Arminian Today

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Posts Tagged ‘House Church Movement

The House Church Movement and the Future of the USA

We in the West are nowhere near the persecution level of those living in Muslim nations or communist nations such as China or Vietnam.  We know little to no physical attacks here for the gospel.  While I know a few open air preachers who have been arrested for preaching and have been physically attacked by people, most people just go through their day-to-day lives without fear of attack for their Christian faith.  That may change in the future but for now, we enjoy only verbal persecution from the secular media and from the liberals on college campuses.

I do believe, however, that the house church movement will become a dominant force in the Christian culture in the coming years.  It is the house church movement that has sustained (by the grace of God) the disciples in China.  It is the house church movement that sustained the saints of God in the former communist Soviet Union.  It is the house church movement that is growing in Europe as people grow tired of the institutional church and are looking elsewhere for true faith.  It will be the house churches in the United States that will see growth and souls saved as they remain steadfast in the Word of God.

Why will this be?  For several reasons but let me just name a few.

1.  Authentic Faith.  

House churches offer a place for people to live out their faith with others.  There is no hiding here.  You can just show up at a traditional church and no one may even know you are there or even care in some cases.  Not so with house churches.   A “large” house church would be over 10 people so you can’t hide.  We will know your name.  We know your life.  We will both disciple and challenge you in your faith.  This, I believe, was the model of Jesus and should be ours as well.  True discipleship is not learning from a book or sitting in a class.  True discipleship is taking the “one another” texts of the New Testament and seeking to obey them (there are 52 in the NT).  This leads to authentic faith and not merely a show on the stage of many traditional churches.

2.  No Money.

House churches need no money.  There are no salaried pastors.  No land to buy.  No buildings to pay for.  While house churches do sometimes take up money for missions or for hurting Christians, house churches have no budgets to meet, no bills to pay.  I once read that 75% of money in the traditional churches goes toward salaries and buildings.  None of that is found in house churches.  If a disciple wants to give money to their church then so be it.  The house church would then take the money and give it to help church planters (missionaries) or hurting disciples.  This is the NT pattern.

Many people reject going to church because of the emphasis they perceive on money.  With the false “health and wealth” churches and the so-called “prosperity” gospel, many are turned off to Christianity because of their false teachers.  The house church movement doesn’t want your money.

3.  Can Move Around Quickly.

The house churches in China are said to move around quickly.  They do this to avoid arrest.  I have heard the same of the few house churches in North Korea.  Because house churches are not locked down to a building, they don’t need government approval to meet nor do they have to meet all the time in one place.  House churches in China often will meet several times a week at different locations to accommodate the needs of the saints.  They don’t just meet on the Lord’s Day.

Here in the United States, traditional churches are locked down in their buildings.  They need people to generate money for their buildings to pay the bills.  At times, the gospel can be watered down and pragmatism reigns as traditional pastors need people to keep coming to pay the bills.  Further, traditional churches fall under the watchful eye of the government.  As freedom falls in the West, traditional churches will suffer the most as people flee them.

The house church movement will thrive at this point with no buildings, no bills, no salaries, no paper trails, no 501C3.

4.  Can Preach What They Want To.

Traditional churches will no doubt face sensor from the government.  It may come a time where it is illegal to preach against sins such as homosexuality (it will be viewed as discrimination or gender bigotry).  The government will monitor the traditional church (as they do in China).  Traditional churches will have to comply or be gone.

House churches will continue to preach the gospel without hinderance.  Why?  Because what can they take from us but our lives (Philippians 1:21)?  Jesus promised us persecution as His followers (Matthew 5:10-12).  Jesus said that if we are His disciples, we will face persecution and hatred (John 15:18-20).  But He told us to be encouraged for He has overcome the world (John 16:33).  In the house churches, we will preach the gospel.  We have no 501c3 you can take.  We have no buildings you can cast us out of.  We have no salaries that require that we go soft on the gospel for the sake of money.  We have no need of this world to survive.  We have the Word of God and the presence of the Holy Spirit so we will be fine.

