You are NOT the church : The scattering movement : What about church online?
THE SCATTERING MOVEMENTTo say that I’m concerned would be a gross understatement. There is a scattering movement in the nation that’s causing deep harm to the mission of the church. This scattering of believers is so widespread that we are seeing theologies and philosophies emerging that support the idea that it’s actually healthy to disband and withdraw. It becoming common to hear people say things like, “The church isn’t a building,” or, “I am the church, so I don’t have to go ‘to church’.” The idea is that people have become so wounded or dissatisfied with their experience in the church that they have decided that it’s not only better but actually biblically acceptable to minimize participation in an organized church setting. This mindset is threatening the corporate mission to a terrifying degree.
YOU ARE NOT THE CHURCHIf we understand the meaning of the word ‘church’ we could never presume that we alone are the church. That idea is contrary to the origin of the word (ekklesia, meaning “assembly”). In fact, that word has secular origins. It literally means an assembly of people who have been called together by an authority in the city or region. Wow! That sheds a lot of light on what the church is. The church is an assembly of people organized under defined governmental leadership. It’s a regular gathering of people who are deeply agreed and in pursuit of mission advance under God’s apostles, prophets and other governmental leaders. Further, the pure definition of the word reveals that it isn’t used as easily in the context of the global company of believers as it is in the regional and local gathering of believers. The definition reveals that it’s a well defined local group vs. a loosely defined larger group of people (who mostly don’t know each other at all). We can’t be a part of the church if we aren’t gathered together with other parts of the church. Church is corporate. Additionally, the church is a group of people who assemble, fellowship, pray and respond together to apostolic teaching. That can’t happen in a more nebulous global context. The church has inherent in it’s core call the expectation of assembly and a corporate response so as to ensure the local mission is fulfilled. Again, a fulfilled mission can’t be realized without this type of intentional and faithful participation at a local level where communication and commonality are clearly defined.
WHAT ABOUT HAVING CHURCH ONLINE?I agree that there is much to enjoy and gain from this amazing technological world. We can watch church services online (I was watching one myself just tonight), listen to worship, meet Christians in forums and on Facebook, pray for one another and involve ourselves in Kingdom business in very unique ways. However, if this is the limit of one’s involvement, there are some key issues to be considered:
- DEVOID OF APOSTOLIC LEADERSHIP—There is most probably (there are exceptions) no clearly defined apostolic leadership involved. We have to know who we’re called to serve with. We have to all hear, together, in our local congregation, how we are to respond in mission advance. What’s God calling our leaders to focus on? How are we to participate? What are the goals? What steps must we take to prepare ourselves to see this come to pass?
- LACK OF STRATEGIC CORPORATE INTERCESSION—While not impossible, it’s very hard to involve ourselves in the number one purpose of the church this way—corporate intercession. We just have to be together to pray with unity and consistency if we are to have the sufficient strength to see significant impact.
- NO ACCOUNTABILITY—Accountability and discipline are nearly non-existent outside of the context of the local church. Most who flock from the church and into alternative spiritual activities do so to avoid conflict, accountability and correction from leadership. We have to understand that this is a critical part of the refining process. We must be receptive and humble and ready to be challenged—even if the leaders God established for us are exceptionally flawed and out of touch with our needs.
- PROMOTES MISUNDERSTANDING OF THE PURPOSE OF THE CHURCH—It can quite easily reinforce a wrong understanding of the purpose of the church. I would say this is the most serious issue. The prevailing thought these days is that the church is there for us. Whatever needs we have, we can get many of them met in the church. So, we attend if we are ministered to. Or, we may determine that we can get what we’re looking for without regular church attendance. So, the church becomes unnecessary to us. Friend, this concept is a defilement of the church. I can’t say it any less striking than that. We are called to gather together with other believers primarily to intercede for the nations. We are there to give, to leave offerings, to serve, to minister, to pray, to grow. The church isn’t primarily there for us, we are to be there for the mission of the church. We may say that we don’t need the church but have we considered that the church needs us?
