom Paul commends in Romans 16 as a "servant of the church". I find it interesting that the word servant is translated from the Greek word, diakonos, from which our English word deacon comes from. At the very least, it does seem that Paul intends us to understand Phoebe as in some sense an official representative of the church at Cenchreae.
     And again, it's ironic that in a time when women could not be legal witnesses, Jesus Christ chose women as the first witnesses of His resurrection. So, Pastor MacArthur, I believe that women can still be witnesses of His glory today, to all who will listen. I pray that you receive divine revelation on this matter.
It seems that in Timothy’s time and locale, the goddess Cybele (called Artemis by the Greeks) was worshipped through violent rituals against men that symbolized the murder/suicide of a false god named Attis.  In his letter to Timothy, Paul repeatedly warns against false doctrines, mythology and extreme forms of self-denial (1 Timothy 1:3-7, 4:1-5, 6:20-21), even referring to the false teaching and related practices as “demonic”.  The violent act symbolizing the death of Attis was indeed an extreme form of self-denial.  Male priests of Cybele and Attis renounced all sexual feeling, irrevocably, through ritual castration.

For a more comprehensive look at the ancient Gnostic teachings, false doctrines, and translation errors that contributed to our confused understanding of 1 Timothy 2, please click here.  My thanks to Bob Edwards for his outstanding research and commentary.

Acts 2:17-18    And it shall come to pass in the last days, God declares, that I will pour out of My Spirit upon all mankind, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy [telling forth the divine counsels] and your young men shall see visions (divinely granted appearances), and your old men shall dream [divinely suggested] dreams. Yes, and on My menservants also, and on My maidservants, in those days I will pour out of My Spirit, and they shall prophesy [telling forth the divine counsels and predicting future events pertaining especially to God’s kingdom].

November 7, 2019

More On Why We Are To Be An Ekklesia And Not A Church

     If any of you have been following this blog for any length of time, then you know that I struggle with what we call "The Church". And please know that I am not painting a broad brush across all churches or church-goers. But if we can honestly look at our culture and the state of our families and say that the Church has done a good job, then we are misleading ourselves. And many times I am perceived as misleading, at best -- and heretical, at worst -- when I express my opinion that our modern versions of the Bible have mistranslated the original concept of Jesus's "called out ones" to convince us that our models of a body of Christians who meet in a building, hire a minister to preach to them, and support the organization with their tithes is what Jesus said when He proclaimed, "Upon this rock, I will build My Church." He actually used the word Ecclesia, which comes from the Greek words ECC, meaning "out", and KALEO, meaning "to call".
     When the original writers of the New Testament wrote the Books of the Bible, they used the word Ekklesia, not the word, Church, [which comes from the Greek word, Kuriakos, meaning "pertains to, or belongs to, a lord"]. So, why would they choose to use the word Ekklesia to refer to a Christian body of people? Remember, Ekklesia means "called out ones", and what would these Christians have been called out from?
     Consider Acts 17:1-9. Paul and Silas were in Thessalonica, speaking in a synagogue about the lordship and kingship of Jesus. Apparently they were causing quit an uproar among the citizens and a mob approached the home of a man named Jason, where they suspected Paul and Silas were staying. But listen to how they describe Paul and his companion: “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also, and Jason has received them, and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.” 
     What did they mean that Paul and Silas were "turning the world upside down"? They were turning the WORLD SYSTEM upside down! In ancient Rome, the Caesars were king and oftentimes deified upon their deaths. But here comes Paul saying that they should owe their allegiance to the resurrected Jesus, who was a greater King than King Caesar, and whose kingdom was not of this world! They were dethroning human kings and calling out groups of believers to stand in opposition to the worldly systems of their day, and to act as representatives of their Heavenly king. Paul wasn't a  "church builder" as we so often hear him declared. He was a "kingdom builder", teaching the principles of God's heavenly government -- in opposition to the civil government of Caesar. Paul and Silas were extending Jehovah God's call to whoever would receive it and obey. Those whose hearts responded to the call became citizens of King Jesus's (the Messiah) kingdom and joined themselves to the Ekklesia; the community of believers who walked in Heaven's system of government, not the world's. 
     Let's go to the next step -- it is important to understand that these bodies of believers were independent civil bodies of Christians. They saw themselves as independent from kings and governing officials and ruled by God's system of government through the Holy Spirit. They shood for independent self-government under the authority of God, Himself, and guided by His anointed leaders. Does that sound like anything the majority of our "Churches" represent today?
     It seems to me that instead of being in opposition to the world system, they have become enslaved to it. Our churches have become religious organizations attached to their 501(c)(3) designations. Instead of the Ekklesia of the Book of Acts, who stood in opposition to the world system, our churches too often look just like [or promote] the systems of the world.
     I want to summarize this notion that as the Body of Christ, we have a misplaced identity, and are incorrectly positioned. Jesus said He would build His EKKLESIA! It's becoming urgent and critical that we step into that role! Opposition to the world's system, its form of government, and its rulers was the message Paul and Silas carried on their travels. And I would like to quote from a sermon by Catherine Booth, known as "the Mother of the Salvation Army", but who also championed women's rights to preach the Gospel. She wrote, "Opposition! It is a bad sign for the Christianity of this day that it provides so little opposition. If there were no other evidence of it being wrong, I should know [it] by that. When the church and the world can jog along together comfortably, you may be sure there is something wrong. The world has not altered. Its spirit is exactly the same as it ever was, and if Christians were equally faithful and devoted to the Lord, and separated from the world, living so that their lives were a reproof to all ungodliness, the world would hate them as much as it ever did. It is the church that has altered, not the world". She died nearly 130 years ago. Think how far down the rabbit hole to "little opposition" we've come.
     The Bible is clear -- Paul and Silas turned the world systems upside down and proclaimed a new kingdom; the Kingdom of God. I invite you to answer their ancient invitation to become a "called out one". It's okay to come together as an independent body of believers, ruled by the Holy Spirit to overthrow the world systems of abortion, gay marriage, sex trafficking, pornography, adultery, pharmakea, and all anti-Christ spirits. And in doing so, it is crucial that we carry forth our King's message of love, service, and sacrifice. But be prepared to be hated, just as Jesus said we would. In the final analysis, I'd rather be hated as the true Ekklesia, than loved as the compromising Church. 