For more information on the house church movement, please see:

House Church Central

New Testament Reformation Fellowship 

Reimagining Church: Pursuing the Dream of Organic Christianity

Written by The Seeking Disciple

10/21/2014 at 10:26 AM

How The Clergy-Laity System Prevents Biblical Doctrine

In our day, pragmatism reigns.  Leonard Ravenhill use to say that if you let him hear a man preach for five minutes, he could tell you what books the man had been reading.  Sadly, brother Len was right.  I watch as pastor after pastor copies other pastors (usually over success more than character) and they seek to imitate the latest large church growth fads.  In our area, they copy the large seeker churches in hopes they their churches will someday be as large as those churches.  Pastors sit and dream of pastoring large mega-churches with satellite campuses all over the city.  Oh yes, they would gladly say that this is their passion for Jesus to be known and for souls to be saved but most of it is pride and money.

I know I am making some large blanket statements there.  I will begin up front by saying that I am thankful to God that I get to serve Him by driving a truck.  I am surrounded by lost guys.  I am daily getting to know lost sinners and I long to see them saved.  For me, my motivation has nothing to do with building a church or getting their money.  I just want to see souls saved.  I want 2 Corinthians 2:14-17 to be true of me.  I pray that there are many others out there like me.

On the other side are professional pastors.  I once was there myself.  I worked full time in the “ministry” for just over 10 years.  I don’t regret leaving it behind.  In fact, I now serve the Lord better than when I was in full-time “ministry.”  For professional clergy, ministry is both a blessing and a curse.  I don’t doubt that many go into ministry with their hearts set on pleasing the Lord.  Most, including myself, start out with pride being their biggest struggle.  Over time (and many failures), they see that they better trust in Christ or their will indeed fail.  Few reach the level of success that many of the seeker churches have obtained but sadly, the drive to build a big church turns many pastors toward seeker churches.  Seeker churches are driven by pragmatism.  What reigns in a seeker church is not the Word of God but a conviction that the church is for the lost.  The seeker church is designed to attract and keep the “unchurched” coming.  The “sermons” are designed to keep your attention, the music service is full of lights, smoke, flare, and shallow songs designed to keep you excited and coming.  Everything rotates around the conviction that church needs to be cool and attractive.  There is little to no emphasis on verse by verse teaching of the Bible, little to no emphasis on sound doctrine, little to no emphasis on creating an environment of evangelism and prayer.  Instead the focus is singular: the consumer.

For quickly, a biblical understanding of the church is that the church is composed of disciples who meet to build each other up (Hebrews 10:24-25).  If you read 1 Corinthians 14:26 and then consider most churches, few to none actually obey the text.  In most churches, the pastors do everything.  You might have a music pastor, a youth pastor, a children’s pastor, a senior pastor (or the new phrase is “lead pastor”).  They do all the “ministry” of 1 Corinthians 14:26.  The thought of “each one” doing this is unheard of unless you are in a small setting.  A house church can accommodate this text.  The church is to come together to edify each other and in turn the saints are equipped (Ephesians 4:11-16) to do the work of the ministry.  The church goes out to spread the gospel (Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:47; John 20:21; Acts 1:8; 2 Corinthians 5:18-21) and does not sit waiting on people to come to them.  1 Corinthians 12:13 is clear that only disciples compose the church.  I heard one brother put it this way, “In the Old Testament, God gave the world Israel and said ‘Come and see’ but in the New Testament, He gave the world the church and said, ‘Go and tell.'”  The Church is not a building as in the Old Testament where God met with His people at His chosen place (Deuteronomy 14:23) but the Church is wherever saints of God meet.  It could be a house.  It could be an office building.  It could be a field.  It could be in a prison.  God is not limited by a building.

I believe the modern pastorate hurts the spread of sound doctrine in many ways.  Pastors struggle with busy schedules as is and yet one man is told to build the church when this is not found in the Bible.  Not one singular pastor is found in the Bible but Jesus Christ (John 10:14).  Jesus is the single head of His Church (Colossians 1:18).  On most churches, they oddly put the name of one person and that is the pastor.  I have often wondered why they only choose one person to place on the name of the marquee.  Why not other gifted people in the church?  Further, where is just one pastor in the Bible?  The word “pastor” only occurs in most English Bibles in Ephesians 4:11 but even there it is not a good translation. The ESV correctly translates it “shepherd” for that is the Greek word used here.  Jesus is called “the chief shepherd” in 1 Peter 5:4.  While it would not be a good translation, one could substitute “pastor” for “shepherd” in John 10:14 or 1 Peter 2:25 or 1 Peter 5:4 and one can see that Jesus is our pastor, He is the lead pastor.

