Friday, September 30, 2011

Why We Left the Institutional Church and What Are We Seeking Now? (Part1)

Knowing that Gary and I have been out of the institutional church nearly five years, it isn’t uncommon for people to ask us, “Why did you leave” and “What is it that you believe you are being led to?” I hope that this and next week’s article will succinctly answer those questions for others who may be wondering.

You’ve heard me share the statistics before that at least one million people are leaving the institutional church every year. According to the surveys, they are leaving, not because they lost their faith, but often in order to sustain their faith. It seems that it is the Spirit of God driving them out of the religious edifices and the organizations connected to them!

According to George Barna’s surveys published in 2005,

30% of committed believers in America no longer attend traditional religious congregations.
If the trend continues, in 20 years,
70% of committed believers in America
will no longer be a part of these congregations!

These statistics should be a wake-up call for groups attempting to maintain traditional religious practices, programs, buildings, etc! What would be the purpose of vainly hanging on to a vision for the next 20 years, if year after year the most committed members leave?

Why would the Spirit be driving them out?

1. Truth!

The Spirit of God is leading His people to understand that Jesus meant it when He declared that there would be no religious “high place” or edifice where His people will worship Him!

Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know;
we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews
Yet a time is coming and has now come
when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the spirit and in truth,
for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.
God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the spirit and in truth

[John 4:21-24].

The Spirit of God is revealing that His presence cannot be encapsulated or represented in any physical or manmade entity! In fact, God’s people are realizing that maintaining a building with all its religious trappings for the purpose of worshiping Him is idolatry! “When Stephen proclaimed, ‘the Most High does not dwell in temples made with hands’ (Acts 7:48), he chose the Greek adjective cheiropoieton, ‘made with hands,’ used by Hellenistic Jews to condemn idolatry.

Father is so adamant about this idolatrous practice of building a place to worship Him that He continues to rebuke the Jewish Sanhedrin through Stephen, quoting the prophet Isaiah,

“Heaven is my throne and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for me?
says the Lord.
Has not my hand made all these things?
You stubborn lot, your minds and hearing are uncircumcised!
You always resist the Holy Spirit!
This is what your ancestors did, and you are doing exactly the same thing!
- Acts 7:49-50

This assertion is what got Stephen stoned to death!

Followers of Jesus are being awakened to the reality that He never commanded them to show up at a religious edifice on a weekly basis, for the early believers had no specifically designated “church” buildings in which to gather! Out of fear of persecution, many of the Jewish Christians were ceasing to meet in one another’s homes and returning to Judaism instead. Consequently, in Hebrews 10:25 they were encouraged to remain faithful to Jesus and His Kingdom of believers by continuing to meet in one another’s homes in light of potential persecution!


No comments:

Post a Comment