A Voice in the
One of Tuesday's Q/A's on Punk Rock in "church" raised the hackles of one of our new subscribers who wasn't with us when we went through the topic of Rock music a while back. [Ed: for others of you who are new, if this raised questions for you, you can find past writings at the website by clicking on "Topics Search" and scroll down to "music". Of particular interest might be "God is: my song"] While there were 'concerns' from this person about the "Rock Music" aspect, I'm not going to retrace those steps here; another topic came up which has been somewhat fresh on my mind/heart, what with working ahead on the Romans series. The concept as it was addressed in the Q/A is rather 'foreign' and even "radical" to most people; and so probably bears a little more scrutiny.
This has to do with the idea that the "unsaved DON'T BELONG in the worship, teaching, exhortation assembly of Believers".
The first time I ever heard such a concept, I dismissed it rather forcefully, myself. There was a group of us "young marrieds" from this particular church that met on our own during the middle of the week, in somebody's home. The leader/teacher, one of our peers, had been witnessing to a prison inmate, and 'now' the inmate was being released. The inmate wanted to visit our fellowship, but the teacher would not allow him to come. In subsequent (private) discussion with the teacher, I made my sentiments -quite- known, wondering how/why he would refuse to allow someone who WANTED to hear God's Word, from coming. Isn't -that- what we are here for? To witness to people, to bring them to the Lord? It's been enough years ago, now, I don't remember his explanations for 'why' he held that view, and I don't recall if it resembled what I've presented to you-all. But I was upset enough over it, that my wife and I quit attending the meetings.
So... Why do unbelievers "NOT belong" in the assembly of Believers? Believers are jointly worshiping God. The unbeliever has no place in such things. God was quite clear in what we've already seen, that the unclean should not come into His presence. They had gatekeepers to keep the unclean "out".
In addition, the assembly meets for the purpose of teaching and exhortation. When the unregenerate is in the midst, and they speak up; they speak false doctrine. And what happens? As we see with what is now evolved into the Alpha Course, they are allowed to proclaim their error, and nobody corrects the error. So, what -should-be- a time for Believers to grow in God's Word (Eph4:11-15), actually becomes a time where "a little leaven leavens the whole lump.." (1Cor5:6) This has been going on for decades; long before "Alpha". But the unclean is supposed to be "purged out".(vs7)
In addition, when an unbeliever is allowed to proclaim their false doctrine, rather than 'reaching' that person for Christ, they have actually been put in the fearsome position of being "accursed". (Gal1:7-9) Think about it! The exact -opposite- is resulting, than what the Believers claimed was their desire for that person.
So, what about the 'logic' that the church has been using for decades? "We need to bring the unsaved in, to hear the Gospel." "In" is not where they hear. The Gospel needs to be taken "to" them. Oh, but it's not "kosher" for a "good christian" to be seen in a bar, even if he's witnessing, because "christians don't go to bars". Think of what the "appearance of evil" (1Th5:22) would do to the poor ol' KJV-only pharisee. (The MKJV/LITV also has a problem there. In this case NKJV is more accurate to that verse's true meaning.)
A few years ago when I would talk with that 'prostitute' sitting next to me at the work table at that electronics assembly job, a "christian" told me, essentially, that I shouldn't be friendly to her. Well, how else was she to hear? And once we got past the point where she realized that "neither do I condemn you" (Jn8:11) we -did- have many discussions. But did she 'belong' in an assembly of Believers for worship and 'Christian' Scriptural exhortation? No.
How are the unregenerate reached? By inviting them to more of satan's filth they are already used to? (When this is done 'why' should they be saved? If there is no difference between the world's music, and what is fed to them with a "christian" label, why should they change [repent]?) Or, by living pure lives before them? When the dirty joke is told in the break room, are you laughing along and coming up with an even 'funnier' version of it? or do you hear a "hey! he's not laughing"?
The Gospel must be "taken" -to- the lost, going to the "highways and hedges" to compel them to come, so that God's "[supper] house may be filled." (Lk14:23) That means, going -to- where the lost are with GOD's -WORD- (Rom10:15) I challenge anybody to show me Scripture that says the lost are won with music, plays, movies, dance, entertainment or other hoopla. And don't give me the old worn-out -excuse- for fleshly sensual behavior of "being all things to all men" (1Cor9:22) taken out of context. I didn't have discussions with that prostitute on the job to eventually buy "tricks" from her...in order to be 'all things' to her, and be to her something she was "used to" and "comfortable" with! Not hardly!! But that's what CCM people are doing!!