Technorati Tags: scattering movement,church,online,ekklesia,assembly,gathering,leadership,authority,prayer,intercession,nations
Great Article! People need to read this not only is it a rebuke to this mindset but it is also an encouragement to be connected to other believers. I know by experience if I'm out fellowship with God and fellowship with the Body I am miserable. Much more how can one say they love God whom they haven't seen and avoid their brethern whom they have seen simply because they were hurt. Forgive, forget, move on, and love upon one another. It's the key to fellowship among the brethern. (Besides growing in one's love for God which allows us to love one another.) Blessings to you!
This and your "breech" post… I agree with the overall theme of the argument. Semantics such as "under" governmental leadership could possibly use different terminology. Again, alot comes down to.. what is church? What is the purpose of church? What is the purpose of the "government" (5-fold). Can we expect to see us all "reach the unity of the faith" and "maturity" in our lifetime. Jesus seemed to get there in 3.5 years. We seem to expect 35 or more years for the same.
Like with the "breech" scenario.. Who is at fault? You can say the issue is prematurity, but is it really the feet's fault for coming out first? You could just as well blame the head for not coming fast enough. I think the argument is right, but it's missing the under-pinning issues. Why are people leaving? Why should people stay? You touch on some of them, but they are awful idealistic and, in a large degree, while we can say we should be under apostolic leadership and vision, but what do we do to find, create, or substitute that?
The issue is sheep are hungry. Often, there are no shepards. Oh, there's some. But, sometimes, there's an "itch" inside for something more…. Perhaps a prayer life, but you've never heard of IHOP. Perhaps prophecy, but you live 12 hours from Morningstar. Maybe tongues, but you weren't taught that in Sunday School… Add to that a growing fatherlessness and other issues leading to increasingly broken people without a source of deliverance and inner healing growing at the same rate….
Or just take the presence-less service, or worse, the darkened meeting… I agree with you that the leaving is a problem. But, where are the spiritual church services? What happened to, if God doesn't show up, let's not just do without Him. I realize there are many GOOD churches out there too. But, our programming, our ability to keep it running, our lack of unction is killing us. Our lack of discernment to know what's wrong or the lack of manhood to confront it, coupled with our bad doctrine to excuse it. And, for those who haven't felt a specific call to a specific body, who have little personal influence, who just want to find God and to do everything that you said but can't find that, then what?
It's just a big issue…
What I find interesting about this opinion piece is the vacuum in which it is written (written from the perspective of a “company man”) and the lack of scriptural backing for what is stated. As a man who loves God and HIS church (I assume), I would encourage you to do two things. 1. Seek out people (lots of them) who have left the church and find out why they have actually left. Listen for the story underneath the story; that’s where the real story is. I think you’ll be surprised at how inaccurate your assumptions are. 2. Do a focused study on the early church and tell me that your opinion doesn’t change. One cannot read the New Testament and come to the conclusion that what we have today is what Christ left to build.
Finally, I would say that a “scattering” is probably the best thing that could happen to the church. A farmer doesn’t go in to his field and dump all of his seed in a pile, but “scatters” it throughout the field in order to increase his yield. The modern institutional church has done nothing to scatter the seed, but has dumped it all in a pile and is slowly dying because of it.
@2trakmind The point is understanding what the church is, what its purpose is. We have to start there. There are a lot of redefinition attempts right now in our culture, but we have to go back to Acts, back to the entirety of scripture and see what the purpose is.
My guess is we disagree on the functional purpose. Many believe the church is there mostly for those who are participating… so they can be fed, have needs met, develop community, etc. I agree that all of that is a secondary part of the church experience, but they are not the end goal.
Ekklesia (church) is a secular term that’s very easily understood. Governmental leaders would gather people to give them information and instruction.
It’s not mostly about community or meeting needs, it’s about rallying around missions that aren’t mostly about us. The Great Commission, the Great Commandment, etc. The work of the Kingdom must be done, and the power needed to do that only comes through corporate unity.
