Religious Attributes


Religion Divides


Denominations Empires


It is Finished


Clergy & Laity



Author's Brief Testimony

Accessing the life of God
Without being sidetracked by religious tradition."

By Charles Pinkney

An important caveat:
Spirituality and expression of heart-felt faith can be found in most traditional churches today. People are faithful to their own familiar institutions. Traditional churches have sustained values that have laid the moral and social foundations of our great nation. The historic inheritance of Christian Churches in America and other countries has been a noble one. Yet, today, we find a disturbing tendency for institutional churches to depart from their Biblical roots. Worldly thought and values are replacing the fundamentals of the Gospel of Christ.

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.

It takes a long time to become familiar and understand the Scriptures recorded in the Holy Bible. Truthfully, none of us even the most astute students of the Word come close to plumbing its depths. From the outsiders point of view many questions challenge us. Is the Bible history or fable? Is it the word of God and relevant to life in the 21st Century? Is it inviolate truth or not?

It 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." 

Theologians make a career of the study of scripture. The deeper their studies the more it seems that they veer away from simple exegesis (interpreting) and understanding. Although study and understanding is the aim, any study without the unveiling power of the Holy Spirit can result in confusion and doctrinal unbelief.

The apostle Paul was highly educated and situated in the Jewish religion, but after his conversion he proclaimed that scholarship, philosophy and theology did not lead to his knowing God. (See 1 Cor. 1:21) Human knowlege is not Spiritual knowledge. Truth and wisdom is a Spiritually derived gift. Spiritual life is outside of religion. For it is only God himself through the revelation of the Holy Spirit who imparts the necessary understanding and revelation of the Mysteries of God
to human beings. (Read 1Corinthians Ch.1&2)

Kingdoms of this world vs. the Kingdom of God?

We have seen religious people eagerly pursue what they believe to be God's will. Though mostly well intentioned they eventually find themselves trained to partake in traditional institutional religion. There are multitudes of religions including Christianity. The brand of Christianity that I refer to as churchianity takes its form and practice from that which has been practiced throughout most of the history of Christendom. Religion tend to reflect mere human wisdom and human natural efforts without little knowledge of God or the Holy Spirit's leading. How easy it is to lose the knowledge of God's best plan. Religion of all stripes can produce a form of godliness and yet lack evidence of the power of God. (2 Timothy 3:5 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!) Those who have been touched by God's authentic power through the Holy Spirit will seek to grow in the knowledge of Spiritual things. They may express a desire to be used in ministry. The familiar path to ministry has been to enter into a school of ministerial training, a Bible school or seminary. Once credentialed they may proceed to a paying career in some area of Christian ministry. To summarize that paradigm: One who is called to the ministry becomes formally trained and graduates with ministry credentials. Now, officially qualified to minister, he or she takes charge over a body or a congregation. Thereafter, the success of a ministry professional depends upon that person's ability to please a congregation, attract members and present programs and messages in a professional way. The laity provides the audience that supports the church program and is presumably edified and sustained by their professional leadership.

Where 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,)

The Function of Priests (Sacerdotalism)

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.)

The need to address the need for real discipleship is a key issue.
Leaders with knowledge and experience in the Word of truth, (not necessarily credentialed) are used to mature those who have just come out of the world into entering the God-formed life. Those who carry experience and knowledge of the word are called 'elders.' These elders should understand the apostolic ways of God in order to protect the new believer from error. Believers are edified and grow through mutual sharing and testimony. Thus all participate in this edification of the body. Both those new to the faith and those with depth of knowledge are co- participants through koinonia (freely sharing in a common assembly.) God the Holy Spirit is an active participant in the fellowship everything is for edification. A new testament fellowship meeting (koinonia) is described in 1 Corinthian Chapter 14.) An important aspect of a fellowship meeting may be the communion remembrance, scripture discoveries and sharing testimonies. Testimonies build faith and encourage the new and seasoned believer alike. Sadly, where God has not been a participant their will few if any testimonies. Fellowship is to be without confusion and in good order with allowance for the Holy Spirit to guide and direct as Paul informs us in the above passage in 1Cor.14.
There is no time constraint on an open meeting gathering. All things are done decently and in order using a host or moderator.