But also, the going -to- the lost is much the same as, say, rescuing a wild horse out of a steep canyon where he fell, and can't get out. If the horse is to be "saved", you cannot call to it, and invite it into the 'barn' and entice it with oats and alfalfa. You have to go down into that canyon with ropes and straps, and connect them to the waiting helicopter to pull him out. You'll probably get muddy, smelly and dirty, pulling and pushing on him, while you get the straps around him. You cannot do it from the barn! After all, if he's -in- the barn, he obviously doesn't 'need' saving. Furthermore, you don't put some mares 'in heat' in the barn to entice him in! Sorry to be so graphic here; but this is PRECISELY what these "christians" are doing with their sensual, fleshly 'attractions' to "lure" people into the "church". It's the same kind of language God used against Israel, "So I also have stripped off your skirts over your face, that your shame may appear. I have seen your adulteries, and your neighings, the wickedness of your fornication, and your abominations on the hills in the fields. Woe to you, O Jerusalem! Will you not be made clean? How long will it still be? (Jer13:26-27) [If we make it 'graphic' enough, hopefully the hard-of-heart will finally "get it"! At least they'll be without excuse...] But anyway, the horse is still stuck in the canyon. No matter how much he whinnies at the mares, he's still not 'saved'. He's still stuck.
Notice: once they are -inside- they need to have received [past tense] the "wedding garment". (Mt22:11-13) If they don't, and they are there without it, they don't 'belong' and are cast out "into outer darkness".
The argument I've heard all my adult life is, "Well, look at Jesus. He ate with publicans and sinners. And the pharisees complained at Him." But notice -WHERE- Jesus ministered to people. When he was eating with tax collectors and sinners, He has just asked Levi to follow Him. And He was in Levi's house. (Mk2:14-15) When He spoke with the woman of Samaria "it was necessary" for Him to -go-to- Samaria. (Jn4:4) He sat in fishing boats to teach. (Mt13:2) And He often went into the wilderness, where the crowds came to Him. (Mt14:13) When He called to Zaccheus, He says, 'I'm coming to your house'. (Lk19:5)
But when it came to the temple, the place which represented God's Holy presence, notice that He drives the filth out, the merchants and money-changers and swindlers (Mt21:12-13) because it is a "house of prayer".
Also, the typical argument goes further, since "our bodies are the temple" of the Lord (1Cor6:19), the physical building (or location) no longer matters. And, to a certain extent, this is true. Jesus said, "For where two or three are gathered together in My name, there I am in their midst. (Mt18:20) But you see, this is why it was worded in the question at the beginning of this discussion, and in the Romans study as, "assembly". [Actually, the word "church" means "assembly".] Where Christians are gathered for worship, exhortation, study, prayer... whether it's a living room, garage or barn...or, the fancy building with the sign out front...that gathering represents the Lord's 'presence'. It is a special time of fellowship with the Lord that the unregenerate have no part in. When Paul writes to Timothy about the workings of the Church gatherings, he says about prayer, "lifting up holy hands..." (1Tm2:8) If the unregenerate are in the assembly, 'imitating' what they see, the hands -they- 'lift' are NOT "holy", are they.
I have only come to this eye-opening understanding recently as I was faced with it from Scripture. But God's Word cannot be denied on the matter! However, this also indicates the need for a total REVAMP in how churches typically "do business". If a new pastor came into an established church with this criteria to try to enforce, most of the church would be out the door. And this is not to suggest that anything -can- be done about it in the large churches the way things are now, considering that 99% of people in the large churches are unregenerate, anyway. This kind of separation will likely only be possible in the small groups, home churches, groups meeting in remodeled garages, barn lofts and basements. And perhaps efforts at "group evangelism" are then done like I see sometimes locally at our city park, where a small handful of people are passing out literature, and somebody is set up with an easel on which are diagrams, as he shares with passers-by to whoever will listen...? Maybe this is why we don't see any "mega-churches" in the N.T.? It was always the church in so-n-so's home(1Cor16:19); or prayer at the "house of Mary" (Acts12:12); as they went "house to house". (Acts2:46) And, truly, throughout the centuries as the Catholic church was apostate, and then the Protestants branched off from them and continued the apostasy and squabbled with them; the true Church of Jesus Christ "of whom the world was not worthy" met in homes, caves, forests. (Heb11:38) And it is looking more and more like the same is still true today. Which is why True Believers (the 1%) are "[coming] out of her..." (Rev18:4)
Before Sunday's mailing went out with "Foundations", a question came from a subscriber:
This is a real concern. Back when the Scriptures were written, there was no -extra- 'class' of humanity called "teenager". The Bible doesn't talk about youth programs, CEF, children's church, VBS, etc.
