Pretend Church (Playing House… of god)

I grew up with a baby sister, and Mom and Dad bought her a play kitchen and dinette set.  These toys were a hit, a feature of many an hour spent in play time.  The reason I mention it is because sometimes Sis would ask me to “play house” with her.  It always involved setting her little table with the little plastic plates and pretend silverware, maybe cooking a pretend pie.  The pretend time was so much fun.

Today, we have small foster and adopted children living with us.  We have provided them with all the kitchenette toys money can buy, alright.  The stuff these kids play with today is even more “realistic” than the toys of my youth.  It’s so sophisticated that it almost looks and feels like it’s not even pretend.

It’s all lots of fun, of course, but not one ounce of it is REAL.

And that has me thinking of “church” as I have known it throughout my life.

I was raised in a particular sect which thought we had reproduced the church of the New Testament, and thus we were the “true church.”  We felt so strongly about this that we relegated all others to the bound-for-Hell, bargain bin.  The others were all fake – just pretending, and sadly so damnably mistaken about it too.

Wow!

I don’t hold such an arrogant view of our sect myself – anymore.  In fact, I don’t know anybody from that sect who still holds such views anymore.  We have all, it seems, grown up and matured a little since those “good old days,” or so it seems.  Or maybe we just have more sophisticated ways of pretending now, and it seems so real, when really we just pretend.

Oh, yes.

We raise a crap ton of money and build a new church building on the white-flight side of town, put up a higher steeple than ever before, ornate and complete with stained glass, concert lighting and sound system.  Then we throw up a sign claiming this place is a “church” and treat it like a theological social club for members only.  The exclusivity is way more subtle these days, but functionally, it’s still there.  As for the “body of Christ”, in the New Testament, that body was mobbed by poor and needy people crowding and pressing in on him, but the “church” I meet with is crowded by Lexus, Cadillac, and Lincoln and sends a special contribution to an administrator we employ who deals with that crowd aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaall the way across town.

And you know what?

You don’t need a building to be a church.  You don’t need a paid pastor.  You don’t need a sound system.  You don’t need stained glass. You don’t even need a sign out front claiming you are a “church” at all.  You don’t need any of that stuff, but of course in our culture, those are the clues both insiders and outsiders desire so they can pretend they are either in or out of the right place.

No.  You really only NEED one thing to be the church, and without it, you are just pretending.

What is that one thing?

God.

(Oh you can quibble over the semantics if you must.  I am not using theologically technical jargon here.  But if this “body” doesn’t have God’s Spirit, then it is a Frankenstein monster, and NOT Jesus or his bride.  (There, did that clean up the concept enough for you now???))

Yeah.  If God is NOT in the house, then it ain’t temple, and the church is the temple of God’s Spirit (read Ephesians if you need to).

But this “church” I have attended all my life is a fake.  And while faking it, we claimed all the others were fake.

Seriously, we claimed we had reproduced the New Testament church as God intended and outlined in the New Testament.  Thus you found a plurality of bishops, weekly observance of The Lord’s Supper, believer’s baptism, and not one note of instrumental music!  All this among a host of lesser concerns which also were treated as of first importance.

Did we follow the first two commands?

Sometimes, a little.  But they were not the marks of the true church, as we stressed them.  So love of God and of neighbor took a back seat to these other more pressing concerns – the same God who tells his children to take away the noise of their worship which is vain because all the pretending makes him sick.

But we have moved past all that now.  We preach “GRACE” now… at least that is how we pretend it.  The motto at the congregation where I belong is painted in huge letters in the main lobby saying “Love God and Love others.”  It sounds like we finally have the first things worked out.  But if by love you mean open the church-house doors to the poor when it gets winter cold, well.. NO.  Actually, we have a class you can pay $30 to take where the deacons will TEACH you NOT to do that, and NOT TO HELP TOO MUCH in fact.

This from the New Testament church?