And, I firmly believe that God does appoint leaders today. Apostles, prophets, etc. They do have a specific vision that, when fulfilled, will result in the masses finding Jesus. There are people who God is raising up to lead in the spirit of Joshua, who will boldly gather people to cross impossible rivers and take dominion of cities and regions.
I’ve written two books on this topic, Covens in the Church and Pharaoh in the Church, and I’m currently writing the third, The Coming Church. My heart is to humbly equip and see people led into their phenomenal Earth shaking missions. This happens most powerfully when we are together.
I sense the problem with what is being stated here is an over statement of the importance of ‘apostolic leadership.’ Jesus is the chief shepherd and by the power of the Holy Spirit, He will move His people across the plains and mountians of this world to advance his army on a way that pleases Him. I disagree that God speaks to leaders and gives them the vision and then the followers are to impliment that vision. Jesus spread the gosple throughout the known world through a handful of committed men who knew Jesus, and were empowered by the power of ther Holy Spirit, not the vision of Paul, or Peter.
Certainly we need a community of beleivers around us to encourage and correct us. Certainly God is capable of evangelizing the world one person to another without big buildings, huge budgets and “apostolic leaders.”
That’s what my bible teaches me.
Apostolic Leaders in this Age are to be the examples moving the Church to “do” What Jesus has commanded us to do. When the Leaders of the Church start coming up with their own ideas and new visions not already expressed by the will of Christ then we need to decide whether or not they are actually being led by the Holy Spirit. Christ has given us the vision it is to Love God and love one another everything we do or the Church does corporately should be done in this context. The Greatest one among us is the Servant of ALL however pride ,love of money, controlling spirits, and a desire to have the emminince are factors which must be resisted. In organizations which are not operating by the Holy Spirit, we find these things coming out of the leadership, and they are prevolent in the Church organizations behind the closed doors of the leadership. I have yet to find an organized ministry which does not have some kind of vying for power or control which overshadows the true and pure work of the ministry of God. I have come to realize that TRULY Christ is the Head of the Church (Thank God) and that “HE” will build his church. And that many who call out Lord, Lord, and claim to be “HIS” need to reestablish the true heirarchy of God in their thinking. that Christ is the head of every man.
@Kurttb1 I believe we can and do have healthy, loving, servant leaders in the church. Leadership is not evil, but leaders can sometimes have evil intentions. We can’t eliminate biblical leadership because some of them are unholy.
What often happens is people don’t like to be controlled… they accuse a leader of being controlling, which may or may not be true. So, what do they do? They take ‘control’ of their own lives, embrace an independent spirit and really do the same thing they accused their leader of doing. Being in control.
IF we are led by the Holy Spirit then we already have someone who is Controlling our lives, we certainly do not need someone trying to press in and attempt to take the place of the Holy Spirit. What I see in leadership of the Church these days is a battle over “Who gets to Spend the money collected and what will it be spent for”
@Kurttb1 Again, you can’t eliminate leadership just because you’ve seen it mishandled. Do you believe it’s clear in scripture that we are to be submitted to humans?
The Bible tells us to submit to one another. Those who are led by the Spirit of God …do recognize others who are examples of where we are to be going and what we are supposed to be doing.
Hebrews 13:17 (ESV) 17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.
@johnburton @Kurttb1 show me a leader who is keeping watch over my soul and i will follow. Most are keeping watch over their denominational distinctives, their popularity and of course the offerings. Please note that the apostle Paul actually encouraged some not to follow their leaders in some of the other epistles because they were corrupt. The author of Hebrews obviously knew the leaders and endorsed them. How can you tell someone else to obey their leaders when you don’t even know them. That’s reckless and certainly not in keeping with keeping watch over one’s soul.
