About Jesus   Steve Sweetman

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My Criticism Of Church


This article is a follow-up to my last article.  If you haven't read "The Counter Cultural Church", click this link to read.


When I say I was born and raised in Christian Evangelicalism; I really was.  From the time I was conceived until I left home as a young adult you'd find me in that which we call church at least three times a week.  That doesn't include the times when it was our family's turn to dust the pews, vacuum the floor, and clean the washrooms, something church pays people to do these days.  As a young adult you'd see me in coffee houses, homes, schools, church buildings, parks, and on the streets, in the service of the Lord.  From dawn to dusk, Bible college in the mid 1970's was one continuous meeting.  Some of us were beginning to feel "meetinged out".  For all of my 62 years of life I've been associated with church in one shape or form, and there are numerous shapes and forms of church.  I estimate I've attended about 12,000 church meetings in my life.    


It's not that I despise my Evangelical roots because I don't.  Granted, I still believe the legalism preached to us stifled my spiritual growth.  All the "do's and don'ts" kept me bound by my feelings associated with guilt.  I feared that hell's fire could consume me at any given moment.  One slip would do me in.  The demonization of the gift of tongues Jesus gave me led me to a new expression of church as seen in the "Jesus People Movement" of the late 1960's and early 1970's. 


For the most part I consider my parent's generation to have been dedicated to Jesus.  Some of my friends will recall Edith Mainprise, our pastor during the 1950's and early 1960's.  She was single, down to earth, and a dedicated servant of Jesus.  You couldn't have asked for a more warm hearted pastor.  Then there was Mr. Wanamaker.  He openly shared Jesus and was criticized by his co-workers for doing so.  There were many godly people in the Free Methodist Church back then, yet from my vantage point, Evangelical Christianity isn't the Bible based conservative movement my parents generation once embraced. 


After countless trips to the altar as a youth, in February, 1970, during a five second prayer in my bedroom, Jesus ripped away my feelings associated with guilt forever.  From then on I could serve Him without hesitation or fear.  Part of serving Jesus for me was giving myself to Biblical instruction.  No longer did I read a few Bible verses each day to suppress and appease my feelings associated with guilt.  Instead, the Bible formed the foundation for my life.  In less than one and a half years I had memorized more than 2000 Bible verses.  I could quote the whole book of Philippians by heart without stumbling over words.  Don't ask me to do that now.    


I soon learned that the Bible I grew to love didn't hide the faults of God's people.  Genesis 16 tells of Abraham's lapse of faith.  Exodus 17 tells of Moses' sin that disqualified his entrance into the Promised Land.  2 Samuel 11 tells of King David's adultery.  Acts 5 describes Ananias and Sapphira lying to the Holy Spirit.  Acts 15 recalls the dispute that separated Paul and Barnabas.  1 Corinthians 1 points out factions in the church.  1 Corinthians 5 tells of a man having sex with his step mother.  1 Corinthians 6 describes Christians engaging in lawsuits with each other.  Galatians 2 recalls Paul rebuking Peter in public for his hypocrisy.  Revelation 2 and 3 shows Jesus calling on seven churches to repent of their sin.  On and on it goes.       


The church at Ephesus was one of the seven churches Jesus called to repentance.  In Revelation 2:5 He told this church to repent or else cease to be.  Similar exhortations were given to the other six churches located in Asia Minor, now present day Turkey.   Apparently, at some point in time these churches didn't take Jesus seriously.  Eventually, and it did take some time, they circum to Muslim armies who stripped them of any resemblance of church that still existed.  As is often the case, Jesus used an anti-Christ regime to judge his unrepentant people.  Let it be known that it really wasn't Islam who wiped out these churches.  It was their own failure to repent that did them in.   


The fall of these seven churches happened a long time ago, but their demise is relevant today.  With the rise of a secular anti-Christ culture in the western world comes the rise of a renewed anti-Christianism.  Like the Muslim armies of the past, this anti-Christ culture is pushing the church towards extinction. The Bible warns us of such things in Matthew 24:9 10.  Let this be known as well; our conflict with the present anti-Christ culture is God's tool to bring the western church into compliance to His will.  For that part of church that doesn't comply, this conflict will do it in.  Matthew 24:10 says that many will turn from the faith under suffering caused by such conflict.  2 Thessalonians 2:3 describes a falling away from the faith which in many respects is taking place in the western church now.    


By nature I'm always looking ahead.  I'm thinking of the next step as I'm taking the present step.  That's why my vision of church may differ from your vision.  I envision a much different looking church in the days ahead.  We're now stepping into an uncharted future for the western church some have been warning us about for years.  We're being pressured to conform to an unbiblical and illogical doctrine of tolerance that if allowed, will undermine church as we've known it.  For this reason, even though our expression of church has been relatively effective in the past, it won't work in the days ahead.  We must decide now between the culturally correct church we're being pressured to be or the counter cultural church Jesus wants us to be.      


In 1 Corinthians 11:31 32 Paul says that it's better for us to judge ourselves than to be judged by the Lord.  The seven churches of Revelation missed this point.  We can't afford to miss it.  In 2 Corinthians 13:5 Paul tells the Corinthian believers to examine and test themselves to see if they're really in the faith.  We should be doing the same. 


The Bible doesn't hide the faults of church and neither do I.  The Bible tells us to examine ourselves, and that I do.  The Bible calls us to repent and so I'm repeating the Biblical call.  Am I a bit critical of church?  I am.  So, from my tiny obscure corner of Christendom I join others in the Body of Christ who sees the need for the western church to repent.  Jesus' church is far too precious to just sit back and let an anti-Christ culture run it into the ground.  The outward expression of church as we've known it may, and probably will, be run into the ground, but once underground, those who are faithful will be the counter cultural church we were meant to be.  Our first step towards this church is genuine repentance, thus the reason for my criticism of that which we call church.    




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