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The Local Church and Personal Ministry II

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Question #1:  

Can a Christian please God and believe wrong doctrine? I've recently read the story about that fellow over in North Korea who was back preaching to his people and has been caught and may be killed for it. Is he a martyr, is he pleasing God even if he believes in say, tongues, or Calvinism, or something like that?

Response #1:   

Well, nobody is perfect. John Calvin and the reformers generally were way off the mark on the entire doctrinal category of eschatology (though they did make some improvements in correcting Roman Catholic heresies), yet it is very clear that God used them to an extraordinary degree (and some of they were in fact martyred for their faith). This brings up a very important principle: we should always love our brothers and sisters in Jesus, we should also support the true good they are doing and praise God for all their legitimate successes, but we should not make the mistake of equating success in some area of production with doctrinal purity. We are all responsible to God for what we believe. Clearly, He knows what opportunities we have to learn the truth, so that for example in the 9-12th centuries the evangelism that took place showed true fervor for the Lord in spite of many doctrinal problems in the church-visible as well as problems in the belief systems of many of these successful evangelists – somewhat understandable given the limitations under which they labored. Today, there is less excuse for ignorance. But, as I say, none of us is perfect in our knowledge, and how much more is that not true of our application! I am sure that it is possible to serve and please God without being perfect on this score, since otherwise no one would be able to serve or please God at all. That said, it is also certainly true that our goal ought to be to know all of God's truth perfectly and to perfectly apply it. The closer we come to that standard, the more useful to God and the more pleasing to God we shall be. Considering it unimportant to strive to know the truth and apply it correctly limits what we can do in the area of serving and pleasing our Lord, and if that ignorance, arrogance, and ineffectiveness gets to a certain point, then all we may be able to do is "spin our wheels" in this respect, even if to the eyes of the world it looks otherwise. But only God knows what is in a person's heart, so in terms of particular cases like this one about which you ask, my policy is to pray for my brethren, rejoice in what they do for the Lord, stick by own standards of truth from scripture no matter what they may believe, and leave the evaluation of others and even of myself to my Lord and Master Jesus Christ.

In Him,

Bob L.

Question #2:

Hopefully you will able to answer this question. I belonged to a new ministry that had a very small membership that met out of a church home. After about a year, a few of the key members left the ministry; however I had left the ministry awhile back. The pastor was upset and requested that he was going to take some time off from the ministry. This time off has now been about 4 months and he has not held a service or bible study since then, yet every month he comes to the remaining members of the church asking for assistance to pay his living expenses. I am really disheartened with this situation and do not think that we should be obligated to pay for his personal living expenses since he is no longer holding services. He has again for the 4th month asked for assistance and when I questioned him was told that it is scripturally said that those who minister the Word of God should earn their living from the ministry. However, I am no longer a member of the church nor has he ministered in 4 months. I am seeing this as something completely different. Your feedback is appreciated.

Response #2: 

I can only give my own personal opinion, and please keep in mind that in interpreting the situation you report I am not able to base my response upon any personal knowledge of the situation or its details.

That said, if the situation is substantially as you report, I find it odd that a person would attempt to defend a complete lack of service with the passage to which you refer, 1Cor.9:14, especially since in the very next verse Paul uses the fact that he has faithfully and laboriously ministered to the Corinthians for years without ever taking so much as a crust of bread from them as a way of shaming them into a proper attitude of obedience. And of course Paul also says elsewhere that he has have never "eaten bread free" from anyone but, "night and day we have been working in toil and hardship so as not to be a burden to any of you. Not that we don't have the authority to do so, but that we might give you an example so that you might emulate us" (2Thes.3:8-9), and in the next verse "if anyone does not work, let him not eat". I am all for supporting the authority of the pastor-teacher, but in my opinion this an authority which, while completely scriptural, is earned through faithful and steadfast teaching of the Word of God (certainly not through a lack thereof). It is not an inalienable right that trumps all behavior no matter how lethargic.

As you may know from exploring Ichthys, in my view which I would strongly defend as biblical, the teaching of the Word in a detailed, substantive and orthodox way is the job to which the pastor-teacher has been called (administration is properly a function of the diaconate, although the pastor and other elders provide leadership and formulate the policy by which these operate). I know of many men who have embraced the calling of pastor-teacher who are without churches because of a general lack of desire for serious Bible teaching in the present day church-visible (churches where the Bible is substantively taught as the main focus of their mission are, in fact, very difficult to find nowadays). In short, while I do not know anything about the tradition, organization, structure, or expectations of your group, in general terms I would say that beyond any argument the Bible calls for a good day's work "as unto the Lord" for a good day's pay, and, if anything, a pastor-teacher ought to be setting an example rather than exploiting a supposed loop-hole. In my understanding of scripture, this would involve studying and teaching the Bible for the benefit of the congregation on a regular basis (several times a week, optimally).

When I was in seminary many years ago, the position of paid, professional "chaplain" in many businesses and NGO's was just becoming popular. Since these positions often lacked any particular structure on account of their novelty, many of the young men who filled them were left without any supervision or accountability or specific expectations. This is not a situation which in otherwise structured organizations is apt to work out well in the long run, human nature being what it is, and some of these young men ended up doing very little for their pay as a result. For while a few would flourish and some would immediately just take advantage of such a situation, most flounder because it is generally in our natures to need some sort of guidance and direction. So it is also possible that your organization's board (or whatever the ruling structure is called) may have been lax in expressing expectations in a firm and formal way.

In any case, ministers minister, and many of them do so for free. The idea of being paid to minister yet being unwilling to do so, and to demand a continuation of such a status quo is something I would think anyone with a conscience would find hard to defend. It certainly can't be defended from scripture.

In our Lord Jesus,

Bob Luginbill

Question #3:  

A certain pastor is stating that there is one true church, which disagrees with some of the other replies I received. I wanted your input. He said:

