"church" busyness, "going to church", "institutional" (organizational) church, awakening to spiritual expectations, entertained by pastor or music ministry, evangelizing souls mission, participants, participatory Christians, passive pew potatoes, spectatorial Christians, spectators, staduim event church gatherings
That day about three thousand took him at his word, were baptized and were signed up. They committed themselves to the teaching of the apostles, the life together, the common meal, and the prayers. Everyone around was in awe—all those wonders and signs done through the apostles! And all the believers lived in a wonderful harmony, holding everything in common. They sold whatever they owned and pooled their resources so that each person’s need was met. ~ Acts 2:41-45, MSG
If we are born again, saved (justified), and filled with the Holy Spirit, then we know how rare it is that believers actually mature, spiritually speaking, in the traditional “institutional” (organizational) church. The harsh truth is that, worldwide, the long-established “institutional” church has been stunting the majority of believers’ spiritual growth for years. As a result, instead of men and women in the ministry fulfilling their mission of evangelizing lost souls and awakening God’s saved children to the expectation that, by the work of God’s Grace and His Holy Spirit, they are able to live holy and empowered lives, too many of 21st-century believers have become “church” spectators instead of Kingdom of God participants!
Concerning the idea of “going to church,” biblically speaking, born again, saved (justified), and filled with the Holy Spirit believers know that Jesus the Christ’s New Testament “house of God” isn’t even called a “church.” The Word of God repeatedly refers to the Lord’s believers as the “called out ones” (the assembly or congregation … ekklesia/ecclesia) of the living God, which means these believers are members of the family of God (members of the Household of Faith). Moreover, from ekklesia/ecclesia’s inception, God intended that the Lord’s ekklesia/ecclesia ONLY would be built with spiritual matter. Put differently, God meant for the Lord’s ekklesia/ecclesia to be a spiritual building that has Jesus the Christ as the sure foundation, or the chief cornerstone.
In fact, according to the New Testament meaning, an ekklesia/ecclesia is a spiritual body of believers that originally consisted of ONLY born again, saved (justified), and filled with the Holy Spirit members who daily met and fellowshipped in various out-of-doors locations, like along roadsides or in courtyards; or in various indoors places, like inside rented halls, or inside different homes. Additionally, the New Testament’s “house of God” is NEVER described in the Word of God as a physical structure, even though the Scriptures describe Jesus the Christ as the cornerstone or the foundation upon which He “builds” His ekklesia/ecclesia, and even though the Scriptures teach that it is Jesus the Christ who daily adds those who are being saved to His ekklesia/ecclesia.
Bottom line is that the concept of “going to church”—going to a physical building meant for “sacred worship”—would have been a foreign idea to the 1st-century believers. In fact, in the first 3 centuries after Jesus the Christ’s death, NO ekklesia/ecclesia had a “sacred worship” building—NO ekklesia/ecclesia was a physical, brick and mortar temple, synagogue, or sanctuary. Then, by 324 A.D., Emperor Constantine began ordering the construction of “church” buildings. Indeed, over time, the traditions of the Roman Catholic Church influenced Gentile believers to emphasize a physical structure rather than a spiritual Body or community of witnessing believers. Consequently, over time, many of the traditions of the Roman Catholic Church became the reasons for why both the meaning and the application of genuine intimacy with and open participation in the ekklesia/ecclesia (the community of witnessing believers) were lost.
For the record, God “called” every believer, every one of His Household of Faith children, to be a participatory Christian community that has intimate, open, unscripted and spontaneous gatherings, as opposed to the aloof, closed, predetermined and planned gatherings that take place in a spectatorial Christian community. Additionally, Jesus the Christ “called” every believer to be a participatory Christian community (His ekklesia/ecclesia), in which genuine fellowship or “koinonia” doesn’t just mean being together, like sitting in “church” during Sunday morning worship service, or attending Sunday School, or being in a Bible Study class, or having a potluck dinner, and so forth. The real spiritual meaning of the Lord’s kind of fellowship or “koinonia” is doing together—that is, the Lord’s kind of fellowship or “koinonia” means ALL believers are doing God’s Perfect Will together, and this doing God’s Perfect Will together is what they each had in common (cf. Acts 2:44). Unfortunately, since both the meaning and application of true intimacy with and open participation in the ekklesia/ecclesia (the community of witnessing believers) were lost, most of the 21st-century Christians worldwide are either ignorant about or unwilling to emulate this having all things in common oneness or spiritual fellowship that in the Greek language is called “koinonia.”