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
In the time that followed Eden, mankind had lost their status as children of God. Humans were born according to the fallen Adam's form and likeness. So it remained until Christ the Messiah was manifested in human form. Only an occasional prophet was raised up to speak for God. But for the most part individuals could not know God, nor meet with him for fellowship. When Adam lost his dominion over the earth, Satan became the default 'god of this world.' He was acting in this capacity when he tempted the Lord in the wilderness. The tempter said, "All of these kingdoms are mine and I give them to whom I wish.." Lucifer was willing to make a deal with Jesus, offering these kingdoms with the stiplulation that Jesus would worship and give homage to him. This would have the effect of defeating the plan of redemption through the promised seed of the woman. (Genesis 3:15)

Jesus Christ came to fulfill his mission as the "son of man" and the lamb of God. In this role, He prepared the way for us. Crucified and raised from the dead Jesus became more than Messiah King of the Jews. He became the savior and redeemer of all humankind. We who were outside of the fellowship of God could at last, know Him, have fellowship with Him, and even call Him Abba, Daddy. This is the Good News!

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.

About new believers:
We all go through a spiritual infancy. At such times you are open and eager to grow in the knowledge of God. During these times we find that God is always close at hand. He is quick to reveal himself and to answer prayers and to support you as you grow. But this is also a precarious time because in our eagerness to learn the ways of God we can be taken captive easily by wrong doctrine and fall into the trap of religion which we accept willingly enough. (1Corinthians 12v1-2)

New believers require time to renew their minds and their habits of lifestyle and even beliefs they formerly held to be reasonable and true. The renewing of the mind is achieved only as we absorb the words of the Bible. The epistles written by the first apostles describe the nature of the spiritual life and the parameters of community and discipleship. The Holy Spirit baptism is the power and the prerequisite for any such discipleship and growth. Many will argue the theology of this statement. I will argue however, that this baptism of power is a second act of Grace proven by the study of the Book of acts. This baptism opens our eyes to heavenly things. It bears witness to the Spirit of Truth that the world can not receive nor comprehend.

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.

What is a Minister?

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."

All Believers are called Disciples and Saints
According to the Scripture, discipleship is the keystone of the gospel. Yet, it is rarely taught to church congregations with the emphasis that Jesus gave to his own first disciples or apostles. All believers are trainees or disciples in the Kingdom of God. And all disciples are expected to to minister what he has been given by the Holy Spirit (A particular gift of God). "As every person has received the (free) gift, so minister the same to one another." (1Peter 4:11)
To grow in the Spiritual life of God we are instructed that we can be transformed into the pattern of Jesus the Son of God. and through him becoming partakers of the Lord's ministry as well as his spiritual attributes. These attributes include the gifts of the Spirit, (Galations 5:22) love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. All demonstrate the character of compassion and the ability to serve in kindness, (charity) through the Spirit of Love. Through such ministry (service) the path is open to see human lives restored and perfected. 

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.

Conversely, there are others among the certified clergy who may not even know God. Some do not apprise themselves of all his promises and power. Unlike the apostle Paul who said I determine to know nothing among you but Jesus Christ crucified and to demonstrate the reality of his ruler-ship by the power of God. There are innumerable trained clergy professionals who presume to substitute sermonettes rather than in demonstrating and discipling believers in the Spiritual life, understanding and demonstrating the power of the Spirit. Among those in the ministry, many exalt 'preaching.' Eloquence and persuasive speech and the ability to hold an audience in awe is a prerequisite for clerical success.

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 gifts
One individual with a pastoral gifting will not carry all of the ministry gifts. A multiplicity of ministry gifts are needed to fully edify the body. (Ephesians 4) God in fact has more than one finger on his hands. There is something called the 5-fold ministry, which includes apostles, prophets, teachers, pastors, and evangelists. We might also consider the other hand as a body has two hands; consider additional gifts or, 5 other ministries which serve the body in a less formal or visible way. So called apostolic movements tend to reintroduce the hierarchical structure and a network or association of high profile and highly paid Christian 'celebrities' all eager to provide seminars or conferences to garner large offerings and expand their ministries .

Guidance by Spiritually wise and experienced

Throughout 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.

Overseers need spiritual experience
more than theological credentials! The apostolic intention was to keep our faith and traditions accurate and steadfast. This model must continue to stand. What was written by the apostles was delivered with the intention of providing guidance and knowledge of the kingdom for believers in perpetuity. Maturity in faith and spiritual understanding encouraged the guidance of elders or overseers. These men and woman having depth of experience in the Spiritual life we called to provide balance and correction so that true doctrine be maintained and enforced among the fellowship:

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)

"It is the Father's good pleasure to give you the Kingdom"
© Charles Pinkney, 1995 -2019