"You won't find a Scripture reference that specifically says, "Thou shalt work only through the local church," just like you won't find "Thou shalt lead someone to Christ by your lifestyle" (I'll address that one in a little bit), "Thou shalt not smoke tobacco," nor "Thou shalt not eat fatty foods." But you also won't find any reference nor any principle that says "Go out and grab everybody who claims to be Christian and feed the hungry" either. Christ established one physical church, and from that one church did all other churches spring. Churches beget churches - that's God's way. He set up the structure for churches to operate. He supplies the gifts necessary for each local church to function. When someone establishes a "parachurch" organization, by whose authority is it established? Whose authority does it fall under? What structure does it use? Christ didn't establish a church and then say, "but if you want, Peter, you can work your own ministry." The principles of serving through the local church starts with the definition of local church: a body of like-minded believers. A parachurch organization by its very nature is ecumenical, but not all such organizations are. Scripture is very clear regarding ecclesiastical separation and holiness. The Catholic church and my IFSB church may get together to run the food pantry - that's a good work, but is it Scriptural? I'd say no, because 2 Cor 6:14 - Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? When an organization invites various denominations to join together for a common cause, that can only lead to confusion and compromise. Who would a lost person ask about the gospel? A Catholic would give his version, and then I'd give the truth, and the lost person would simply walk away, confused and still lost. Because of the ecumenical nature of these organizations, they tend to take liberal approaches to doctrine and worship. As a youth director in a IFSB church many years ago, I worked with a town-wide youth rally in our town. Later, I had to spend a lot of time with my youth about our church's stand on CCM, ecumenicalism, KJV, etc. That pretty much proved to me that local-church ministries were the best way to go. If you look at 1 Cor. 12, you see the various gifts, administrations, and operations mentioned. You can make the application for the body of Christ, but the application can also be made for the local church, as referenced in verse 28: 1 Cor. 12:28 - "And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues." I believe this verse is telling us that local churches are physical manifestations of the body of Christ. In other words, a local church is a local body of Christ, with the same gifts and duties as the body of Christ. Does a parachurch organization have such? No, because of the confusion generated by its ecumenicalism. Now, I don't have any issues with local like-minded churches getting together to form such organizations, like a missions board or a Bible college. But I think you'll find most of them would place themselves under the authority of the local churches that formed them. I would classify Reformers Unanimous as a parachurch organization, but it doesn't replace the local church - the program augments the local church and helps local churches start up their own programs. I think you're confusing the so-called success ("good works") of some of these parachurch organizations (ones that don't fall under local church authority) as meaning they meet with God's approval. I think we can all agree that the Mormon church has done some great works, yet we know they worship a false Christ. To form an alliance with them in any of their endeavors would be unscriptural. Look at my home-boy, Billy Graham - his crusades accounted for thousands, if not millions, of decisions for Christ, yet no great revival in any of the cities he has visitied. Why? One reason is because his ministry did not come under the authority of a local church, and therefore was unscriptural. I'm sure some folks got saved during his crusades, but the numbers the ministry claims should have had generated at least one "great awakening" for Christ. Mark 16:15 - "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature." Romans 10:14 - "How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?" Romans 10:17 - "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." No one gets saved by a Christian lifestyle. They may be curious why a believer lives the way he/she does, but they still need to hear the gospel. And where do those believers learn how to tell them about the gospel? I would assume through the local church and pastor."

Do you agree with his premise?

Response #3:    

I don't believe in denominations or that organization is the answer. I would also say that there is a blind spot in most believers implanted by centuries of tradition as to what a "church" is or should be. There is indeed only one Church, but it is also unhelpful to think of that Church as typical, worldly organization. Christ's Church is/are all believers from Adam to the second advent. How we help each other grow is a matter of flexibility as far as scripture is concerned – at least one of far greater flexibility than you would suppose from listening to most people's idea of what church is – and organization/physical structure is in truth the least important element of that (although these are becoming the only things people are generally concerned with in most cases). We are all "Christ's Church", and the purpose of our assembling together, whether we do so in a dedicated building, a private home, or an open field, is the mutual encouragement which comes from listening to the teaching of the Word of God (Heb.10:25). When this person asks "on whose authority" para-church organizations come together, my reply would be that the only authority which counts in such matters is that of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Head of the Church. If Christians are being fed spiritually by a non-traditional ministry (such as Ichthys), to my way of thinking, that is all to the good. Whereas in truth there are very few traditional churches, denominational or not, which are even providing "starvation rations" to their parishioners when it comes to the critical first purpose of any local gathering of believers.

Our Lord told us that wherever "two or three gathered together in my Name", He would be sure to be in their midst (Matt.18:19-20). That is church, whatever the physical venue: genuine Christians getting together to seek the Lord through His Word. On the other hand, just because a place has a steeple, stained-glass windows, an organ and a choir, and an ordained man in Geneva tabs standing in the pulpit does not in and of itself make what they do there on Sunday morning legitimate in the Lord's eyes. After all, the book of Hebrews wherein we find the passage about "not forsaking assembly" (Heb.10:25) was written to the Jewish believers in Jerusalem who had at one time (i.e., in the years following the first Pentecost of the Church) been very dedicated to the principle of spiritual growth but who were now slipping back into the now superseded temple worship being conducted by their unbelieving brethren. So they were going to "church" in the sense of doing the traditional and formal thing, but they were not doing what the Lord wanted them to do, that is, meeting with those who really were believers, really studying the Bible, and encouraging one another from the truth of the scriptures understood, believed and practiced. In my opinion, the "not gathering together" indictment of Hebrews 10:25 really applies today more forcefully to those in traditional "churches" who are not at all interest in the scriptures except to pay them lip service, and who have in truth given up on the whole idea of personal spiritual growth. Since the context here is of Jewish believers who wrongly settled back into the equivalent of church, that is, traditional worship which was right at the time it was instituted but was by this time very wrong (e.g., sacrifices which in effect "crucify afresh" our Lord since they proclaim His wonderful sacrifice on Calvary ineffective), this example of Hebrews 10:25 is really an argument against traditional church, whenever traditional church is not doing what we should be doing, teaching and hearing and learning and believing the Word of God; this passage says, get out of that comfortable but wrong old approach and get into the new approach which you know in your heart you ought to do even though the world says "do the respectable traditional thing" and even though by doing so you will be persecuted and isolated and ostracized. Only thus will you fulfill the meaning and purpose of "gathering together", because after all these Jewish believers who were in the wrong were "together" when they received the epistle – just for the wrong reason with the wrong people in the wrong place.

What replaces traditional church is hard to define, but I will make a few comments about the issue which can be seen and gleaned already from what was said above: 1) this is precisely why this ministry is on the internet, to wit, in my own experience and in that of many of my seminary colleagues, what the vast majority of Christians want today is a "church" which by definition would be appalled at the notion of the pastor/teacher actually teaching the Bible instead of sermonizing; 2) change from within is problematic, because if I try to sew my new, concentrated patch on the garment with the big hole in it (in order to cover up the nakedness I see), instead of achieving the desired result all I will succeed in doing is ripping the old garment apart (and wasting my efforts as well); and 3) the question of "what instead of traditional church" will an individual one, but the Lord always answers the desire for the truth, even if it takes some time, some struggle, and some effort. If you seek, you will most assuredly find what you are looking for, and the treasure of the great pearl of the truth of the Word of God is worth all that you have, both in this life and the next. It is something that money can't buy, but there is a price to be paid, a price involving priorities, effort, and satanic opposition. Believe me when I say it is well, well worth it.

