A friend asked me recently why it is, after all that church is (and is not, but claims to be) and has done to us, I would ever go back to one. My answer: Because it’s about the people, not the church.

A church has rules, and that’s partly of necessity. That’s the business part of it. (Church is, first of all, a business.) Turn the lights out when you leave, don’t leave the doors standing open in the winter, don’t jump on the pews, don’t carve on the piano, don’t (if it’s Baptist) give to Methodist causes, etc.

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s2smodern

When Jesus told Peter, “You, Peter, are but a little pebble, and upon the bedrock foundation of Myself I will build My ecclesia,” He used a term – ecclesia – that was known in the Roman-ruled world as the institution by which the ideas and values of the Roman empire were carried to and extended throughout the world. Whenever two or more Roman citizens were gathered in one place, Roman ecclesia was present – the authority of the Roman emperor himself was there with them. So Peter knew exactly what Jesus was saying when He spoke of HIS ecclesia. And Jesus was saying that it would be His work – a work of God and not of men.

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s2smodern

Those words cut. Unfortunately they are far too often true. A man typically goes about thinking of himself first, living in an imaginary world where others think of him as he thinks of himself, then he is shocked to discover a different reality wherein no one truly cares for or about him. It’s just the cold hard fact that (almost) nobody cares.

From the world outside of the Body of Christ, it is an attitude to be expected. But what of God’s people? For many of them don’t care, either. It should not be true in the church as people envision it to be, but it is, for the church is an institution, incapable of feeling or caring. But not caring about others CANNOT be true in the ecclesia. We who are the Body of Christ, though we are still subject to fleshly limitations, have inside of us the love of Christ that must mark us as different in the eyes of those living in the world where it’s “dog eat dog” and “every man for himself.”

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s2smodern

Many love the song: Give me that Old Time Religion: it was good for our fathers, and it’s good enough for me!

May I suggest that “good enough” is not really good enough? And, further, when the song says, “It will take us all to heaven,” that’s a flat-out lie. No religion will ever take anyone to heaven; only one’s redemption through the shed blood of Jesus Christ will do that.

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s2smodern

An arsonist set a fire that gutted the church where we attended when I was young. I was to learn in subsequent years that a) church fires are not that infrequent, and b) they can have an upside, in that they tend to burn into the souls of their members (those who are listening) some realities about the differences between the church (the institution) and the ecclesia (the actual bride of Christ).

In an article in the February/March 2018 issue of Presbyterians Today, “Idolizing our worship spaces,” pastor Richard Hong writes about a phenomena that occurred after a fire in his church and their subsequent move into other meeting places: “In all of the time that we have not been in our traditional sanctuary, we have been growing.”

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s2smodern

“I forgive you.” Sounds like Jesus-speak, does it not? After all, Jesus did tell us to forgive our enemies, did He not … that we should not expect to be forgiven if we ourselves do not forgive, right?

But what if someone “forgives” you for something that you did not do? “I forgive you for stealing from me.” “I forgive you for gossiping about me behind my back.” “I forgive you for slandering me.” Etc., etc., etc.

First off, implicit in this “forgiveness” is an accusation that you actually did the evil to the “forgiver.” But there is no due process. There is no evidence offered that you did the thing. There is only the accusation, couched in what pretends to be “forgiveness.” And this sort of “forgiveness” is not done face to face, man to man (in biblical fashion) with the accused, for in that setting, the two parties, the accused and the accuser, both know the truth and it has no effectiveness if there is no crime behind it; no, it is done in public – the words are spoken in a public forum, often when the one “forgiven” is not even present, for maximum effect.

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s2smodern

He’s standing in the self-check-out line at Walmart plugging pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters from his children’s piggy banks into the cash register just to buy a few groceries. He has no job and has not been able to get one, but he doesn’t qualify for government programs and would not, on principle, take that support even if it were available. Where is the church?

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In Numbers 22 – 24, the children of Israel, beginning to grow under the blessing of God, were being perceived as a threat to the surrounding nations. So Balak, king of Moab, sent for Balaam (the son of Beor, the soothsayer [Joshua 13:22], so soothsaying, the practice of blessing or cursing another in exchange for payment, may have been presumptively the family trade?) to curse Israel and, thus, eliminate Israel’s threat to Moab. Balak knew that Balaam had a connection with God and, with it, the power to effectively bless or curse anyone. So Balaam told the Moabite princes that he would do whatever God told him to do concerning Israel.