Have you ever read your New Testament?  Do you not know that the true church in Acts 2 and 4 sells all they own and gives it all to the church (the body of Christ) where the poor no longer have need of anything?  Yeah!  The New Testament church knows the REAL value of money, and the REAL value of the poor, and at least attempts to live a life of LOVE for God and neighbor that bears witness to it with a clarity that a sign over the door saying “church” just never can!

I’m not claiming the church of the Bible was perfect.  They weren’t, but they didn’t pretend it either, not for long anyway.  This stuff we read about them in Acts is exactly what Jesus instructs the rich young man to do when he asks what he must do to have eternal life!  “One thing you lack… go sell all you own, give it to the poor, count your treasures in heaven, and come follow me.” (I read that somewhere!  I always worried that maybe that doesn’t actually APPLY to all people everywhere at all times, but now that I read my New Testament, I find the church there thought it applied to them!)

(Hey.  Just for kicks, and for just a quick moment, humor me and consider this thought: What do you think the members of a church like the one found in Acts 2 and 4 talk about over Sunday lunch?  Do you think they talk about how the new coach is doing with the local team this season and whether we have a chance at the playoffs?  Do you think the preacher at this New Testament church dresses up in team colors on Super Bowl Sunday and cuts the sermon short so the congregation can “make it home in time for kickoff”?  Or do you think they spend extra time in fervent prayer for the Johnson kid and the Wilson girl that got thrown to the lions in Rome last Thursday, and ask God to make them more “BOLD” for the cause? (see Acts 4:23-31).  Is Jesus getting a little too REAL for your comfort now???)

Yes.  And when I asked if my “church” could merely host the homeless to sleep on our lawn on a Saturday night (not even daring to ask if they could come inside where it’s warm and dry), I got hem hawed by two elders before a third finally denied me this request because of “liabilities.”

Liabilities???

That’s a fancy word, but do you know what it means in ENGLISH???

It means: “That’s a great idea, [Agent X], but we checked with Mammon, who is REALLY in charge here, and he said NO.  … Awww… so sorry.  Don’t take it personal…”

Feel me yet?

But now I got this one problem.

Where in all of Lubbock, Texas (or TEXAS for that matter) can I go to find a CHURCH that isn’t pretending?  Where will I find a church that isn’t playing house of god with all the fancy utensils?  Where will I find an assembly of disciples who actually sell all they own and give it to the poor???

WHERE?

Got a number I can call???

19 comments

  1. T. F. Thompson · September 1

    Reblogged this on Hard Times Ministries and commented:
    Timmy’s in a Well (And it wasn’t in Lassie)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. T. F. Thompson · September 1

    Well, easily you have to go back to the Book of Acts in order to find it. Yet, the mere fact the event or events were written down means we are probably to use them as an example. I guess we don’t really catch on so easily. However, to answer your question: You can find God’s church outside of the building and usually among those suffering yet, those who are singing words of Praise to our God and His son, Jesus.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Agent X · September 1

      Thanx for taking a moment out of your hurricane to respond!

      Also, thanx for taking my question seriously. However, I am actually looking for a REAL phone number of the REAL church. Can you provide me one???

      I hear ya. “Outside the building! Among the suffering and yet praising. I will take you up on that. But do they have a number? Where can I find them? When do they meet and where?

      The other side of this is…

      Do you see the absolutely devastating implications this observation produces? I am stripped down here. What was that mess I was involved in that called itself “church”? What is THIS world, this life if that is so fake???

      The only way I can see the gates of hell prevailed upon is if the CHURCH is REALLY there… somewhere, and I hope, that I am worthy to be a part of THAT assembly. Up until now, I have been too content with too little. Not sure Jesus and I are really all that close after all.

      Thanx for this comment.

