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Archive for December 2009

Unequipped Saints and Shotgun Sunday

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My wife and I have lately been discussing just how much foundational teaching and instruction is missing from the church. Not just the apostate churches but even places where for the most part you will find truth being preached. For some reason people do not realize that preaching truth to a body of believers is not the sum of Christianity. Nor can a fellowship be considered faithful just because people do hear some biblical truth. The fact is, even when some sound truth is being preached most local churches fall so far from resembling any sort of biblical model with regard to the organization of the local church. And the sad thing is God has given us such wonderful instruction in his word regarding the structure of the local fellowship and what should take place when believers meet together. There’s really no excuse for what we see today in the Church. What we see today is pure disobedience to the word of God and an unwillingness to forsake long established “comfortable” traditions for the true picture of the local fellowship that scripture gives us.

So where to start? I guess I’ll start with what I call “Shotgun Sunday”. Shotgun Sunday is my title for what I see going on week after week and Sunday after Sunday (the quick formatted Sunday service). What you see going on in most churches every week could not in any way be called fellowship. In fact, most Sunday meetings are called “services” which actually is a more appropriate word for what takes place. It’s usually a regimented format that almost all “churches” follow. Everyone gathers together, they sing a few songs, take up and unbiblical tithe, hear the pastor preach, conclude with a prayer, and then go home to go on with their day. And all this is usually done within an hour and a half. And somehow this is supposed to be the biblical fulfillment and practice of the Saints meeting together. Can you find one example of this type of Sunday fellowship in all of Scripture? I’ve read the New Testament repeatedly but I just can’t find it. And there’s a reason I can not find it – it is not fellowship. What I see in Scripture is the meeting of the body of Christ interacting/participating together – not a place where believers come to hear one man preach week after week. Paul clearly outlines in 1 Corinthians what should take place in a meeting of believers. For one, you don’t see the meeting centered around one man who is called the Pastor. In 1 Corinthians 14:26 it says:

1Co 14:26 How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying.

Here Paul is speaking to the “Brethren”.  He is telling them what should or can happen when they meet.  Notice he does not say “when you come together listen to the Pastor preach”. It’s not there.  Instead he tells the “body of believers” that they can each have a psalm, a doctrine, a tongue, a revelation, an interpretation.  Just let everything be done for edification.  Now obviously there are some conditions on these things that are found in other passages of scripture.  A new convert is not going to be the one teaching biblical doctrine.  But the idea is that when believers meet together it is a participatory meeting where different member of the body of Christ are able to be used by the Spirit of God for the edification of all (which is what you see in the Corinthian church).  It’s an actual BODY of MANY member and not just a quick (Shotgun) service where one man teaches week after week.  And another difference that you’ll notice from most of the meeting today is that it is a meeting of BELIEVERS.  A meeting of the Church or the “Called out One’s”.  It is not primarily a Gospel proclamation meeting.  It is a primarily a meeting for those who have believed on Jesus Christ.  1 Corinthians 14:23 says:

1Co 14:23 If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad?

It says when the Whole Church comes together.  When all the believers come together in one place.  It is primarily a meeting of the believers.  Yet unbeliever who want to hear and listen are welcome to come (and hopefully through prophecy the secrets of their heart will be exposed and they will know that God is there 1 Cor 14:24,25).  1 Corinthians 11:18-20 says:

1Co 11:18 For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it.
1Co 11:19 For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.
1Co 11:20 When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord’s supper.

Again, in 1 Corinthians 11 it is the coming together of the church/believers.  What are they doing?  They are partaking of the Lord’s Supper.  Something no unbeliever is allowed to do.  But if they are there they can observe.  Yet that is very different than what we see today.  Instead of a fellowship primarily for believers we see a Sunday service open to all to hear one man preach a 30 minute sermon.

Where did this type of “service” come from?  I guess there’s different opinions on the matter.  I personally believe it’s a hold over from the Catholic Church.  During the reformation a lot of biblical truth was recovered from the Catholic Church (which is not church but a Harlot).  However, as far as I can see, the structure of the Church remained mostly the same with the Priest being replaced with a Pastor.  What does all this mean?  It means a One man ministry has usurped the biblical Five fold ministry.  And because most fellowships have a one man ministry the Saints are unequipped for the work of the ministry and somewhat stunted in their growth.  Even if a fellowship partially acknowledges other giftings besides the pastor the giftings are usually regulated and controlled by the pastor (the Nicolation doctrine that Jesus hates Rev 2:15).  What does the scripture say God has given to the church?