If I thought things were going to progress in much the same way for another hundred years or so, maybe I would be fighting the fight to reform what local Christian churches have become. However, the actual case of it is that the time remaining is very short. What believers need and need quickly is the truth of the Word of God in order to achieve a level of spiritual growth capable of seeing them through the incredibly difficult times to come. By and large, they are not getting this from "church". Since in any case at this point it has come to be a case of old bottles that won't hold new wine, my own personal application is to study and teach the Word of God in any venue and at any opportunity I may have; and my advice to any Christian would be to seek out some venue and opportunity to learn all the truth of the Bible that can be learned while the sun still shines. Days of darkness are coming soon, when there will be a dearth of the teaching of the Word sufficient to make the present day famine look like plenty by comparison (see the link: in Coming Tribulation part 3A: Causes of the Great Apostasy: b. The dearth of Bible teaching).

In Jesus who is the truth,

Bob L.

Question #4:  

Major or minor doctrinal differences have been discussed regarding the issue of separation at church. So, I was wondering what do you consider to be major or minor doctrinal differences? and are there any specific passages that distinguishes between them both?

Response #4:     

I think that in the day and age we live in, a Christian who is determined to grow spiritually in Jesus Christ should with all due diligence find the place or the space or the ministry where he/she will be able to do so most effectively. It is hard to say when one looks at various churches and denominations what their "major" or "minor" doctrinal differences are because for the most part they do not care about doctrine in the first place. Just read the "what we believe" statements of most evangelical churches, organizations, and seminaries and you will see what I mean. They have been carefully edited and watered down to give as little offense as possible, saying what they absolutely have to say so as not to upset members who have some idea that they ought to stand for something, yet saying as little as possible and as indirectly as possible so as not to make doctrine "an issue" that would cost them membership and money. Where there is no true interest in what the Bible really teaches, then "official" differences in doctrine, major or minor, are not really important (because they will only be so much window-dressing in truth in any case). What is important is to find a place to grow, and if you have the good fortune through God's grace to actually find such a pearl of great price to grab onto it with all that is in you.

Many groups say the right things. Those that actually put the Bible first both in word and in deed for the benefit of their members' spiritual growth are few and far between. If you do have a place/church/ministry that is providing spiritual food, in my opinion it is worth putting up with at least some things you may disagree with in order get the benefit of the good Bible teaching being offered, because it is very unlikely and may in fact be nigh on impossible for a person/church/ministry to be teaching the Bible from the Bible with diligence, quality and substance, and yet be in gross error on any major doctrinal points (just as it is almost impossible for someone who is genuinely teaching the Bible in this way not to say something from time to time that may offend you, whether you are right to be offended or not). And if your initial evaluation of a particular ministry turns out to be wrong, that is, if you find after several visits that indeed there is genuinely gross error involved in the ministry, then I am confident of the Spirit's ability in working closely with your conscience and you spiritual common sense to deliver you (that is, to motivate you to leave) before serious damage is done – if, that is, you have entered into such fellowship with a pure heart only seeking the truth of the Word. Only keep on pursuing spiritual growth in your admirable quest to carry out the Lord's purposes for your life – it is only by running this race according to the rules that you can win the prize, and that means that everything depends on your attitude towards and belief in the truth of the Word of God.

"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; those who seek find; and to those who knock, the door will be opened.
Matthew 7:7-8 TNIV

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #5:  

 At a friends church the pastor is the shepherd of the church - he neither lords it over the people, nor is he a type of figurehead with no real purpose. He is the God-appointed leader/ruler of our church. And I know of a church with a pastor who makes the decision for everyone (or at least everyone that I know).They can't make any on their own ,they have to ask him about everything .People line up at his door after church just to get the answers. If you happen to go to one of these churches and don't do this. You are labeled a rebel and are looked down upon .They think he can get them well ,because they line up at said door for "anointing." They can't do anything other than what he says. Can any of this be backed up with scriptures?

Response #5:   

Not only is this not anywhere in scripture, it is cult behavior at its worst. As is clear from any careful study of the Bible which on every page appeals to the free will of all human beings, and of believers especially, and as I try to make clear in all of my writings (see especially the Satanic Rebellion series), free-will as exercised in faith is what the human race is all about: it is why we are here and it defines everything of importance in our existence, individually and collectively. We are here to make good choices in response to the will of God, not to have other people make decisions for us. Surrendering our free will to another human being is about the most un-Christian and irrational thing we can do. It is also deadly dangerous. This is a form of mind-control practiced by all successful cults and cult-like organizations. See the following links:

Recovering from Cult Exposure

Cult Characteristics

I have seen a number of so-called Christian groups and so-called Christian organizations which engage in this sort of thing. It is a comment upon the poor spiritual state of the church-visible that this can occur and be accepted so easily by Christians who should know better since only a rudimentary reading of scripture is necessary to demonstrate that this is exactly the opposite of the correct approach we should be taking. We are here to make good decisions for Jesus, to follow Him, not some self-appointed substitute. If other people were supposed to make our choices for us, there wouldn't be any good reason at all for us to remain on earth after salvation. As it is, we are here to grow spiritually, to walk with the Lord thereafter, passing whatever tests He puts in our path, and to help others do the same through ministering to His Body with the gifts we have been given. All three of these aspects of the proper Christian life require myriad personal decisions, trusting God in all manner of ways and in all types of situations. Pastor-teachers are here to help us learn the truth of the Word of God which is the "fuel" for this journey, the "ammunition" for fighting this fight. But it is our job as individual Christians to believe the truth and to put it into practice in our lives. That is what the spiritual maturity talked about in scripture is all about, and it is only by appropriating the truth of the Word into our hearts by faith that we may avoid being "tossed to and fro" by every gust of false teaching (Eph.4:14-16). Any Christian who really wants to run this race so as to be rewarded at the end has to step up and make the hard choices to move forward and to be consistent in so doing. Handing one's free-will over to a pastor or "guru" may simpler and even easier, but the result will be spiritual disaster in the end, and certainly not breaking the tape in this all-important race ours so as to be decorated in victory by our Lord as a result. Like Paul, pastors should motivate their parishioners to run the best possible race, not run it for them or, as in the case you ask about, send them off in entirely the wrong direction.

Don't you know that all the runners in the stadium run the race, but that only one receives the prize? Run in such a way so as to achieve what you are after. And again, everyone involved in competition exercises self-control in all respects. Those athletes go through such things so that they may receive a perishable crown of victory, but we do it to receive an imperishable one. So as I run this race of ours, I'm heading straight for the finish line; and as I box this bout of ours, I'm making every punch count. I'm "pummeling my body", one might say, bringing myself under strict control so that, after having preached [the gospel] to others, I might not myself be disqualified [from receiving the prize we all seek].
1st Corinthians 9:24-27

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #6:  

Dear Ichthys friends,

Very much appreciated your site and just downloaded a few articles. Loved the simplicity and to the point explanations. We are a micro-ministry and started with a few kilos of literature and have grown a bit; our main job is to sow, then pick up the interested contacts while praying "Lord bring us the people of your choice and keep the rest away". Keep up the excellent work, we need beacons and torches like you all wherein people to-day are "electronic" and have no time, and are always running, so such short to the point explanations HELP - we keep in mind that the "victims of the Enemy" can be rescued if eye openers be given such as your articles.

