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How important is the church?

 

How important is the church?
By Andy Zoppelt

Jesus said, "On this rock I will build My church.." Matt 16:18, NKJV

Jesus is both the sole foundation on which the church is built and the sole builder of His church. In other words, the church is built upon Jesus and built by Jesus.

"And He said to them, 'All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition…. making the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down." Mark 7:9,13, NKJV

The Jews mixed the gradual input of the traditions of men which benefited an ecclesiastical hierarchy system, overly focusing on a building, and filling His people with religious ritual while rejecting God's word and ultimately denying that word.

Our name-it and claim-it deception has risen to a level of taking something belonging to Jesus and naming it and using it for the ends of which God never intended it.

Jesus the chief cornerstone.

"having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit." Eph 2:20-22

"You also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. Behold, I lay in Zion A chief cornerstone (Jesus), elect, precious, And he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame." 1 Peter 2:5-6

Jesus the builder of His own house.

"Moses also was faithful in all His house. For this One has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as He who built the house has more honor than the house. For every house is built by someone, but He who built all things is God. And Moses indeed was faithful in all His house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which would be spoken afterward, but Christ as a Son over His own house, whose house we are if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end." Heb 3:2-6

Without spending a lot of time in etymology, the word "church" comes from the Greek kuriakon, which means, "belonging to the Lord." In other words, a building, temple etc.. Hundreds of years later, some of the Greeks innocently used their Greek word kuriakon referring to the "place" they met, the building "belonging to the Lord." Since then and through Constantine, the emphasis went from the body of Christ to a building. But the ekklesia (called-out-ones) clearly points exclusively to the "people" on which He will build His body, not His building.

The old saying goes, "If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it's a duck." If we go to church, build the church, have building funds for the church and people ask you what church you go to, all this indicates the building is the church.

How many countless times have we heard pastors, in support of their tabernacle building fund, pleading to their congregations to support the enlarging of the Lord's house or His church? This subtle move through the centuries and through the traditions of men to add a building into the issue has had devastating consequences upon God's purpose for His people. In a sense, the diversion directed to the building has robbed the people of God in their significance as "being" His function body.

This whole idea is rooted in the bias and benefit of a few men holding the unbiblical positions of clergy and at the cost and sacrifice of the function of the many.

So the church is clearly not a building. Bible translators purposely mistranslated many words in support of the religious ecclesiastical hierarchy of the day. There simply wasn't any grammatical reason and justification for ekklesia to be translated as "church."

The true meaning for church

The meaning of the Greek word ekklesia, is the "called-out-ones" and not a called-into-a-building-ones. Certainly not a "pew-sitter-one." The saints were "called out" of the world and called into Christ and His body. They shared a common bond in Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Their faithfulness, holiness, and love did not go unnoticed by those around them. Their ministry to one another and their outreach to the world was not dependant on large sums of money being sucked from all the tithes of the saints. Their ministry was based on God's presence, power and love. It was not ministry dependent on money, but God.

They were a family structure supporting one another. They were recognized by the world and the world was threatened by their love, unity and power. The saints of God would rather die than be divided. They were a loving, forgiving and supportive group. It was said of them, "Behold how they love one another." They were a testimony to the love of the Father and His Son working through the Holy Spirit. Their meetings left a person with a sense of relevance and reality, not silence and lethargy.

Relationships must have function or it is not His church.

"For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think (pastors do that to day, they are thought more highly and ignore the rest of the body), but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith (not just the pastor). For as we have many members in one body (where did denominations come from?), but all the members do not have the same function (what is it called when function is eliminated?), so we, being many, are one body (denomination?) in Christ, and individually members of one another (are we members of one another in function and responsibility?). Having then gifts (do we?) differing according to the grace that is given to us (the church, the body of Christ), let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it (ministry) in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness." Rom 12:3-8

Everyone plays a key role in the function of body of Christ. God's grace gives to every man a supernatural gift to build up the body of Christ. Only when we focus on the church being "the people," will we begin to realize the full potential of being members of His body. It is demonstratably clear, our bodies must share both function and purpose. And it is just as clear that we could not exist if it didn't.

There can be no lethargy in a living body. It must possess function and purpose for it to live. If just one member stops functioning, the whole body suffers. We must see that our coming together is for the building ourselves up in love. This is what Jesus meant by building His church. He has called us and gifted us to do so. You say, "I have no spiritual gift to share with others." It is because we have been told to sit and listen, while one man does all the ministering. atrophy sets in when the body members fail to move. It often takes a long time to get the body to function again. The church today is in a state of atrophy, our functioning ability has been scandalously disregarded and silenced.