Revelation 3:14-22      Then write this to the angel of the Ekklesia in Laodicea: ‘These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation ...  you have no eyes to see that you are wretched, pitiable, poverty-stricken, blind and naked ... All those whom I love I correct and discipline. Therefore, shake off your complacency and repent...

June 6, 2019

Why The Church Is Not Christ's Ekklesia

      Please don't be offended by the title of this blog post. This is an important discussion that needs to be conducted because it determines how we see our purpose in the Body of Christ. Let me explain.
     I have been reading an excellent book by Dean Briggs, titled Ekklesia Rising: The Authority of Christ in Communities of Contending Prayer. I highly recommend it to anyone who is seeking to walk in the power and authority Christ conveyed to us, His followers. It is vitally important that we come to a correct understanding of the Word of God, and Jesus's instructions to us. This means we must agree on how the words "church" and "ekklesia" differ.
     I want to be very clear on this matter ... the accepted Greek translation of Matthew 16:18, which is, And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it, is more accurately translated in the Aramaic/Hebrew as, I give you the name Peter, a stone. And this truth of who I am will be the bedrock foundation on which I will build my ekklesia—my legislative assembly, and the gates of hell [power of death] will not be able to overpower it!
     The problem is, we modern day Christians assign the same meaning to "ekklesia" as we do "church". But they are not even the same word when translated as Jesus intended! "Church" is the word kyriakon, meaning "assembly or congregation". While the literal translation of ekklesia is "to call out", that meaning became associated with "assembling" and became [wrongly] interchangeable  with "church". But isn't the Church an assembly of people, gathered together for the common purpose of worshipping God? What difference does it make if we call ourselves "the Church" or "the Ekklesia"? 
     Do you see the modifying phrase Jesus uses to describe His ekklesia ... "My legislative assembly"? This had a very specific meaning to Jesus. In using that word "ekklesia" instead of "kyriakon" He is not referencing a religious meaning. Those Jesus was speaking to understood that Ekklesia referenced a legislative body [or ruling council] with expansive authority in determining the affairs of a territory. Theologian William Barclay states that when Jesus declares He will be the foundation of an assembly of called-out followers to rule over Death and the affairs of the earth, "The summons was not to any selected few; it was a summons from [Heaven's government] to every man to come and shoulder his responsibilities; it was a summons from God to every man to come and to listen to and to act on the word of God". Dean Briggs adds, "The responsibilities shouldered by each member came with real and collective power to enforce the will of the ekklesia within the community". That is the real purpose of "the Church"!
     This is a very abbreviated explanation of the power of the word "ekklesia", and I hope you get the idea that if "the Church" was truly acting as an "ekklesia", we would be living up to our responsibilities of governing the earth with the will of God in the areas of abortion, sex trafficking, drug cartels, radical sexual agendas, perversion in our entertainment industries, poverty and racism -- all of which bring death to the soul and spirit.  Jesus says, "You are My ekklesia; My government," but instead of being a true ekklesia, we have settled for being "the Church", where we gather together to celebrate Christ, but we don't rule our communities, and we certainly don't enforce His will!
     I know that last part of my statement will offend those who see our role as only encompassing love and mercy and compassion. I agree that is to be part of our nature, resembling those characteristics of our Father in Heaven, but in Matthew 16:18 Jesus is not calling for those characteristics. He is calling for us to be aggressive in defeating the power of death by storming the gates of hell! Dean Briggs presents a fascinating question; one that each of us who calls ourselves a Christian should consider: "Why are we seated with Christ on a throne, if we refuse to rule?" He then adds this serious statement: "Our passivity is actually rebellion; perhaps sedition, for it undermines His government. God forgive us"!
     You see, in Matthew 16, Jesus deliberately assembled His 12 Disciples at Caesarea Philippi, knowing it was a notorious site known as "the gates of hell", where detestable acts of worship to false gods were committed, including prostitution and sexual interaction between humans and goats. The locals literally believed that the cave located at the foot of a cliff was the gate to the underworld; the gate to Hades [hell]. 
      But Jesus wanted His Disciples to be aware that they were to be His governing body on earth -- His ekklesia. They were not to fear evil such as this, and they were to attack the gates of evil, no matter how fierce the resistance. Furthermore, He told them, I will give you the keys (authority) of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind [forbid, declare to be improper and unlawful] on earth will have [already] been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose [permit, declare lawful] on earth will have [already] been loosed in heaven.
     Jesus clearly gave us our ruling authority in Matthew 16, as His ekklesia. But instead, we have become "the Church", wielding little to no power in "determining the affairs" of our communities, our states, our nation. And our society and culture reflect it. Ask yourself this question: Does death, sickness, poverty, child abuse, pornography, or addiction have any voice or influence in Heaven?  We have been given a governing charter by our Sovereign King, and legal authority to forbid these things on earth, or anything that is foreign to Heaven. We are commanded to rule in prayer and authority! If we acted upon our responsibilities and walked in our proper identity as Christ's ekklesia, we could shift the destiny of this nation. We must begin to walk in the strength of our assigned power and authority. We must love our enemies, but we must conquer evil. How do we walk out both sides of that equation? I'll tackle that question in the next post.

Psalm 82:4-6         Your duty is to deliver the poor and the powerless; liberate them from the grasp of the wicked. But you continue in your darkness and ignorance while the foundations of society are shaken to the core! Didn’t I commission you as judges, saying, ‘You are all like gods, since you judge on my behalf. You are all like sons of the Most High, My representatives.’ 

