I want to paraphrase a portion of Galatians 3:3. It goes like this:
Oh foolish people…why are you so foolish? You started out in the Spirit but now to try to meet goals by human plans. Have you learned nothing? Did the Spirit work among you because you made and enforced rules or because you believed what you heard from the Holy Spirit and followed His leading?
In the late 1980’s and early ‘90s because of so much disappointment and pain in the traditional church, I decided to remove my family and me from any activity connected to it. I was tired of hearing how successful the church was and how they were reaching the world for Jesus. I have no issues with a church whose claims are substantiated. The sad truth was churches do not live up to their declarations. What looks like a solid foundation is merely a façade, and I can no longer be a part of it. God and His Spirit are my leader. No more institutional boxes for me.
For a period of time, I did not have a congregation to call home. Although I missed it, I wanted no part of playacting church.
During that time a very special friend of mine kept telling me about a group of people who were meeting on the square in a small Texas town. I never gave it much thought. I knew there was no way I would go there. Yet every time my friend and I got together, he would talk about the events that he experienced with that small group. His accounts were intriguing. Eventually I pushed aside my cynicism and made my way to the square. How dreadful it was! The music was long and earsplitting. What they called worship time went on and on. People were moving about, even lifting their hands in the air and clapping to the beat of the music. I was appalled. I just wanted to get out of there. Never in my church life had I witnessed such strange behavior. The group was Charismatic, something I had spoken out against on more than one occasion. I just wanted to leave and never return!
Finally, after what seemed like hours, the speaker got up to speak. As he spoke, all the negative emotions that had risen within me quietly disappeared. This young man was preaching everything I had believed for so long, but I had never heard it from a pulpit. I was spellbound by his insight into the Scriptures. I was completely captivated. When the service ended, I knew I wanted to go back even though I did not want to sit through that appalling period of “worship” again. That was my first introduction to the “real” church I had longed for all my Christian life.
I did return to this strange group week after week. I learned to value the “wild” happenings. People would rise and give a word of knowledge; others present would tell how it was meant especially for them and were encouraged. People would stand up and utter strange unintelligible words and someone else would tell what it meant. Prophetic words would come forth and they had meaning for someone for that day. Sometimes crying was heard throughout the building, sometimes laughter rang out. Sometime the preacher never spoke at all; we just remained silent until we heard from the Spirit. Sometimes we just worshipped for the entire meeting. Often during those times a spontaneous song would burst forth. No one knew the words, but everyone seemed to join in as they allowed the Spirit to flow through the music. I even learned to join in the worship time. Eventually, the worship time which I originally despised, became the best portion of the weekly service for me.
Even though I was apprehensive of this strange behavior, I noticed the people who attended there were real. They exuded joy and excitement! If someone had a need, they prayed out loud right there in front of God and everybody. I was more than impressed, and I was so intrigued by it all I could not stay away. As time went on, I became less and less anxious about the strangeness of it all and I began to accept portions of it. As I listened to the Holy Spirit, He began to remove all the old belief system and install a new one. I eventually bought into the total program and placed everything I owned into it: my time, my money, my energy, everything I am went into this institution of holiness. It was the greatest time of my life. I found what I had been longing for so long. God is great! I found a permanent church home!
I wasn’t the only one who found this strange place exciting. More and more people came. Some came to investigate and stayed. Others came but could not get beyond their former teachings and they moved on. Never-the-less the group grew and grew and grew. There was no evangelistic ministry, there were no visitation nights, no special events designed to bring people in. We had no Sunday or Wednesday night services. No claims of success were made. It was just one person telling another about this wonderful, spirit filled place of worship. God was working miracles, lives were being transformed, service was being rendered to others, love was being shown and everyone was delighted to be involved.
This was the Kingdom Church I had always read about in the Bible but never experienced. It was a great time of spiritual prosperity and one hoped it would only get stronger and never end.
Eventually structure began to form. Rules of do and don’t were implemented. Now, if someone had a word from the Lord, it had to be filtered through an elder. If someone had a topic or issue to deal with during the Sunday School hour, it had to be clarified through a different elder. Spontaneous songs were diminishing during the Sunday morning worship service. Less and less prophetic words came forth and those that did now had to be assessed. Seldom, if ever, did anyone laugh or cry. Spirit led dancing had all but disappeared. Eventually, it became mandatory for youth and church leaders to convene in front of the congregation to dance in order to set a good example for the congregation. The home groups became more and more structured and less spirit led. Formats had to be followed, and everyone had to be on the same page. All the groups looked the same. A new building had to be built to accommodate the large following. New organizational personnel were added. Loyal and time tried personnel were replaced with newcomers who barely knew the policy of the church.
What happened? For me I lost the church I had coveted for so long. It disappeared right before my very eyes. The last straw came the night of the dedication of the new building.
During all the pomp and ceremony of the dedication program, that now familiar voice from the Holy Spirit said to me, “You don’t belong here, this is not for you.” I left the building immediately. As I drove home, I literally wept because I could not believe I was no longer a part of my church. At first I refused to believe it. I asked the Lord if He was sure He wanted me to depart. This was a Kingdom church; why must I leave. In actuality the church I loved so much was gone; its disappearance was already completed.
Eventually, as time passed, my spiritual eyes were opened and I could see things more clearly. Before, I had seen dimly and I refused to acknowledge what had taken place. I didn’t want to believe my church and its leaders were changing into just another church making claims with little evidence to back them up. (Note) Am I the only person who finds it strange when a group is truly led by the Spirit it makes no claims, but when claims are being made it is usually to cover what is not reality?
Thankfully false claims or not, it was shortly afterward the Lord moved me out of there and onward to a place where I could be the church, rather than just attending a church.
Oh foolish people…why are you so foolish? You started out in the Spirit but now you try to meet goals by human plans. This question begs to be answered.