      Like

  3. MWoywood · September 1

    Brother, it’s been a while, but I am particularly glad that I clicked on this one. I have found myself facing this question about a “mainline” denomination that I belong to. I don’t know any churches in Texas that would help fill this need, but I am with you in Spirit as you wrestle with this.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Agent X · September 1

    Copied and pasted from email, the following is a response from one reader who could not post his comment, so I will on his behalf*. Here it is:

    I tried to post this comment, but I’m not sure it worked…

    What if the answer to your question is no. Nowhere in Texas, or the USA, or in the world, does there exist a community of people who live out your expectations of “Church”.

    What if the fact is that what Acts presents is an idealized portrait of a community that never really lived into the ideals that Acts proclaims (except for maybe a day or two here and there in the history of their existence)? What if the rebukes and worries we find in the Epistles actually is reflective of what it was like in the New Testament churches (for it was a collection of scattered and diverse and feuding ekklesiai, not a singular ekklesia)? What if the Pauline “Body of Christ” is an aspirational goal we are ever approaching, but never attaining, like a spiritual and ethical “North Star” that guides our journey in the wilderness?

    What if, since all people are broken and f’d up, every community is inevitably broken and f’d up? And what if you start a Church or a Community to make up for all the hypocrisies of all forms of the institutional Church which has burned you and others? Will that Community not also bear the marks of your brokenness and pass down the corrupt spiritual DNA you carry? Will not the next generation of Christ followers curse you for your hypocrisies, and all those compromises you gave into for the most noble of reasons, or because you were blind to your own faults?

    I’m not casting stones here. Everything I have said for you applies to myself and my tribe. Perhaps even moreso. But the question remains: If there is no possibility of getting it right in this life, how will you follow Jesus then? If all you can find is screwed up groups of hypocrites doing the best they can despite their worst, can you live with that?

    From one hypocrite to another, grace and peace in Jesus the Messiah.

    May you grow stronger and wiser and kinder each day,

    Nate Bostian+
    Head Chaplain of TMI Episcopal

    *My apologies to sensitive readers here for not editing this comment for the rough language. I got a bit sidetracked and failed to do that before. Please let me know if I missed any other F-BOMBS in this comment. I will come back and edit it again.

    To the original author of this comment: Thanx for commenting. I in no way modified your comment except to contract the F-BOMB where I found it. Your opinion expressed here is welcome, even in raw terms, however I try to clean up the language so as not to offend on THAT account. This blog and ministry is already deeply offensive on another front, it seems, and I hate to get short-changed over something like this. Thus I edit such things.

    Thanx again…

    Like

    • Agent X · September 2

      I am very unsure whether I have a monologue to respond to or whether this will be a dialog, especially since I had to copy and paste this comment myself. I have no reason to believe Nate will monitor this discussion and continue in it. But I will offer an initial response and see if it generates more.

      I appreciate the response. It is very gratifying to be taken seriously enough to respond. Thanx.

      I must confess that your response is very discomforting to me. Not because of the F-BOMB, but because of the substance there. Your comment seems very pessimistic about getting that number to a church that isn’t pretending. And honestly, I have that already, but your honest tone kills my hope to the contrary. That is a painful thing to say.

      However, I notice your comment offers very little in the way of statements. In good deconstructionist fashion, it questions everything to death. Statements seem implied. The questions create a funnel for my reasoning mind to channel through where the only remaining possible answers wait, or so it seems. And those answers are very dark, in my view.

      What if the answer is NO?

      No where in the world will I find a “church” that actually is the church. That alone, coming right out the gate is profoundly depressing. Of course, my own question in the original post really puts the “church” on the spot to produce or shut up. I did not actually mean to suggest that there is no possibility of a YES here, but I do mean to very sternly screen out the pretenders here. Pretenders need not apply! So who is left?

      Your questioning response strongly suggests no one is left. It’s all fake.

      In fact, you questions deeply question the Bible itself! Is it all it’s cracked up to be???

      Wow!