May 15, 2019

The Ekklesia, The Kingdom & The Seven Mountains of Influence

     As I was finishing up my study of Hebrews, I was struck by the various interpretations of some verses in Chapter 12. I feel as if the Lord is leading me on a treasure hunt, and one verse leads to another and then back to a previous understanding; and somehow it all comes together to form new revelation.
    So, let's follow the Bible's trail of clues, shall we? As we begin Chapter 12, we find that the writer of Hebrews [which I believe to be Paul] is exhorting the believers to persevere through trials, as well as God's discipline, in order to enter into the earthly presence of God. In fact, the Bible says in verse 8, We all should welcome God's discipline as the validation of authentic sonship..
     All of this is given to us as encouragement to let us know we can enter into the presence of God just as Moses did on Mount Zion. However, we enter into a different realm than he did --- his was a physical mountain; ours is a spiritual mountain. Hebrews 12:22 says, By contrast, we have already come near to God in a totally different realm, the Zion-realm, for we have entered the city of the Living God, which is the New Jerusalem in heaven! We have joined the festal gathering of myriads of angels in their joyous celebration! (TPT)
     Let's take a minute and unpack this important verse. "We have already come near to God" indicates that the fullness of our heavenly salvation and our entrance into God’s heavenly realm has already taken place. We also see that truth in the following verses: For he knew all about us before we were born and he destined us from the beginning to share the likeness of his Son. This means the Son is the oldest among a vast family of brothers and sisters who will become just like Him (Romans 8:29); He raised us up with Christ the exalted One, and we ascended with Him into the glorious perfection and authority of the heavenly realm, for we are now co-seated as one with Christ! (Ephesians 2:6); Christ’s resurrection is your resurrection too. This is why we are to yearn for all that is above, for that’s where Christ sits enthroned at the place of all power, honor, and authority! Yes, feast on all the treasures of the heavenly realm and fill your thoughts with heavenly realities, and not with the distractions of the natural realm. Your crucifixion with Christ has severed the tie to this life, and now your true life is hidden away in God in Christ. And as Christ Himself is seen for who He really is, who you really are will also be revealed, for you are now one with Him in his glory!(Colossians 3:1-4).
     As we walk out our salvation here on earth, we are present with God in a totally different realm, the realm of Zion, which is used in both the Old and New Testaments as more than a location. Zion is referred to as the place of God’s dwelling. When Moses met Him, He was dwelling on the physical Mount Zion, but now we are present with Him in His spiritual mountain, the heavenly Jerusalem. This is the fulfillment of Abraham’s vision in Hebrews 11:10, and what Israel’s ancestors had seen from afar in Hebrews 11:13. The New Jerusalem is not only a place, but a people who dwell with God in their midst. It is what the Garden of Eden was intended to be. It is a city that is a bride or a bridal-city coming out of heaven to the earth (Revelation. 21:9-14). We are not going TO the New Jerusalem; we are going to BE the New Jerusalem! Are you starting to see the Good News of the Kingdom of God on earth yet?
     But wait ... there's more! Take a look at the next verse, Hebrews 12:23: And as members of the church of the Firstborn all our names have been legally registered as citizens of heaven! And we have come before God who judges all, and who lives among the spirits of the righteous who have been made perfect in His eyes! I think that perhaps this verse causes more confusion than we Christians recognize.  As members of the Kingdom of God on earth, we are citizens of heaven (having been spirits in heaven sent to earth to have dominion over it on behalf of our King). Jesus is God's uniquely Firstborn, but because of our position as citizens of heaven on earth, we are in Christ, and we are all the first-born and have all the rights and blessings that Jesus has. 