Not only are the early traditions of the Roman Catholic Church the reasons why both the meaning and application of true intimacy with and open participation in the ekklesia/ecclesia (the community of witnessing believers) are not being demonstrated in the modern day “institutional” church, but also the traditions of contemporary “religious” men and women are the reasons why most of today’s “churchgoers” have become comfortable with being pew sitters. These pew sitters are more comfortable with being spectators who “go to church” primarily to be entertained by their pastor, the music ministry, the dance ministry, the drama ministry, and so on, than they are comfortable with being motivated and encouraged to take part in real “Christian” activities, which invariably would make them Kingdom of God participants.
In essence, the recognized “institutional” church has made the faith of most “churchgoers” not much more than a spectator sport, where most of these content pew sitters are never rubbed the wrong way by a predetermined programmed order of service. In fact, many contemporary “churchgoers” are happy waiting for the lively music to begin, for someone (usually a worship leader or a choir) to lead them in four or five songs, for “church” announcements, for the tithes and offering plate or basket, for someone to tell these pew sitters what God is saying, for the altar call, for possibly more singing, for the Lord’s Supper (usually on the first Sunday of every month), for another prayer, for the benediction, and for the mass departure.
In addition to the spectatorial “churchgoers” who are content pew sitters, there are those spectatorial “churchgoers” who are addicted “church” members—addicted to the idea of “church” busyness, or the idea of “doing or playing church.” That’s right! There are many spectatorial “churchgoers” who are addicted to “going to church”—going to a brick and mortar building—where they can fill up their lives with “church” activities. Like the contented pew sitters, the majority of addicted “churchgoers” don’t mind participating in the scheduled worship service by singing some songs, putting some money in a plate or basket, listening to a sermon (being preached to or preached at), and then going home.
The remainder of these addicted spectatorial “churchgoers,” however, are hooked on their local church’s super-sized prepackaged version of “church” activities, especially those “church” activities that satisfy their needs, which often include but are not limited to: “church” leaders whose visionary programs/ministries make the lives of these addicted “churchgoers” worth living; discipleship training classes; spiritual growth seminars; Sunday School classes; large unsociable Bible Studies or small intimate cell study groups; opportunities to serve others by using their time and skills (but only when it is convenient for these addicted “churchgoers” to be busy “church” members); inspirational cutting-edge worship experiences; quintessential children’s program; evangelistic ministries and/or mission programs; and planned types of fellowship (believers’ get-togethers).
While this super-sized prepackaged version of “church” activities makes it easy for these addicted “churchgoers” to pick and choose what they need in order for them to satisfy what they believe is them doing the Will of the Father, these busy “church” activities only end up making it impossible for these believers to fulfill their “call,” inside and outside of their “sacred walls,” the way that God has intended for them to do. The point here is that just because believers make themselves busy with the “church” activities that satisfy their own needs that doesn’t mean that they definitely are following the Lord’s idea of fellowship or “koinonia,” nor does their busyness emphatically prove that they are doing the Perfect Will of Father God!
The sad truth is that only a few modern-day “churchgoers” have an active involvement in the Kingdom of God beyond merely attending the “institutional” church’s weekly worship services. This small minority represents the true Spirit-led Body of Christ, who not only is discontented with being just a spectator (just a comfortable pew sitter) but also this small minority of Spirit-led believers can’t wait until the weekly “church” service is over so that God’s Kingdom business receives the attention it needs.
