Venturing Out

3d91289c38b6fa8a3a903566b5571c8c_viewThis is a brief account of this man’s journey from being firmly rooted into the institutional church to leaving the institution and coming to know Christ in a real way for the first time in a very long time.  It would seem to many that this concept of leaving “church” and truly finding Christ is backwards.  Now, I didn’t leave the Church, because I am always a part or member of the body of Christ, thus I am the Church.  But I did leave what is called the “institutional church”. Now I define the “institutional” church as those churches that are under the leadership of a pastor or priest and meet in a building on a weekly basis.  The alternative, as I will explain later is “organic church”.  This is a gathering of believers under the headship of Jesus Christ alone.

I have been a Christian since 1982.  I was a sophomore in high school when I went to a New Year’s eve event at a small church I was attending.  They were showing a Billy Graham film and I heard the Gospel message for the first time.  Two days later I received the Lord into my life on a hill just off of a local beach in California.  This is the very short version of my testimony. The pastor of this local church after interacting with me for a year told me he believed I was called to full time ministry.  So after graduating high school, I set off for Bible college in Indiana.  After one semester I decided it wasn’t for me and returned to California.

Then a few years later I returned to the same church and began my journey as a youth pastor.  I volunteered and worked with junior high and high school students for a number of years. In 1999 I was given the opportunity to be a credentialed minister in the Church of God (Anderson, IN) and become the associate pastor of a church in San Jose, CA.  I thought I was finally fulfilling the Lord’s call on my life by being an official pastor.  This position also allowed me to team up with my former youth pastor and friend, who was the lead pastor of this particular church.  It was a small congregation of about 150 people.  The focus was on being a seeker sensitive church that modeled the principles of Saddleback Church, lead by Rick Warren.

After a few years at this church I came to realize that my own personal issues were getting in the way of effectively ministering to people, so I resigned.  I attended a local seeker sensitive mega church for a few years.  It was during this period that I decided to go back to school to finish my bachelors degree in Christian Leadership with the hopes of returning to vocational ministry. There was one course in particular that I can see was the catalyst for planting the seed of moving me out of the institutional church.  It was a course of developing a Biblical worldview.  The textbooks and discussions on this topic caused me to question how “church” was being done in the U.S.  I had pastored in a seeker sensitive model, but I was coming to realize that this doesn’t line up with the model given in the new testament.  I saw my need to repent of preaching messages and using scriptures out of their intended context.  I was more interested in verses that fit my neat outline versus what those verses really meant.

(to be continued in Part 2)

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Keep the Government Out of Church

church-vs-state1Recently, there was an article posted on the blog of The Weekly Standard (http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/hhs-publishes-sample-church-bulletin-insert-promote-obamacare_852728.html) that was rather disturbing to me. The article focuses on how recently the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has partnered with churches and other faith based organizations around the country.  The purpose of this partnership was to distribute bulletin inserts encouraging parishioners to sign up for the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) as well as an announcement from the pulpit.

Now, I have no problem with the HHS encouraging people to sign up for health care that need it.  I do however, have a problem with the government (the State) putting their agenda into the bulletins of congregations that are supposed to be under the Lordship of Jesus Christ alone.  This to me seems a clear violation of what many deem the “separation of church and state”.  Do you suppose that the HHS would allow a Christian organization to place gospel tracts into their literature to be given to people?  I don’t think that they would.  They would cry foul and claim it is a violation of church and state.  So, why would congregations around the country allow themselves to be used by the state to push their agenda for health care?  I would conclude that they have lost their focus on who they are and whose agenda they are to communicate.

Churches that are under the lordship of Christ are supposed to focus their message on Christ, and Christ alone.  The Church is supposed to take care of the widow, the orphan, and the poor.  These are ministries that the Church has continued to do for the last 2000 years.  The Church is supposed to place their focus on the Kingdom of God and the purpose of God, not government programs.  The gathering of believers in Christ for a service is to worship the Lord Jesus Christ and to share Christ with one another.  He is to be the center of the worship service.  Now I realize that announcements are generally given at these services, but they too must focus on the life of the Church and not on any state sponsored agenda.  The Apostle Paul knew what his purpose and message was to be about.  He said, For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake.” (2 Cor. 4:5 NKJV)  What is preached today in many churches is also subject to debate, but that is another blog post entirely.

The government has spent enough money on television, printed media, and internet advertising to promote Obamacare.  They do not need to place inserts into the worship bulletins of Christian congregations.  The news media around the country has also given Obamacare quite a bit of publicity and coverage as well.  Yet, in spite of this partnership, the government has banned pastors from publicly endorsing measures and candidates from the pulpit, but it is fine for the HHS to promote their agenda in a Christian church.  I don’t think so.  This is a double standard on the part of the government.  Congregations under the Lordship of Christ should have no part of it.