FORWARD TO THE PAST

Stanley L. Morris

A few years ago, there was a popular movie called "BACK TO THE FUTURE." It depicted a young man in the late 1980's going back to the 1950's via a time machine to see how his parents first lived and met. After a while, the lad returned to his own generation with a new perspective about what was really important in life.

I wonder what would happen if an ancient visitor were somehow able to visit us in the late 20th century. What would he think about our so-called "Christian" ways? What if PAUL, THE APOSTLE, were to visit our time? What would he learn? Imagine Paul staying at your home for a weekend. Sunday morning comes and he puts on his everyday robe and comes out of his room. He asks you, "Why have you put on such FANCY CLOTHES for assembling with other Christians today?" You reply, "Oh, God deserves our Sunday best." He responds, "But God deserves our best every day. What is the relevance of clothes? What a strange notion you have!"

Later that morning, you, your family, and your guest get into your car to "GO TO CHURCH." Paul remarks, "What a wonderful means of transportation that you have for getting around so quickly! But I'm still puzzled about your modern expression 'going to church.' What does that mean?"

No time to answer. You have arrived. You park in the church parking lot. As you are all getting out of the vehicle, Paul inquires, "Why did you come here instead of meeting with the brothers and sisters?" You answer him with pride, "Oh, but this IS where you will meet them all! We have spent millions of dollars to build this magnificent CHURCH BUILDING for the purpose of formal Christian worship. That sign over there tells all the people in this community that we are the true church of Christ." Paul says, "In my day, the people were the church; how can a building be the church? This is very strange to me!" You try to explain. "Well, we call it a church because it is God's house." Paul is even more startled and exclaims, "It's God's house? Don't you realize that God doesn’t live in buildings made with human hands anymore? God lives in you. You are the temple of the Holy Spirit." You try to smooth it over by saying "Paul, come inside. You’ll feel more comfortable once you're inside and get to know some of the brethren afterward." Pau1 thinks to himself, "Afterward? After what?"

All of you step inside. It's very quiet. Soon you are met by a friendly church usher who says, "It's so good to see you this morning. I hope you enjoy the SERMON." Paul turns to you and says, "What's a sermon?" No time to answer because you must quickly make your way down the aisle to your respective pew.

Each of you is handed a church bulletin. Paul leans over and whispers. "What is this papyrus? What is written so neatly upon it?" You explain to him, "This is what we now call 'paper,' a marvelous invention. The church news, and our order of SERVICES is written there for today. We can also see how much money was collected for the new building fund and was put into the common CHURCH TREASURY." Paul has a quizzical look on his face. He asks, "What is an 'order of service'? What is a ‘church treasury’?" Again, you attempt to explain; "It's the precise order of the five ACTS OF WORSHIP to God this morning. And, THE ELDERS DECIDE how all the money will be spent." Paul is shocked. He says, "I thought each individual was to "lay by him in store," awaiting a collection for a specific need! And, do you mean to tell me that if God has something to reveal through me today, I will have no opportunity to share it?" You answer, "Oh, I’m quite sure that the preacher would make an exception for you!" But an alert Paul asks, "...THE preacher? Who is he? Don't you have MANY evangelists? How can you have a congregation of this size and have only ONE preacher? Who put him in charge of the assembly anyway? We are all priests of God! Why have you elevated this one man? And, another thing, why are all the seats facing one direction? Are you trying to recreate the Temple?"

You answer, "No time to answer now. The service is starting. You'll understand better once the sermon is given." Paul asks again, "What's a 'sermon' ...?"

SEEKING THE TRUE WILL OF GOD

In a similar way, all of us need to step into our own mental time-traveler to discover the true nature of the origins of our faith. I am not interested in perpetuating the "traditions of men." Jesus remarked to the people about their Jewish leaders, "But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men" (Matt 15:9, KJV). I desire only to follow what God wants me to do - wherever that path may lead! And, the ONLY way to know the will of God is to look directly at the WORDS which God has communicated to us through HIS inspired writers in the Holy Scriptures. We aught not to accept things the way they stand merely because some "authority" tells us to do so, but we should always question whether our current practices really coincide with what the Bible actually teaches. Why is something "right" just because "we’ve always done it that way"?