May the Lord give you much grace and a lot of wisdom to reach both the individuals and the world.

Because He lives!

Goa, India

Response #6:  

Thank you so much for your encouraging e-mail. I have come to believe that the best true ministries are "micro" in that when size and show become the issue, true ministry generally ceases. I love your prayer: "bring us the people of your choice and keep the rest away". My own ministry is, as you say, composed almost entirely of electrons, but you are certainly welcome to whatever you wish to download any time.

Keep up the good work in Jesus Christ.

In our dear Lord Jesus,

Bob Luginbill

Question #7: 

Hello Bob,

Although you haven't heard from me in quite a while, please know that I still study your website diligently and look forward to your weekly email responses. This week's replies were quite timely because my spouse watches CNN 24/7. The many political discourses often result in arguing and I have always thought that it was all "meaningless" and refuse to get into discourses of any type with him about issues such as who is responsible for the war, etc. So your email replies today served as reinforcement with what I had been thinking regarding both the political issues and catastrophes. I was especially happy today when a young girl that I know quite well asked me if we could meet sometime for Bible study. That request was brought on when she explained to me her reasons for finding yet another church. She had become disillusioned with her church because the pastor was always talking about how large his house was, the salary of his employees (even going so far as to point them out one Sunday and telling their salaries), etc. She explained that seldom did a service go by when such things were not discussed. I asked her if he ever talked about Jesus or salvation. She thought for a moment and said "sometimes". I told her she was quite right to seek another church because any church that did not preach Jesus Christ and salvation 95% (my opinion) of the time and that addressed the things she described was probably not worth the time spent going. I talked to her about 2 Timothy 4:3 and sound doctrine or lack thereof. She then asked me about Joel Osteen and I gave her my opinion of him and his mega-church. That was when she asked if we could meet sometimes for Bible study. The request startled me and I responded that I would be delighted as this was the first inkling I had that Jesus was using me in that way and it came "out of nowhere".

Your sister in Christ,

Response #7:   

I am extremely pleased to hear your news. Needless to say I suppose, but I agree with all the opinions you've expressed here completely. I am very happy to hear how you are applying the scriptures to your life, and especially encouraged by your report of the opportunity for ministry you have been given. If experience is any guide, this Bible study will not only be a wonderful way to minister for the Lord, but also a great help to your own personal development in scripture and spiritual growth (because of course to teach requires getting into the material on a much deeper level than can be imagined before the fact).

So I in turn want to encourage you to make the most of this wonderful opportunity. We may not have big houses or big cars or big bank accounts or big anything else (except maybe for debts!), but that is all the more reason to be grateful that we have wonderful treasures in heaven which cannot be compared to "all the treasuries of Egypt" (Heb.11:26). The world may think we are deluded, but we know that life is very short, and only what we do for Jesus Christ will last – everything else is just dust and rust.

You most certainly have my prayers for the success and development of your ministry.

In our dear Lord Jesus Christ whom we are here to serve and for whom we live because He died for us.

Bob L.

Question #8:

Hello again, Dr. Luginbill,

I'm reading the letters, and enjoying them very much. I hope you can assist with another bit of clarification. I am post-trib, I need no convincing of the facts of what the Bible states regarding the Lord's returning, but I would like to know something that will help me refine it down a little. You stated in Coming Tribulation 2B (under "Fallacies about the Start of the Tribulation"):

Matthew 24:36 ("No one knows the day or the hour"), this is neither a command nor an excuse for believers to make a virtue out of ignorance and willfully ignore the issue. For one thing, Matthew 24:36 is speaking about the precise timing of the 2nd Advent, not, that is, the timing of the Tribulation's commencement, but of its termination. And even so, the fact is that, just a few verses earlier (Matt.24:22), Jesus had told us that this approximation of the time of the 2nd Advent would be a matter of days, not of weeks or months, and certainly not of years. Secondly, this statement about the unknown day and hour comes in the immediate context of the parable of the fig tree (verses 32-33), whose stated lesson is that one can and indeed should be on the lookout for that particular future event – one cannot know the precise hour, but the faithful believer can and should form a close approximation of that coming time.

My question: in the Bible, the term "that day" is also used of a period of time that might not be referring to a 24 hr period, but to a period of time that could possibly be referring to that decade or some other specific period of time, possibly during a specific era, maybe? So my question would be: Is there something in the wording of this particular verse that would specifically show that word "day" here to literally mean 24 hour period? In linking it with the word "hour" does this make it stand that this is no question the meaning of this in this verse? The reason why I ask is it comes up in discussions, and I am unclear how to answer this for other's sake.

I agree that the pre-trib teaching is very dangerous in a very subtle way. Doesn't it say in the Bible that the devil deals with us through his subtleties and craft? He undermines the fact that we need to be prepared for any situation, lulling us into a false sense of false security.

Thank you again for your time and for helping me come to a deeper understanding. I have noticed that the more I learn and grow, the less many of those who call themselves Christian, want to have anything to do with me, and sometimes I feel quite alone, but I know that Jesus never leaves us or forsakes us, perhaps He is preparing me thru this for the times when we will be exceedingly hated for our faith.

Yours in the fellowship of Jesus,

Response #8: 

Thank you so much for all your encouraging comments. It is true that, especially in eschatological contexts, the word "day" may refer to the end times generally (being thus shorthand for "the Day of the Lord"; see the link: in CT #1 "The Day of the Lord Paradigm"). You are correct that the addition of "the hour" to the phrase "the day" helps to show that this particular passage is talking about the specific time of the return (and hence the emphatic and precise designation), but there is also the point of ignorance. For we do indeed know all about the eschatological "day" (that is, that the resurrection takes place at the end of the Tribulation at the point of Christ's return, and that the Tribulation takes place at the end of the Church age), and we also have enough information to have a fairly clear idea of when the eschatological "day", the "Day of the Lord", which includes often the Tribulation, will begin (i.e., at the end of the full six "days" of human history which follow the reconstruction of the earth in Genesis 1:2ff.; see the link: in SR5 "Specific Chronology for the Seven Days of Human History"). So our Lord's point is directed here toward the prophecy "the days [of Tribulation] will be shortened for the sake of the elect" (Mk.13:20). For all who trust the veracity of scripture are free to see the approximate time line (i.e., that the Tribulation lasts seven year and its second half, the Great Tribulation, lasts 42 months, are well documented in the Bible: see the link in CT 3A, "The Forty Two Months"), but the exact day and hour of return are for the reason of the slight shortening our Lord refers to impossible to predict with precision.

I certainly also agree with your analysis of the evil one's methodology. As you probably already know, I cover these methods in some detail in part 4 of the Satanic Rebellion series (see section IV "Tactical Doctrine" and section V "Tactical Methodology").

