To whom it may concern
With whole denominations moving into open rebellion against God and His Word, believers are being left shaken and unsure of how to respond.
An open letter to whom it may concern
Dear brothers and sisters,
I write this letter with a great concern regarding the many and increasing sounds of bleating from ‘sheep without a shepherd’.
When we experience shaking and instability, we naturally grab for a handhold on those things that we regard as fixed, reliable and immoveable.
However as we read of political, economic and social problems and the quakes impacting upon the major institutions in our nation, we are also seeing the collapse and error within those mechanisms of organised religion that have existed over many, many centuries.
Any architect or engineer worth his salt will look beyond the cracks in an upper storey, and examine the foundations of the affected building, because it is there that these other problems find their source. And as the Psalmist wrote: “If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Ps 11:3).
The current crisis within much of institutional churchianity is due to problems which have carried through from as far back as the early 'church fathers' and into the 3rd/4th centures through the Emperor Constantine – problems which even the Reformation didn’t rectify.
The subsequent Augustinian concept of the ‘visible’ (flawed) and the ‘invisible’ (pure) church created a mindset which has permitted and even condoned sinful behaviour in the churches. Meanwhile the model of evangelism which has prevailed over the great span since has been that of ‘get them into the church’ rather than ‘introduce them to Jesus Christ’.
This has resulted in vast swathes of avowed unbelievers in both pulpits and in the pews. Even today and very sadly we are hearing the parable of the ‘wheat and the tares’ (Matt 13:24-29) being used to justify a passive ‘shrug-of-the-shoulders’ acceptance of gross error and outright heresy which is manifesting in open rebellion against God and the authority of His Word.
Added to this, the totally unbiblical model of clergy and laity – the two-tier ‘professional/amateur’ system – has been allowed to develop and flourish; protected and defended. (Indeed there are many Godly men who serve the church as pastors and teachers with a servant heart: however at least one blog commentator suggests another side to the coin.§)
If we add to this the (also unbiblical) hierarchy which ‘presbyterianism’ has developed into within the denominational structures then we have a recipe for the serious problems which we are currently experiencing.
Maintaining faulty systems
In the present and grave crisis facing the Church of Scotland there is no pattern emerging; no response of a ‘one-size-fits-all’ nature. There are almost as many different reactions as there are ministers. In a situation like this it is incumbent on each believer to seek the Lord’s guidance at a personal and individual level. There is absolutely no point in blindly following any one person's lead as each is merely faced with having to decide for himself (or herself). What is right for one person may well be the wrong path for another.
Albert Einstein defined insantity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Yet a large part of the present situation (and those previous) is the repeating tendency of leaders to merely (re)create (or join) an alternative set up based on exactly the same system that has just failed.
(See articles: Something biblical; or just more of the same? and Presbyterianism - Scottish style.)
How should we respond?
The need of the hour is for every believer, whether minister, elder or church member to seek out those true believers in their immediate circle – irrespective of denomination (or non-denomination), background and affiliation – and join with them in fellowship, learning, discipling and prayer. And to do this on any day of the week and in any situation: in the home, in the shop, office or workshop; in domestic or workplace settings. (Remember that when the first disciples met 'on the first day of the week' what this refers to is actually Saturday night.)
The thrilling pictures which God’s Word gives us of the early church can be replicated today. But to allow this to happen there needs to be a reformation in what we currently see as the official mandated patterns for Christian fellowship, teaching, prayer and praise. (In all of this ‘remembering the Lord’s death until he comes’ is not circumscribed in a restrictive and extra-biblical fashion as some church laws suggest: all that is needed is a group of true believers and some food.)
We may have to wait and see how this could pan out; but one thing which is sure – the more we draw away from worldly systems and mindsets that have invaded the church and conform our living the patterns set out for us in the Bible, the more we will find ourselves in the centre of God’s will for His church and His people.
Paul wrote: Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship. (Rom 12:2). And it is in that place at the centre of His plan that we can claim all the wonderful promises of God in Jesus Christ.
Back to the Bible
It may require some risky ‘out of the box’ and ‘into the Bible’ thinking (Rom 12:2), but the greatest risk of all is to merely look for a solution in the machinery which has so evidently failed and continues to do so.
Our confidence and calling
Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.And let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Heb 10:19-25)Our manner of living
...[The disciples] devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved
(Acts 2:42-47).All the believers were one in heart and mind. No-one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need
(Acts 4:32-35)...in difficulty days:
Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering. Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You sympathised with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.
(Heb 10:32-35)Our commitment and expectation
You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For in just a very little while, "He who is coming will come and will not delay. But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him." But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.
(Heb 10:36-39)Revelation and responsibility
You have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven? At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, "Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens." The words "once more" indicate the removing of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our "God is a consuming fire."
Dear brothers and sisters, we are living in extraordinary and tumultous times. The faulty foundations are being laid bare; and we are witnessing a collapse, in fact and in confidence, of all that man has built – whether it be religious, societal, political or economic. Whether it be the very latest innovation or the traditions of centuries, anything which is not based on God and His Word is utterly untrustworthy and will fail us; most likely at our hour of greatest need.
For no-one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.
(1 Cor. 3:11)
Colin Wilson: Editor, Christians Together
§ "THE great necessity today, at least in the West, is not for new denominations and Church meetings but for the Church to see herself as a true society that functions as a society and thereby creates a Christian social order that will transform the world.
There is no reason why the Christians in any community should not start doing this. All that is lacking is belief in this vision and the will to follow it.
The ministers I have seen for the most part are simply not interested in this vision. Their interest is in the Church worship cult, the meetings and the worship services, which are mostly clergy performances. What this shows is that there is no real biblical vision for the kingdom of God, only for the Church as a mystery cult. It is this faulty understanding of the role and calling of the Church that we must seek to overturn." Stephen Perks