It is extremely important that we not be sunk by the hidden shoals of untested, false assumptions. We must instead declare our loyalty to the Lord by EXAMINING everything anew Aristotle said, "The unexamined life is not worth living." Paul said, "Test (prove, KJV) everything. Hold on to the good" (1 Thes. 5:21, NIV). He also wrote: "Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; TEST YOURSELVES. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you unless, of course, you fail the test?" (2 Cor. 13:5, NIV). We certainly all need to be like those noble Jews in Thessalonica who "received the word with all readiness of mind, and SEARCHED THE SCRIPTURES DAILY, whether those things were so" (Acts 17:11, KJV). They didn't even take Paul's word for it; they had to check it out for themselves. And, as far as we know, he never rebuked them for that spirit! Later he wrote to the Corinthian Christians: "We break down false logic and anything which rises up against what we know is true about God. We capture every thought to make it obey Christ" (2 Cor. 10:5, SEB). We desperately need to heed the apostle John's words: "My dear friends, many false prophets are now in the world. So, don't believe every spirit. TEST the spirits to see whether they are from God!" (1 John 4:1, SEB).

GETTING BACK TO BASICS

A famous football coach used to begin each spring training with one fundamental statement: "Gentlemen, THIS is a football!" Even then, one of the dumb linemen blurted out, "Hold it, coach, you're goin' too fast!" Yes, we definitely need to get back to the basics.

Knowing that this article is contained in the last issue of The Examiner, I think it is imperative for us all to reflect upon the historical importance of this publication. Although it will cease this month, the questions that it has raised will continue to be discussed for many years. You may or may not have agreed with everything written in it, but it DID cause you to think. Didn’t it? What are some of the most important lessons that you have learned over the last eight years? In a word, upon what does your faith NOW stand? So now, let us begin our study:

There are KEY TENETS that are being practiced by all institutional churches. They simply must be challenged head-on: (1) hierarchical church structure; (2) mind control; (3) the influence of money; (4) hypocrisy.

Why are so many so weak, even after years of "going to church" faithfully? It must have something to do with their diet. In the physical realm, we can easily understand why most Americans are overweight and badly out of shape. However, did you know that, of the most important vitamins and minerals, only 12 percent of the American population eat all of their Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA's)? Did you know that, of the top eleven weight-loss plans, all of them are WAY TOO LOW in vital nutrients, deficient in thiamine, calcium, iron, vitamin B-6, magnesium, and zinc? And, did you know that even the natural foods which are being supplied to us by most of our farmers come from highly-depleted soil which does not supply us with all the nutrients that we so badly need? For example, cabbage has always been traditionally high in vitamin C. but today it has zero vitamin C! In 1945, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, wheat contained 17 percent protein. By 1985 over-farmed wheat had dropped to only 9 percent protein!

LIVING ON MILK

Spiritually speaking, what's wrong with the diet of church-goers everywhere? And. what is it going to take to produce healthy Christians? The apostle Peter wrote, "yearn for pure, spiritual MILK, so that you may use it to grow up for salvation" (1 Peter 2:2b, SEB). However, sometimes the growth becomes stunted. The writer of Hebrews addressed this: "you should have become teachers a long time ago, but you need someone to teach you again the first principles of God's sayings. You need milk, not SOLID FOOD. Anyone who lives on milk is still a baby. He has not experienced the teaching of righteousness. But solid food is for grown-ups – people – who have trained their senses by using them to tell the difference between right and wrong." (Heb. 5:12-14, SEB). Thousands of faithful church-goers may THINK that they are getting what they need in their churches, never realizing that they are slowly STARVING to death!

This generation has more "helps" available for people to grow in the Lord than in any previous generation. Yet, it seems apparent that all the books, the tapes, the sermons, and the seminars are doing little to advance people toward spiritual maturity. SOMETHING IS MISSING! Although there is some benefit to knowledge and formal training, there is a fundamental difference between intellectually understanding God's principles and lovingly living by those precepts. People learn the most about LOVE by being loved. "We love, because God first loved us" (1 John 4:19, SEB). Sometimes, love must DISCIPLINE, and it may seem harsh at the moment, but it is so necessary for maturation (Heb. 12:5-11).