      That’s a level I am not willing to entertain. POSSIBLY my broken understanding of the Word of God is deeply confused enough that I need to go back to the drawing board yet again and start all over, but even that, in this context, is starting to question whether it’s even worth it. If God’s Word holds so little hope, then why bother?

      I am a little more like Job in this one. I know my redeemer lives despite the evidence to the contrary.

      And anyway, I think there are other avenues of inquiry still worthy of pursuit. Not least the repentance of the pretending church! I am totally down with the thought that churches are not perfect. We read about that on practically EVERY PAGE of the New Testament. So much of Paul, Peter, James, John, and the gang specifically address the details of which that statement is the broad strokes. Thus it seems to me that a humble church of people willing to LISTEN to God and assess and reassess where they stand with him are thus capable of repenting before their candlestick is removed.

      OR

      we might go the route that seems represented in Tom Thompson’s comment. The real church is OUT THERE… the shame we have been calling the church is a fake but the real thing is below the radar.

      Does that mean it’s underground in China or the Middle East? Africa or some leper colonies?

      Very likely.

      Does it mean the church is that group we pray with under the bridge in a van down by the river? Maybe, but I want to take care not to overly romanticize that idea, for surely we can criticize that assembly to death rather quickly too… except maybe in the department of humility.

      And I think we need to rethink HUMILITY very carefully too. We might almost call it the narrow gate!

      Whatever else I might say, it is clear to me that the larger crowd is missing some narrow gate somewhere and few are finding it. I am certain I did not find it at the “church” I grew up in.

      Please, let’s talk!

      Like

  5. Lisa Fenwick · September 1

    One of the things I always have to remind my self is there is no perfect ” church”. I agree with all of what you are saying. I have a lot of the same frustration. One thing that helps me out is to remember that ” church ” are the people of God. They have the Holy spirit dwelling in them. I would recommend that if you can find some like minded people in your area. There are a lot of people that are church goers but are not true disciples. They are just the weeds with the wheat. We have to remember that we are all messed up. It is hard for me too. I agree that I wish we as the church as a whole were more filled with the Spirit and that we were real disciples following in his foot steps. I get frustrated all the time at the Institute as a ” church”. We should be feeding the hungry and clothing the orphan rather than worrying about our buildings and our music. We should be together daily liveing a life together and for him!!!!!! That is our goal!! To be the light to this dieing world.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. directorfsm · September 2

    Reblogged this on Faithful Steward Ministries and FSM Women's Outreach and commented:
    An interesting article and I can agree far to many churches today have placed the emphasis on material structures rather than the Cornerstone Psalm 118:22 Christ. He alone is the Head of the church Ephesians 1:22 and appoints men to oversee His flocks (see the seven I AM series on our site).

    A church (the church for you) should be faithful to the Word (expository preaching, faithful stewards to all that God has provided (use the tithes and offerings wisely) and be one God has called you to. As it has been said many times is no “perfect church” we sinners saved by Grace make it imperfect the moment we enter the door. What are we doing to make it better?

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Agent X · September 2

    Daniel!

    Thanx to you too for responding! Also, thanx for linking me to your Facebook! It generated a significant uptick in views to the post. Now, I hope it will generate some real discussion.

    Yes, I totally concur that there is “no perfect church” and never was. Like Nate points out above, even I am flawed and will pass on my flaws to succeeding generations of disciples that they will have to deal with. AND, let me point out yet again, I did acknowledge this in the original post.

    I also concur that it is a frustrating thing. AND in fact there are a host of things (details and levels and doctrinal issues, exegetical issues, personal issues – too many and too pervasive to account for) which any of us thoughtful Christians will take issue with against the rest of the body. Some are in fact quite important while others are not. Deciding even that is a headache. So, yes there is frustration and it seems to be built in to the whole system.

    But…

    But we really must not excuse sin. Have patience with it? Sure. Grace for it? Absolutely? Confess it? Yes, again. Acknowledge it? Definitely.

    But accept it as normal or good?

    NO.