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s2smodern

When Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden and ate of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, they went and hid. They made themselves coverings of fig leaves to hide their nakedness. The habit continues today – people covering their weaknesses, their failures, their shortfalls, their embarrassments, their insecurities with fig leaves.

A church needs a leader without fig leaves – one who will be for them the model of a spiritual nudist. Unfortunately, that model is not standard. What most see is a very polished, very covered up artificial contrivance. Consider:

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s2smodern

If your church were not there, would anybody miss it? If so, what would they miss about it?

When you go there, are you excited – thrilled, even – at the reflection of Jesus that you see in the face of others, and do they see that same reflection in you? Or do you talk about the weather, last Friday’s ball game, the new bull, or Uncle Andy’s gout –  anything but the One Who built His body (ecclesia) upon the rock of Himself?

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s2smodern

It’s about culture.

Guys, wear your hair “too” long, and you’re a rebel. That goes back to the 60s and 70s. How long is “too long” depends: it’s relative. And if someone says, “Well, Jesus had long hair!” that guy just doesn’t get it. (See, if He did, it was OK back then; it wasn’t culturally relevant. [But, no, actually, others would say, Jesus’ hair was always short enough to pass hair check - a very modern military look - while everyone else’s around him was longer, at least over the ear.] My point. Culture.)

Nowadays it’s OK for women to wear pants, but not so long ago it was – My goodness! Talk about rebellion! Cultural.

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s2smodern

Shallow is sometimes defined as a mile wide and an inch deep. Most of life, quite frankly, is shallow that way. But there’s no place for shallow in the Kingdom of God – in its earthly manifestation, the ecclesia. So we’re drilling down on church.

What is the church and how does it differ from what Jesus set up in scripture (the ecclesia)? Yes, there is a difference. Go back and read the articles that preceded this one. But we’re not stopping there. This is not a mission to destroy but to resuscitate. Some call for revival, others for reformation, but let’s go for a revolution – a complete turning around, 360 degrees, back go what Jesus set up 2000 years ago. And when we encounter conflict with what currently exists, let’s let scripture rule. That’s Ground Rule # 1.

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s2smodern

God resides in a building made with hands. We call that place the “house of God.” There is one day of the week that He is more present there , and that is when we are supposed to go meet with Him.

We follow pagan practices that we insist are scriptural because they are called by terms that appear in our favorite versions of the Bible, never taking the time to do deeper studies of the original text in the original languages or the full context of the passage in question or the actual historical record to come to understand just what was intended by the writers of scripture and what historically changed that intent, and for what purpose.

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s2smodern

The largest single and fastest growing demographic among Christian believers as concerns church is the un-churched – those who are not members of and do not regularly attend the services of a church. If this writer has been successful in pointing out the distinctions between the church and the ecclesia, that need not cause readers to regard decreasing church membership necessarily as evidence of fewer numbers in the Body of Christ - the ecclesia – itself, for the two are distinctly different. And, in fact, as the church is not the ecclesia but often serves rather to distract believers from the ecclesia, it is better that the church should decrease. (“He must increase but I must decrease.”)

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s2smodern

Let’s start with a few operative principles:

If commanded explicitly by the written Word of God in the original languages, it is authoritative; all else is suspect. (Acts 17:11 governs.)

If God did not say, God did not say; let God be true and every man a liar. (If a man says that God said what God did not say [and record as such in His written Word], that man is a liar.)

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s2smodern

It has all the components of a business: cash flow (or a negative downside from lack thereof), a CEO, a board of directors, employees, customers, products and services, advertising, special offers, a physical plant, overhead expenses, recognition by government and other businesses, interaction with suppliers and regulatory agencies, etc. It also has access to the greatest manual on business ever written … which manual, and dissemination of business success instruction therefrom, is one of its primary purposes for existence as a business. It is highly intriguing, therefore, that this business entity is so practically averse to disseminating that information regularly.

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s2smodern
Mike Scruggs