The earliest Christians had one central belief – that JESUS IS LORD (Acts 2:36; 4:33; 10:36; 11:20 et al.). Jesus is the Son of God because of demonstrated power - the resurrection from death (Rom. 1:4). He has the RIGHT to be our Lord. Therefore, Jesus has "ALL AUTHORITY in heaven and on earth" (Matt. 28:18). Though the world may not recognize the sovereignty of Jesus Christ yet (Phil. 2:9-11). Christians everywhere must re-affirm that HE IS THE HEAD over all things of the ekklesia (Eph. 1:22). You must not listen to any other "authority" (John 10:3-5). Either you believe this or you don't!

Conversion begins and ends with INDIVIDUALS. Since you and I will be judged on an individual basis according to our deeds after we die (Heb. 9:27; 2 Cor. 5: 10; Rev. 20: 12). Why is it not true that we are RESPONSIBLE, as individuals, for every decision that we make while we are alive (Matt. 12:36,37)?

Though it is important to learn to get along with others socially, God expects EACH ONE of us to distinguish the difference between what is morally right and wrong and to take our stand with Him, no matter what the cost (see Rev. 2:10).

Too much emphasis has been put upon CONFORMITY in religion (i.e. following the herd instinct) and not nearly enough upon thinking for oneself INDEPENDENTLY.

LEARN TO DISCERN

Well, what about working with and being with other believers? We all need help (compare I Cor. 4:7). Everyone who desires to be saved needs to get help and later to give help. No infant comes into the world without help, and our race is PERPETUATED by reproduction and nurturing those who are younger than we are. The same is true regarding "the faith which God passed on to the holy people once for all time" (Jude 3, SEB). It will not continue unless faithful ones successfully pass it on to others (2 Tim. 2:2). And, everyone, at all times, is at a different level of growth and rate of growth. This fact needs to be taken into consideration constantly!

We need to recognize that, just as each baby NEEDS love, care, and attention, each "newborn" Christian needs to be raised in the same manner. (This requirement is so clear when we talk about physical human babies.) Have you heard what happens when the state takes over the natural role of a family? For example, in Romania thousands of babies were raised en masse in their state-run orphanage system and given MINIMAL physical care. These children were psychologically ruined for life because they didn't have the normal care and loving attention that each one of them needed. This is appalling!

Yet, when a "babe in Christ" doesn't GROW PROPERLY, people hardly seem to notice. They have such a cold and indifferent attitude. So, besides a new structure, a new commitment of the heart is needed. Jesus' letters to the seven congregations in Rev. 2 – 3 called for repentance, faithfulness, steadfastness, and endurance – the same things that we need today! Then, after being cleansed, made holy again, and re-committed to God's work, we need to DO exactly what God tells us to do. No matter what anybody else thinks!

The will of God is not something so mysterious that we need to spend years studying it, waiting for Him to reveal Himself about the basics. He has already done that. WE are the ones who haven’t been listening! Since the current churches are so weak and backslidden, it isn’t because God has chosen not to move. The sorry excuse for what we call "churches" today is not God's fault; it is man's doing! If we are truly obedient to God, we will begin to see His kingdom spread rapidly, like the recent fires around Los Angeles.

TWO VIEWS

There are only two views of how the disciples of Christ ought to be structured: (A) The organizing principle of Jesus for his followers; (B) The worldly model. These two diametrically-opposed viewpoints are both clearly shown in Matt. 20:20-28. Zebedee's wife and two sons came to Jesus to "get in on the ground floor," asking for the right and left side of Jesus (the most honored positions) in his forthcoming kingdom. It didn't set well with the other ten apostles when they found out about it. However, Jesus taught them (and us!) a very valuable lesson because of this aborted attempt. First, he called the whole group together and said, "you know that the rulers of the world lord it over their people. Important men use their authority over them, but YOU MUST NOT THINK THAT WAY. Instead, if one of you wants to be great, that person should be your servant. If one of you wants to be important, he should be your slave. I did not come to be served. Instead, I came to serve and to give my life to pay the price for many people's sins" (SEB).

Traditional churches are set up along very material, worldly lines. Make no mistake about that. Just open your eyes! Though they may claim to be following Jesus, they are, in fact, following ROME (either directly or indirectly)! The whole thing can be understood as a religio-political system, with all its attendant problems.

