I choose not to associate "church" the same way you do.
That's the Brass Tax.
Every time I say this to someone, the inevitable question is, "Really? What have you done?"
Interesting question, allow me to retort.
I have lead people to the Lord on Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo Instant Messenger, Skype, Aion, World of Warcraft, Warhammer, Ventrilo, I have provided housing for people that had nowhere to live and when they were unable to provide payment I assured my family that we would be fine and we continued faithfully to provide for a friend in need, I have reached out and lent aid to people in Jamestown, even those whom our local churches shunned. A man who had been to the Salvation Army and was even told to seek out assistance from the local churches in the area, who was unable to find assistance. I have competently counseled through the power of the Holy Spirit hundreds of people through a variety of situations: broken marriages, addicted teens, abusive spouses, financial irresponsibility. I have interceded in prayer for family, friends, strangers, acquaintances and I could go on....
However, to me, it's intriguing because in the cases where I lead someone to the Lord and connected them to a local church, even went out of my way to get them plugged in, there were things (in EVERY CASE no one CASE in particular), where that local church seemingly dropped the ball. Why?
Because at the end of the day, it does not much matter what you collect "in the offering plate" if "what is collected in the offering plate" is not actively being used for "the members of that church".
Oh wait. It is. See the "church" commonly spoken of today is merely bricks and mortar.
The church I am speaking of is an organism.
Hear me out.
People may very well meet the Savior in a building. I am not trying to say that nothing good happens inside a church building. What I am saying echoes soundly with my views on most Non-Profit Organizations. Churches like charities, contain a Mission Statement, Values, Beliefs, and today, just about all Organized Churches claim they "MUST" Incorporate.
As far as what I have spoken to on Facebook, I am mindful that I will stand before the Lord and my words and works will be judged. I know that the fire of that judgement will in fact burn many things up.
However, I also stand firm in KNOWING that I will not sleep another sound night when someone who is a part of "my congregation" cannot.
Do me a favor and name a church currently where anyone who wills to come is welcome within?
A place free from gossip or slander?
See the average person reading this will says "A church like that doesn't exist."
I am telling you that I have seen it.
Seen it, experienced it and have discovered through that experience that what the average person is seeking CANNOT, dare I say, is not ever going to be found within Four Walls. It cannot be found snuggled comfortably behind a Non-Profit Status. It is rarely found lead by a Pastor making money from preaching the gospel, writing books about the Word of God, Dinners & A Movie for people in the community, charging for Marrying people, charging for Funeral Messages or any of the other things numerous churches and their Pastors have found to be of spiritual value cheapened as cleaver marketing ploys to finance their Retirement Package, the Mortgage, put food on the table, etc. (Please read the passage where Jesus cast the money changers out of the temple.) It is not found in having to pay for resources to "learn" the depths of God's Truth, it does not come from church building-maintenance funds,
It is found in the hearts of His People.
Is it possible for Revival to sweep through church buildings? Absolutely.
Until someone closes the door.
Consider this, if I get up from my desk and open the door on the North side of my house right now, then open the door to the South side of my house, I can feel the breeze as it moves through my house. I can partake of the wonderful effects, I can enjoy, experience and appreciate the air and know it is there. However, when it's time for me to go to bed, if I chose to close the doors I opened, the breeze will stop moving through my house and the effects of the breeze will go with it.
When people believe that the "Presence of God" rests in their church building, people "must" then, "go to a specific location" to be in the "Presence of God". Almost immediately, your next logical conclusion should be that when those same people are no longer in the House of the Lord their relationship with God may suffer for it.
Do you know someone who has said recently,
"I have to go to church this Sunday because things are so hard. I do not know how we are going to make it! I just hope that while we are there in the "Presence of the Lord" something wonderful will happen!"
I know an addict when I see one.
I was one.
I have friends that were addicts.
People all over America are addicted to God in the very same fashion.
"Church" as most people know it, is the equivalent of people giving money in a building to perpetuate a relationship with God that they should be shown is found and nurtured WITHIN THEM.
Transparently, if that were the case, if someone DID give and wanted their money to be used in a specific fashion should their wishes be honored?
We say yes, yet the Spirit of God dwells within us and Jesus already SPOKE on how our money should be used. Why?
Because when a church gathers together, if they take an offering, it is blessed with the same holy purpose as that for which they gathered.
Therefore, when a congregation member says "I am in NEED!" For the church to not meet that NEED, this quenches the Spirit of GOD WITHIN.
The church building doesn't have power.
It has electricity.
The clergy doesn't have some magic ju-ju juice, in most cases they themselves have a relationship with God that is supposed to be JUST as personal, just as intimate and what everyone sees occurring at a gathering SHOULD be theirs for the taking.
There is no longer a veil, it was torn in two. There is no longer a "Holy Place", that's your heart.
