the life of God
Without being sidetracked by religious tradition."
By Charles Pinkney
God, finds His transforming way into the heart of people within churches who worship in more formal, liturgical ways. To the extent that the Word is taught and valued and the true worship of God is encouraged there is fruitfulness. The principle emphasis of these writings is that there is more, more, always more to be known and to be experienced. And these experiences are entirely consistent with apostolic teachings. The more freedom and liberty is given to the Holy Spirit, the more spiritual growth will be "experienced" when those believers gather together.
I will focus upon the negative attributes of the Religious paradigm which impact faith and spiritual growth. There are doctrines and practices familiar to us all, these are mostly the practices followed in the pastor-church house setting, that can actually keep individuals from ever experiencing the Kingdom of God or the greatest gift of God, salvation.
is only after we have studied the Bible with the intent to understand
that we begin to glimpse its consistency and simplicity.
It has been called many things, such as the "The Makers users
manual," "A love letter from God," "A book that foretells
things to come."
of this world vs. the Kingdom of God?
did the clergy and the laity doctrine come from?
Historical information chronicles the transition of the first ekklesia
to religion, (in actuality, those who are called by God
become believers. They also become disciples and saints. These represent
the true church.) The apostles warned their disciples that men would
eventually come in who would not follow the way of truth, the faith
presented by the apostolic founders. (Jude v.3 I
found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly
for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.)
The Bible epistles forewarn that men would come in to make merchandise
of the people of God. They would, through deception and twisting
the truth, turn the people to another gospel,
another spirit or another Jesus. (2Corinthians 11:3)
In my own experience of studying the word and watching religious
scenarios play out, I have observed how worldly values and methodology
gradually take the place of and altering Spiritual life and practice.
Jude exhorts in his short epistle to contend for the faith first
presented by the apostles lest it be lost or corrupted. (above,)
In light of the gospel, with the birth of the "church" and the New Covenant, we see a clear discontinuation of any order of priesthood. Jesus is the one high priest of the New Covenant. Remember that the role of priests are people believed to have the authority to minister to God or receive knowledge from God on behalf of others. These others are somehow excluded who cannot go directly to God themselves. Following the protestant reformation, 1517 and following, the priesthood was still seen as the proper function to serve a body of believers. This practice along with many other forms was retained from the Roman Catholic church. Some form of priesthood remains in almost every church today where there are pulpits and pews.
"The ministry" as a clergy-centered activity must be viewed in the light of apostolic exhortations Peter tells us, (1 Peter 4:10) "- - all those who have received the gift ought to minister that gift to one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. The "gift" firstly, begins with eternal life and supernatural salvation. This is the impartation of a transformed spirit, through which we partake in the fellowship of God through the new birth. This is not earned by works of any kind and to teach that would be doctrinal error. Those who are born of God have a special function in the body. These many and varied gifts are of a variety which God selects for the entire body (all who share in fellowship) requires to be built up and matured. (Read Romans Chapter 12 and 1 Corinthians 12.)
need to address the need for real discipleship is a key issue.
Priesthood by definition is any system in which a person (a leader or person of authority) intervenes with God on behalf of others. The revelation of the New Covenant Gospel points to a new dispensation: a priesthood of all believers. Further, in the book of Revelation, John receives a vision of the churches and among these we find reference to the doctrine of the Nicolaitins, (Rev.2:6) a doctrine that God despises. Nicolaitinism is a system in which a leader assumes control over a body of common believers and essentially take them captive, ruling over them and dispensing whatever teaching he deems necessary, making merchandise of the sheep. In my opinion, the priesthood fulfils the definination of Nicolaitin. Many cults such as Jim Jones of Jonestown fame, begin to function in accordance with this model. Pastors who exhert a stifling control over a congregation also fit this application.
We find it hard to compare the forms of worship and discipleship described in the epistles to that which we find in most formal church experiences known today. In the early days of the church there was no formalized ministry. There was apostolic leadership that brought the gospel, discipled believers and released them to lead and minister in their own communities. There were no theology schools, nor accrediting agencies to credential ministers but there was the active reliance upon the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Jesus which was promised to guide and equip believers in all matters of spiritual witness. The churches (ekklesia) consist only of believers who after being told the good news, have received the free gift of salvation, were discipled in matters of the Spiritual life through the ongoing revelation of the Son of God. Unbelievers are converted in the presence of the Holy Spirit working through the body. Believers are the disciples to whom it is given to experience the powers of the world to come, (The Kingdom of Heaven.) These first century believers were not taught in schools of theology, even as Christ was not schooled formally like the Jewish Pharisees and doctors of the law. Yet, the saints of the first century experienced the mighty works of God on a day to day basis. All learned that Jesus (Yeshua) the Christ (Messiah) made it possible for any and all who believed to become adopted children of God. Believers in every generation became new creations through acknowledgment that Jesus' died for the sin of all humankind. With the empowerment of the Holy Spirit each were led to understand that they could partake in the exploits that replicated Jesus' ministry. The Holy Spirit and Power (dunamis) was given at Pentecost.
The Power of
God heralds a new status of humanity
Throughout the earliest
days of the Christian faith the question has been asked and must
continue to be asked, "Should we obey God or man?"
In order to distinguish between these two voices something is required
of us: To begin, each of us must acknowledge that the Bible IS the
Word of Truth and trust it to be the single valid source of truth
and doctrine. Too few in the modern world have actually discovered
this and believe it. Secondly it is required of us to listen to
the voice of inner witness which God has given to all his children.
Those seeking truth will usually seek some expert, theologian, or
cleric explain to explain to us what is written.