Eph 4:11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
Eph 4:12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
Eph 4:13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ:

Notice God has given apostles, prophets, evangelist, pastors, and teachers for the PERFECTING of the Saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ!  It didn’t say God just gave Pastors.  But what do you see today? Pastors, Pastors, Pastors. Only Pastors.  The church is primarily ruled by Pastors.  No wonder the Church is a mess.  God gave five gifts for the perfecting of the Saints but most churches reject what God has given.  When people tell me their fellowship is coming to a “perfect man”, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” and they don’t embrace the five fold ministry that God has given as a gift to the church, or meet in a biblical way…  I wonder how that could be true.  How can any fellowship reach biblical maturity without the “office” gifts that God has given?  Can a fellowship reach biblical maturity and be prepared for the work of the ministry with only a Pastor?  Not according to scripture and Christendom as a whole testifies to that.  Now I know that every fellowship may not have every “office” at once but they should be open to God bringing each gift into their fellowship, or raising people from within the fellowship, that all may grow and be edified.  Also, if you notice in Ephesians 4:8 God gave these offices as gifts to men.  They are gifts.  They are not something someone can purchase by going to bible school.

Eph 4:8 Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.

God calls people and gives them a certain gift.  But today you can purchase the title of pastor by going to a bible school. It’s interesting how bible schools almost always only turn out pastors. However, most of them are not recognized by God because it is God who calls people and gives them the gift.  When someone has a gift from God it is evident.  A teacher naturally wants to study the word and teach others the word of God and how to teach themselves.  A pastor naturally cares for believers and is burdened with their growth.  An evangelist has burning desire to witness and preach about Christ and teach others to do so.  A prophet naturally see’s the condition of the church and prophesies by God.  An Apostle is a man with one of these gifts that has been “sent out” by the Lord.  These things come naturally from the Spirit of God within a believer.  God’s gifts are evident in those He has given them too.  People are not primarily taught these things… they are gifts and calling from God.  But even this simple truth is neglected by most of Christianity.

A Note On Elders:

We see in the scriptures that the local church is overseen by appointed Elders (not congregational elected elders).   And as far as I can see from Scripture it’s usually a plurality of elders.  A bishop and an elder are the same thing.  Bishop just means overseer (notice it doesn’t say over lording but overseer) Titus 1:5-7 says:

Tit 1:5 For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee:

Tit 1:6 If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly.
Tit 1:7 For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre;

In verse 5 Titus is to ordain elders and in verse seven the elders are called Bishops – really overseers.  Notice there is also no such thing as an elder who is not active in preaching or teaching the Word of God.  Verse 9 says:

Tit 1:9 Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.

He is supposed to be able “by sound doctrine” to exhort and convince. And in 1 Timothy 3:2 it says an elder must be able to teach:

1Ti 3:2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;

Is there such thing as an elder who does not minister? Not according to scripture.  Elders are to be examples to the flock and the servants of all.

1Pe 5:1 The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed:
1Pe 5:2 Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind;
1Pe 5:3 Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.

Mat 20:27 And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant:

Some people are under the impression that elder must be old in age.  This is not true.  Though a person should be older in the Lord they do not have to be physically old.  The apostle Paul was a young man at his conversion.  Even if he was sent out 3 years later he wasn’t that old.

Act 7:58 And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man’s feet, whose name was Saul.

Some may say that Paul was an exception because he was an apostle chosen by the Lord to write most of the New Testament.  Ok…what about Timothy?  Timothy himself was young and he was an apostle of the Lord.  Paul told Timothy:

1Ti 4:12 Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.

Doesn’t sound like he’s very old.  In 1 Thessalonians Timothy and Silvanus are called apostles by the apostle Paul.

1Th 1:1 Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians which is in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.

This letter though written by Paul is also from Silvanus and Timothy to the Thessalonians. In Chapter two Paul says regarding himself, Silvanus, and Timothy:

1Th 2:6 Nor of men sought we glory, neither of you, nor yet of others, when we might have been burdensome, as the apostles of Christ.

Surely if Timothy is an apostle he is an elder.  In fact, Paul gives the young man Timothy instruction for the church.  Timothy, though young, was obviously mature in the faith and called by God.  So being an elder does not have to do with physical age but with spiritual maturity.  However, today elders are appointed or elected based on all kids of reasons which are not always scriptural.