In Sunday's writing was mentioned the need for a "total revamp" in how churches function. Of necessity, in this offering I'm going to pull a "Paul" here where he says, "..to the rest I speak, not the Lord.." (1Cor7:12) Just as Rock Music is not named as such in Scripture, but we speak to it with Biblical principles, a lot of these other things are not directly addressed, either. And, for some of these things there may not be an answer that I can give; but each local assembly must consider how the Lord wants them to treat each matter. But let's consider some general concepts as they may apply to the way the modern "church" has evolved...
First of all, where did the concept of a church "sanctuary" come from? Where the platform is elevated from the rest of the people, with the "altar"? They typically use -pagan- cross symbols, and pagan inscriptions if "IHS". I've been looking for the origins of some of this information, and keep coming up blank; but a customer told me about one of them recently. When the Celtic cross is displayed, that "circle" is a, as he put it, "spirit collector". Paganism! For all the arguments people raise about the "triquetra" symbol on the NKJV, note that it is by itself. When Led Zeppelin uses it on their albums, their version uses it with that same "circle".
God was -quite- explicit that "you shall not make to yourselves any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in the heavens above, or that is in the earth beneath..." (Ex20:4) "Any likeness of ANYTHING.." to my understanding of basic language would include the "cross". Yes, Jesus died on the cross, but we do not worship the cross, but the One who died on it. Just as we do not worship [swear by] the temple or heaven, but by God Who inhabits all creation. (Mt23:16-22) When we worship Jesus, we worship Him "..having not seen...not yet seeing..." (1Pt1:8) Jesus said to Thomas that those blessed would be the ones who believed even though "not" seeing. (Jn20:29) He dwells in us through the Holy Spirit. (Rom8:9)
And what about the whole "liturgy" the evangelical church practises from week to week? Where did that come from? It certainly isn't to be found in the N.T. teachings. Yes, I'm sure the hackles of some of you staunch Baptists and Presbyterians will be raised when I say these things. [After all, we -must- have the Doxology right after the offering! Right? Oh! You do it at the very beginning of the service? Sorry!] But remember from Sunday's offering... I raise these questions, having "been there." I used to think the most grand thing was a large sanctuary, with a pipe organ blasting away. (Or, if not "pipe", at least a good "Rodgers"! You see, I also am an organist) Sooo "Grand"!! And yes, if the hundreds of people filling that hall are all truly Believers in Jesus Christ, I can't imagine anything grander than voices being lifted to God in one accord in -hymns- of praise...other than, perhaps, what it will be like when all the Believers of all ages do so in Heaven! As a musician I have dreamed and wondered, often, what that will be like! But alas! These so-called "sanctuaries" today are filled for the most part with 99% unbelievers!
So, if the assembly of true Believers is supposed to be "exclusive", what do we do about the youth, children, and unbelieving seekers?
I used to really object to "children's church" because it took the children away from their families in the larger corporate worship in the sanctuary. But, you know, with this new understanding, I realize that children's church is -exactly- where they belong, particularly if they are there without Believing parents. And children's church should be a time of teaching them God's Word. Teaching them the Gospel.
If the parents are Believers, can the children be with them during worship? Here, I would defer to what Paul states; that as long as one parent is a Believer, the children are "holy". (1Cor7:14) So, yes, they -could- be in the assembly.
And, while we're talking about this, that we have called on other occasions, an "umbrella"; what about the unequally yoked unsaved spouse? It certainly would seem to leave the door open for them. But please note, I say "seem". This is PFB talking here.