I also can sympathize with your experience vis-a-vis our brothers and sisters in Christ. I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that no one appreciates it when someone else's conduct and/or discourse makes it clear that they are really lazy and apathetic – and that is true even if the point is never made directly with the conduct observed having nothing directly to do with them and the discourse being just a natural expression of enthusiasm about the truth of scripture. People get comfortable in their sloth, especially when it comes to the avoidance of any real attempt to seek the Lord through the Word of God (as odd as that has always seemed to me, it certainly has been my experience, even in the in the case of people I care about). No doubt the evil one is not uninvolved in that either. For the one thing he wants to prevent is any significant number of believers becoming enthusiastic about the truth of the Word. And what better way to combat this than to make it clear to those who are so inclined that they are going to have to pay a price for such ardor in the midst of this lukewarm generation. My attitude and advice and inclination is to redouble efforts to draw nearer to Jesus through the scriptures, reading, and hearing, and studying, and believing, and applying and living the truth more and more day by day while helping others to do likewise. No one is perfect in this, and as James says "we all stumble in many ways" (Jas.3:2), and some times the devil is at least partially responsible for knocking us down. But we have been called to get back up again each time (Prov.24:16), and to "make our punches count" (1Cor.9:24-27). After all, if we are going to get "hit", and we are, we might as well "hit back", and the best way to do so is to make a difference for our Lord Jesus in the way He intends and wants us to, namely, by growing spiritually, passing tests, and helping others to do the same: all Christian "righteous acts" and "mighty deeds" which are truly done in the power of the Spirit presuppose this prior building of a solid relationship with Jesus through faith and application of His Word, along with the proper ministering of that Word to others in whatever ministry our Lord assigns.

Thank you again, not only for your encouraging words, but for the encouragement of your persistence and perseverance in this fight of faith in which we are engaged.

In the One who fought the ultimate battle for us and in whom we have the victory of victories, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob L.

Question #9:  

I'm currently a member of a very small membership. Where the organization was set up by the pastor of the existing church. Due to circumstances I'd rather not detail, the membership has remained small. But I do have a few questions though. I understand that those who labor in scripture should receive something but I'm confused on the amount issue as well as a few people who've asked similar questions. Does double honor, mean money? Also even if you are the organizations creator (and you say God told you to) Does this mean that because you ask for it that you should automatically get it even at the detriment of the members? for example, if you decide to set your allowance at say 500, based on 10 percent of a church tithes for the month of around $____. If the tithes to total up to that amount should you expect to get the same payment? Also, I believe according to the scriptures, that the bible says that if you receive your praise from men, then expect nothing from the Lord for you have received your reward. (I'm paraphrasing but that's the gist). I'm not a biblical scholar but what classifies you as full time verses part time? The bible says we walk by faith. I believe that if you are called as you indicate, that you should be willing to do this "labor" for God at no cost because God promised you eternity with Him, not because of what the people can potentially pay you. Don't misunderstand me, if you've actually been trained as you obviously have been, and you don't work anywhere but at the church, I believe you should be entitled to compensation, but if you work outside the church (full time) and though you may have the title of pastor, but you are not on 24hr call, I don't believe that you should expect the church to pay for what you want? You can ask, but that doesn't mean you'll receive specifically what you asked for all the time. I guess what bothers me, is ministers who work a full time job and then demand money for every thing they do, and then try to say well God says I'm worthy of double honor because I'm the man of God. According to the bible, believers are a nation of kings and priests. All equal in the kingdom. So doesn't that make us all Men and Women of God? I know this is a number of questions but this has been an on going issue for me at my current membership. Because If Christ founded the church, and none of us are above the others, (pastors included because the bible lists this as a gifting) Then your title isn't what makes you the Man or Woman of God, but how you follow Christ.

Thank you for taking the time to respond to my inquiry.

Response #9:    

This is a very good question and I generally agree with the point of view that lies behind it as expressed here. I have written a fair amount about these issues, so while I will address your question directly here, please do have a look at the links listed at the end of this response for more details and the scriptural exegesis.

On the one hand, we are indeed all members of the Body of Christ, and it is certainly true that those who would be "first" should be "servants of all" rather than those who "lord it over" the rest of the assembled believers (Matt.20:25). On the other hand, scripture as you are clearly aware does indeed mandate support for those who "labor in the word of God" (1Tim.5:17). We don't have to look any farther than our Lord's example or Paul's example to see that neither our Lord Jesus nor Paul was bountifully provided for, even though no one today could come close to Paul's production, not to even dare speak of our Lord Jesus' ministry. Ideally, a man who has prepared himself for ministry in the teaching of the Word of God, going to the considerable time, effort, expense and trouble of learning Greek and Hebrew well, learning theology, ancient history, church history, exegetics and hermeneutics, ideally, as I say, such a person will be able to devote himself to the feeding of his congregation. But I would say from my own perspective that any support provided should be appreciated rather than treated as a birthright. This particular ministry receives no external support. Now if a congregation really wants a person who is genuinely prepared and wants that person to devote himself to the studying and the teaching of the Word of God, clearly it is their own interest to do what they can do to free their pastor-teacher up in order that he may do a better job and so that they as a result may be better fed.

In my observation and experience, however, this is all pretty much a moot point in most cases, because in most cases the "pastor" is not really prepared or interested or inclined (and in many cases not gifted) to teach the Word of God in a detailed and substantive way so that the congregation can truly be fed and grow. And on the other side of it, most congregations aren't willing to sit still for four or five hours of detailed, substantive Bible teaching a week in any case, no matter how truly spiritually nutritious it is. I hesitate to say "good" since most people, especially if they are spiritually immature, tend to associate what is "entertaining" with something "good" whereas what is "entertaining" is almost of necessity spiritually vacuous and what is truly "good" can often be very difficult to swallow. No one can grow up spiritually on 15 minutes of illustrations and interesting stories a week.

So to answer your question, scripture is pretty clear that those who are responsibly carrying out the primary ministry of teaching the Word of God should be supported if possible, although that level of support clearly depends upon the capacity of the group and not on some set formula (tithing is not biblical; see the link: Is Tithing net or gross?). In any case, the true biblical idea of a prepared pastor-teacher feeding his flock through detailed study and teaching of the Word of God is rarity nowadays (see the link: "The Age of Laodicea"). Here are some other links to more detailed treatments of the issue:

Does the Bible require supporting the pastor financially?

How much should we pay our pastor?

Some Questions on Church Polity.

Pastoral Authority.

Church Polity and three other passages.

Tent-making and Galatians 6:6

Please feel free to write me back about any of this, and thank you for your interest in this ministry.