    And already we are in a bind.

    But you know what?

    We are turning some very simple things into systemic/institutional problems and giving them a pass. It’s one thing to shoot at a target and miss. It’s another to aim at the ground or the air. It’s yet another to aim at other people. When we go to the firing range, we practice our aim AT THE TARGET! And when we do this, we tend to get better at hitting it. And that still doesn’t account for the Spirit of God empowering us. But my complaint is more at that level of taking the gun and aiming it at the ground at least, and maybe at other people. It’s absurd and should not need to be pointed out, but that isn’t even the general direction of the target, AND people are getting hurt very badly!!!

    That is inexcusable.

    We can do better.

    Thanx for your response, and your publicity. I hope we continue the dialog. I certainly don’t have it all figured out. And I really wish I had a pastor reading who would say, “here… call us!”

    Until then, let’s talk this to death, I guess.

    Thanx

    Like

  8. Homer Les · September 3

    If I could add my two bits to the discussion.

    Your post is very good and you make some great points. The only thing I can add is our story.

    My family (wife and two daughters) lived in middle class suburbia where I ran my consulting business. In 2007 my addiction got out of hand. As a result of that we sold the business and house to move East and start a new life. Long story short we lost everything.

    This wasn’t our plans but God’s. Although we didn’t ‘give’ everything to the poor in the end they took it from us. Left us homeless. For 40 months our family, with a bird and a large dog, wandered homeless across 3 Canadian provinces. During that time God led us to numerous churches.

    Our experiences differed. Two churches allowed us inside for some time. Eventually they got sick of us and threw us out like trash. A couple of churches let us stay on their lawns for a night or two. Several kicked us off immediately with harsh words.

    What we learned by all of this is that church is people not buildings. Secondly we learned that the all we came across did not know Jesus at a mature level. The odd one was more mature but it was extremely rare. 100% of believers we met wouldn’t give up everything to follow God in faith as the early disciples did. We were an anachronism to them that they could not reconcile with their 21st century theological mindset.

    All that happened to us was that we had gotten poor through a variety of situations and God was leading us by faith. We saw His care and provision for us continually. That He led us through that wilderness was undeniable. This is what bothered believers we met. They have been taught, and believe, that Jesus doesn’t ask for the level of sacrifice today that the early believers gave. This causes them to rest and let their ‘self’ nature run amok. It is also the reason that organized religion is so bloody immature. They haven’t been taught to grow up and no one is holding them accountable for that.

    I believe this is changing. What God led us through was so painful and traumatic we didn’t think we would ever tell a soul. Surprise, surprise, God had us write everything down. The last two years we have healed a great deal and I believe Jesus is going to unleash our testimony on Christianity. I have no idea if it will have any affect but that will be up to God, not me or my family. Maybe some will see that God is serious about having Luke 14:33 disciples. They will be in the minority though.

    If our experience is any guide I suspect 95% of believers will want to emphatically ridicule, deny and kill our testimony. Of that I am certain. Not looking forward to that but we have learned how to trust Jesus in faith so will keep following wherever He leads. Done the whole poverty/ homeless schtick so I think He has something else planned.

    And before I forget. We ditched organized religion in 2003. We don’t align with any organized body and never will. We have met a few others online who have gone through deep waters like we have. There is mutual understanding, fellowship and live for Jesus so we connect on occasion. Ours is a lonely walk but I would rather be alone with Jesus than trapped in a building with people who have an unrestrained ‘self’ nature. We have been through hell and there is nothing worse than standing in front of someone at church with a smile on their face and ‘self’ completely unchecked. If I ever face that again I ain’t going in without backup. Navy SEALs and Rangers, you know what I’m talking about.

    I wish you all the best on your journey.