"But speaking the truth in love, (we) may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplies, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, makes increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love." Eph 4:15-16

"And above all things have fervent love for one another, for "love will cover a multitude of sins." Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen." 1 Peter 4:7-11

"There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills." 1 Cor 12:4-11

If you ever wondered why sometimes you feel so lonely in a crowded church building, the answer is in the above passages. The church has reduced the average Christian to an insignificant commodity. Whenever I see a pastor speaking in front of an audience, I think of all the ministries being destroyed by reducing the church to a stage recital. The five fold ministry isn't to decimate ministry among the saints, it is to extend it and cause it to grow. It should be, if done scripturally, causing a decrease of the five fold ministry and an increase of the body. I am sickened when I see people flocking to have their ears tickled by the charismatic-Hollywood-style ministries while assuming a pew warming posture.

I am eternally grateful the Lord stopped me and showed me His body. I would be an institutional pastor if it wasn't for His drastic matters. Since being free from the institutional system, I find myself open to every word that comes from the mouth of God and through His body. "And the Spirit and the bride say, 'Come!'" (Rev 22:17)

My spirit is stirred to see His body arise from those man-made tombs, to see His people rid themselves of those grave clothes put on through the traditions of men's egos.

I want to see His church! I cry for it. I pray for it. I am burdened for a living body. substitutes and compromising are eating away the life of His body. I need the body, the brother's fellowship, their revelation, and their ministries. The true joy of the church is when we all participate.

Man's schooling prepares them to dominate by professionalism; God's anointing frees the body to function and it establishes His kingdom rule in the hearts of the saints. "Let God be true but every man a liar." Rom 3:4, NKJV

Our meetings should be like a pinball machine, lights going on everywhere. Life flowing from one vessel to another.

I remember such meetings during the middle sixties and early seventies. we couldn't get together enough. The power, the presence and the revelation filled those meetings. Jesus gave us a taste of His glory back then, but we quickly sold out to the old wine skins of institutionalism which quickly burst. We got cold and competitive, sowing discord, betraying one another and dividing and dying.

Jesus is praying we would have eyes to see and ears to hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches, His body. He is looking for new wine skins to fill them with His anointing. He is calling us out and into Himself.

Praise God there is another wave coming… it is his body, the glorious saints without wrinkle and spot.

"And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover … And they went forth, and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen." Mark 16:17-18, 20

"'And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your young men shall see visions, Your old men shall dream dreams. And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; And they shall prophesy." Acts 2:17-18, NKJV

Individualism

Traditionally, Christianity in America is recognized as an individual matter with the saints having no participation in the "church." It is therefore an independent relationship and an independent decision on where or if to "go" to church. It is clearly understood, where and if we decide to attend church is "our" choice. It is the institutional concept of being a part of the audience while listening to a teacher; rather than, being a function member of the body and within the body of Christ. But this "institutionalized" idea was not the understanding of the New Testament believers. If we were brought up in the early church, we would be well aware that being outside the body would mean being outside of Christ. If you were not a part of the body, you were not a Christian. Jesus calls no one out of the body, but out of the world and into the body.

The scripture talks with this viewpoint or paradigm in mind:

"And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together (ourselves is a plural recognition of belonging to a specific group or family), as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another (something we lack in the institutional system), and so much the more as you see the Day approaching." Heb 10:24-25

"Consider one another," "exhorting one another," clearly point to a committed, functioning relationship we have with a specific group or family.

John puts it in stronger terms,

"But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another." 1 John 1:7

The purpose of walking in the light and sharing has fundamental reasons: so we can "exhort one another daily, while it is called 'Today,' (Why?) lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we (together) have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end." Heb 3:13-14

The manifested love for one another is a powerful case for being a Christian. Without it, there is no evidence of true salvation.

Loving one another is impossible if we are independent individuals. Jesus spoke nothing about attending a church building, but a coming together to show forth His love toward one another. Loving meant we meet together by the drawing of the Holy Spirit. And when we come together, it is the presence of the Holy Spirit that manifests Himself in the form of gifts. The saints lived in the presence of God. they were continually filled with Spirit of God, and when they came together, it was a spiritually explosive… dynamite. The power changed all.

In the church today, we are not given the opportunity to love one another. The most we experience is maybe the permission from the pastor to "turn to your neighbor and tell him you love Him."

"If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us." 1 John 4:12

Can I ask a simple but direct question, "If we do not love one another, will God abide in us?"

"We know that we have passed from death to life (How?), because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death." 1 John 3:14

We see a "we" centered people and a "one another" response mentioned all through scripture. relationships were not independent relationships, but interdependent relationships. John presents the point that something is wrong if we are not experiencing this love for one another.

New wine in new wineskins.

"Can the friends of the bridegroom mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast. No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; for the patch pulls away from the garment, and the tear is made worse. Nor do they put new wine into old wineskins, (Why?) or else the wineskins break, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But they put new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved." Matt 9:15-17

The new wine represents the Holy Spirit moving in vessels. If the wineskin is old, it will break. If the wineskin is new and flexible, it will expand with the new wine.

