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A Review of 5 Churches
To the Angel of the 7 Churches
The first thing Jesus addresses in the Book of Revelation is the state of His Church in 7 different cities. In that day, there was only one denomination - the church! Instead of addressing the Methodists, or Presbyterians, or Lutherans, the church without denominations was divided only by city or region.
To each of the seven churches in Revelation Jesus gives a list of pros and cons; a list of good and bad; a list of righteousness and a list of sin. Jesus commended each church for their righteousness in certain areas. However, Jesus also rebuked 6 out of 7 churches for the places in which they missed it. In fact, Jesus just didn't just mention their shortcomings - Jesus warned that if they did not repent and change their ways - lights out! This, my friend, must be taken very seriously. Jesus did not jest! Jesus said that they will lose their place as part of His true church, and ultimately lose their place in eternity. In one place Jesus actually said that He will cast them on a bed of suffering if they didn't change! Try praying for healing then! This is serious business.
To the Angel of the 5 Churches
In 1992 I was born of the Spirit of God. Since that experience I have lived the most exciting, most exhilarating life I could ever imagine. What more can one ask than to walk and talk with the Most High, who inhabits eternity, and whose beauty and power is unsurpassable!
That is not to say that I didn't have challenges since 1992. However, through the pain, through the sadness, through the challenges the Lord was guiding me, upholding me, forgiving me, strengthening me, and comforting me.
Nineteen years, from 1992 to 2011, I have journeyed a long way spiritually. In the process I have attended 5 different chruches. The following is a review of each of those churches:
Church #1: Baptist
The first church I attended was a Baptist church. This church was located close to where I used to live. In fact, I walked to church.
Duration of attendance: 3 months
Frequency of attendance: Every time the doors were open. There were 2 services on Sunday. I attended every one. I also attended every bible study, and every social meeting.
- Solid in the "Word of God". This church had an emphasis on the Bible that was strong.
- Bible study groups that met in people's homes. A bible study group would meet on a regular basis. Every now and then the group would "rotate" and meet and alternate homes.
- Social meetings. Certain church members opened their homes for social events, which made a great atmosphere for bonding with other church members, and building relationships that simply cannot be done after the service in the basement!
- The pastor was "somewhat" supportive of me and my efforts to know the Lord more, and study the bible. On one occasion I told him that I was studying the original Greek and Hebrew. He freely offered his own Greek and Hebrew study books to assist me.
- Two services on Sunday. It is always good to see the doors of the church open more as opposed to less!
- This church was not open to the fullness of the Spirit of God as I have come to know it. Their idea of the fullness of the Spirit was to say the sinners prayer. They taught that after you said the sinners prayer you got saved - therefore you got all the Holy Spirit you need. Charismatic gifts were not in operation - at least not openly. Anything other than silent, personal "impressions" from the Holy Spirit was frowned upon. You would never see any kind of "manifestation" of the Spirit in this church such as any of the spiritual gifts, or falling under the power or shaking...etc...
- When I left this church, most of its members shunned me. This, I believe, is because of the lack of a true relationship with the Lord, and a true fellowship with the Spirit of God. If they had more of the true presence of God, true humility and love they would not behave like this.
- The pastor was very possessive of his people. One day I visited someone's home apart from a formal church gathering. I spoke to this person about the healing power of God. The pastor was upset that I was treading on his turf. He came to my home and said that "[I am] still welcome to attend the church"?! As if what I did was so bad that it was borderline ex-communicable.
Church #2: Pentecostal
This church was also located within walking distance.
Duration of attendance: 3 months
Frequency of attendance: I attended this church every time the doors were open, both Sunday morning, Sunday evening and Wednesday evening.
- This church was "more" open to personal experiences with the Lord. The gifts of the Spirit such as "speaking in tongues" and "interpretation" was openly practiced at almost every service. On very rare occasions you would see someone falling under the power, or shaking. But this was rare and somewhat subdued.
- They had mid-week services. It was good to see the church doors open at least 3 times a week (Sunday morning, evening and Wednesday evening).
- Generally speaking the people were a tad bit more friendly at this church as opposed to the Baptist church.
- This church was open to the occasional extra-circular activity. They once chartered a bus to an evangelical Spirit-filled meeting in Toronto. A+
- This church lacked fervor. The services were ho-hum! The people's own personal walk with the Lord reflected this. They were not "on fire" for God. There was a lack of enthusiasm among the people.
Church #3: Non-Denominational (similar to Word of Faith)
I first found out about this church through television. Every service was televised. At that point in time all I ever watched was Christian TV. In fact, I gained most of my inspiration and "spiritual food" through daily Christian television.
This church was a 1 hour drive from where I lived. But it was worth the drive!