It’s really hard to know where to stop…. I could go on and on.  But these few points highlight the faulty foundation that is the foundation of so many fellowships.  These highlight some of the biggest reasons why the Saints aren’t perfected for the work of the ministry and coming into the fullness of Christ.  Everything is unscriptural…from the service, to the Pastor, to the elders.  And again, it’s sad because God has given us everything we need in His word to have healthy biblical fellowships where the body of Christ can be the body of Christ.  And brethren, these are not just good idea’s these are truths from God that He has ordained to bring the body of Christ to maturity.  We have to desire what God want’s and not what our Pastor or our tradition has taught us.  God always knows what’s best and He’s graciously revealed it to us in His word.

Written by Sean Scott

December 23, 2009 at 4:00 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Spiritual Gifts and Brotherly Love

with 8 comments

This is my fist blog post in a long time.  I’m really not much of a writer but sometimes there are topics I want to speak on or passages from the Word I’d like to share that don’t really have anything to do with our ministry updates.  So hopefully this will be a format where I can share these things.   I’m hoping the Lord will use some of what I share to encourage and exhort others and to help me grow in the Lord as well.  Frankly, I’m not much of a writer so I’m counting on the grace of God to help me communicate my thoughts effectively. 

Over the last couple of years I’ve had the opportunity to travel quite a bit.  We’ve lived in Mexico, India, and traveled probably over 8,000 miles in the U.S since this past Feb visiting different brethren.  I’ve been able to interact and fellowship with believers from all walks of life and different cultures.  And aside from just this past two years I’ve also had the opportunity to visit and minister in about ten other countries as well.  So I’ve been able to see glimpses of the body of Christ in different place.  However, having been able to live and minister in a couple places for an extended period of time really helps one to see the strengths and weaknesses in the body of Christ in that area.  Through my interaction with other believers here in the US I’ve come to see that for most they do not allow the commands and call of Christ to permeate every facet of their life nor do they really want what they say they see in the Word as it pertains to fellowship with brethren.  It’s easy to say we want fellowship, that we love the brethren, or that we want the Spirit of God to move in our midst…ect.  But when put to the test most really don’t want what they say they want.   While I don’t want to go into too much detail I would like to share some of my experiences since being back in the U.S.that  have served to hightlight what I’ve just said.   I normally don’t share more personal things like this but I think they are very telling of some of the hinderances in the body of Christ. 

Recently the Lord revealed something to my wife and me about another believer and something going on in their family.  In fact, the Lord wanted us to go and speak to them regarding what He had shown us.  The Lord not only showed us what was going on but that the meeting would not end well.  We didn’t have the money to go but prayed about it to the Lord.  That night the Lord gave my wife a dream that we would have the money to make the trip.  Sure enough once we set our hearts to go we had the funds to get there.  Now this wasn’t just any brother.  This is a brother who I know serves the Lord and I’ve ministered with on many occasions.  In fact, I considered him a dear friend and one whom I’ve learned so much from.  He’s a brother I’d been so thankful the Lord had put me together with.  So, the Lord had us go and share what He had shown us.  Unfortunately this brother and his family took much offense to what was shared and said they could not fellowship with us any longer.  The sad part was God had testified to everything we shared and it is was undeniable to both me and this brother.  And indeed it ended just like God had shown us.  Because of being offended they began to question the gift of prophecy and whether God would speak to people through dreams or not (even though this had just come to pass)..or whether God would show someone else’s sins to another member of the body of Christ.  They failed to see that the whole thing was of God and that this came about because God cares for them and see’s what’s going on in their life.  It certainly was difficult for me to lose a good friend and a brother who had taught me so much.  But what are you to do?  If God show’s you something or wants you to speak something you have to do what the Lord says no matter the cost.  Even if for a time you lose the fellowship of those you considered friends.  But aside from the grief of losing a friend, for me the greater grief is seeing people shun the Spirit of God by rejecting the gifts that God gives by His Spirit.  The gift that seems to be especially shunned is the gift of prophecy – which I would say includes “words of Knowledge (along the same line).  Everyone is ok with gifts of healing or miracles..ect but when the someone beings to operate in a true prophetic gift or true word’s of knowledge they get shut out today almost as much as the old testament prophets did in times past.  So today you have two main ways in which believers deal with the gift of prophecy so that the Spirit of God cannot operate in a fellowship as He would have.  One, you have a large segment of Christianity that has reduced prophecy to nothing more than “preaching the word of God”.   Somehow they twist the scriptures to silence the prophetic gift from operating in their fellowships and regulated all the prophetic gifting to be in pastors who preach from the bible.  Many try to support their unbiblical doctrine by using the verses out of  1 Cor 13:8-10.

