Mar 22, 2009
What's Keeping Them?
I have learned that no matter how much I write and talk about the Free Believers Network and what it is, people will always see it as a bitter, "anti-church" movement. I am often reminded of Jesus' words to the people, "Why is my language not clear to you?" It seemed that no matter how much He explained something to the people, they just couldn't get it. They jumped to radical conclusions that had nothing to do with what He had spoken.
After years of explaining and re-explaining this message till I'm blue in the face, and after asking myself and God what's keeping them from getting this; I finally discovered what it was. I also found out why people immediately associate my words with heresy and accuse me of being "anti-church." It has to do with what they believe the ORIGIN of the institutional church is.
They believe that the church we know today was created and ordained by God Himself.
The system - the once-a-week service - the offering plate - the paid staff - the choir - the CEO Pastor, right down the line, they believe that this is a system that God created and put in place. They will admit that man has messed it up over the years to some degree, but when all is said and done, they believe that it was created by God Himself and walking away from it is not allowed.
When people believe that the system of church that we practice today came from God, they usually can't make the separation between the "system of church" and the "body of Christ." They see the two as being the same. They've grown up hearing the system calling itself the body for so long, they just believe it without thinking. They believe that ALL fellowship is found only within the system. All Christian growth, all learning, all healing, all relationships, all knowledge, all communication with God, everything that is Christian and everyone who calls themselves Christian exist ONLY within the modern-day system. When anyone talks about the state of the "Church," people immediately assume they're talking about the state of the system. Stepping outside of that system is spiritual suicide.
The irony here is that even if these people are shown historical evidence that the system ascribed to has nothing to do with God, they still can't let it go and see it for what it is. There is something in them that believes this is from God regardless of the evidence and logic that tears that argument apart. When I explain that it's a man-made system, people immediately translate that to mean that I'm anti-church. They consider it a cut-down for me to say such a thing.
For people who believe this way, hearing the term "Institutional church" is extremely offensive. Applying the word "institutional" to something they deem as sacred, is unforgivable. The very term in and of itself dethrones the system and strips it of its glory and power. You can detect their offense in their comments on this website. One gentleman sent me an email with the words, "Why does your eschatology have to villainize that which so many hold dear?" He literally had no problem at all defining what it was his heart held dear.
This deification of the system accounts for about 90% of the negative responses elicited from Christians after reading my articles. They'll say stuff like, "Okay, so you're hurt, I get that, but you can't just leave the whole system," or "Rather than talk negatively about the church, why don't you discuss what can be done to fix it." There is an overall tone that forbids the idea of total abandonment as though going down that road isn't even an option. Even if you are hurt, abused and nearly destroyed in that system; you mustn't blame it. Speaking against that system is disgraceful. It's like speaking against God Himself.
I believe that when we get to the point where we adore our system of doing things more than we adore God Himself, we are more lost than those we claim to lead. This generation of Christians is guilty of this charge! They hold the Method to be more sacred than the Message. Because of this, they no longer know He who is the message. They look for Him in the method and they find Him NOT.
The system, in and of itself, is not bad. However, when a person believes that the system came from God, it becomes DEADLY! What we believe about the system of church is key. The Free Believers Network is not trying to do away with the system of church; we are simply trying to show people that it's not God-ordained. They have a choice. They don't have to do it this way. They can stay or they can go. The mere revelation of this opens so many doors in a person's life that they almost always leave the system angry, because of all the lies they've been told about that system.
Free Believers believe that THE PEOPLE are the Church. We put people before anything and everything. The status quo up until today has been to serve the system and hold it over the people. That manner of thinking is quickly disintegrating. As this generation slowly comes to the knowledge that our system of "doing church" is man made; people are breaking free from something that is clearly dead, and are exploring the limitless possibilities of relationship with God outside of organized church.
Contrary to popular belief; Free Believers are not against public, organized meetings like what we see in a traditional church setting. It's not the meeting that is harmful. It's the government that is allowed to control that meeting. In most American churches, the government has risen to a level of dictatorship and has taken over the entire denomination. When the government becomes sacred, its next step is to rule the people.
