Photo by Henry Dobkin @ Freely Photos
During the covid church closings, there was a post on Facebook lamenting the point that being out of church might cause some people to fall away from the Lord. There were many comments and much fear about not being able to gather, about missing out on fellowship, missing out on God’s Word, and missing out on Holy Communion. What would all this mean to people of faith? After all, no one had ever witnessed the churches being shut down! The frustration and concern were real. Lives were being disrupted and people were no longer able to congregate freely with other believers as they had become accustomed.
The pandemic is behind us now, but the decline in church attendance still exists. Some people chose to return after the pandemic; however, many people have long been disenfranchised by organized religion. In truth, the decline in church attendance began well before the covid pandemic began. The falling away may be attributed to many different things, but at its core, people have stopped going to church simply because their spiritual needs are not being met. Does this mean there is no place for these people? Not at all.
Let’s take a look at organized religion and recognize it for what it is: Church is big business. In order to exist, revenue must be collected so that obligations can be met. Salaries and bills must be paid; then, there are building expenses and even advertising costs. Within the organizational structure, control must be maintained from the top echelon down. Within the congregation there are power-players who are positioning for areas of control, who are trying to sell their own ideas, and often, they do this at the expense of others. Put all this together and we have a necessary corruption of the Gospel because those vying for power positions have strong wills and often the money to secure their status, while the primary focus of the church itself becomes the survival and growth of the business entity. It’s no wonder so many kind-hearted people who go to church to fellowship with like-minded Christians, to hear God’s Word, and to take part in Holy Communion, have become disheartened. Christ’s church was never meant to be the big business that it is today.
Are there loving and wise pastors out there humbly doing their best to teach and provide comfort to the flocks God has entrusted to them? Yes, but they are rare. When we find one, we need to support them and encourage them in love. And, those who cause disruption within the flock must out of necessity learn humility or face being removed—regardless of the size of their pocketbook. This is so that people who are attending for the right reasons don’t become discouraged.
In the end, we simply don’t need today’s brand of organized religion and all the distractions and deceit that comes with it in order to worship the Lord and grow in His will. Those that love the Lord know that Christ died so that we might be made holy in Him, and spend eternity with the Father, but there is so much more to realize… With Christ’s death and resurrection, we entered a new covenant… a covenant that gives us a direct line to God the Father through Jesus Christ. There’s a reason we don’t take a sacrificial lamb to the temple every year to be forgiven of our sins, and there’s a reason we don’t have to talk to a priest to be forgiven of our sins. And that reason is Jesus.
Jesus never taught that we have salvation in anyone but Him, and He certainly never taught that our salvation came from any business entity, or brick-and-mortar building. We are God’s holy elect. 1 Peter 2:9 tells us that “(we) are a chosen people; a royal priesthood; a holy nation; God’s special possession…” Each of us, you and I, are ordained to bring the goodness of God to others.
Hebrews 4:14-16 reminds us that Jesus is our High Priest and because of that each and every one of us can approach the throne of God with confidence. Nowhere does the bible tell us that we need intercession by mere men running tax exempt organizations, with ordinations given to them by other mere men. Our intercessor is Jesus who was appointed by God the Father himself (Hebrews 5:5) and each of us are priests in His royal priesthood.
We need to be careful not to be deceived by gathering around those who have fallen into the trap of preaching false doctrine for self-edification and personal gain. Rather, when we gather, we should gather with those who bring us closest to Christ. Those will be the people we feel the most comfortable with—those who are humble, those who emanate God’s love, and those who share His wisdom. Jesus made us a wonderful promise when He said, “Where two or more are gathered in my name, there I am also.” It is far better to be small in number and share truth, then to be large in number and be deceived.
As the church age draws to a close in these latter days, true believers are reminded that we ARE of a royal priesthood. We are appointed under the one true high priest who is appointed by God the Father himself, and that high priest is Jesus Christ. Therein lies all the authority we need.
The church today is far removed from that of the early church. Imagine for a minute Jesus saying that in order to gather in His name we must first gain state approval to organize as a non-profit entity to gain a tax exemption. Of course, we know this would be absurd. Yet, we also know this is exactly what corporate church does. Church has become business, and business is about profit. Remember that Jesus said, “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). Jesus didn’t command us to turn His gospel into a personal ego and wealth building enterprise; He commanded us to love one another and His word teaches us to be generous and to remember the poor.
Jesus also commanded us to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). Is there a reason so many God-fearing Christians fail to do this? One reason might be that we’ve forgotten who we are. We have forgotten that we are a royal priesthood. We’ve been led astray by religious leaders who want us to believe God is not our highest authority, but that our authority comes from “men who like to walk around in long flowing robes” (Luke 20:46) and who like to maintain centralized power within the church. Nowhere in the bible does it say that before we share the gospel and baptize others in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, that we are required to have an authorization form signed by another man. Jesus’ commandment to do this is the only authorization we need.
Likewise, Jesus’ commandment to partake of communion is the only authorization we need to serve communion among our brothers and sisters in Christ. Jesus didn’t name one college, counsel, or other man-made institution that we are required to gain the approval of before we partake in, or distribute the elements of the Lord’s supper. Jesus only said “do this often in remembrance of me”. Since our authority doesn’t come from men, but from God, there’s no reason we can’t share Christ’s Communion often with our brothers and sisters.
When we realize we are of Christ’s royal priesthood, corporate religion becomes obsolete to us. The state can no longer restrict us from choosing to gather (i.e., the covid restrictions) when we realize our salvation does not come from a commercial building, neither does it come from a mere man ordained by other mere men. We are of a royal priesthood. We have been given power and authority in Jesus Christ to worship, to study, to baptize, and to break bread together. We can have church in a commercial building, or we can have church in a home, or during a picnic in a park, and we can do it with the people who are dearest to us. The incredible love Jesus has for us and what He did for us at Calvary is infinitely greater than our ability to comprehend. We are set free. And, we can never let anyone diminish His gift to us or tell us otherwise.