As earlier mentioned, God “called” every believer, every one of His Household of Faith children, to be a participatory Christian community that has intimate, open, unscripted and spontaneous gatherings, as opposed to the aloof, closed, predetermined and planned gatherings that take place in a spectatorial Christian community—the “institutional” (organizational) church setting. Nevertheless, even though what God started out with, which was a 1st-century ekklesia/ecclesia that consisted of active participants, in the 21st century, which for the most part has perpetuated the earlier centuries’ changes, what God now has is an “institutional” (organizational) church that mostly consists of passive (inactive) spectators.
Unfortunately, the contemporary version of the traditional “institutional” church is now a place where the people who truly love each other are not allowed to have any REAL fellowship with one another (NO genuine “koinonia,” which by the way refers to an inner “oneness”—a combined spiritual relationship between believers and their God, their Savior, and every Household of Faith sibling. It is this combined spiritual relationship that ultimately expresses itself in an outer display of a community of witnessing believers’ co-participation with the infilling Holy Spirit. In other words, the inner “oneness” becomes an outer manifestation of a community of witnessing believers who have ALL things in common, which, as previously mentioned, means TOGETHER they are accomplishing God’s Perfect Will on Earth. Once again, it is important to note that this inner “oneness” or combined spiritual relationship ONLY happens when EVERY believer in said community of witnessing believers is: 1. filled with the Holy Spirit, and 2. fellowshipping not only with God and the Lord but also with other brothers and sisters—true believers, the ekklesia/ecclesia, or the spiritual community of witnessing believers also known as an assembly of “called out ones.”
Furthermore, today’s version of the “institutional” (organizational) church is now a place where the people who truly love each other cannot really have dinner (the Lord’s Supper) together the same way they did during the 1stcentury. Back then, when born again, saved (justified), and filled with the Holy Spirit believers broke bread and drank wine together, they truly were able to spend time fellowshipping with one another, as they remembered Jesus the Christ and what He accomplished for them. This time spent fellowshipping was longer than just a moment or two of meditative silence, and longer than just the short time it takes today’s believers to turn around or step in the aisle so that they can shake the hands of the other Lord’s Supper participants who sit nearby.
Then too, as a result of demanding that believers not only attend but also become “members” of a local “church” building (and/or a specific denomination), today’s “institutional” (organizational) church also is now a place where the people who truly love each other do NOT enjoy the company of the person sitting next to them. This last statement is true, because “churchgoers” are not permitted to have any interactive conversation about the work of Jesus the Christ during the scheduled programmed weekly “church” services.
Lastly, today’s “institutional” (organizational) church is NOT a place where the people who truly love each other can provide the God ordained mutual edification and exhortation during the scheduled programmed weekly “church” services. Contrary to popular opinions, the New Testament’s mentioned reasons for why God’s children are to assemble together do not suggest that worshipping God is the primary reason. For sure, believers can worship God just about ANYWHERE and just about ANYTIME. Thus, the real reasons that believers assemble together—the reasons why they should be “going to church,” or rather, the reasons why they should be meeting in an ekklesia/ecclesia (a spiritual community of witnessing believers)—are for equipping one another for God’s Kingdom business, and for edifying (building up) and exhorting (encouraging) one another (cf. Ephesians 4:12; Hebrews 10:25b). Believers also should assemble for the purpose of having fellowship meals together (Acts 2:46).
Based on each one of the mentioned problems with the contemporary “institutional” church, as well as the many unspecified problems, it should be obvious that the believers who attend an “institutional” church are attending a spectatorial event instead of being involved with a participatory community. As a spectatorial event, in most of today’s local churches, there is a top-down hierarchy with only one, in some cases two, but usually not more than three “spiritual leaders” (e.g., the “senior pastor,” “associate pastor,” and “board of elders”) who do everything, in spite of the fact that the New Testament teaches a shared and equal administration (harmony) of diverse functions and gifts (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:27-31; Ephesians 4:7-16)!