 8 Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part. 10 But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.  11 When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.

They take this passage to mean that once the bible was complete (the “perfect” in verse 12) prophecy, tongues, and knowledge, would be done away with.  Yet they fail to read just a few more verses to see when this would take place.  It will take place when we finally see Jesus face to face as it says in verse 12.  I highly doubt these people have seen Jesus face to face therefore meeting the biblical requirement for these things to cease.  But those who hold to this view have even greater problems when they regulate prophecy to just preaching.  If prophecy has been done away with then so has their preaching!  If indeed preaching is prophesying!  Yet somehow they continue to preach week after week.  Not only that Paul says in chapter 14 that He wishes the whole church would prophesy (verse 5).  And in verse 31 Paul says that everyone can prophesy one by one.  So by their understanding everyone should be able to take turns preaching.  But I guarantee you that you won’t find that practiced in any church that holds the position that preaching in prophesying.  So the truth is they are not even faithful to what they say they believe.  But it’s all built on a faulty assumption of what prophesy is anyway.  No wonder it’s a mess!  At least we can see from scripture that because we have not seen Jesus face to face that prophesy has not been done away with.  Now there are certainly times where prophecy does include Spirit inspired preaching.  Preaching that preaches the heart of God to any specific situation can be included in prophesy.  But prophesy is much broader than that.  Not only does it include forth telling but it also includes foretelling.  Just as Agabus in Acts 11:28 prophesied of a coming famine or as he prophesied of Paul being bound in Acts 21:11.  Agabus was foretelling the future.  I would even say that having word’s of Knowledge are also included in prophesy or is at least in the same vein.  Why?  Because if God gives you a word of knowledge about someone it is something that often exposes the secrets of their heart (which prophesying does).  I remember a time years ago that girl came over to our house because she wanted to talk about certain issues she was having and sin’s she was dealing with.  But she would never tell us what the issue or sin was.  She wasn’t wanting to be honest and expose herself.  However, during out time together the Lord quickened to both Lisa and I what the sin was.  It was a certain sexual sin that this person did not want to reveal.  Lisa met with this girl the next time alone and shared with her what God had shown us and it was just was God had shown us.  God had given us a word of knowledge about this girl and exposed her heart.  And the purpose of God exposing this ladies heart was for repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation.   God’s purposes are always to bring about good in these situations.  But what about those who say the gifts of the Spirit haven’t passed away?  I find that many who will say that the gifts of the Spirit haven’t passed away will say that they want to see them operate but once they do they forbid it to happen during fellowship. Why?  Because when someone prophesies or speaks a word of knowledge many times it’s something that exposes the heart.  Of course that doesn’t always feel good and it is often taken as negativity.  And even if they agree with the word spoken many will often say “it’s not the word but the “tone” or “the way you said it”.  When in all reality it really is a coming against the word spoken.  So they do exactly what Paul tells them not to do!  Paul say sin 1 Corth 14:39-40:  “39 Therefore, brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak with tongues. 40 Let all things be done decently and in order.”

They quench the Spirit keeping people from desiring to prophesy and forbid people to speak in tongues.  And all this while professing they want a new testament church with apostolic power.  As long as people are afraid of gifts of the Spirit truly operating as they should they will never see their fellowship truly resemble they type of fellowship God desires.  The truth is many times when someone prophesies or shares a word of knowledge to someone in reality is something the person they are sharing with already knows.  Sometimes they just don’t deal with the issue or are in denial.  Thankfully the Lord continues to find ways to exhort us in the faith and help us to be further conformed to Christ.  So let me ask you..do you despise certain gifts of the Spirit?  If you do then you despise God Himself since He’s the one who gives them.  Let us see that all of God’s gifts serve to benefit the body of Christ and to help us Glorify God. 

Now after my disappointment with this brother God burdened me to speak to another brother on the same issue.  I certainly wasn’t looking forward to it after my last experience.  And after seeing a brother I thought I was close to cut off fellowship with me I was thinking this could go either way.  So I shared with this brother some things out of concern and love.  This brother though received it in meekness and love and actually said it was perfect timing.  God had been speaking to their family about the same things.  I was so relieved.  I was expecting the worst but it turned out good.  They saw what I shared as concern for them in love and not a personal attack.    If we look at 2 Cor 7:12 (KJV) we can see what is most likely the heart of those who come to us with exhortations and corrections.  In 1 Cor Paul rebukes the Corinthian church for allowing a man who has committed a perverted sexual sin to remain in fellowship. Not only that but Paul corrects them for quite a few things.  Then in 2 Cor Paul gives his reason for his exhortation and correction.  He says:  “Therefore , although I wrote to you, I did not do it for the sake of him who had done the wrong, nor for the sake of him who suffered wrong, but that our care for you in the sight of God might appear to you”.    Hopefully that is how each of us will receive exhortations or corrections from brethren in Christ. 