A true salvation relationship is an ever-deepening experience with Jesus and one another. We should be in a constant state of change and growth. As the new wine is being poured in us, we are expanding to be more like Jesus. If we are old wine skins, we probably lost the new wine years ago and are not aware of it.

Isn't it regrettable how little we experience love for one another in the church today, and how little we know of what to do in a meeting that is not organized to the very last detail. The church is a place where God's gifts and power should be a common everyday experience.

The whole system of church that exists now is foreign to the true biblical tradition. One wonders where to begin to make changes. God is looking for new wine skins that will expand with the new wine.

I realize most of those we call Christians today are incapable of having committed relationships with one another. Intimate relationships tend to bring to surface both the bad with the good. Many things which were hidden and below the surface are given the opportunity to come to light. Everything that is spiritual must pass through the fire. If you can't stand the heat, stay in the safety of the institutional church. it is well organized and programmed to prevent interactions and the surfacing of personal flaws.

The carnal nature works well in singing and listening to teaching to titillate and stimulate the itching ear. Large meetings provide the distance from one another, so that we can focus on "studying" the scriptures rather than being affected by them. Over a number of years, even those on fire become shallow and mellow.

Even though "how" we do church may be important, it is "being" church that God is looking for.

In the church that meets in our home, we are learning to listen to one another and respect one another. We are learning to move in the Spirit and hear His voice. There is much talk on the presence of God and seeing Jesus in our trials in our meetings. We try to stay focused on the simplicity of Jesus and loving Him.

Kathryn Kuhlman often said, "When the church came in, it came in with great glory, and when it goes out, it will go out with great glory. Nothing, no nothing, He starts will end in defeat."

I am absolutely convinced that in the last move, God is not going to pour out His Spirit on a divided, man-centered, man-programmed, man-named denominational wineskin. The institutional system is corrupted at its very root. In the past when God poured out His Spirit in the denominational churches, it burst the wineskin and it became another method to cause "their" church to grow. Years later, when we go back to visit these churches birthed by the one-time revivals, we see nothing but traditional institutionalism. Many I know today who were once on fire for God, look like the old stale denominations of yesterday.

The seeds of men's traditionalism:

"'Shall I not punish these people?' declares the LORD, 'On a nation such as this Shall I not avenge Myself?' An appalling and horrible thing Has happened in the land: The prophets prophesy falsely, And the priests rule on their own authority; And My people love it so! But what will you do at the end of it?" Jer 5:29-31 NASU

"My people love it so!" God will always let us have the religion our heart desires.

Being ruled by men and the acceptance of the "lie" is the root of man's traditionalism. Instead of our willingness to each accept our responsibility before Him and to one another, we transfer the responsibility to another person…. the pastor, priest, elder, etc.. Misleading traditions begins when we seek "someone" to represent us. These kinds of traditions can only succeed if there are the people willing to support and accept it. Our passion to have a physical representative, someone we can see and hear, someone who will confirm our beliefs, is manifested in the institutionalism of the church. We seek someone who will salve our conscience and protect us from the true force of the word. We want someone to "prophesy to us smooth things, prophesy deceits." Isa 30:10

We want someone of great stature to point and identify with. We want a person with special abilities and giftings to feed that ever itching desire to ever learn. If we can't be "fed" in one church, we will leave and find someone to satisfy that itch deep in our ear.

The bible has many examples of such people:

when God spoke to the children of Israel in the wilderness, they cried out for Moses to speak to them instead of God.

"Then they said to Moses, 'You speak with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die.'" Ex 20:19, NKJV

Israel during the time of Samuel the priest and prophet, also had a heart for a man to represent them: "Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, No, but we will have a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles" 1 Sam 8:19-20

"But you have today rejected your God, who Himself saved you from all your adversities and your tribulations; and you have said to Him, 'No, set a king over us!'" 1 Sam 10:18-19, NKJV

www.voiceofonecrying.com/leadership_in_the_early_church.htm

So, who therefore, will God respond with truth?

"But on this one will I look: On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, And who trembles at My word." Isa 66:2, NKJV

Conclusion

"My soul yearns for you in the night; in the morning my spirit longs for you. When your judgments come upon the earth, the people of the world learn righteousness. Though grace is shown to the wicked, they do not learn righteousness; even in a land of uprightness they go on doing evil and regard not the majesty of the LORD." Isa 26:9-10 NIV

He truly has become my shepherd, I shall not want any other. He Himself has led me beside the still and calm waters. He continues each day to restore my soul while leading me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake. Yes, though I walk through the valley and the shadow of death falls upon me, I will fear no evil; Why you say? I will tell you why: because I know He is with me. His rod and His staff, they continue to comfort and direct me. He has prepared a table to provide for me right in the center of my enemies attack. He has anointed my head and thoughts with oil; My cup and spirit runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the LORD Forever…. I now understand!

My psalm 23

Amen

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