Moreover, according to the Word of God, there is NO scriptural basis that believers can use to justify placing their responsibility of mutual edification, exhortation, discipleship, and ministry (serving others) into the hands of today’s professionally taught clergymen called pastors. The sad truth is that many of these modern-day pastors who are professionally taught think that they and their sermons are to be the only focal-point of every Saturday or Sunday gathering, even though the New Testament teaches that the local “ekklesia/ecclesia” meeting is to be a time and a place where true Christians actively use their spiritual gifts for the purpose of equipping, edifying, and encouraging one another to demonstrate godly love and to do good deeds (cf. Romans 12:4-8; 1 Corinthians 12:4-13; 1 Corinthians 14:26-33; Colossians 3:15-17; Hebrews 10:22-25; 1 Peter 4:7-11).
Bottom line is that modern-day pastors are not producing spiritually mature, ACTIVE, responsible, and functional Christians. Instead, 21st-century pastors are producing a generation of passive pew-potatoes. Furthermore, this problem is exacerbated by the fact that men and women are the ones who have established, for the most part, one authorized leadership position (pastor) in the “institutional” church that now is a titled position—for example, Pastor Jim, Pastor Sally, Pastor C, or Pastor T. Additionally, because of the established “religious” traditions of men and women, the “institutional“ church’s pastor is viewed as the ONLY person who should bear the burden of his or her flock’s corporate salvation. The grave errors in these “religious” traditions of men and women are that said pastors and many members of their congregations have forgotten that Jesus the Christ is the ONLY Head of His ekklesia/ecclesia, no matter if the majority of humans call His ekklesia/ecclesia a “church.” Equally important is the fact that Jesus the Christ is the ONLY Great Shepherd who is over EVERY contemporary pastor’s flock!
Furthermore, the absolute truth is that the only time the word “pastor” is used in the New Testament is in Ephesians 4:11, and even then it is NOT used as a title but rather as a gift, as a function. In other words, pastors, like evangelists, teachers, stewards, elders, and overseers, are ministers of the Word; that is, pastors, evangelists, teachers, stewards, elders, and overseers all have the same special supernatural gift, which is the ability to explain the Scriptures. Then too, every apostle, prophet, evangelist, teacher, pastor, steward, elder, and overseer also has the same God-given role of equipping, edifying, and encouraging the saints so that they (everyone, not just professional apostles, prophets, evangelists, teachers preachers, stewards, pastors, elders, and overseers) can do the work/business of God’s Kingdom ministry (cf. Ephesians 4:11-16; 1 Peter 5:1-2).
Finally, there can be no doubt that those believers who are born again, saved (justified), and filled with the Holy Spirit know that there are many Body of Christ members who are returning back to meeting places that either are “without walls” or are “home groups.” The main reason this return is happening is because the above descriptions of the “institutional” church do not fit the descriptions of Jesus the Christ’s 1st century New Testament ekklesia/ecclesia.
Then too, those believers who are born again, saved (justified), and filled with the Holy Spirit know that preaching is for the unsaved individuals, but teaching and discipling are for the saved people. For this reason, as well as all of the other mentioned reasons, believers who are born again, saved (justified), and filled with the Holy Spirit also know that the present day “institutional” church is crumbling under the weight of its ways that “seem” right to many spiritual leaders but in reality are ways that have been fundamentally contrary to the Lord’s prescribed Ways. Moreover, these believers know that God Himself is the One who is causing the “institutional” church’s breakdown. This revelation knowledge is the reason why believers who are born again, saved (justified), and filled with the Holy Spirit definitely won’t get caught in the metaphorical wreckage caused by the fallen pastoral elitists’ top-down hierarchical leadership structure, nor will these born again, saved (justified), and filled with the Holy Spirit believers get caught in the literal rubble caused by tumbling steeples, bell towers, posts, and walls.
Therefore, let there be no doubt about it. The 1st-century Way of Jesus Christ, His ekklesia/ecclesia’s koinonia, is being born again, and this time His Way will remain as the unstoppable movement He promised it would be (cf. Matthew 16:18; Acts 2:41-45).
For additional information about ekklesia/ecclesia and the koinonia kind of Christian fellowship, please read my blog entries: Hurt By Your Physical And Spiritual Families and The False Pretense Of Being Divided By FAITH