@johnburton @Kurttb1 I would just like to say John, that we are all equal and of great value in God’s eyes , and there is no mediator between God and man except for Jesus…No self proclaimed prophets or apostles should be telling people how to live their lives for God…We all have different facets of His character in our lives to enrich each other with, not control and manipulate…I see where your coming from, I use to think the same, but it’s so old school and man made…His Grace is Huge and God is Love and when I look at todays denominations(which by the way means dividing of nations), sadly, I do not see Love flowing to the world, I see His love in the most unlikely places and coming from so many different people…Come out of the box and enjoy and relax in His freedom…. 🙂
Interesting. Your definition of the word ‘church’ (Gk. ekklesia) is formed to support your argument. Literal translation is more likely “(a group) called out from”, _perhaps_ for a purpose, but certainly not with any mention of defined government or leadership. I think you would be better off pondering this – “The church is CHRIST! Where Christ is, the church is, and where Christ is NOT, the church is not! Those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.
By the way, God’s purpose for the church is clearly stated in Eph 3…
(Eph 3:10-12 NIV) “His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, (11) according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. (12) In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.”
In other words, it is John 17.
I have seen more Christ conformity outside the worldly “church” system than within it.
…blessings in Him…
@FollowingOn I’d recommend watching a great video by Dutch Sheets. He shares very clearly the purpose of the church, what Ekklesia is, the family vs. mission based church, etc.
OK John, I watched the Dutch Sheets video. Now, how about you spend some time reading one (or more) of the books on the church by Theodore Austin-Sparks, here…
…or indeed any of the articles on that site, which are all useful for building up.
Or, perhaps you would prefer the language to be a little more recent, in which case, you might appreciate the article “To The Church Outside The Camp”, linked here…
…blessings in Him…Gordon
In my reading of the New Testament, I find Jesus’ main preoccupation is with helping people get to know Himself and learn to trust Him – so that they might happily choose to accept His invitation to a personal friendship with Himself.
He said: “If I be lifted up I will draw all people to myself.” (Jn 3:14) NOT:..I will draw all people to church. He also said: “Come to ME all you who are heavy laden and “I” will give you rest.” NOT; …come to church and the church will give you rest. I believe the foundation of Organized religion is the devil’s lie that Jesus is ABSENT and uninvolved in peoples lives. But He said repeatedly “I will be with you always” – ” I will never leave you or forsake you.” – “Follow ME.” suggesting that He would always be near for us to follow! I say beware of religious intermediaries who claim to speak for God instead of introducing people to Jesus. They proceed as though the HOLY SPIRIT didn’t indwell believers and speak to their hearts. Salvation and true freedom in the Spirit and the power to love God and others comes only from a personal friendship with Jesus Christ. If the church on the corner shouted this from its pulpits as well as from the housetops…we could change the world!
@Bob Cloutier I believe we do hear that message… I know I hear it often in churches I’m connected to. We absolutely must introduce as many people to Jesus as possible.
We can all hear God, of course. I wrote a book on that and teach on it. But, God also does still speak to us at times through other people, such as prophets, which means we have to be alert to God’s voice through human lips.
after a decade of serving faithfully at a local church…..as the pastors “right hand man”…..i look back at all the performance i have done….doing and saying the right things…..attending every meeting….serving when no one else dared too…..what has it brought me….nothing…!!
as i have backed off over the last year and sought God as my source…i am fulfilled with the truth i am His son….and i no longer need the affirmation of men….and in this i have found sadly the relationships i thought i had with people in the church were merely positional….because i was in a postion of leadership, but there turns out to be little real relationships left as i leave the postion, but continue seeking God….not in a sunday morning environment….and the truth is…so be it.
i am no longer persuaded to perform because i think i have too….i meet with people in my home weekly and a group of guys in Gods garage on saturday mornings and these relationships are real because we meet in an enviroment where postion does not matter…love matters.
sadly the majority of the church continues to rely on a close minded meeting where everyone does the same thing week in and week out and creative expression is never allowed…be bold and be free
@vanderdad It’s true that we don’t need the affirmation of man… but, where I would challenge you is in your expectations. You made the point: “what has it brought me….nothing…!!”We don’t serve others with the expectation of receiving anything in return, just as Jesus selflessly laid down his life for us.
when vander dad says nothing what he is saying, is what many have experienced, it did nothing to promote or grow us closer to God or Jesus. In all my attempts to serve the church, I walked further and further from God, and His calling in my life.