People in churches such as this one above look to one person to lead the church: the pastor.  They don’t look to the Bible per se or to the Spirit to lead them (as He did in Acts 13:2) but to the vision of the pastor.  The pastor, for better or worse, leads them to where he wants to go.  Some pastors do well and lead the church toward Christ and His kingdom.  Others push their own agenda (or usually someone else’s agenda that they admire).  What all pastors rely on is the money of the people and this can be a tough issue.  Some pastors are controlled by a board of deacons or an elder board.  Some pastors have a big giver in the church who controls them.  Other pastors have to be bi-vocational but long for the day that they can work full time in the “ministry.”

Now let me change that all up for you.  Suppose there were no pastors.  What would the church look like?  It would not go away as some quickly think.  Consider the book of Acts.  There were no full-time pastors in the New Testament Church and they did just fine.  Not once in the New Testament is one pastor referred to.  Only once does a book of the New Testament even begin by mentioning leaders and that is Philippians and they are mentioned only after Paul addressed the saints first.  In our day, a letter to a church would always begin by addressing the senior pastor and no one would think of writing a church in our day and never mention the leaders but only one book out of twenty-seven New Testament books evens begin by mentioning the leaders.  The lack of leadership is what is amazing in the New Testament books.  It was as if the Spirit of God was really leading His Church.

The book of 1 Corinthians is a case study unto itself.  Here is a sinful church.  A church that is divided, that has much sin going on in it and much chaos.  Yet Paul the Apostle never addresses the leaders.  He never mentions that leaders should bring the Corinthians under their control.  He never writes to pastors.  He never addresses the elders.  Instead, he calls the church to take care of these issues.  The church as a whole is to do the work.  In our day, we would expect Paul to address the senior leadership and tell them to do this or that to get the Corinthians back in line yet Paul never does this.  He calls them all to repent and take care of the church themselves.  In our day, we look to the pastors to do everything, to take care of problems.  Not so in the New Testament Church!

This view of mine is not to scare pastors.  I know some pastors will feel threatened and they fear having to go and get a “secular” job.  I remember those fears myself.  I actually want to free you pastors.  Not a day goes by that I don’t rejoice that I am not in the ministry anymore.  Yet I praise God that I work a “secular” job that allows me to serve Jesus and not be controlled be a clergy-laity system.  I can preach what I want to preach and not fear that someone is going to get mad and leave.  I can evangelize as I desire without fear of scarring off people who might attend.  I work for 50 hours or more a week, receive my compensation for my work, and then I serve the Lord both on my job and off.  I never fear of losing my position in the “ministry.”  I never fear of having to make church attractive for the lost.  I never worry about having to compete with other churches.  I have one focus: on living a life that honors the Lord (1 Peter 1:15-16).  I am not controlled by money.  I am not controlled by a denomination.  I want to be like the Apostles who called themselves “slaves of Christ” (Romans 1:1 etc.).  A slave doesn’t expect much (Luke 17:7-10).

Traditional pastors have to worry about money.  About people.  About boards.  About programs.  About fads.  About what to preach and what not to preach.  About how not to offend people.  About how much time to devote to family, to prayer, to the Word and yet still pastor people.  About competition with other churches.  About whether the small crowd this Sunday will mean less money.  About how to leave the ministry and make a living.

And none of that is based on the New Testament.

For more information on all this, I encourage you to read Frank Viola’s excellent book, Reimagining Church.  

Written by The Seeking Disciple

08/17/2014 at 11:24 AM

The Evolution of the Traditional Pastor

As I have been pondering the seeker church the last two days, I have once again gone back to the infallible Word of God for answers.  What is the Church?  Why does it exist?  Why did God create this thing called Church?  How does the Church take the gospel into the world or should the world come to the Church?  Do we need to create an environment where the world comes to us?

