ARE YOU A SERVANT OR A SLAVE?

Clifford Cone

I believe that "institutional" religion is purely political. It is just another system of subtle mind control. It is an environment which cannot afford to allow unrestricted truth to be proclaimed within its domain, because that would destroy this "church system" of religion.

It is a system which has its own special vocabulary. It uses words which have their own peculiar meanings to promote and perpetuate only the self-serving CHURCH system. It attempts to intimidate, control, and cow its members into "obedience" to the elders who are usually appointed for life.

It is a system that perpetuates the myth that the common man CANNOT know enough to have a personal relationship with God. Only those who go through the "recognized" preacher-training schools and the Church-of-Christ colleges, graduating with degrees in Bible, those who are "ordained" as "faithful" preachers and elders, are really able to know God and His Word. Only THEY are really "qualified" to speak FOR God to the "laity"! Is this any different from the Roman Catholic Church?

It is a system which furthers the concept that salvation can come ONLY through the "church". It forwards the idea that, as part of the plan of salvation, we are added to the ONE TRUE CHURCH, but "the kingdom of God" hardly receives an honorable mention. The "institutional" leaders know they have no control over "the kingdom of God"!

"Institutional" religion promotes the idea that salvation is maintained PRIMARILY by faithful attendance AND through a generous contribution to the local church. Without this myth there is NO money to build the elaborate buildings that they have or to pay the salaries of larger and larger staff members and specialized "ministers", over which "the elderships" can have absolute authority.

The Bible tells us in Matthew 28:18 that Christ has ALL authority, but in the "church system" arrangement, "the eldership" has assumed ALL this authority. The elders act as a worldly Board of Directors that often shows no sense of responsibility toward the members of the congregation at all. They just believe that the members should simply repeat the famous old-time hymn "PAY AND OBEY, FOR THERE'S NO OTHER WAY".

In the "church system" the members are greatly encouraged to give money to God toward "His blood-bought body; the CHURCH". But, we all should realize that the money does NOT really go to help proclaim the message of salvation to the lost. The money mostly goes to maintaining the BUILDING and paying the SALARIES of church staff. There is usually very little money left over from the contributions to do much good in the community or in the world at large, much less to PROCLAIM the message of salvation to the lost! More often than not, the elders make sure that they plunge the congregation into DEEP DEBT to demonstrate that they are "leading by faith" by building huge buildings and adjoining facilities to glorify THEMSELVES instead of God!

WE SHOULD BE SERVANTS

In Mark 10:35-45, Jesus tells us that if we want to be important, then we must serve others. But, in the "church system", greater importance is placed upon the hierarchical structure of control, politics, and positional authority. The "leaders" are there to control, NOT to serve. And, they habitually use the King James Version and other poor translations to justify their control, positions, and "office", contrary to the clear teachings of Jesus to serve others.

We do not believe that the New Testament is a rulebook. God does not play "hide-the-commandment" with us. Christ's death on the cross freed us from the rules and regulations of the law (Col. 2: 14). We are to live by principles such as "love your neighbor as yourself". (Matt. 22:38-40) Love is a free-will term, against which there can be no law (Gal. 5:23)!

We believe that "institutional" religion has tried to put its "members" back into bondage on the basis of rules, regulations, examples, and inferences presumably gleaned from the text of the King James mistranslation a document originally prepared to help the then "institutional" Church of England to maintain its power and control over British subjects. The KJV is still being used today in much the same way among the "Churches of Christ" by "church system" leaders.

Though we have a tendency to be negative in our references to "institutional" religion, we do NOT want to be negative toward our friends and relatives within that "church system", or even the preachers and elders. We believe that many of them are simply TRAPPED inside the "institutional" system by so many traditions and misunderstandings of the true message of God. Basically, most of them are honest and very sincere about what they believe. However, they are badly deceived.

There are some sincere and honest men who began their preaching careers with good intentions of proclaiming the Word of God, but they have become ensnared in the "church system". On the one hand, they are PAID to study the Word of God and to proclaim its truths. On the other hand, they are NEVER allowed to carry it out, because this would upset the power structure and the control of "the eldership". It would certainly lead to a split of the congregation, or a loss of members, or a withholding of the weekly contribution which would cause a drop in the budget and even greater debt! It would lead to the loss of a preacher's job a job which cannot easily be replaced and which is needed to support a preacher's family. So, the "church system" turns honest men into preachers who proclaim LESS THAN the full truth of the Word of God. It's simply a game of "politics as usual"!

We need to be servants of Christ NOT slaves to a system!