     As 21st Century Christians we don't understand that, and I think we get hung up on the part of the verse that says we are "members of the church of Jesus". And here's the real dilemma ... we don't even have the proper understanding of what that word church meant in the first century! And that confusion is compounded by the misinterpretation of Matthew 16:18, which we read in most versions of the Bible like this, And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I've read so many commentary's that say "Peter" sounds like "Petra", the Greek word for rock. And the Greek text does state that Peter is the “rock” on which the church is built. However, the implication is that it is Peter’s revelation from the Father and his confession of Jesus as the Son of God that becomes the “bedrock foundation” for the church. The earliest writings of the church fathers all acknowledge that the Rock is Jesus Christ, not Peter.
    So here is a more correct interpretation of this verse, in Aramaic: I give you the name Peter, a stone. And this truth of who I am will be the bedrock foundation on which I will build my church—my legislative assembly -- and the power of death will not be able to overpower it!  It is important to understand that the Greek word commonly used for "church" is ekklēsia. However, ekklēsia means more than a church meeting, for it signified in Greek culture the governing assembly which had the authority to make decisions for the entire city. It means “legislative assembly” or “selected ones.” This is not a religious term at all, but a political and governmental term that is used many times in classical Greek for a group of people who have been summoned and gathered together to govern the affairs of a city. For Jesus to use this term means he is giving the keys of governmental authority in His kingdom to the church.
     The problem is that the church, as we know it, has not walked in their kingdom identity, nor used their authority to govern the earth as it was originally mandated. The power of death [which is the power of Satan] was not to overpower God's kingdom on earth. True, Adam and Eve handed over dominion to the devil, but Jesus came to re-inaugurate the kingdom and gave us back the keys to govern the earth once again. The "Church" was to be a legislative body of sons and daughters of the King who would rule this earth [and all the spheres of influence within it] as a colony of Heaven. It's time we walked out our governmental duties. 
     As ambassadors of the kingdom of heaven, and its legislative body on earth, the Church was to bring the mountain of God (His Presence) to the mountains of influence on this earth; namely, Education, Religion, Family, Business, Government/Military, Arts/Entertainment, and Media. How do you think the modern Church has done so far? I would venture to say that it has lost its true identity as an ekklésia, and walks in a different identity of its own making. 
     I think we need to take a good hard look at the two final verses in Chapter 12 of Hebrews: Since we are receiving our rights to an unshakeable kingdom we should be extremely thankful and offer God the purest worship that delights his heart as we lay down our lives in absolute surrender, filled with awe.  For our God is a holy, devouring fire!
     Moses knew what it was like to be in the presence of God and experience that holy, consuming fire. Hebrews 12:21 even quotes him [at the sight]:  The astounding phenomena Moses witnessed caused him to shudder with fear and he could only say, “I am trembling in terror!" Gives new meaning to "work out your salvation with fear and trembling", doesn't it?  We are still in the process of working out our salvation while here on earth. When it is considered that we have been given the keys to the kingdom here on earth, we must ask ourselves if we have done right by the authority we received to govern this heavenly colony. I think we all know the answer -- and it's time to do something about it.