Nearly every seeker church will answer yes to the last question.  We need to create an environment where seekers feel comfortable when they attend our gatherings.  A seeker should not feel uncomfortable around a group of Christians.  They should feel welcomed and invited to come and check out these Christians and their risen Savior.  The church meetings should not full of facts (expository preaching) but with truth they can apply to their lives (topical preaching).  The number one sin of the modern church is that we bore people to death and away from Jesus.  Church should be entertaining and fun.  This is the bottom line for seeker driven, seeker sensitive churches.

And they have the results to prove they are right. Each week they have 10,000 or more people gathering in their seeker churches to prove they are doing church right.  From Willow Creek (25,000) to Saddleback (30,000), to North Point (30,000) – they have the numbers so they are right?

This, of course, is sure pragmatism.  Sadly, there are few elders in the Church today who are taking time to question the theology of these churches nor asking the number one question, “Is this biblical?”  The seeker church is not concerned with that question.  Their bottom line is the large crowds and the thousand of dollars they are taking in every week.  Further, seeker church leaders such as Bill Hybels or Andy Stanley are speaking weekly to thousands of traditional pastors trying to get them to move toward this pragmatic church style where numbers are the issue.  I have sat in pastors meetings and listened to them boast about seeker churches and large they are and when I questioned their theology, the answer was the same: they are running thousands.  We are running under a hundred.  We need help and they can help us.

So rather than being faithful to Jesus and just preaching His Word with an eye on pleasing and honoring Him, traditional pastors begin to labor toward the pragmatism of the seeker church.  They ignore all sound biblically advice.  They ignore expository preaching because it is deemed boring and out of touch with modern hearers.  They begin to read books by Stanley or Warren and other seeker church leaders and are drawn by the power and the numbers.  They begin to preach from a dynamic equivalent translation and ignore serious study of the Word.  They begin to even order sermons from the above seeker teachers and use their series’ to hopefully “attract the crowds.”

The traditional church will soon begin to model their church after the larger seeker church they wish to be.  Here in the southern United States the three main churches people want to be seems to be: North Point Community Church (Atlanta, GA), Elevation Church (Charlotte, NC) and New Spring Community Church (Anderson, SC).  All three are seeker driven, seeker sensitive churches.  All three are topical sermons (series), and all three are led by “cool, hip, and relevant” pastors.  They are sucking the life out of the traditional church.  Expository preaching is being cast aside.  True worship of God is being cast aside for music that just sounds good.  The focus of the Church being on God and His glory and the command of Ephesians 4:11-16 are ignored.  The whole focus seems to be on one issue: the seeker.  The church exists to attract the seekers.

On a side note, the book of Acts is clear that the Church went to the world with the gospel (Acts 1:8).  They were obeying the command of Jesus (Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15-20; Luke 24:47; John 20:21).  The disciple of Jesus is to make disciples.  Each disciple is to be an ambassador for Christ to the lost world (2 Corinthians 5:18-21).  The disciple gathers with other disciples not to primarily worship God since we are to do this at all times (Romans 12:1-2) but we gather to break bread (Acts 2:46) and in the midst of that, to learn the apostle’s doctrines (Acts 2:42).  We learn the apostle’s doctrine from faithful Bible teachers who teach us what the Bible says and what it means (Ephesians 4:11-16).  Hebrews 10:23-25 (NKJV) are some of my favorite passages as it reads:

23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

Notice the purpose for disciples meeting.  It was not to offer a “safe” place for unbelievers.  It was instead to offer a safe place for disciples.  Remember that the writer of Hebrews is writing to people who are considering going back to Judaism from Christianity.  They had seen and heard the suffering of the saints (2 Corinthians 4:8-10).  They would have heard the words of Paul the Apostle in Romans 8:18.  They knew that suffering would come from the gospel (2 Timothy 3:12).  They needed a safe place for disciples to come together to eat (1 Corinthians 11:20) and to hear the apostle’s doctrine.  Their meetings were places to stir them up to love and good works.

In turn, the disciple of Jesus went into the world with the gospel.  Acts records the apostles taking God’s Word to the nations.  Paul could write in Colossians 1:6 that the gospel was bearing fruit in all the world.  It was doing so because disciples of Jesus were going forth into all the nations.  The gospel is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16) and the gospel was what they were preaching in the nations.

For more information on the biblical teaching on the Church, I recommend the following Kindle books.