I think the biggest problem is that the Church heirarchy seems to define what people establish as relationships- that is relationships in respect to specific positions and vieing for attention or power, when a person falls or moves out of this position then rather than people caring about the person they really care more about the position, I served a ministy for years and when the leaders stepped down they lost most of the attention and or Care that anyone had for them. This is really a messed up way of seeing things however it seems to come with the organized church. Who ever is in office or has the money has the power and those who have office or money may not be those “God has Called” but rather those “man has esteemed” and this creates a deep sickness in the body of Christ which makes people want to move away from the Church rather than align themselves with it.
I went to organizational church for many years. It helped me know Jesus as Savior and Lord; and for that I am grateful. It helped me know that I cannot do what he desires…I cannot be what He asks…I cannot achieve what he sets out as an expectation. Since removing myself from organized church, I have entered into church as a vibrant, creative, ever-present organism. I am freer than I have ever been before. I now know Jesus as friend and lover. I now know God as Abba Father. I am His son. It took me removing myself from trying to be moral, ethical and doing all the right things for me to come to the true gospel. I step into an organized church service nowadays and feel like I am in prison. This is not because I think the pastor is evil; rather I am 100% convinced that our westernized system of church is flawed and stunts us from deeper and richer maturity with Father.
if we cannot be what Christ asks us to be … then we have a God which is not very loving or caring considering he knows we are human. The truth is.. is that we must be able to be what he asks or .. he shouldn’t ask.. right !! The truth also is that he gives us the power thru the Holy Spirit to be what he “asks” however we as disciples need to really study to understand what it is that he is asking of us, another words maybe you cannot be what God asks you to be because you believe he is asking more of you than that he really is, however, only a righteous God can ask us to be something and then expect us to be it, right!! So We need to understand “What exactly is it that God asks?” and “Look for the power of the Holy Spirit to enable us to do or be what he asks.
Furthermore, since I am called a Royal Priesthood by God, so that I can enter the Holy of Holies boldly without the need of any other higher ranking clergy member to make intercession for me, then why do I need apostolic leadership. Jesus made intercession for me once and for all. What gives these so called leaders any more ability to discern God’s heart than me? Pastors are not my shepherds. Jesus is my Shepherd. Pastors do not guide me…the Holy Spirit guides me.
I am through being part of the Old Covenant form of religion. The veil was torn, and the Spirit of God was given to my heart of flesh. I will make myself accountable, in the context of friendship, to those people who really know me and the love of Father. I will not be governed by the outside-in anymore by these overseers who have gotten a degree from a college and use that as their reason for which I should be under their leadership.
The form of Christianity that I see being espoused by you reminds me of the fictional characters The Borg in the TV show Star Trek. There were no individuals in the Borg philosophy. Instead each individual’s primary purpose was for the good of the “collective.” In other words, the individual was to lay down his life for this system of philosophy.
I have found that when you focus on trying to form community (aka – the collective) by programs, systems, and ministries you get neither authentic community, nor thriving and lasting friendships between the individuals. However, when people are free to be led by the Spirit, and focus on knowing and being known by another (the individual), one relationship at a time, that community grows organically. Consequently, out of that grows the church by God; not by system, organization, and outside-in governing of a pastor.
When Jesus sets us free, we are free indeed; and that includes freedom from the demands, expectations, pressures, and intimidations of well-meaning church “leaders.”
Hallalujah brother ! Those that Christ sets free are free indeed !
You are welcome to your heavy-handed view of church, but church IS
people! Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, people, not
buildings, institutions, nor contrivances of man’s own wisdumb. Church
IS the called out ones! The ones called out of the way that men in the
world do things, like organize and control others to death. How I wish I
had seen it sooner! How much heartache I would have been spared, how
much hurt on others I would not have committed. You are welcome to your
ideas and wisdumb as you continue to watch God Almighty call His
children out of man-driven institutions. How I hope you join us, but
that will only come when you are not so full of yourself.
God bless you!Rory
Where are the other 30 comments? I just see one from Rory Wynhoff. I would like to read the rest of the comments and see what others think of this article – The Scattering Movement.