Duration of attendance: Aug 1993 - Aug 1996
Faithfulness of attendance: Every service. This included two services on Sunday. Additionally there were frequent conferences which typically lasted a week at a time. I would attend at least once a day during conferences.
- This church "vibrated" with a very high level of enthusiasm. Everything was very upbeat, fast, and positive.
- Strong evangelical team that went out to the streets and from door to door to preach the gospel.
- More openness to the Spirit of God. Almost every meeting was accompanied by various gifts of the Spirit, people falling under the power, and getting healed from various ailments.
- Home group meetings. As far as I can remember the home group meetings were held every week. Various members opened their homes across the city and abroad. These home group meetings provided a much more excellent personal experience, and strong relationships were built.
- They always say hindsight is 20/20. The biggest con of this church was it's myriad of errant teachings. For years I was totally sold out to the teachings I received there. But as time went on I increasingly became aware that most of these teachings were based on error, denial and outright manipulation. Abeit I cannot charge the pastor with knowingly teaching erroneous doctrines. I believed in it, and I believe that he believed in these teachings. But, without going into much detail I saw a few things that most people never see. Let me put it this way - I saw things that only 1 or 2 people out of 1500 saw. See my other hubs for information about erroneous doctrines as I have dedicated several hubs to the annihilation of these doctrines. All in all, looking back, one of the greatest things I learned was what not to preach!
- The level of enthusiasm was literally unreal. There was a lot of hype. There was more hype than reality. It was like "pump-me-up" but it was very superficial, and later proved to be quite shallow in spite of its intensity.
- It was a "Christian Celebrity" church. The pastor was highly regarded as a "celebrity" within his circles. And only certain "celebrity" speakers would be invited to the pulpit. I call this a "unionized church". I worked for 20 years in a unionized environment and I know how debilitating that environment can be to a person who seeks advancement. There is a wide chasm between the union and management. It was almost like that at this church. There was a wide gap between the lay and clergy. The chances that a lay person within the congregation would obtain "clergy" status and have a chance to step behind the pulpit and preach were next to none. You had to be in a certain "clique" in order to preach. This "clique" for the most part consisted of outsiders. This, I believe, is contrary to the example set out for us in the Bible.
Church #4: A Renewal Church
This church was located in Toronto, which was a good 1 1/2 hour drive from where I lived (in good traffic). However, it was well worth the drive.
Duration of attendance: 12 years (1996-2007)
Frequency of attendance: The first year I attended 6 days a week...
which tapered off to 3 days and week plus all the conferences...
that frequency gradually tapered off to a few times a month over the period of 12 years, partly because of high gas prices. I had to drive at least 3 hours [in good traffic] just to attend!
- Very open to the Lord. Very open to the Spirit of God. The pastor used to openly confess, "I am not the pastor here. The Holy Spirit is!"
Manifestations such as falling, shaking, laughing were a common place. The first year I attended the church I come to accept the fact that you would probably not hear the sermon because so many people were shouting, and laughing. I know that sounds strange, but it was awesome!
- Very liberal in worship. In a typical service people would wave streamers, and banners, and dance and fall on their face in worship. This was a normal occurrence.
- Very free atmosphere. The services were not clocked. It was normal for a service to last 6 hours or more. Some people even brought their sleeping bags to church every service! Can't see yourself staying in church for 6+ hours? How could somebody do that? The answer is simple: Time flies when you are having fun!
- The presence of God was thick. You felt like you were in the Holy of Holies. It was an awesome experience.
- The doors were open most of the time as there were 14 services a week.
- Personal experience with the Lord was not just talked about. The church provided the time and place to experience Him. You were encouraged to stay as long as you could and open yourself up in prayer and experience the Lord.
- The speakers/ministers/preachers were nobodies from nowhere. There was hardly ever a "celebrity preacher" in the pulpit. Most of the time the preachers dressed casually. I even saw Catholic priests preaching in the pulpit!
It was called the "nameless, faceless, placeless" move of God. (However, in the aftermath many of those no-name preachers became very popular. But at the time they were just nobodies). This gave a great freedom that enabled the layperson to be real, and not try to dress up, and be on their best behavior. This atmosphere also enabled the layperson to experience the Lord in greater ways as they realized they were no less spiritual than the person leading the service. At the height of this church, nobody was esteemed to be more spiritual than the other. Unlike the previous church I spoke of, where the people came to see the preacher, here people came to experience the Lord... and the preacher was not exalted in any way.
- Strong home groups which were in various places reaching beyond 100km radius.
- After only a few years of an awesome outpouring of the Spirit of God, the church gradually began to fall, and become more like the mainstream. They changed their teachings. They changed their practice. They changed their service. They became more structured, and less open; more contained, and less free.