Reimagining Church by Frank Viola

House Church – Simple, Strategic, Scriptural  edited by Steve Atkerson

Ashamed of the Gospel by John MacArthur

The Master’s Plan for the Church by John MacArthur

Why Most House Churches Don’t Tithe

In the traditional church in the West, tithing is almost as holy as the Bible itself is.  If you reject tithing, you are often seen as rejecting the Word of God since God commands us to tithe (see Deuteronomy 14:22 for example).  Tithing advocates point to passages such as Malachi 3:8-10 as proof that God will put a curse upon you if you don’t tithe.  I have heard countless sermons on tithing and giving and how important it is to tithe and give to the local church.  Why is this?  Why is it that house churches normally don’t tithe?

Well to begin, house churches don’t normally tithe.  I say normally because its possible to find a person in the house church movement that tithes out of their past traditions.  The question would be, what do they tithe to?  House churches don’t take up money.  There is no passing of the offering plate.  A person would thus have to tithe to whatever they wanted to which would not be wrong at all but not required by house churches.

Second, house churches don’t require tithing because tithing is largely used to get money for buildings, salaries, denominations, etc.  This is not the case with house churches.  We have no clergy.  We have no professional Christians.  We have no buildings.  We have no salaries.  We have no denominations to support.  We have no “ministries” to support.

Third, house churches do ask their people to give since Jesus said that His disciples would give (see Matthew 6:2-4 but notice that Jesus tells us what to give to here, to the needy).  Paul told the Galatians in Galatians 2:10 to remember the poor.  In house churches we seek to help the poor and to give to hurting Christians as the New Testament Church did (Acts 2:44-46; 4:32-37; 11:29-30).  This is the case for 1 Corinthians 16:1-4.  Paul is not telling the Corinthians to support a clergy-laity system but to give to hurting people in Jerusalem.

Fourth, we can give money to helping plant biblical churches.  The New Testament Church supported the Apostles in planting churches.  The apostles were not merely the twelve but would include all “sent ones” such as Paul and Barnabas (see Acts 14:4, 14).  An example of this would be 2 Corinthians 8-9 or Philippians 4.

There is simply no reason for house churches to tithe.  Not once in the New Testament are believers told to tithe.  We are to give but never called to tithe.  How can tithing be in view in 2 Corinthians 9:7?  How can we give what we have decided in our hearts to give to support sent ones if in fact we are to automatically give 10% of our income?  Yes tithing is biblical (Leviticus 27:30) and yes Abram did tithe (Genesis 14:20 but notice he tithed to a person in this case and notice that Abram only tithed once in his entire life!) but not much is preached about what the tithe was for in the theocracy of Israel (taxes) nor the fact that the Israelites could actually exchange their tithe for money and use it on whatever they liked (see Leviticus 14:24-26).  Most churches who teach tithing don’t teach that.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

10/16/2011 at 8:15 AM

How the Clergy/Laity System Hurts the Church

I once worked in a church.  I know the pressures that come from being in “full-time ministry” and I also know the liberation when you leave “full-time ministry.”  I now work a “secular” job and I love it.  I don’t always enjoy the work nor the time away from my family but I enjoy not being in “the ministry.”  I enjoy serving Jesus where I am.  I actually love to study my Bible now more than when I was a pastor and I love to pray now more than when I had prayer meetings at the church I served at.  I actually get to talk to lost people on a regular basis instead of always talking to “Christians.”  I get to take the monies that God gives me and give to whatever I want to give it to (missions, the poor, other disciples, etc.) instead of giving to a local church so they can their bills and support their staffs.

In 2001, while studying a book on house churches, I came to the conclusion that the clergy/laity system is wrong.  It is not biblically based.  It is based on human traditions but not upon the Word of God.  I noticed the lack of leadership in the New Testament.  There are elders mentioned (Acts 20:17; 1 Timothy 3:1-7) and deacons (1 Timothy 3:8-13) but other than the Apostles, few leaders are mentioned.  Out of the Epistles, only one begins with an address to the leaders (Philippians 1:1) and even Jesus, in Revelation 2-3, never addresses the leaders but the entire church.  In fact, Matthew 20:20-28 gives a very low view of leadership from Jesus as compared to the worldly leadership system that the Jews had known.  This is not to demean leadership but to simply point out that the idea of a single pastor leading a church is not found in the New Testament.  While elder-led churches are seen, the elders are to serve “among” the people of God and not over them as so often found among clergy-led churches (1 Peter 5:1-4).