In our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob Luginbill

Question #10:  

This is a good point Minster Luginbill;

I have an additional question then also. In the old testament, the priesthood was established through Aaron, and the tribe of Levi. It is my understanding, and please correct me if I'm missing some information; the priesthood ended up becoming the Pharisees and Sadducees, who spent a lot of time not only studying the book of the law handed to Moses, but they also took it to another level by filling in the areas not even addressed by the Ten commandments and the book of Leviticus, so as to make almost everything a person could do or forget to do a burden. During Christ's ministry, and teaching He addressed improper leadership in Matthew 12:34 , I believe it was Paul's words to the Corinthians (1 Cor 7:23) You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men. I believe this is the reason that the bible tells us to "study to show thyself approved; a workman needeth not be ashamed rightly dividing the word of truth" Saying also to us in further scripture test the spirit by the spirit, and if anyone teaches anything but Christ, don't receive it. (I'm getting away from my question though, back to the priesthood issue)

Christ breathed on the disciples and gave them power, but later after He ascended, the Holy Spirit came upon them. This was their anointing. I read also that the elders' appointed various ministries (deacons, duly noted) by the laying on of hands and the spirit came upon those appointed. I guess my question today is this, there are many who claim that they received "THE CALL" to be a pastor, as if it's some mystical appointment. I've had people ask me, and even tell me that I've got a calling on my life. I understand that we are all ministers according to the word of God. A nation of kings and priests. But I also understand that just as (I believe it was Philip who was led by the spirit to the eunuch) that upon salvation, we receive the Holy Spirit, and if we allow ourselves to be led by the Holy Spirit, we can then be vessels that God uses to affect lives.

In many churches, and I say this loosely, the pastor (though the position is a gift, as healing, and speaking of tongues) seems to be the supreme authority and will say things like "my spirit didn't tell me you should be doing that." Let me say this before going further. I've recently left a membership because I believe that the leader was becoming more and more prone to my spirit actions, and teaching. I believe that as we grow in understanding of God's word, these things become more evident through discernment. As I'm not a scholar (I see that you get this statement a lot in the questions) I understand the idea that a minister who has prepared for the ministry through substantial study, should be able to provide a better meal for the flock; However, this is not required if they are in fact being used by the Holy Spirit (not saying that you cannot be used by the Holy Spirit) along with your learned knowledge. But if someone constantly claims that they are the man or woman of God, however their behavior doesn't always indicate this (I know they are not perfect). Yet, I believe that if you are in fact directed by God to do something He will teach you how to be what He wants you to be through the Holy Spirit. I'm sorry to many thoughts at one time; if you are in fact called to be pastor, how does the flock know? The bible says My sheep will know My voice, and my understanding is that if you are speaking the truth, the word of God, Teachings of Christ, then those who are truly of Him will follow the teaching, and not you per se, however if you are not, then the flock will be disbanded. I've witnessed this in the last 2yrs of the ministry I've been a part of and I've attempted to point out the issue of what was being taught by the pastor who organized the body. Instead of seeing the information as an attempt to help the ministry be better and more Christ focused it became an issue of "I'm the man of God and you should do what you need to do to get me what I ask for". This is an actual statement from one of our meetings. I was surprised, and attempted to address the problem in a less direct way, as Nathan did with David, and I received the same response.

It is my understanding that though we all have different ministries, that we are all men and women of God, and I believe that if God has no respect of person, then neither should we. If the member can be rebuked, then so should the elder. I understand that rebukes, reproofs and corrections should be done in love, as they were, but they were not received with and willing spirit, and thusly, I felt that as scripture indicates "how can two walk together unless they agree" so I left the organization, I still pray for them but pray even more for the flock.

I have a question also, and I guess, it depends on which version of the bible you read. The list in Ephesians according to the amplified, says that the positions are gifts, then in 1Cor it says appointed. Is the position a gift or authoritative. In all my investigations into the word, there were always elders who did everything (or should have) according to the Holy Spirit's direction, after prayer. Also, Christ says, I am the Good Shepherd, not so are you. I like the story of the wealthy land owner and his hiring of men to work in his vineyard. Were he pays them all the same but some are upset because they did more work. Isn't this a kingdom principle? You get the eternal reward, not based on work, (though you are saved unto good works) but simply by accepting the offer. Is it a fair assumption to make that, as the Word says, if you receive your alms (reward) from man, you've received your reward and will get nothing from God? Meaning if you do what you do in the name of God but your focus is on what you get from men, then that's all you'll get, (unless there's a change in your heart?)

Ephesians 4:11: And His gifts were [varied; He Himself appointed and gave men to us] some to be apostles (special messengers), some prophets (inspired preachers and expounders), some evangelists (preachers of the Gospel, traveling missionaries), some pastors (shepherds of His flock) and teachers.

1 Cor 12:28: And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues.

Response #10:     

You have opened up a good many subjects. Let me say ahead of time that I would be happy to discuss any of the aspects here which I might miss or which you would like to have treated in more detail at a later time. To take this last first, Ephesians 4:11 and 1st Corinthians 12:28 are both most definitely speaking of spiritual gifts. These are given by the Holy Spirit (as 1Cor.12:1-3 makes clear). However, gifts do not function automatically. They are rather more like tools which much first be appreciated and mastered in order to be of much use. If I am given a master carpenter's tool set, that does not mean that I am qualified or competent to go out and build you a house immediately. I would first need to learn and cultivate all of the necessary skill sub-sets that go along with using the tools, and that sort of apprenticeship will of necessity take a long time. We don't tolerate unqualified plumbers. What makes us think we are bound to follow the lead of unqualified pastors? Of course there are some differences between the analogy and reality. We can easily discern if someone has the tools to be a plumber or a carpenter, even though it is only by the practicing of their trade that we can tell whether or not they are really prepared to do a good job. We cannot look into the heart of an individual Christian and see their spiritual gifts. But we can easily tell whether or not they are properly prepared to use them. And in the case of pastor-teachers, we certainly ought to be able to tell, even with a modicum of spiritual common sense and reference to the Bible, if what they are teaching is biblical and if what they are teaching is substantive. We can also easily tell if they are qualified. While I agree that the Spirit is capable of anything, I find it interesting that even in the Book of Acts which represents the transitional period of the Church requiring so many patently miraculous spiritual gifts due to an absence of a completed Bible or an already existent church structure, that even so the Spirit made use exclusively of prepared men for the teaching of scripture and the spreading of the Word of God – even though at that time there were plenty of excuses for not being properly trained or prepared. Today, in this country, there is very little real excuse. Greek and Hebrew instruction is available. Seminaries and universities abound where hermeneutics and Bible exegesis and church history classes can be found. And, with books and the internet, there are ways to learn what needs to be learned even without formal instruction (though in my experience this is usually a poor second choice). In my opinion, it is virtually impossible to become truly qualified to do any original work in theology without knowing the original languages of scripture very well and without some background in traditional theology, hermeneutics, and the like. Anyone can make pronouncements about scripture. Being correct is far more difficult. Just as in the case of individual believers where it is true that spiritual growth and maturity and knowledge of the truth understood and believed constitute a sort of "mechanical advantage" that multiplies the effect of the anointing we all possess, so in the case of pastor-teachers the more effective the preparation, the more potential true good the ministry can do – that is in terms of teaching the Word of God in an orthodox and substantive way. There are many who do not teach (but merely preach). There are many whose ad-libs have nothing to do with scripture. Putting the whole thing together correctly takes time, dedication and commitment. As I read the testimony of the scriptures, these things are honored by God in the effects and effectiveness of the ministry in question.