Church #5: a liberal church
The pros and cons say it all!
Duration of attendance: 2007-2011
Frequency of attendance: Every service, and every special event when I wasn't otherwise preaching elsewhere.
- The ministry of helps: practical aid and support of the members and surrounding community. This is a big one! In this regard, this church far surpassed any other church I have ever seen. I can never emphasize this enough. This church is light-years ahead of the rest in the way that the pastor and the people are truly among the most kind and helpful people on the planet. They actually, and actively look for ways to help people. You don't have to ask.
Many a day I walked away from the pastor's office shaking my head in disbelief as I have never seen anyone so willing to help, and so willing to invest himself into his people... So willing to jump on any opportunity to help someone out... and go the extra mile! On many occasion I said to myself, "Who am I, that I should be treated so well? Who am I that I should be supported to this degree? Who am I that the minister should invest himself into me to this extent?"
Without asking this pastor, he actively looked for everything in me that can be blessed, and he blessed it. He went out of his way to find ways and means to help me and be a blessing to me and my family, without being asked!
It began when I asked him to marry me and my fiancé. Without any questions asked he was more than willing to oblige. I told him a little bit of my background: that I have preached in many places, and that I play guitar, sing, and write songs. Immediately upon hearing that he asked me to play during the service every Sunday.
I was going through a little bit of a financial squeeze. Without asking for help, the pastor said, "You can preach, can't you?"
"Yes" I said.
"I'll promote you to the whole area and get you into churches all around the entire county. And you will get paid for it! That will help you out a little." he said. He told me that I would get a check each time I preached... and that way he would help me out.
And he did just that. I preached in many churches all over. And yes, it did help me out financially. It was a great help.
On top of that, whenever I wasn't preaching, whenever the chance arose, he would ask me to do the music for the whole service. I would also get a check for that. Once again, the main purpose he asked me to play was to bless me and my family and to help us financially.
He freely offered to pay for my education. I didn't even ask him.
One time he gave me the entire sum of the church's food bank donations because he knew I was in need of financial assistance. It was several bags full of food!
I felt like this pastor, unlike all the rest, really believed in me. He put lots of time, and effort into digging the gold out of me. And he went out of his way to care for us. We really felt like he cared. When my wife gave birth to one of our children, the pastor called the hospital just to see how we were doing.
Once I was going through a challenging court trial. This pastor came to the courthouse, just to sit in and support me. I didn't ask him to do this. It was very encouraging, and well appreciated!
One day he asked me to sing a song at church about an off topic. He asked me to play guitar and sing every Sunday. He never told me exactly what song to sing. He just gave me a topic and asked me to sing a song about that certain topic. This was a little challenging sometimes because all I knew was praise and worship songs. One time he asked me to play a song about mothers on Mother's Day. Another time he asked me to sing about about baptisms on a baby dedication day..etc...etc.
Once I told him that I couldn't find a song to fit a certain topic. He said, "You know how to write songs, don't you?"
"Yes" I replied.
"Well then, write a song!"
I loved it! The way the pastor engaged me, he even brought out my song-writing talents! He was a PR genius! He knew how to utilize someone's talents to the utmost. This gives a tremendous sense of fulfillment and belonging. I ended up writing a few songs this way. This pastor had an uncanny ability to see the best in people, actively engage them, draw out the best, and support them to the end!
Another time, knowing that I was going through a financial crisis, the pastor showed up at the door, unexpectedly, and gave me a $100 gift card for groceries!
The people of that church gave us a whole lot of quality furniture. In fact, most of our house was furnished by the gifts of these people. And it wasn't cheap-looking second-hand stuff. It was good stuff!
We also felt like the members of that church really looked after us. They even found a good place for us to live at a good price!
Several members of the congregation offered to babysit for us for free. We knew we had lots of help when we needed it.
... I cannot list all of the pros of this church, but that was a few!
Bottom line: the pastor and the people not only were helpful people. They actively looked for ways to help,and offered their services without even asking them!
The Book of Acts says that the church gave themselves to each other, offering all their resources in every way to each other, and no one lacked... this church was the closest to that model than other other church I have ever seen.
- The social aspect of this church was astronomical. The people were very friendly. It was always a joy to stay after service and talk with them. They went out of their way to make you feel welcome... a very warm atmosphere.
- Not only was the pastor a very kind and loving individual which he proved by his support and aid, but he was also a very trusting individual. A real relationship does not come without trust. The pastor handed me the keys to the church, and to his office. This was an act that caused me to highly honor him as he trusted me to that degree. The pastor really knew how to build relationships with his people.