Back to the children. If parents do have their children accompany them into the assembly, they should proceed with sensitivity. Even if those children are "holy" due to the Believer's "umbrella" over them, the enemy is quite adept at using them to distract. If your children simply will not be quiet, take them out. Don't stubbornly assert your "rights" for your children to "be children", at the expense of somebody's soul. Yes, they -are- 'children', and Jesus blessed them; but were born with sin natures. The purpose of the meeting is so Believers can grow in the Lord.
What about youth programs? The unsaved -need- to be reached. And, perhaps one way is to have special meetings for them. Perhaps, even, these meetings might occur at the church facilities. And, perhaps, as youth like to do, they might even have outings and "fun" times. But if a local assembly is -sponsoring- such a program, or the meetings are happening in the church facilities, the prime goal is to preach the Gospel. The primary function of youth meetings should be to teach the Bible. Teach them about God, about sin, the need for repentance and receiving Jesus as Savior. That becoming a Christian means that there will be a -change- in behavior and 'lifestyle'. That when they become a Christian, they will be giving up their old ways of the world. Remember, Jesus spoke of "count the cost" (Lk14:28) to be His follower. I can almost guarantee that such a youth group will be small. But Jesus also said that would be the case, that there are "few who find it." (Mt7:14)
But, until the youth are saved, they do not belong in the assembly of believers. And for sure, should -NOT- be LEADING any services of the assembly such as a "youth night". Until they are saved, they cannot possibly -lead- in something where they don't even belong. This, too, is a grievous error in how things typically exist today!
And, finally, what about the adult 'seekers' who -want- to hear? (Such as the question we opened this writing with) Yes, we witness to people on the job; or perhaps there is a joint evangelistic effort, and people show interest, but are not yet saved. There -needs- to be something I don't know if I've ever heard of. Some sort of "seekers" class. Something like the youth program, only... for adults. Something where they can be taught the Gospel. Where the emphasis is Salvation. But it's specifically -for- the unsaved. These meetings will -not- include "worship". They cannot. These people don't know the Lord. They cannot be singing the Lord's songs...they are yet in a "strange land" from God. (Ps137:4) It must be God's Word. Remember from Romans, "Faith is of hearing, and hearing by the... WORD OF GOD." (Rom10:17) There -must- be a "teacher" who -teaches-. This is not a time for everybody to -share- what they "think". They are coming in the first place because they are "seeking" to -know- more about God. "Ask", yes; but "share", no! And, if they don't like it, and stop coming because it's not "fun" enough, well, their true colors and priorities were manifest.
But these, too, should NOT be invited to the main assembly meetings where Believers worship, teach, exhort in Christian growth. Keep the "leaven" out!
Oh, yes, and FINALLY finally; what about the "sanctuary"? If there is such a thing anymore where there is a congregation with 100 actual Believers, or 50 or 25, and your physical building is set up with a special room for "worship"... such a 'dedicated' place, keep the unbelievers out. That includes the youth who like to throw paper airplanes at each other, and younger ones who want to play hide-n-seek and tag around the pews. And only Believers should do 'janitorial' duties in there, too. If you consider that room to be like the "holy of holies" in your corporate mentality, remember that it was only the high priest who was allowed in, after the cleansing. Believers are cleansed by Jesus' blood, and thus can "come boldly" (Heb4:16) and can "draw near". (Heb10:22) And so, if you have dedicated such a room with such an intent, it needs to be treated in similar fashion.
Obviously, if your physical facilities are more 'utilitarian', and one room gets used for all sorts of different things, the occasion would seem to dictate how you proceed.
Again, this is PFB 'talking' here. Each assembly has a different make-up of individuals, and meeting places. Each group of leaders need to consider these things before the Lord. PFB cannot tell your group what to do. As Paul wrote to Corinth after he had raked them over the coals about blatant sin in their congregation (1Cor5), telling them to purge out the old leaven (vs7); when they had made things right, he says, "to whom you forgive anything, I also forgive.." (2Cor2:10) Each congregation must know the needs around them, and covenant with the Lord accordingly.
But purity must be maintained. While we are to -take- the Gospel to the lost; as an assembly, we must be holy. If we are meeting for worship, prayer and exhortation, the unbelievers CANNOT be allowed to join in. And such a stance will not hinder "growth". In actuality, those who truly come to the Lord will do so in greater -real- numbers, because they will -really- be saved, not deceived and pretending. When the early church was 'separated' to where "of the rest no one dared to join himself to them.." (Acts5:13) "..more believing ones were added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women.." (vs14)