To me, the clergy-laity system hurts the Church.  How so?

1.  The Clergy-Laity System Divides the People of God

Galatians 3:26-28 mentions the people of God being one.  Jesus prayed for the Church to be one in John 17:20-23.  Ephesians 4:4 says there is only one body.  Not many.  1 Corinthians 12:27 says that the body of Christ is one even with many members being apart of it.  Yet the clergy-laity system makes a few people “professional” Christians while the rest work in the secular realm.  This makes the Church focused on what the professionals want and not what the Spirit wants (Acts 13:1-4).  The clergy are “paid” to study the Bible and to do the work of the ministry despite Ephesians 4:11-16 being poorly applied here.  The clergy are separate from the people and even some wear special garments to show that they are clergymen.  The laity show up to the building, listen to the professional Christians, give money to the professional Christians, and then go back home to their secular worlds.  This is a division not found in the New Testament.

2.  The Clergy-Laity System Nullifies the Priesthood of All Saints of God

It has been said, “We are equal at the cross.”  Not so with the clergy-laity system.  The clergy are closer to God since they are professional Christians and they pray, read their Bibles, teach us the Bible, etc.  Often the clergy are the ones who do all the “ministry” such as baptisms, marriages, prayer, etc.  The laity, perhaps once in a while, get to do stuff but nothing on the level of the professional Christians.

Yet 1 Peter 2:5, 9 and Revelation 1:6 and 5:10 all mention that disciples are priests unto God.  With the death of Jesus came a new way to God (Hebrews 10:19-20) and the old Jewish ways were gone (Hebrews 8:13).  This included the high priests and the whole priesthood.  Jesus fulfilled the Law completely (John 19:30) and now we all are equal before God.  We all have access through Him into God’s holy presence (Ephesians 2:11-22).  We don’t need priests because we have one in Jesus Christ (Hebrews 9:14).  Through Jesus we can come into the presence of God (Hebrews 4:14-16).  Every disciple of Jesus is a priest.  There is no special priesthood.

The clergy-laity system pays only some homage to that doctrine.  How many people in the Church are exhorted to pray and do the work of the ministry because they are priests?  How many are taught that God hears them just as He hears the pastor of the church?  How many are taught that the Holy Spirit will teach them the Scriptures just as well as He teaches the pastor and they too can hear from God through His Word on a regular basis?  We are taught instead to listen to sermons that the pastor gets from his study of Scripture.  To a degree the priesthood of the saints is honored but not to the point that the New Testament places on it.  Instead we are taught that some people are called to be special priests unto God while others are only laity priests unto God.

3. The Clergy-Laity System Never Fulfills Ephesians 4:11-16

Read Ephesians 4:11-16 and notice that the point of gifted people given to the Church is not to do the work themselves but to train others to do the work of the ministry.  This happens not by going off to seminary and learning how to parse the Greek text but from actually showing people by our examples how to serve Christ (Hebrews 13:7, 17).  Timothy was to teach others (2 Timothy 2:2).  That is biblical discipleship at its best (Matthew 28:20) where disciples are teaching disciples and showing them how to serve Jesus through faithful prayer, evangelism, etc.

The clergy-laity system tells us that the professional Christians are there to fulfill Ephesians 4:11-16 but it never does.  It the premise was of this statement were true then the reason for the clergy would be to work themselves out of a job.  They never do.  The larger the church gets, the more it needs the lead clergy and even adds more clergy.  The church sits back and watches the show called church.  It never does anything.  The old 80/20 principle is very much true in the clergy-laity church.  80% of the work is done by 20% of the church which is largely clergy.  The clergy do all the preaching, all the teaching, all the discipling, all the singing, all the praying, all the baptizing, etc.  They can say that they are seeking to fulfill Ephesians 4:11-16 but they never do.  It’s an ongoing thing that never changes.