If any expert tells you, with assumed authority, that the gifts of the first century apostolic church have disappeared (doctrine of cessationism), do not believe them. Flea quickly any association from any such group or authority. As Jesus said addressed leaven of the Pharisees (religious traditionalists without spiritual understanding); who resisted the Holy Spirit. Matt 23: 15 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves." (also see Revelation Chapter 8, Stephen's testimony of how the religious always withstand the Holy Spirit.)
We begin our spiritual path as spiritual infants who crave "the milk of the Word." Too many who God has called to be established as a new born child of God become polluted with religious doctrine. Our understandings can be poisoned and corrupted by evil doctrine. As a result, many receive the wrong Jesus, the wrong spirit, or the wrong gospel. (1 Corinthians,11;3) Discerning truth is a constant challenge.
Religion presents teachings or stipulations that become binding or obligatory upon the followers. Are we to question the teachings of traditional authorities? Yes, prove all teachings with scripture. Are we to question the doctrine of our church or church leadership? Yes, there are many in the pulpit, who are nothing more than "blind guides." Many who question will be shunned, or dismissed as heretical. Though we suffer condemnation it becomes the path to liberty.
In the New Testament texts, the word translated "ministry" is translated from service. The term ministry comes from Greek Diakonia. Thus ministry means to serve. Through the process of generations of religious practice, ministry has come to mean something else, something formal and liturgical. Gifts denoted experience and leadership become designated as a religious office.e.g. Pastor, Deacon, Bishop, or Cardinal. Within the context of "church house" practices, ministry has been defined and restricted to that which is done behind a pulpit and then only by the few with "credentials."
Believers are called Disciples and Saints
The Tradition of the Professional Clergy
There are some elements in the institutional church that are positive. These include social relationships and a place to receive teachings and moral precepts that are Biblical. But even in this light such deeper and more intimate relationships are limited and lack deeper levels of discipleship and growth in the knowledge of heavenly things. Institutional religion has remained a long standing stronghold and is resistant to change and resolute. Institutional religion in some ways is in descendency as numbers who participate gradually decline. But olld habits and traditions die hard. The inertia of centuries of social tradition is hard to alter.
We have learned to accept without question,
the role of a professional clergy person. Many of these men and
women have wonderful natural gifting. Many are brilliant communicators,
possessing compassion and dedication. These will I believe, received
their heavenly rewards according to the fruitfulness in their calling.
Such who carry the love and zeal of God are beloved by those who
they touch or disciple. The gift and calling of a Spiritual shepherd
is a gift to disciple the body. A pastoral gift enables mentor-ship
and , encouragement. The pastoral call may just as easily minister
that gift outside of the parameters of religious formalism. But
this may be a call without a salary or a congregation. The shepherding
gift forms caring relationships. It brings with it a necessary compassion
and wisdom to minister hope, encouragement, wisdom to strengthen
the 'flock.' Leadership is based upon experience and depth of understanding
of the Word of God and the True Gospel. It should not be imagined
as a mere career calling. I know very few who fit these criteria.
I believe that most in professional clergy presume their own pre-eminence owing to their credentials. It would be a great if people approved with seminary credentials would use as a doorway to service, to bless and to edify. Sadly these spiritual credentials are often turned into a tool of personal gain and control over others.
Examining The Clergy and the Laity
The Clergy-Laity doctrine divides the flock into two disparate parts. The good shepherd story described in John's gospel, chapter 10, describes the characteristics of a good shepherd. It lists among the virtues, intimacy and closeness of the shepherd to the flock. The shepherd knows each of his charges and calls them by name; he will sacrifice his personal comfort and life for the flock. Finally we are told that Jesus is this shepherd. The psalmist has written almost a thousand years before, "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want." Jesus Christ remains the true shepherd, the true bishop (overseer) and shepherd (pastor) of our souls."
Jesus modeled correct shepherding, in his ministry process of preaching, teaching and leading with care and compassion. The Lord demonstrated his Spiritual credentials with miracles, signs and wonders, and with deliverance from the demonic. To those who did not know of the Father's plan to extend the Kingdom of God he Preached the Gospel of the Kingdom; To his closest disciples, he gave more intimate insight and he taught them through dialogue of questions and answers. It was through dialogue with his closest disciples and associates that he expounded deeper truths and unraveled parables.
Jesus came and ministered with authority and yet with the meekness of a servant. He was a friend to sinners. He came to seek and to save and to serve. Modern church members tend to exalt leadership and place them on unrealistic pedestals and grant them unusual authority. Jesus taught us about those who lead: (Matthew 23) "Who is the greatest among you, Jesus said, shall be a servant to all." Moreover, Jesus instructed his own disciples not to place one man over others. He required that they were not to give titles to these 'masters' saying call no man master, No man teacher, No man father. This ought to qualify as a template by which to measure the character and role of those in the role of pastoral leadership.
THE BODY : Edified by a multiplicity of
Guidance by Spiritually wise and experienced
the apostolic letters we are told that mature men of God were to
guide and direct and to maintain purity of doctrine and practices.
These were designated overseers (Gr. presbuteros) of the
local flocks (fellowships) of God. These bodies met in a form and
place having no resemblance to church houses that are the norm today.
In the early days of Christianity, elders, pastors, or overseers evolved into an office that assumed the whole responsibility of "ministry." This evolved into the clergy roles of today. Interesting things regarding the form of the early church are in evidence today revealing a return to New Testament forms of Koinonia, Ecclesia (Christians assembling together)
The Trouble with Religion