Feeling so encouraged in the Lord! Be blessed!

Reminded these past few days of the glory and mystery and beauty of the body of Christ…. So much to think on and strive for and seek after!  For all that is so highly disturbing, detrimental and worldly in the institutional church, yet there is hope and overcoming for the Bride of Christ.  We need to renew our minds when it comes to thinking about this subject, remembering that the company of the saints is NOT equal to the institution, realizing that the unity Jesus prayed for was NOT organizational unity, understanding that there is hope and victory ahead for the Bride in this age of syncretism and hypocrisy!  Stand fast saints 🙂

What makes me livid

“We only examine tithing records/giving levels of individuals when we are considering someone for leadership”

Isn’t this very pious-sounding statement a direct taunt at the Bride of Christ, inciting her to defy our Lord’s wise teaching about giving in secret?  Tempting her with promises of vainglory and authority?  Leading her into the snare of man-fearing?  Manipulating her with guilt, fear and flattery?

Why I Quit Tithing (and you can too)

Yay! Seasons of refreshing indeed! 🙂

Seasons of Refreshing

Spending a lifetime in the organized religion, I have always heard about “tithing 10%”.  It was a must.  If you want to be a really good Christian (whatever that means), and have God’s blessing on your life then tithing is a non-negotiable.

As the years went by and I began to grow in my faith, I began to see inconsistencies between the church of America and the church of the Bible.  I saw inconsistencies in the way the church was managed and run, inconsistencies in priorities, inconsistencies in leadership, and mostly inconsistencies in tithing philosophy.

Most people’s (especially unbelievers) biggest complaint against the church is that they are all about money.  I began to study this thing of tithing, to see what the truth really is.  What I found, and will endeavor to show you in the next few paragraphs, is that tithing, though biblical, is an unChristian activity.

Tithing in the Bible

The tithe was something…

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Cell group musings

Sometimes, when thinking and reading about the church (institution), I come across the reasons that people have become disenfranchised … among these reasons are things like this:

– no true fellowship, just shallow relationships, it’s more like a meet and greet.

– no real opportunities to serve or minister

– feels like a performance/show and I am just a spectator

– I can’t contribute to the meeting or raise any questions, it’s a one way street

– feels like a money grab, we are always being asked or guilted into funding the organization

In response to these experiences, it is often countered that the cell group (and not the Sunday meeting) is the place/context intended to meet these needs for deep fellowship, ministry, outreach, service and dialogue.  So join a cell group, they say.

So then, if cell groups are the place where all the significant and meaningful stuff happens, what’s the point of the Sunday meeting anyways? :-/

Are you free?

I read an interesting article this morning and it got me thinking about freedom – specifically the freedoms of Christians within organized church establishments.  If you are a Christian who attends/considers yourself a member of an institutional church, do you consider yourself free?  More to the point, do you consider yourself free to hold and express opinions and interpretations that differ from the leadership?  Do you find yourself defaulting to the leadership’s viewpoint or do you assume their version and understanding is correct?  Would it/Does it ever occur to you that they might be gravely incorrect?  If so, do you feel free to challenge anything you disagree with?  Are you able to, and do you regularly, try to evaluate objectively the things taught and said from the leadership?  Do you ever try to play the devil’s advocate?  Do you rely on the leadership to provide you with God’s perspective?  Do you ever wonder if the leadership’s perspective is really God’s perspective?  Are you free?

Nicolaitans

Jesus hates the deeds and doctrines of the “Nicolaitans” and promises to fight against them with the sword of His mouth. (Whoa!)

From what I have read so far, it seems that this Nicolaitan doctrine was about ranking certain people in the body of Christ as higher than others, and these authority figures – a special, elite class – then dominating the rest.

No wonder Jesus hates and condemns this.  Such doctrine brings division, destroys fellowship, breeds fear, people pleasing and envy, and robs the body of Christ of true communion, joy, life and unity.

What would happen if…. :)

…We arrived at church and nobody had prepared/rehearsed worship songs to sing?  Nobody had prepared a sermon?  Nobody had an agenda?  Would we all stand around and stare at one another, bewildered?  We don’t believe that WE are consumer Christians (that other church down the street is, of course, but NOT us!). 😉 yet if there is nothing prepared for us to “consume”, would we get into the kitchen and get cooking together?

What would happen if an offering was taken and the money was then immediately distributed to those among us who had a financial need?  What would happen if any one of us could lead a song the Lord had put on our heart, share a scripture in turn, bring a testimony, ask for prayer, exhort the group with a word from God.

Wow…… we can dream, right?

What is institutional vs not institutional church?

Simply put, institutional church is a mentality.  It is not about where a group of believers gather (a building, a warehouse, a house), although I don’t think it is completely irrelevant where we gather (form precedes function, and some venues are far more accommodating to the institutional church mindset – in fact some architectural features are even designed to propogate the mindset).

There are some characteristics of this institutional church mindset that help to identify it.  One of the chief characteristics is that there exists in this mindset a necessary division in the church between leadership (clergy) and laypeople (laity).  This type of thinking utterly constricts the body of Christ and inhibits every member functioning, the life of Christ expressed through each individual, the voice of the Spirit being spoken among us all, the true priesthood of all believers.  Sure, lip service is cleverly paid to these Bible truths, but in PRACTICE it is this ‘leader class’ that controls, directs, vetoes, decides, speaks, allows, disallows, directs, spends, withholds, affirms, approves, disapproves, is above questioning, travels, discerns, hears God, speaks on God’s behalf, and just generally freely operates.  RATHER THAN Christ directing the entire Body and each individual member of it.

The rest who are not of this clergy class operate by a different protocol.  If they wish to participate in body life, they need to approach the leaders to seek permission, approval, or be approached by the leaders to be offered opportunities (which can sometimes be flattering and this itself shows how ungodly this system is, as it breeds the fear of man/people pleasing – a snare, the Bible says).  There is no true spontaneity or initiative available to the Christian in this set up (only as much freedom as the leaders give you) and therefore, it is inevitable that such a mindset leads to a loss of motivation, a loss of joy, and a sense of disconnectedness and mere going through the motions on the part of the people.  The leaders call repeatedly on the laypeople to volunteer, commit, do more, reach out, be intentional, etc etc.  Also, various programs are generally in swing to keep up the level of activity and momentum and give the people a feeling of involvement and ministry and give the church the appearance of vitality and joy (to outsiders/enquirers).

Truly authentic relationships/fellowship are difficult to have within this mentality and methodology, as individuality is stifled in favour of the aims of the institution.  Uniformity/conformity is an unspoken goal.  Christ is not the centre but the institution is (again, lip service is paid to His preeminence but not walked out in the way things operate). You may not think or say anything that seems to challenge, express doubt, question or contradict the leaders (either to them or to others in the community) and sometimes you will be tempted to ignore the still small voice of God, or even His written word, when He is trying to lead you in a direction different to that of the institution.

It is so sad that we have not challenged this mindset which we have inherited and blindly accepted from those who have gone before us.  More people are waking up to this and seeing what true spiritual life and community can be, beyond the institutional church mentality.  Praise God.