If you're looking for additional resources on the true meaning of the Ekklésia, I highly recommend two books: Ekklésia Rising by Dean Briggs, and Ekklésia by El Silvoso. Both are available on Amazon.

Matthew 23:13    Great sorrow awaits you religious scholars and you Pharisees—such frauds and pretenders! You do all you can to keep people from experiencing the reality of heaven’s kingdom realm. Not only do you refuse to enter in, you also forbid anyone else from entering in!

January 9, 2019

Trying To Understand "The Church"

     I recently read an article on the state of the Church, and I'd like to share the author's viewpoint, sprinkled with my own thoughts. This author wrote an article trying to explain why "people are leaving the church in droves" -- his quote, not mine. I'm always interested to see if the answer comes close to the reason I see so many people disillusioned with attending church (myself included). I was a little taken aback that this writer seemed to think most people pointed their finger at the lead pastor, and he went on to explain why this was merely "scapegoating" the pastor.
     The author suggested that it is important "to be rightly aligned and connected with church leadership". That's all good, if one discerns that the pastor's teaching is rightly aligned with Scripture. And being "connected" with the pastor can be a vague concept. Too often, I have seen that modeled as an inner circle that supports leadership, no matter what; regardless of how it might effect individual members or the church body as a whole. And sadly, far too often, there is a distinct separation between the "connected" and the "unconnected" -- a social order, so to speak.
     The author did say that he has no problem, himself, rocking the boat and challenging systems, motives and traditions that exist within the local church, while with honor and wisdom, advocating for reform. I agree. He goes on to say that he believes too many people leaving today's churches do so by surrendering their responsibilities as members of the Body of Christ, and become accuser's of leadership, and end up in hibernation. He then ridicules the idea that they can still "be the church" by making the statement, "You can't be the church if you don't go to church". That seems, to me, to be attaching the idea of "church" to a building, and I'm afraid that is where I have to wholeheartedly disagree with this author.
     In fact, what I have observed are Christians that have stepped in to their unique callings to exhibit the power of the Word in their lives; a move that was hindered under the authority of church leadership. The role of the Holy Spirit in people's lives was not recognized if it didn't align with church doctrine or traditions. And far from hibernating, these empowered Christians are actually "doing church" in their communities and seeing their territory expand as God uses them to continue the work of Christ in the nations. 
      We are all familiar with the Greek term ekklesia, from which we get our English word "church". It literally means "assembly", "congregation", or "meeting". It is important that we recognize that to New Testament believers, the word "church" never referred to a synagogue, temple, chapel, tabernacle, building or any other meeting place. The term always referred to the Christian assembly and, in the New Testament, it was used for both the local community of believers and the overall collection of Christians. It referred to the people!
     This is where a second author comes in. In this additional article, the writer points out that, from the beginning, the idea of "church" was dynamic. In other words, it was characterized by constant change, activity, or progress. He writes, "Never a prisoner of buildings, we see the church [an assembly of people believing in Jesus and His teachings] meeting in the temple, in a synagogue, in the street, beside the sea, in public places, and often in homes. The Book of Acts describes a community of faith in constant movement: “Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple, and broke bread from house to house. They ate their food with joyful and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. Every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved”. 
     Do our churches of today look like this dynamic picture? Or is it more correct to say that some of them are static -- unchanging, lifeless, and without power? I do not speak of this situation lightly. I have been a member for 20 years in a 5,000-member church; a member in a small 150-member rural church; and attended a small community church [without feeling I needed to sign on the dotted line to qualify as one of Jesus's own]. I have sincerely loved much of the community in each of these church buildings. But, as I look back over my "church history", I can see that with each move, God was growing and maturing my faith and understanding of Him, as well as my place in the Body of Christ. And each move came with new insight as to what the ekklesia is supposed to look like.
     Author One maintains that there needs to be a system for a pastor to effectively lead a church; that he doesn't have time to befriend everyone in his congregation. In fact, he writes, "So, if your church has more than five people attending, chances are the pastor simply won't have room for another close friend [meaning you]... Smart leaders will invest mostly in those who have proven themselves faithful." ... [Does that mean "faithful to Jesus" or "loyal to the pastor"? Just wondering.] ... The writer goes on, "Jesus devoted himself to 12, and then at a closer level to three. Pastors will hang with those who share his vision, who are fierce defenders of the church and who don't exhibit selfish tendencies. The pastor has a serious call of God to lead the church into an impossible vision, and he needs people around him who will empower that vision. If you are dead weight, they will love you, pray for you and do their best to awaken you, but they won't—and shouldn't—be close friends with you." I guess that all depends on what the vision is and what it looks like being empowered. Does it look like Jesus? Or is it fraught with human undertones and motivation? And I seriously wonder who that pastor defines as dead weight? People that don't agree with him?
      Wow! That really bothered me. Pastors will hang with those who share his vision ... Boy, have I seen that discourage more than one believer who was looking to be equipped to walk out Jesus's vision, which didn't quite coincide with the pastor's perspective. And that brings me to this point ... Author One wrote, "[A pastor's] mandate is mostly to pray and study the Word". Is that what the Bible says? Doesn't Scripture say that Jesus gave pastors "to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes". Praying and studying the Word should be routine for every Christian.
     Isn't it the job of pastors to equip and train us to walk out [in power] Jesus's commission; to be fierce defenders of the faith and to encourage us in our individual callings for God and His Kingdom? I understand the tremendous drain of time and energy that must accompany a pastor's calling -- Mark and I are experiencing it on a much smaller level with our own ministry. But when you say"Yes" to God doesn't that come with the territory? Author One decries all the demands on a pastor's life -- visiting people in the hospital, counseling members of his congregation, answering the phone at all hours of the night, and meeting all the needs of his flock. He says that there should be assigned a team that takes care of all that so that the pastor can spend his time on his knees. 