    Blessings,
    Homer Les
    http://www.uncompromisingfaith.ca

    Liked by 1 person

    • Agent X · September 3

      Thanx for responding. And yes… your two bits are welcome here. Actually, on this blog we especially want the input from the streets. Even if you are off the streets now (don’t know just exactly what KIND of homelessness you experienced, but displacement of any kind needs to be heard from, and this blog welcomes that voice).

      Liked by 1 person

      • Homer Les · September 3

        Thank you for allowing our voices to be heard. As per our homelessness it’s a long story (it’s in our book). It was not caused by any substance addiction as none of us have that. In fact, I am allergic to alcohol and hate medications. Our homelessness was brought on by waiting on God. With no money we had no home or options for shelter. Spent our first 40 days living under a tarp in the woods of P.E.I in late fall of 2011. From there we moved 82 times across 3 provinces. We wandered a lot not knowing where to go. Slept outside a good deal, some motels when we could, churches, behind buildings, shelters and one or two homes. Went without food a great deal as well. Since it was 4 of us with a dog and a bird we didn’t have a lot of choices. We tested a lot of the systems of man; government, religion, buisness and family all to find out that only God provides and cares for us. We have been in a shelter only once and would never go back. With two daughters there are too many sickos with unrestrained ‘self’. As a family we decided we would rather sleep in a snowbank (and we did) than be there. Wife was choked there. Later we slept in a trailer that was used as a drug den by the alcoholic native owner. After 40 days, him and 2 of his friends decided it would be nice to kill us and get the trailer back. That didn’t work out to well as we managed to escape. Food banks we know all too well, as well as social service providing orgs like Salvation Army. What it comes down to is the person we dealt with. We didn’t care what the shingle said, only what kind of people we were dealing with. Saw all kinds, some good,some bad. So that is the briefest of summaries I can make as to the kind of homelessness we experienced (actually didn’t know there were different ‘kinds’ of homelessness). We did meet a number of homeless people on our journey (still do). Some are too far gone to relate to, some are really nice. Again, it all depends on the person. Everybody is different.

        Blessings,
        Homer Les
        http://www.uncompromisingfaith.ca

        Liked by 1 person

      • Agent X · September 3

        Yes, there are different KINDs of homeless. We could create so many categories of it that the idea becomes meaningless, I think, but in the broad strokes these distinctions can be useful for a number of discussions and projects.

        In the broadstrokes, there is roofless street living (under a tarp?) like living in a box or a blanket or under a bridge etc. This is just about the most raw form. Then there are various kinds of roofed homelessness – some of which are not poverty even. But we can think about those living in shelters, others sofa surfing (I have done that), living in tent cities, (I have done that), living in cars or vans (I have done that), storage units, and so on.

        But it gets really interesting when we talk about college dorms (that is not a home), military barracks, motels, RV’s Hotels, or even the second house in The Hamptons. All of these are in fact expressions of homelessness which dehumanize us. (read Beyond Homelessness by Bouma-Prediger and Walsh for a good start on this kind of analysis).

        Thanx again for commenting!

        And I am glad to hear you survived! I think the church needs to hear your story, and others like it (even those that are quite different, but suffered displacement).

        X

        Like

  9. Agent X · September 3

    I have more response, more thoughts which I believe engage the comments left here already, but which begin opening doors for a number of complex matters and reasoning which I have, as yet, held in reserve. I am considering making a whole new post in which to explore these things. But then again, I don’t expect a second post to generate the same level of interest or extend the discussion that is started here. Also, I am juggling a number of off-line responsibilities (among them a major writing project) which distract me as well.

    Thus, I will offer a thumbnail sketch of some of my thinking in this comment which is prompted by Daniel, Nate, and even the others too (to a lesser extent – such at a rejection of “organized religion”).

    Obviously there are a number of texts in the Bible from various authors dealing with the matters here at various levels and in various ways. I think primarily of Daniel’s observation about weeds and wheat as I point that out. I especially appreciate that Daniel is thinking biblically about this! He is listening to Scripture and finding passages that appear to address this, then applying what he finds there in what appears very reasonable ways. For me that is HUGE!