Jesus Christ fulfilled the law with his death, burial and resurrection. Therefore, there is no more 10% tithe, no partiality to certain people with a particular human condition. The very way Jesus lived, we are called to live. People are not doing this because they foolishly believe that the presence of God is VISITED, not AT HOME within.
Would Jesus turn himself away from a person in need because he assumed their response?
-I cannot give that person $10.00! The Lord knows how he will use it!
Amazing how we speak the truth as an ambiguous statement. (Absolutely. The Lord does know! He will also judge Him for that! So give it to Him! For all you know, that man was Jesus or a type-of-Christ even an Angel but you were unaware.)
Did Jesus not heal the sick man at Bethesda because he NEEDED healing despite the law?
-Rise, take up your mat and walk. Later, he says "Behold, you are well, do not sin anymore, so that nothing worse may befall you."
For 38 years that man waited to be healed by being first to the pool and praying He would be, "Touched By An Angel" On a day in which He did not know the time, the hour, even the season, He was healed by a man of flesh and blood who: 1. Stopped what He was doing. 2. Noticed a man with a need that was not being met. 3. Felt compassion for the man and proved His compassion by meeting His immediate physical need. 4. Then admonished him, to ensure that He should not sin anymore so nothing worse should befall him.
How did the Man Respond?
Did He take to Twitter and flame Jesus for being rude?
Did He formulate the perfect argument about why Jesus was so self-absorbed and seemed to care but didn't?
NO. The man listened. Because Jesus invested a portion of himself into the man.
To Christ, that man was worth healing even if his action offended the Interpretation of the Law during His day: Working on the Sabbath. Why?
Because God's work which takes place WITHIN a person's heart CANNOT be stopped by the foolish constructs of humanity and God's purpose ALWAYS trumps religion.
Yet, these buildings we call churches turn people away everyday.
On the phone, by emails, at Worship Service, the funny thing is...the building isn't turning them away...
God's People Are.
“Did you see that person...”; “he stinks!”, “she dresses weird!”, “I hear she's a lesbian!”, “oh, look here's our local drug addict!”, “Isn't that a sex offender from the local registry I know I have seen him somewhere before!”
When the "church" is not Organic, when it becomes something it was never meant to be, the Holy Spirit is quenched in the EXACT same way I would shut my doors in the evening before going to bed and stop the evening breeze from moving through my house.
When churches across the Nation, are seen taking seriously the cause of Christ and assume responsibility for the lost, the outcast, the orphaned, the widowed and the least of their community and even those who are discriminated against within the family of Christ, by actively meeting their PHYSICAL NEEDS in order that they might address their SPIRITUAL NEEDS I will take Churches and those who call themselves "Christians" more seriously.
Someone is sick right now. Not me, or mine. I was just reading a bulletin from a local church.
To assist the family they are having a Fundraising Opportunity in the coming days. That is EXCELLENT.
I see this person a lot, they work in retail. Unfortunately, regardless of where you work today, you might as well say you attend an Institutional Church because most employees can scarcely if ever redeem the time back to themselves to participate in a Fundraising Opportunity like this without a full quarter's notice. So, often, last minute emergency situations will be non-negotiable if they are not a direct family member and, in some cases including family members like an incident that occurred when my mother needed a Triple Bypass while working an awesome job that I loved, Family Medical Leave would not even be supplied in my case because I had not worked for the company long enough to qualify. So, in taking care of my mother, I lost my job.
You know what seriously grieves my soul?
If the local Church had reserved just one Sunday Offering for the need of this individual, I believe, the need would be met, I also believe God would give the increase.
Because He is who He says He is.
As for me and my house I will associate with those who take God at His Word in Fellowship. I will associate and surround myself and family with people who don't just say they love God and appreciate salvation, but everyday regardless of whether they are in Church, at work, at home or otherwise are identifying needs and meeting them in practical ways because they are thankful for their Salvation and want to share that experience with other people. Or, at bare minimum seek and strive everyday or every opportunity to teach people what that means.
If I were at the mall with a group of friends and one my friends stole something from a local store, even if I had no idea, yet I was with them; I would be arrested right along with them.
In the same spirit, I am tired of people I have never met associating "me" (i/e: my faith, my beliefs, my walk, my family) to a hypocritical, social construct, that bares little resemblance to the gatherings and mindset I read about in scripture, yet constantly has no problem shaming the name of Christ nationwide via their actions; not necessarily to one another but seemingly to “the least” of society.
This happens enough that people have even chosen to stop listening to their teachings, or believe their words and have decided to focus more on their actions and wait, to see what weird, non-biblical thing they do next while adamantly stating that they are doing these things because of their love for God!
IF God ever was found in a building that resembled a Cathedral or Local Church, I firmly believe that He left a long time ago and what we have been left with is, "Crowds of people gathering within Four Walls eagerly waiting in anticipation for Him to return."
Instead of heading the words of the messenger to the Apostles in Acts:
“Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”