WHAT ABOUT OFFENSES?

It doesn’t matter how close brethren are or where a particular fellowship is in their walk with the Lord together at some time or another offenses are going to come.  Whether they are real offenses or something that is taken wrong and considered offensive it’s going to happen.  The question is what do we do about them?  I’ve seen brethren (and experienced it myself) divide and disfellowship each other over disagreements and offenses in which there is no biblical basis for a separation.  There are clearly situations specified in the word where disfellowship and divisions are called for. (There is no biblical basis for unity at all cost.)  As far as I can see they include those preaching heresy, those who intentionally cause division, and those who persist in willful unrepentant sin.  There are also case where those with doctrinal differences might not be able to minister together in certain settings but they should be able to still fellowship together in love and worship of the Lord.  But we live in a day and age in which the culture that seems to say “our feelings and our rights” come first.  Unfortunately, that mentality whether people realize it or not, often carries over into the church.  And because of this, even among those who claim the name of Christ, people are quick to divide or disfellowship over issues which should be worked out in love.  It is clear from scripture that one of the principle fruits of those in the faith is their love for the brethren.  1 John 2:10 says:  “He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him”.    If one truly has love for the brethren and an offense come they will seek to work it out in love.  Knowing that they are dealing with one that Christ has redeemed and one who is an actual member of the body of Christ.  Not only that we are commanded to forgive just as God in Christ has forgiven us.  When we disfellowshp a believer in Christ for unbiblical reason it is a very serious thing.  In 1 Cor 8 Paul talks about how a believer is to act towards eating food that has been scarified to idols.  Paul goes on to talk about our liberty in Christ as long as we don’t offend the conscience of a weaker brother.  Paul then makes a very strong statement in verse 12:  “But when you thus sin against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ”.  That’s really severe.  If you sin against a brothers weak conscience in the matter of foods sacrificed to idols you actual sin against Christ!  Why?  Because the one you sin against is one that Christ has bought with His own blood and one in whom Christ lives by the Spirit.  How much more sever is it to cut off a member of the body of Christ for something Christ has not said to disfellowship over?  It certainly goes against everything God says regarding the love that should be manifested within the body of Christ.  And no matter how much someone reads their bible, prays, or minister if they persist in a state of unresolved sin against a brother their sin remains before God.  So how are we to treat offenses when they come?  They should be opportunities for us to show the grace of God and forgive the one who offended us especially if they seek reconciliation.  Or if we have offended others by some wrong they are opportunities to humble ourselves admit our wrong and seek forgiveness.  The love of Christ will compel true reconciliation.  The greater issue in all of this, even more than the individual reconciliation, is the glory of God…..the testimony we show to the brethren and the world around us.  Everything we do is to be done for the glory of God.  Christ said in John 17 that the world would know us by our love one for another.  When we divide over unbiblical issues we destroy the glory of God that should be projected and manifested to those around us.  However, when we dwell in biblical love and biblical unity (founded on the Truth – God’s Word) we project the glory of God that can only be manifested through the love of the brethren.  The fact is there are some things that can only be learned by working through offenses and disagreement with brethren.  As for me personally, I’ve often found that when and offense has come between me and a brother, and it’s worked out in love, most of the time our relationship and bond in the Lord actually become stronger.   So what about you?  Have you offended a believer or been offended?  Are there unresolved issues in your life?  Now is the time to seek to resolve them in Christ.  Not only for yours and your brethren in Christ relationship but also for the glory of God.  Remember, everything we do is to manifest God’s glory and goodness to each other and to those who are outside the body of Christ.  Ultimately, if our doctrine does not affect the way we live our lives towards each other then our doctrine is worthless. 

Well, I have more to say but I’ll save that for another post.    I thought I’d end this post with a song from a home fellowship in Canada.  The song is called Christ our Life:

http://www.christourlife.ca/Worship/Christ%20Our%20Life.mp3

May you be blessed as you meditate on your life being hidden in Christ and exhorted to put on love.

Written by Sean Scott

December 2, 2009 at 2:39 am