    Honestly, I can’t find very many people, even among Christians and even pastoral types no less, who bother to even TRY. So, I am so deeply and EXTRA grateful to find someone willing and able to think biblically about these things.

    This still leaves open the notion of HOW DO YOU HANDLE THE BIBLE PROPERLY?

    Just because you appeal to Scripture does not necessarily make you right. It is possible both to appeal to Scripture and mishandle it on the one hand OR even to handle it pretty well, but neglect other better approaches. Iron can sharpen iron is such ways, I think.

    Now, by pointing that out, I do not mean to disparage Daniel’s offering at all. In fact, if we clarify things as we study on them, we may well find his offering here is the best. Or that it is the best place to start. But just the fact that he appeals to Scripture AND especially since his observations are also reasonable, we really MUST consider what he has said, and no doubt it is a GOOD observation.

    Meanwhile, I have a different approach, dealing with different passages. None of what I am thinking contradicts what Daniel has offered in the slightest. On the other hand, to my mind, I have a very robust insight which is as yet left unexplored and may well enhance or advance the discussion far beyond where it is at this point. And I am thinking that my own humble biblical analysis is likewise just one narrow slice of the picture we might yet develop especially if someone offers yet OTHER as of yet unheard insights OR if we continue this discussion among ourselves and build on what each other offers.

    I am gonna make this comment a two part comment due to technical difficulties… Please read the reply I make to this comment to get the rest of it.

    Like

    • Agent X · September 3

      So… with all that introduction to this change of gears, let me suggest that I am considering the scene(s) where Jesus confronts the temple in Jerusalem. If the church is the temple of God today, the place where God’s Spirit dwells uniquely, then we should be able to make easy application between that temple and today’s church.

      Up until the day Jesus enters Herod’s temple, Ezekiel’s future-predicting prophecy about the Glory of the Lord returning from the east has not yet been fulfilled. When Jesus enters, throws tables, and runs everyone out, he is prophetically re-enacting, I think, that CLOUD that dispels the priests when God enters the Tabernacle in Exodus and Solomon’s temple in Kings and Chronicles etc…

      Of course this observation appears to rely on trinitarian theology, and certainly that is there to be had for those who hold to it, but even for those who don’t, I think we largely agree that Jesus represents God in a very unique way. Thus the language I will use from here on which strongly sounds trinitarian is still in line with the notion that Jesus REPRESENTS God prophetically (which is biblically true whether you endorse the trinity or not).

      So the picture I see here is “temple” pretending to be the House of God when actually, it is empty and God is in fact NOT in there.

      This is a notion that came home to roost for the Jews in 63BC when the Roman General Pompey entered the Holy of Holies to lay down terms of surrender to Israel’s God, and then came back out ALIVE and not struck dead as he surely would have been as an uppity pagan entering the presence of God. But then he claims the place is empty! After all, this great Roman general has entered many a pagan temple all over the known world to do this kind of thing, and in all of them he has found an idol he can confront, but in Israel, there is no idol. Thus when he comes out alive, it is proof to the Jews that the place is in fact empty – to their shock and grief!!!

      This means, Israel – and especially Herod – are pretenders. The temple is a fake! In fact, that fisherman’s hut we read about in Mark 2 which plays host to Jesus and where the four men bring the paralytic for healing AND FORGIVENESS of sin (something only God can do) turns out to be the true temple ON THAT OCCASION as long as Jesus is in there! I think that why Mark ends that story the way he does with the crowds saying they have never seen anything like this before – they should have, but the temple in Jerusalem was a fake, and thus they had not. It’s a dig on that temple!

      Nevertheless, Jesus DOES go to Herod’s temple to do business there. He does not in fact reject this organized religion, but confronts it! Think about that. We know from history that the Essenes reject the temple and run off to the desert to effectively start Israel over again without such a blasphemous fake in their midst. But there’s just one funny observation we need to make from that: The Essenes are not even mentioned in the Bible. They don’t even get honorable mention! They reject organized religion and take themselves out of the story altogether!

