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Daily Encouragement: The “Church” Is Alive And Well:  But The Institutions Are Failing Miserably

Daily Encouragement: The “Church” is alive and well: But the institutions are failing miserably

The Picture above is for effect. When titling this article I was going to name it “The “Church” is alive and well: But the institutions are “FALLING APART”.

The old church building was to exemplify how the church institutions are falling apart.

However, while I don’t have any evidence to support it, while some “churches” and denominations are falling apart, it seems that many are simply restructuring to meet their customer’s demands in a more ungodly society.

Many “mega” churches are thriving. Of course, they seem to have very little to do with the Gospel of Yeshua, but as organizations / businesses, they seem to be doing very well.

The church is not a building
Whenever possible, I take the opportunity to remind people that “the church” is not a building. The word “church” in the Bible is utilized 80 times. Not one of those times is a reference to a building.

The word “church” is translated from the Greek word “Ecclesia”. It means the “called out ones”. It has an inference of a governing body.

When Yeshua said “I will build my church”, the thought of going to Home Depot to buy a hammer, nails and some lumber never entered His mind. He was referring to building up His people.

This is an important distinction to make. Even after coming to this realization it took me some years before I completely eradicated the word “church” from my vocabulary in reference to a building. All of this alters your consciousness to divert your attention away from what Yeshua said was the most important things: Loving Yahweh God and Loving your neighbor.

It seems almost common practice to love a beloved building more than a neighbor.

A personal story
I have told this story many times. You may have already heard it. Unfortunately, it has so many applications that it gives me many opportunities to share it.

I was 17. I felt as if I had grown up in the “church” I was attending. It had about 600 members and I pretty much knew every one by name. I could tell you where most of them lived, how many kids, brothers, or sisters they had, what their names were and where they worked or went to school.

There was about six full and part-time paid Pastoral staff and I was on a first-name basis with all of them except the “Senior” Pastor who I also knew very well. I was one of the three janitors for the church.

It was time to make decisions. What was I going to do after High School? College? If so what would I study? Was I going to be a painter, plumber, Pastor, or? How would I choose? What would determine how I spent the rest of my life?

I preferred the latter: I wanted to be a “Pastor”. I had always heard people say that they were “called to ministry”. I was drawn to it but I didn’t know what it meant to be “called” by God.

I was 17 and felt that I was about to make some potentially life-altering decisions. Since I was always at the church building, I asked those six Pastors (mentioned above) what it meant to be “called” to ministry. NOT ONE OF THEM COULD TELL ME. Every one of them told me that it was “just something that you decided to do”.

God was working on me and with me. I knew the answer they had all independently given me was wrong. However, I didn’t know what the right answer was. I just knew that going into ministry absolutely HAD to be a calling of God or it just wouldn’t work. Sure you could make a vacation vocation out of it. It certainly could be better than grunting out a day of hard labor in the hot sun or freezing cold, or being stuck in a corporate office, but God was telling me that what they said wasn’t right even though I didn’t know it was Him or what right was.

For me, the sad part was I extended that thought out to the logical conclusion.

Waite a minute, if that is the advice they gave me then that is what they believe. If that is what they believe then I have been supporting a “church” that was led by a group of guys who just “chose pastoring as a vocation instead of something else”.

In fact, their personal lives did actually reflect that quite clearly. While I can explain it now, at that time it was very bazaar to me. It over-loaded me and I fell off of the fails. I am so very thankful that God reached out to this lost soul and brought me back into the fold.

I was just one
The story above is mine and it is true. It is just one of a multitude of stories that could be told about the failures of religious institutions. Yes, it is true that God uses what He has available. After all, He spoke through a donkey once. Still, institutional, mainstream religion is a long way from God’s best.

Not only is this my view but the evidence to support this truth is overwhelming.

“Mainstream religion is not dying” – NOT
Recently I heard about a book that was recently published that made the argument that America’s mainstream religion is not dying but rather holding its own and even growing in some cases. It was all pretty sad really. The entire basis for their conclusion was statistics; statistics based upon individuals filling out questionnaires.

Are you a Christian? Do you go to church? Would you consider your political views to be conservative? These are just questions that I made up for this article. However, it is these kinds of questions that people responded to that led the authors of this book to conclude that America’s mainstream religion is as strong as ever. He said that people are leaving liberal “churches”, but not Biblical churches.

As I have said before; statistics are all but worthless. They are not worthless but they ARE easily manipulated and so, therefore, they need to be dealt with accordingly.

What is a “Christian”
One of the major issues today is the definition of the word “Christian”. The word Christian means Christ-follower. It was first used in a derogatory manner but then came to be a main term used to identify Yeshu’s disciples.

In this analogy, I am not criticizing anyone who works in fast food in any way. However, just as an example, if a person worked at McDonald’s and their primary responsibility was to make french fries all day would you refer to that person as a chef? Of course not. What if THEY referred to themselves as a chef? If their food preparation experience was limited to deep-frying premade french fries at Mcdonalds would you identify that person as a chef even if they themselves did?

Again, in no way am I criticizing the work but, it would be erroneous to identify that person as a chef whether they did or not.

Likewise, there is far more to being a Christian than just calling yourself one. The term has been watered down and misrepresented so much that many who truly are devoted followers of the Messiah refrain from using the term because they would rather not be identified with all of the baggage that comes with it.

To some who are wholly committed to Yeshua, some people who call themselves Christians could be likened to someone who called themselves a chef when in actuality all they do is deep-fry french fries at McDonald’s.

Hebrews 6:1-2 says:
Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of the resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.

Take a look at what the writer of Hebrews identifies as foundational (basic) to the Christian faith: “repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of the resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.”

Yet while Hebrews identifies these as foundational issues, for today’s “Christian”, understanding these issues could be likened to a first-grade math student having calculous mastered; it just ain’t going to happen….

How do I know this? Being in ministry for the better part of twenty years has given me insight into some things, and this is one of them.

Along with my own observations, there is a reliable group who have been monitoring the “church” for many years now.

Here is what Barna concluded:

The data shows two trends, often a crosscurrents.  Adults are aware of their very real spiritual needs, yet they are increasingly dissatisfied with the church’s attempt to meet those spiritual needs and are turning elsewhere.

Finding God in mainstream religion
Mainstream institutional churches are not the place to find God and learn how to walk out His plans and purposes.

Are there exceptions? Of course. There are exceptions to everything I have written about this: But that is what they are; exceptions. Is everyone that calls themselves a Christian today doomed to hell? Absolutely not. God is the judge; I am not. There are many, many dear, dear saints, who identify as mainstream Christians, that I am honored to stand beside. This article addresses the general condition of America’s mainstream religion, not individuals.

Yahweh God is raising up a people
Yahweh God is raising up a people to represent Him in these days and the days ahead. This group of saints, the real “church” will be full of faith and they will walk it out. They will blind armies, see into the courts of the enemies of God, and do GREAT exploits. Most importantly, they will know the Most High God in an intimate way that others just don’t. In this way, He will be directing their paths and leading the way.

Will you be a part of God’s end-time army? It begins with committing yourself wholly and completely to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in an intimate way, through Yeshua the Messiah.

Blessings in Yeshua
Dr. Rayphe

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