Looking back at my request a year or so later, I see the other comments remain removed. Is that because the majority of those removed comments did not agree with your position? I also noticed that the number of comments has been changed to “4”, as of 4/2/15. What are you hiding? Why do you, John Burton, or whoever edits these comments feel the need to remove 30 comments and change the actual number of comments posted to a fictitious number? If you truly believe that your position on “church” is the way, then won’t it with-stand the differences presented by those who are “scattering” away from institutional Churchianity? Sadly, I would imagine that even this post will be removed to quiet the dissenters. I hope not; I hope we can have an honest dialogue.
I would like to see a scripture which documents the number one purpose of the church as being corporate intercession.
Compare this with Paul’s words from Ephesians 4
And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.
We are called to mature in Christ, and the job of an apostle is the same job as any of the other giftings of God, to edify and equip the body to do this very thing. What’s God calling our leaders to focus on? Paul just told you.
There are apostles prophets and pastors who work in their giftings wherever they are whether they be on the internet writing to their brothers and sisters in Christ, on the street, sitting in an aeroplane or talking on the phone. Corporate intercession is not a term used in the Bible. We are to pray for one another, pray without ceasing, pray at all times, etc etc. We are all communing with God and the Holy Spirit and it matters very little whether this intercession is being done together or apart from one another. A group of people praying in the upper room and waiting on the Lord could be termed ‘corporate intercession’, but so could a family praying together for some issue or another. A great many men and women of God were isolated from their fellow believers for long periods. The Old Testament is full of examples, as is the New. James and Peter both wrote to those Jews who were scattered abroad and as a result spreading the gospel much further than it would have been if they had stayed in their own home towns.. The diaspora were ‘scattered’ over the continent of Asia, yet Paul didn’t rebuke them for being so. He wrote to them to encourage them. Why did he write? Because he was separated from them bodily, yet communicated with them in writing.
Don’t dismiss the ‘disaspora’ of modern western christianity as a group of disobedient and rebellious children who need to be kept in line by the corporate church or they will cause the fall of the church. Did Jesus predict the fall of the church? He most certainly did not. He predicted a great falling away, but that is not the same thing. Those falling away are more likely to be sitting in a pew somewhere listening to the emerging church theology of universalism or ecumenism or any number of other such deceiving doctrines. There are a great many genuine believers who are leaving the organised church because of the direction that much of the organised church is going. There are a lot of false theologies out there, and a great many people with more discernment than you are giving them credit for.
I think your terms of reference are extremely narrow, and to assume that the ‘church’ is now scattered because there is a growing number of people who are no longer going to a corporate or corporeal assembly is a rather unfounded and hysterical assumption. Where is your proof, your numbers, your statistical analysis? Where is the actual evidence that the church is now ‘scattered’ as you put it. What you really mean is undermined. Those outside of the church doors are there for reason and those reasons are far more complex and personal than the ones you have suggested.
Your argument sounds to me as though it has been formed on the basis of fear and anxiety. As for your insistence on accountability and discipline? I have encountered far more undisciplined and unaccountable so called pastors, prophets, apostles and teachers than I ever have members of a congregation. I think you will find that the instances of abuse of authority and abuse of discipline inside corporate church organisations far higher than you realise. This I think you will find will be a huge influence on the decisions of people not only to leave the church which is abusing them, but to avoid other churches who also have a distinct lack of understanding about what true authority is. Servanthood, humility and genuine help and support seem to be conspicuous by their absence in the western church as a whole.
Jeremiah 23:1 says “Woe to my shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture”. You are certainly correct in your assessment of the church of today. In our ME oriented society, we want a church that meets our needs, our goals, or priorities, instead of focusing on Him. We come for the audience of one, Jesus Christ. With our purpose driven life, we need a church that is focused on building the Kingdom. The new testament church was driven by constant prayer, intercession, building the saints, reproof/correction, and a cooperate coming together, The church is an assembly of people organized under defined (and I would add Divine, here) governmental leadership.
Jeremiah 23:1 says “Woe to my shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture”.