As far as rewards are concerned, I would entirely agree that we who follow Jesus Christ are to look to what is eternal and truly important, rather than to what is temporal and ultimately pointless. The only real advantage of material resources to a pastor (or any Christian) is whatever help these give toward spiritual growth and spiritual production. If the primary purpose to which such advantages are put is instead further personal material gain and the enjoyment of this world, they stand to be negatives rather than positives.

On the issue of calling and the other observations, I am in general agreement with you as you will no doubt see from the previous references. I very much dislike the way the issue of the "call" is phrased in most groups, because it does suggest that pastor-teachers have had some special epiphany that the rest of Body lacks. In fact, every Christian has to discern in essentially the same way what their true gifts are and where their particular ministries in application of those gifts lie, namely, through reading the Bible, listening to solid Bible teaching, believing the truth, living a Christian live, prayer and introspection in the power of the Spirit – that is, through the process of individual spiritual growth. If we are willing to serve God in the way in which He would have us do, He will indeed guide us along the path which leads to the discovery, preparation, and implementation of our gifts. We are all called to salvation through Jesus Christ and to follow Him thereafter – and that is a process of responding to the Lord by growing spiritually and helping others do the same. and it is on the basis of such growth and service that we receive our eternal rewards.

The Body operates differently from the Mosaic priesthood. We all now have direct access to the Father and the Son in prayer and we all have the Spirit and we all have spiritual gifts, all of which are critical for the proper function of the Body. So I very much share your egalitarian concerns, especially at this time when it seems to me that pastors of every stripe are beginning to become more authoritative in the negative sense. Pastoral authority should largely be earned through a demonstrated track record of orthodox and substantive teaching of the Word of God. Those few men who do carry out the mandate as the Lord laid it down to "feed My sheep" in this way are indeed worthy of "double honor", and should be respected, giving them the benefit of the doubt in areas of non-critical disagreement. But we do have freedom as individual believers to live our lives as Christ wants us to live them. We are not bound to follow a false under-shepherd just because that person may claim such a right. We are responsible to Jesus for finding a good source of spiritual food and exploiting it to the maximum, growing through faith in the truth, honing our own spiritual gifts, then helping others do likewise. This doesn't happen by "magic" for any individual believer, even if he does have the gift of pastor-teacher. What is required of us all is a humble, disciplined approach which consistently follows the way of truth shown to us by the example of our Lord who was 30 before He began to minister publicly (even though at 12 He knew more than anyone else). There are no shortcuts in the plan of God, not for those who want to do things "decently and in order", whether it be a case of personal growth or public ministry.

Do feel free to write me back about any of this.

In the One who is the truth, the Word of God Himself, our Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob L.

Question #11:  

Dear Bob,

I am even more appreciative of you today, as I have completed my readings of parts 1-3 of the Satanic Rebellion series. I am truly humbled by the amount of work this one study must have entailed on your part, much less everything else you do both personally and professionally. Do you feel that the Holy Spirit himself has given you the ability to be extraordinarily productive at certain points in your life? I have experienced that a time or two when I am working diligently to prepare materials for the Lord's work. In my earnest desire to learn more about the ways of God, I host a bible study (the best way to learn is to teach, yes?), attend church weekly, serve on the worship team weekly, and spend at least an hour in the Word daily. I have known Jesus for almost three years now, but have felt as if I were starving for more real interaction with Him. I have only had experience with two churches to date. Although I did learn the basics of Christianity, the first church scared me, as it seemed to go well beyond what was biblical in terms of its preoccupation with the Devil and deliverance ministries. The church I belong to now does not seem to have the same unbiblical preoccupation. In fact, it seems to be very well balanced and biblical. My question to you is this: With all of our human fallibility, what do you think is the best way to approach church membership/selection? I have seen people "shop " for churches that meet 100% of their beliefs about what the bible says and means, and I have seen people pick a church randomly, saying that all churches will have something wrong with them, as they are run by humans. For example, would you personally join a church that encouraged speaking in "tongues" (not a verifiable language, but simply a string of non-sensible syllables), knowing that you believe differently? Would you keep searching for another church? Or another alternative I haven't yet thought of? I find I have so many questions I would love to discuss with you…issues of human time and how that fits with angelic perception of the same… what you may think of information that supports the idea that there may be 11 (12?) dimensions, although we humans have access to just the 4…What is the best way to help new believers get rid of the demonic lies they believed before salvation that still plague their walk….how to teach the basics in a church setting….is there a way to definitively know which part of the battlefield God has specifically assigned to us? I have dozens more questions and thoughts vying for attention, but for your sake, I will close.

It is always nice to "meet" and "talk" with another brother. God Bless you and yours today and forever. I must say I am eager to read everything else you have written. Have you published any books, or are all your available works on the website? If you have not published, may I plant the idea in your mind? You obviously have God-given gifts in a number of areas: Research and synthesis of complex material, the ability to explain complex concepts in an understandable format, the depth of your understanding is also a rare gift, as is your diligent search for truth. Praise God, and may He bless you for obeying the call. Please continue.

Response #11:   

Thanks again for your many kind words! I do know what you mean about the Spirit's help and guidance: I have no doubt that I could have made the errors and committed the infelicities of expression in these studies all by myself, but the good in them, whatever good there is, I at least am convinced has come from God, and that is a very humbling thing. Since this stuff belongs to Him, I am very wary of "monetizing" it. I understand what you are saying about books and I would love to be able to offer all of these materials in that traditional way. However, I am very reluctant to put anyone in a position of having to (or being able to) pay for these materials, and at the same time equally reluctant to sign away any measure of control over them to a third party. The Lord seems to be bringing those who are truly interested in these studies to my doorstep. As long as that is the case, I am satisfied. It wouldn't really do anyone any good to have a 25 volume set of these writings in their bookcase and never read them (of course my secular stuff in Classics is published the traditional way since that's part of the job – not that there's any money in that either!).

I am very impressed that you are already ministering for the Lord in such a meaningful way, and want to encourage you to persevere in that course. In true Christian service there is incredibly great eternal reward, not to mention confidence and assurance here and now and blessing too. Besides, it's what we are called upon to do. It is also commendable that you are being consistent and dedicated in your personal Bible studies. That is so important for maintaining any kind of momentum in spiritual growth. While many people who want to know Jesus better look for Him in music or ecstatics or other experiential ways, in my own observation and experience it is the still, small voice of the Spirit working through the Word of God that makes Him shine in our hearts.

