1 Peter 2:4-5 ESV
“As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
The church is not a building. It is not a physical location. It is not an institution of man. It is not a church denomination. It is not a corporation under the state. It is not a business to be marketed to the world just like other businesses which try to attract the world to their businesses and to satisfy the likes of the people of the world. It is not a civic center or a social club or a gathering of people from the world mingled together with those professing the name of Jesus. But this is what many people have made it.
The church (the ekklesia) is the whole body of believers in Jesus Christ. It means to be called out from the world and to God, and it means “belonging to the Lord.” And we who have died with Christ to sin and who are walking in obedience to his commands are those belonging to the Lord. We are this spiritual house being talked about here in this passage of Scripture, and we are the living stones being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. Does this describe what you regularly refer to as church?
In January of 1999 my husband and I began a bible study for college students in our home. It was independent of any institutional church because the institutional church (IC) we were attending at that time thought we were too old to work with college students (I was 49). But being traditional IC people, because that is how we were brought up to see “church,” we tried several times to connect our bible study ministry with an institutional church (IC), and every time we did that God closed those (5) doors. And the college ministry lasted until May of 2006 (7.5 years).
In one of these instances we partnered with an IC with the understanding that we were an independent ministry using their facility and that they gained the benefit of having a college ministry in their IC. We let them know up front that we were a ministry to the hurting, to the lonely, and to the rejected, etc., and our goal was to give these college students (or college age adults) a place where they could feel welcome and needed and wanted. They became like family to us and we were like parents to some of them.
I was also doing some volunteer work at that particular IC when the pastor one day called me into his office. He asked me this question: “Would you say that your praise band would draw in large crowds of people?” Now I knew exactly where he was going with this, but I let him talk. He then explained to me that he had a guy who had his own band and he would like to replace our band with this other band which he believed would “draw in large crowds of people.” And he wanted me to consider that possibility. So I told him I would take it to our ministry team and let him know.
Then our ministry leadership team decided to meet with him to talk about this, and when I asked him to tell us what he had in mind, then he said, “I would never do that.” So I asked him what he meant by what he asked me. And again he answered with, “I would never do that.” He never once denied he ever said it, only that he would never do it. So, I tried to get him to explain what he meant then by what he said to me, but I just got the same non-denial denials that he gave before. And then to make a long story short, eventually I was accused of lying about him, which I did not do.
So the board of elders told me that I had to attend a meeting with them but that the prerequisite to the meeting was that I had to admit that I lied about the pastor. They were not going to talk with me at all unless I first admitted that I lied. But I didn’t lie, and he never once denied that he said that to me. And so I asked them to please remove that prerequisite, but they would not, and so I could not go to their meeting, and so they put me on church discipline. And so my husband and I and 25 to 30 college students left and went back to our home, which is where God wanted us anyway.
That was #4, and there was one more, and then the Lord made it very clear to us that this was not the way he wanted us to go. And that is when the Lord called me to this present ministry, beginning in 2004, which went full time when the college ministry ended in 2006. And that, too, is when the Lord started teaching me about the distinction between the IC and the ekklesia, the body of Christ. And it took me about 9 more years before I finally broke free from the IC, and since I have not found Christians local to fellowship with independent of the IC, I get my fellowship on the internet.
The problem with the IC is that it is a business, and in America most of them are incorporated under the state, and they are marketing their ICs to the people of the world, and so they are altering the meaning of “church” and how they function as a “church.” And most are also altering the gospel of Christ to make it more palatable to the world and to human flesh. And they are discouraging the preaching of the whole counsel of God, for that offends the people they are trying to reach for their businesses. And that is what they are – businesses being marketed to the world.
But we who are the beloved of God, who have died with Christ to sin and who are living to him and to his righteousness, who are the living stones of this spiritual house called church, are to be a holy priesthood offering spiritual sacrifices to God acceptable to him through Jesus Christ. We are to be living holy lives unto God in walks of obedience to our Lord, and we are not to be walking in sin, and we are not to be following after the ways of this world. But most of these ICs (institutional churches) are indeed following after the ways of the world in order to attract the world to their gatherings.
But as Christ’s followers, Jesus has called us to come out from the world, to not be like the world, and to be his holy people who are now being made to be like Jesus in character. We are not to adopt the patterns of the world for our gatherings nor for our individual lives. But we are to follow the teachings of Jesus and of his New Testament apostles as to what our lives should look like and as to the kinds of things we should be doing as servants of the Lord and as his called out ones. And one of the primary things we need to be doing is sharing the full gospel of Christ with people for their salvation.
[Matt 5:13-16; Matt 28:18-20; Lu 9:23-26; Jn 4:31-38; Jn 13:13-17; Jn. 14:12; Acts 1:8; Acts 26:18; Rom 1:6-7; Rom 6:1-23; Rom 8:1-29; Rom 10:14-15; Rom 12:1-8; 1 Co 1:9; 1 Co 3:17; 1 Co 6:19-20; 1 Co 12:1-31; 2 Co 5:15,21; Gal 5:13-21; Eph 1:3-4; Eph 2:10,21; Eph 4:1-24; Eph 5:17-27; Col 1:22; Col 3:12-16; 1 Thess 4:7; 2 Tim 1:8-9; 2 Tim 2:21; Tit 2:11-14; Heb 3:13; 1 Pet 1:13-16; 1 Pet 2:5-9,21,24; 2 Pet 1:3; 1 Jn 2:3-6]
A Believer’s Prayer
An Original Work / July 31, 2012
With my whole heart, Lord, I pray
To be Yours, and Yours always.
Lead me in Your truth today.
May I love You and obey.
Lead me in Your righteousness.
When I sin, may I confess;
Bow before You when I pray;
Live for You and You always.
Love You, Jesus, You’re my friend.
Life with You will never end.
You are with me through each day,
Giving love and peace always.
You will ne’er abandon me.
From my sin You set me free.
You died on that cruel tree,
So I’d live eternally.
Soon You’re coming back for me;
From this world to set me free;
Live with You eternally.
Oh, what joy that brings to me.
I will walk with You in white;
A pure bride, I’ve been made right
By the blood of Jesus Christ;
Pardoned by His sacrifice.