I used to think it was sad that people left the institution either hurt or angry. I've asked myself many times why it has to be this way for so many. Today, years later, I finally see what is really taking place when a person gets hurt by the institution. Their eyes pop open and they see firsthand that the system they've always believed was from God, has absolutely nothing to do with Him. It seems that for most of us, nothing can open our eyes to that BUT pain and bitterness. This is why we are warned so often against becoming bitter, because those in charge of us know that we'll most likely see it for what it really is.
I sit in dismay as I listen to Christians warn each other against talking openly about what happened to them in the confines of the institutional church. It's not only frowned upon, but it's considered downright ungodly to even open your mouth and discuss your pain. Putting blame on the system is even worse. It totally reminds me of the trashy mother who catches her boyfriend molesting her nine-year-old daughter and instead of coming to her defense, she blames her daughter for leading him on. She makes her feel responsible for it. She won't let the poor child express her pain to anyone. This is how heartless the present-day Christian mindset is when it comes to standing up for the institution at any cost. They become blinded to the obvious.
If we were talking about a department store that was mistreating their employees, these same people would be the first to lead the protest. They would encourage everyone to walk out and never come back. The difference is that they don't believe a department store was created by God. They know it's a creation of man. They would never tell the abused employees that they shouldn't talk about their abuse or the abuse they received was probably their fault. They would encourage them to blow the whistle on their oppressors and shout it from the roof tops. They wouldn't think of telling the people that leaving that store would be a dangerous choice. More importantly, they wouldn't tell the people that leaving that store was the same as leaving God.
When someone tells you that the Free Believers Network is against church; don't believe them. It's not church we're against. It's the deification of the church system. Believe it or not, we are also not against institutionalism or government. Any time there is a planned meeting of any sort, there needs to be some level of government. Someone needs to call everyone, someone needs to unlock the building and turn the lights on, someone needs to set up and break down chairs. There has to be some sort of leadership for this to work. The question is; how much do we allow that government to rise in our church?
Sadly, it seems that in the vast majority of churches in America, the "institutional" part has overtaken the church part. When that happens, the message becomes contaminated and the people suffer incredible bondage and abuse at the hands of the institution. When the institution declares itself to be "from God," everything from Sunday sermons to casual conversations are centered around lifting it up and serving it. Every good fruit of a Christian gets sucked up and swallowed by that Institution. People's resources, their time, their money, their friendships, and their service are funneled into the institution while the world remains unaffected and untouched. Rather than bringing God to the world, they bring the Institution to the world, because to them, there is no difference.
More than half of my Free Believer friends still attend a local Church. The difference is that they don't go there thinking it's God's system, God's house and God's order. They go because they want to go and because they have relationships that they value. Many of them go because they enjoy the Bible teaching and many more like the worship service. They treat it as a community center with activities and chances to meet and connect with other Christians. I think that's wonderful. As long as they attend with a balanced perspective, I believe it can be beneficial.
I was just at a church in Wisconsin where my friend Ed Johnson is a pastor. He's got a church of about a hundred people. This man is committed to the freedom of his people. He has successfully caged the government and he makes it serve the people. This church is living proof that it can be done. The people are free and loving life. It's not about church for them. They come together NOT because they're supposed to be faithful to church, but because they like being together.
My friend Ty Bean has also proven that when the people are put before the government, the system can be a good thing. His congregation is perhaps one of the most loving and sincere groups of people I've met. Ty and Heather serve the people; they don't try and get the people to serve them or the church. This is rare indeed.
I honestly believe that those in charge of "church" had better brace themselves. They simply will not survive this wave of revelation that American Christians are getting concerning the church system. Once the people know that they don't have to attend, it will be rather interesting to see who still comes back. My prediction is that only the pastors who made it about serving the people, will survive. The ones who made the people serve the church are about to lose everything. They were able to be as sloppy as they wanted because they knew the people believed that they didn't have any other choice but to return each week. Now that folks are getting the revelation that they DO have a choice, things are going to change.
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