      Jesus, and thus God, takes this fake seriously. Jesus actually enters it! He is the one rejected there, not them. And he claims they have turned God’s House into a den of rebels when it was meant to be a house of prayer for all nations!

      I think there are a host of things we can take from this kind of observation and explore our approach and that of God’s to the church today. I invite further thought on these matters, and encourage this KIND of thinking as we get into it.

      Thanx

      X

      Liked by 1 person

  10. T. F. Thompson · September 10

    Stamping what is or what is not in reference to the church: I affirm we have agreed on at least two qualities. The first quality is what the church is and the second is what it is not. Aside from that, we all know church is not a definition but a fluid, living organism. The organized church attempts to define, box it in and otherwise, contain it. Yet, without the organized church, you and I would probably NOT have a Christian belief system at all. Thus, I think we can at least credit the organized church with preserving the Bible and with a church entity that can be recognized. Yes, i know. I don’t like giving them credit, but the fact is: they are there always when we come and go. At least they are there for us to go back to.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Agent X · September 10

      Tom,

      Your comment really hits a nerve (with me anyway) and I want to respond to it. I almost whipped off a response when I read it at first, but then thought better of it and tried to sit with it a while and think on it carefully rather than just give you my reaction. And yet today has been filled with interuptions inhibiting my meditation on it. So, I am giving you a half measure, I suppose.

      You used the term “organized church” and I am used to hearing “organized religion”. I am aware that “religion” is a term that can mean lots of things depending on the context and those using it. Quite often it gets used almost synonymously with “Christianity” as if a short-hand reference. Fair enough, but technically inaccurate. Islam and Hinduism might beg to differ. Thus, as I said, CONTEXT is important.

      But you didn’t say that. You said “organized church” which is a lot closer to what I think people mean when they say “organized religion” anyway, and the context for that term is almost always a preface for it’s rejection. I can’t think of a time when I heard someone talk about “organized religion” and didn’t also mean to both single out Christian church AND reject it.

      You, however did not reject it. Though you criticize it HEAVILY, you actually point out an important value to it!

      Wow… You are a rare bird, my friend.

      I think the point you raise is a valid one too. Yes, there is important contributions the “organized church” with all it’s wickedness, hypocrisy, and other flaws has made to the world and to me. In fact, I imagine there are others not mentioned here, actually.

      This, IN PART – not the whole at all, is why I am so enthralled with prophetic ministry. The prophets of old were critics of Israel’s behaviors – pretty near universally. But I don’t know any in the Bible who outright reject Israel as such or even want out (really). Maybe they do from time to time as they are caught up in the emotion and pain of their ministries, but the whole point of their ministries is to be critics FROM WITHIN. To speak up in ways to CORRECT the problems rather than just write off God’s whole project.

      Now…

      Having said that, in recent months, I am personally beginning to struggle with this mess at that level too. And the major contributing factors are a couple of scholars from within the ranks of my own faith heritage (respected ministers – unlike me) who have questioned publicly (in one case on a blog and in the other in public lectures you can find on line AND in books he has written) whether what we have been calling church is even REAL on the one hand or if it is alive and not dead on the other. And I trust these guys too, and yet this is the stuff their analysis flirts with when it comes to our “organized church”, and it gives me great cause for pause – especially since I am so thoroughly and functionally shunned from the fellowship – a fellowship that is so deeply misguided and doing so much damage that the prima facie case suggests an empty temple where God is absent.

      Anyway, there is a lot more to meditate on in this which I have not as yet done. May return to this another time…

      Thanx for your comment!

      X

      Liked by 1 person

      • T. F. Thompson · September 10

        I’m going to respond to you to at another time.

        Like

  11. bornagain732 · October 16

    One word:
    OUCH

    Like

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