4.  The Clergy-Laity System Forces the Church To Water Down the Gospel

I know that some Bible teachers are bold in preaching the gospel.  Carter Conlon, for example at Times Square Church, preaches the true gospel.  John MacArthur preaches a hard gospel.  But sadly, the clergy-laity system causes many Bible teachers to teach for one purpose: church growth which in turn equals, for them, more money.  Some Bible teachers, perhaps, even despise doing goofy series preaching on watered down subjects but they know that they must fill the seats and to preach doctrine or repentance or prayer would not fill the seats.  A few know that they need to preach the hard gospel of Jesus (Luke 9:23-25; 14:25-35) but they can’t because they would drive out their biggest givers and supporters.  The clergy also fear their board of deacons who often control the clergy like a puppet on a string.

How thankful I was when I was pastoring a church and had to get a job because the church had dwindled down to the point that I needed to get a real job.  I remember the liberation of standing up and preaching the hard gospel of Jesus Christ and not fearing what anyone thought because Coca-Cola was paying my bills and not the board of deacons.  I preached with passion those last few months that I pastored a church because I was not controlled by money.  I was driven by the gospel.  I wanted people to repent of their sins.  I wanted people to be holy as God was holy.  I wanted to preach the entire Word of God faithfully and I did so those last few months that I pastored all because I didn’t receive a dime from the church.

Most clergymen are not in that state.  In most cases their income and the income of the church and their staff is based on keeping people happy in the seats.  This means preaching goofy series sermons that are lifeless and lack the power of God.  The church grows because of transfer growth from other more boring churches or even true churches where repentance is preached (people will run from true preaching).  The clergy-laity system makes the church focused on filling the seats for money instead of seeking make disciples of Jesus through faithful preaching of the gospel.  How many clergymen live in fear of losing their jobs or losing their key givers by what they say?  Not me!

5.  The Clergy-Laity System Misuses Money

I reject tithing.  I find nothing in the New Testament to suggest that disciples should tithe.  Tithing is biblical but it is biblical because the Jews in the Old Testament did tithe not just money but even their crops to support the Levitical priesthood system.  That is now gone with the coming of Jesus.  Not once in the New Testament are we told to tithe to a priest or to give to a local church.  1 Corinthians 16:1-2 must be read in the context of 1 Corinthians 16:1-4 where Paul was saying that the Corinthians were giving not to support a clergymen but to give to saints in Jerusalem.  They were helping hurting saints and not tithing!

How many times have I heard pastors exhorting people to give to the local church, to tithe 10% of their income?  Why?  Because the clergymen need money to live and to pay the bills of the church building.  The average salary of the lead pastor of a mega-church is $147,000 and as high as $400,000 per year.  85% of money that the American church receives goes toward buildings and salaries and less than 2% goes toward world evangelism according to K.P. Yohannan.  I remember in Bible college the boys would say that they would not take a church job unless they made more than $35,000 per year and that was the mid 1990’s.

Time doesn’t permit me to talk about what the Bible specifically tells us give to.  We are to give (Matthew 6:2) but what are we to give to?  In the Book of Acts we find the Church giving to the poor, hurting disciples, and church planters (Apostles).  That is it.  They didn’t tithe.  They didn’t support a full-time professional Christian system.  They gave to what they wanted to give to (2 Corinthians 8-9).  If I am required to give the tithe of my income, how could 2 Corinthians 9:7 make sense?  If Jesus delivers me from the curse of the Law (Galatians 3:13) then how could I fall under the curse of Malachi 3:8-10?  By the way, I have not tithed in almost ten years and am making more money today than when I was tithing.  How do you like those apples?

Conclusion

I know that some of what I have said could be perceived as harsh and that I am just angry as a former pastor but I am not.  I love my life outside of “the ministry.”  I do more for the glory of God today than when I was working full-time in a church.  What do I miss about “the ministry?”  The time to spend in studying and I do miss being able to sleep a lot.  Other than that, I don’t miss “the ministry” at all.  I am thankful to God for allowing that house church book to come my way ten years ago.  A great book to read is Jon Zens’ book, The Pastor Has No Clothes.  Zens’ articles about the clergy-laity system are right on.

My prayer is that God would help the Church to return to the New Testament and seek to be faithful to obey all that it teaches (2 Thessalonians 2:15).

Written by The Seeking Disciple

10/09/2011 at 10:00 AM

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