To that end, choosing churches is a very difficult thing nowadays and I am always somewhat reluctant to offer specific advice. You are correct that I am skeptical about "tongues" and your analysis of the problem as I would define it is right on the money, namely, what I see taking place in such places is not in my view tongues at all. As we roll ever closer to the end times, the discontent in the church visible and the increasing problem of "proper fit" for those true Christians who do indeed put Jesus first through the learning, believing, applying and ministering of His Word is likely to continue apace. Finding the right wine skin in which to pour the potent and expansive new wine of biblical Christianity is a heady business. While I understand the need and yearning for fellowship as well as for opportunity for ministry, it is very important to avoid vessels which are overly constraining (lest the vessel break and the wine be spilled). This calls for prayer, discernment, and careful judgment of the sort that only the individual concerned can hope to exercise correctly. But I will certainly say a prayer for you on this.I am sure that I haven't answered all of your questions (or maybe any of them satisfactorily), but do feel free to write me back.

In Him who is the only truth and the only way, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob L.

Question #12:  

Hi Bob,

I thought you might like to know that I spoke with our worship pastor, and asked to be re-joined with the worship team. I told her that I felt I was being penalized for being human, and for not wearing a "mask of acceptability". She asked a few questions, and I answered them, and she decided I could re-join the team. Sadly, I know that I cannot be the only one in the church who has experienced something similar. My question now is, is there anything I can do to improve the situation? Is there any help and hope for change in the leadership perception? One thing I will always remember is the bible story about Jesus healing the blind man. Now the healing itself is not the interesting part to me. What I found so interesting is how the church leaders of the time responded with repeated questioning of the man who was healed and his parents. At the end of the story, the man has his healing, but he has also been exiled form the church! Speaking the truth can get you kicked out (and stoned and beaten and jailed and crucified upside-down). I can assume that the leaders felt threatened and did not know how to respond other than to remove that which made them uncomfortable (the truth??? The unknown??). This behavior by leadership is what I see happening in the current church as well. So, we have to wonder, is it better to continue to be in a church that is not and will never be perfected until the Lord's return, or to attempt to maintain and grow in our relationship with the Lord without the community of believers around us? I haven't studied this answer specifically, but I know I am to "flee from evil", and to avoid bad company that corrupts. But I also know I am not to refrain from meeting together as some are in the habit of doing. This appears to be something of a catch-22. Honestly, I grow more in my individual time in the word and with the Lord than I do in corporate worship and fellowship. Alone, it is just the Lord and I, and I don't care what I look like, how I appear, how long I spend in praise vs: study, or for that matter how long my "service" lasts. But I do sometimes sense a presence that I think is God during corporate worship that I don't sense alone. There is something about being in a large group, singing to the Lord as one body that is truly beautiful and occasionally breath-taking. So, shall I act as a gadfly and stir the pot so to speak, or remain mute possibly at the expense of others who will be judged and vilified for being, simply, human? I do know that God is preparing me for my ministry, and that I can use this to strengthen my resolve to continue to seek and speak truth, and rely on Him to make a place for me to do so. Although my flesh is hurt and disappointed by this situation, my spirit is understanding, knowing I too am not fully in possession of "the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth." I have judged others wrongly and without a second thought. So, I will try to do what I would like to receive, a gentle rebuke by a caring friend. But it is up to God to grow whatever seek I plant, and help to root out evil in all its forms, even the smallest and seemingly good forms. For today, I will praise God for His ability to teach me and guide me. I thank Him for you and your words of encouragement and support. Please know how much of a difference you have already made in my life. Just knowing that others care so deeply about seeking and saying and living the truth encourages me to do the same. Thank you!

Response #12:    

I am very glad to hear that you have experienced meaningful reconciliation in your situation. The problem you address is a common one indeed in the case of believers who are genuinely trying to grow up in Jesus Christ and minister effectively for Him. I think what you say about corporate worship is true. My biggest concern on that score is that the church-visible has been "coasting" on that truth for many decades now, and such corporate worship is not sufficient by any means to provide for the growth of those who are not doing what you are doing (which is, essentially, growing by other means than those offered by the church). Therefore it is not an uncommon experience for those like yourself who are slogging their way forward spiritually to get much more out of worship than others do, but at the same time be much more tortured in their hearts by the appalling lack of teaching and application in the church by members, staff, and pastors alike. This is the sort of thing that makes the in-between posture uncomfortable. Personally, I would be inclined to "stick it out" if things are on an upward trajectory spiritually, and to "bail out" if things are on a downward spiral in spiritual terms. Status quo situations are a real judgment call. But there are more options than being a total loner or else wedding oneself to some organization with which one has real problems. Hebrews 10:24-25, for example, does not envision the local church as we have come to know it with all its physical and traditional paraphernalia. What Hebrews 10:24-25 does envision is a group of believers of no specified size who mutually encourage one another (that is purpose of the "meeting together" in verse 25). It should be said that this can be done without a dedicated building (it was probably not until the 3rd century that there were many "churches" in the sense of dedicated buildings which we have come to expect, after all), it can be done without a choir and musical instruments, it can be done at any time (not just Sunday morning), and it can be done without the all the traditional trappings of robed clergy, hymnals and pews, stained-glass windows, order of service, announcements from the pulpit, etc. ad nauseam. In short, it can be done by a handful of Christians who are genuinely seeking the Lord. And I might add, it seems to me that what we are doing in mutually encouraging one another with these e-mails fits the bill of the true sentiment behind Hebrews 10:24-25, whereas many of the church services I have attended in my life don't come anywhere near as close to doing so (if they do so at all). I hasten to add that I am not advocating an end to the traditional local church. But it is well to consider that God provides, and if it does come to the point where you are not only not being fed in your church but also become spiritually uncomfortable to the point of becoming convinced that separation is necessary, God is well able to provide everything you need. It may well be that there are alternatives in your area that would offer "face to face" meetings with other similarly inclined Christians which provide the positives without the negatives. And if not today, maybe tomorrow. One thing that I have experienced in my life at the cost of much time, pain, and soul-searching, is the proof of the "new wine doesn't work in old skins" principle, namely, that you can't really change anything from the inside (at least that is a very unrealistic expectation). Martin Luther and the other reformers provide a classic example of this, but there are many such. This principle will become emphatically more apropos of our own situation as we move into the end times proper and the Great Apostasy begins. At that time, we should expect lukewarm and spiritually compromised institutions to constitute a huge spiritual danger for those inclined to follow their mistakes out of misplaced loyalty when most of these groups fall in line with antichrist (see the link: "The Great Apostasy"). So in closing, the one bit of advice I would give is a universally applicable one: take care to make Jesus Christ and the Word of God your only emotional attachment, and never let familiarity with any person, ministry, group or organization take precedent over your principles as they are forged by the Spirit working with your conscience through the Word of God.

May the Lord bless you in your spiritual growth and personal ministry.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

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