- In spite of the excellent standards of kindness, acceptance, and helpfulness of the pastor and the people they did not truly know the know the Lord in a personal and intimate way. God was reduced to a concept or a belief, instead of someone you could actually personally experience - A God who changes lives!
- As much support and help as the pastor was, and as much as that had a dynamic impact on my life, the pastor refused to come over to my home to pray with me and my wife. The most important and most cherished thing of all - my relationship with the Lord through fervent prayer and worship- was unsupported. The pastor had a "hang-up" with this kind of thing.
- The pastor's idea of spending time with the Lord was to sit down and read some theological book about God.
I have no doubt that God can speak through books. A person can have a great time with the Lord reading books. But if there is no real fervent prayer, and if there is no real tangible experience with the Spirit of God then there is no relationship with God.
Think of it like this: The bible states that our relationship with the Lord is likened to that of a married couple. Imagine a husband wanting to spend some intimate, quality time with his wife. He comes home, gets ready for a romantic night. When all is set and ready he finds his wife reading his book. He says, "Come, let us sit by the fireplace'
"No", she answered, "just reading your book, and serving your people is good enough for me."
The husband, whose heart drops to the floor, tries again, "Come, my darling. Let's spend some time together"
"We are", she says, "I spend time with you by reading your book!"
I think you get my point! That husband would not only be frustrated, but saddened by his wife's lack of perception. This is what this pastor is like in regards to his relationship with the Lord.
- The Spirit of God is very limited, if not completely forgotten and extinguished. The Holy Spirit is reduced to a "concept" or "feeling". There is no perception of the tangible, real, and powerful Spirit of God, that longs to fellowship with His people.
- The people would have nothing to do with anyone shaking, laughing, or falling if the supernatural joy and/or presence of God fell on anyone. If the Most High, most powerful God ever touched anyone in that church, they better not physically react! If they did they would be frowned up.
I heard one pastor say, "What happens when you stick your finger in a live light socket?.... you would yell! you would jump! you might tremble! and that is "just" electricity! How much more would someone react if the finger of Almighty God touched them?... The one who's power far supersedes that of any measure of electricity!"
- The church is given to belligerent feminists. For the most part, feminists who hate masculinity are in charge of the denomination. They may appear nice on the surface, but these angry feminists have swayed the leaders of this denomination to remove any and all references to a masculine God from their services.
These people are controlled by devils as we know how much the Devil hates man, being made in His image.
If the leaders of this church were God, Jesus would have been a gay, or a sexless "neutral", if there is such a thing. If they were God, they wouldn't create man and woman, but they would create all equal, no differences in sex. Thus they exult themselves above God, as if they know better - as if they are more "civilized".
Their excuse for eliminating all references to masculinity: "We don't want to offend anyone" referring to those belligerent feminists who are offended at anything masculine.
They are more concerned about appeasing the feminists as opposed to appeasing God.
Words such as "Father, Lord, King, He, Him, man, and His" are banned from their services.
The pastor sent me to their "training camp". He offered to cover the cost. But, although it didn't cost me a thing to attend, I couldn't stay for any more than one meeting!
I told the pastor that I couldn't stand the fact that it is taboo to call God a He or a Father, or a Lord because it is masculine. He said, "Can't you just call God, 'Parent'?"
"If my children came to me one day and told that they are no longer going to call me "father" or "daddy" or "him" or "he" because that would offend people, then I would be greatly offended" And I believe the Lord is as well. They are spiritually sick.
- They have a modernist ideology. While many people would agree that things in society are indeed getting worse, they believe that things are getting progressively better.... that somehow the bible is outdated, and God needs to be updated!... and that Jesus was just a person who lived long ago who failed to deal with sexism and homosexuality because he didn't know better.
I've got news for them: Time is subject to God. God is not subject to time. God doesn't need an upgrade, nor does He need an update.... We do!
He knew what he was doing in Bible times. And He doesn't change. He is not subject to public opinion. He doesn't have a heavenly Facebook, or Youtube account that is rated by us! He doesn't care how many mortals "like" Him!
God is not concerned about making Himself "politically correct". He is concerned about making us "God-correct"!
- Their modernist ideology is dishonoring and disrespectful to our ancestors. Truly I tell you that our ancestors would be outraged with the corruption that is besetting this world. They would be shocked to know how bad it actually is. Yet these modernists act as if we have evolved into something that is much better! Believe me, that is what the men of Sodom thought. Remember it wasn't long after Noah.
What would the people of Sodom and Gomorrah say about Noah, the preacher of righteousness?
"Noah? Oh yes. He is our great great great grandfather. We are much more civilized now. We know better now. We have evolved!"
As Jesus brother, Jude says..., The judgment of Sodom was only an example of what God has in store for the immoral!
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