       But, if Jesus is our model, didn't He do it all? Visiting the sick and dying, counseling those who sought Him, and meeting the needs of His flock? Yes, it started out as just twelve, but the Bible tells us of the crowds that followed Him everywhere. And, yes, He needed to remove Himself from time to time and revive and refresh His body, soul, and spirit. But He never turned down anyone who came to Him in faith. We are to continue that commitment to the Body, bearing much fruit in our community with each other.

     As much as I disagree with Author One on many of his points, I do agree with him on this: "We need a new breed of leader...". Although he still maintains that there should be a team that takes care of the people, I would like to hear him say that this team does not replace the pastor, but supplements his care and guidance. I do agree with him when he says that pastors today should focus on "meeting with God, getting wrecked in His presence, gaining powerful revelation in the Word and, as a result, stand behind the pulpit with fire in their eyes and a tremble in their spirit."
     If they did that, I truly believe that you would find less people leaving the church buildings. In fact, I would love to find a community of believers with a dynamic pastor that challenged me to be who I am in Christ; who encouraged me "go out" and minister to the nations; and who trained me how to grow into unity and maturity in Christ. But even though I do not currently attend a church building, I do not feel separated or less of a follower of Jesus than my brethren who choose to attend weekly services. On the contrary, I love communing with them and sharpening each other's faith by sharing what God is revealing to us -- inside and outside the building. 
     For, I believe as Jesus forecast, and Author Two acknowledges, "the gates of Hades will not overpower it [the church]". I believe that we individuals who are walking a lonelier road are no less working for the Kingdom than those who can claim fellowship with hundreds and thousands. I see community being built among those who have left the church; community that is waking up to new revelation straight from the Holy Spirit and who is walking it out together; boldly and confidently. We are recognizing the need [and commission from Jesus, of course] to disciple new believers; to be examples and inspiration of how to live our lives. And most of all, we are understanding just how much Jesus loves His church -- every one of us! This is no time for division based on man's traditions. We are all members of Christ's Body. Let us each be true to our calling and work together to bring about God's divine plan for humanity. Go! Be the Church, anywhere and everywhere!

1 Peter 2:5           Come and be his “living stones” who are continually being assembled into a sanctuary for God. For now you serve as holy priests, offering up spiritual sacrifices that He readily accepts through Jesus Christ.