We should all learn a great lesson by observing how ALCOHOLlCS ANONYMOUS works (as well as the many similar groups which they have spawned). Have you ever studied their non-profit structure? There are more than 8 million "members," and yet their administrative needs are handled by just 11 people in their New York City headquarters (P.O. Box 459, Grand Central Station, New York, NY 10163)! They are able to send out all the needed books, pamphlets, directories, cassettes, video tapes, films, computer disks, public service announcements for radio and TV in about 30 foreign languages. They could teach us much about how to be organized effectively WITHOUT a hierarchy.

Why are so many churches filled with so many spiritual babies? We need to completely rethink how ministering is done. Too much of it is "program-oriented" instead of "person-to-person-oriented". What do we mean when we hear the phase "building program"? Does a physical edifice come to mind, or is it referring to real spiritual growth? Although there was a place for public ministry (Jesus certainly had one!), in the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19-20), what he referred to was the PROCESS OF DISCIPLING. Jesus practiced it first with the twelve apostles, then the seventy-two (Luke 10:1-24), and ultimately with more than 500 brethren (1 Cor. 15:6), teaching them how to live out his truths in their daily lives (compare Micah 6:8). The Pharisees were saying, "Do as I say, not as I do" (cf. Matt. 23:2,3). All teaching should be more personal and not so formal.

In many places churches are QUIBBLING over endless, meaningless issues (cf. Titus 1: 10-16) instead of seeing a natural progression – (1) salvation, (2) growth, (3) maturity, and (4) reproduction. We must come to realize that, just because some brethren don’t agree with all of our "pet" doctrines, this does NOT mean that they are locked out of God's family. We are commanded to love them, no matter what! We don't kick our blood relatives out of the family because they have done something bad, why should we be so narrow-minded regarding our worldwide, spiritual family?

LIKE PRODUCES LIKE

We should be making disciples for Jesus in the most natural way. Everyone who exerts spiritual influence upon other people is doing that. In other words every true disciple should be constantly teaching how we should all become like Jesus. Thus, seed reproduces its own kind; it is God's inexorable law. This is the way God made living things to be. So, mature believers encourage other believers to become more and more mature. Following this growth principle, local congregations should be able to REPRODUCE themselves. Unfortunately, this is NOT happening. If they were structured properly, according to the New Testament pattern, then they would be self-propagating NATURALLY. They would have everything they need to grow and reproduce over and over again.

So, why isn't it working? Something must be fundamentally wrong with the way it was invented! The current church structure depends upon a human superstructure to provide formally-trained PROFESSIONAL MINISTERS to supervise it. The preacher is considered to be a "full-time" Christian. He is paid to do his job and expected to fulfill all the obligations of that "position." All other active members are viewed as assisting him on a part-time, voluntary basis.

Look at what Paul had to say about it: "Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others." (Rom. 12:4-5, NIV) And again: "Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as be wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body." (1 Cor. 12:14-20, NIV). The modern-day preacher/pastor has become the sole TONGUE of the congregation! Just about every other member has virtually dried up, as far as real growth is concerned.

The New Testament model is so much simpler. It is that of leaders raising up other leaders. Have not most church members only been prepared to be "pew warmers"? Do they ever get into the game, or do they just sit on the bench? Worse yet, do they see themselves as merely SPECTATORS? No wonder why churches are perceived to be lifeless, black holes! They are often thought to be only small enclaves of territorial bickering - a poor man's country club!

Jesus Christ SHOULD be the foundation of it all (Matt. 16:16-19; Acts 4:11-12; 1 Cor. 3:11; 1 Pet. 2:4-5), but we can't blame him for the current mess. If we build it right, firmly upon Jesus Christ and his teachings, the true capstone, then we will have none of these worldly problems. Proper structure is based on authentic leaders and authentic followers. A leader must be respected by his followers. How can they be respected since these "ministers" are PROFESSIONALS instead of "home-grown"? What do they really know about the everyday problems of their rank-and-file brothers and sisters?

Jesus made and developed followers by truly sharing his life with the individuals that he was training ON A DAILY BASIS. He was constantly with them in every aspect of life and in real ministering situations. Wherever appropriate, Jesus would instruct, rebuke, correct, or encourage his companions. Often, this came as a direct result of the situations that they were revolved with or immediately after a particular event. Jesus knew what they needed to hear and he shared it from his heart. This was practical training. PRACTICAL APPLICATION is absolutely essential if what you're learning is to become an integral part of your life. There is no better teacher than experience. On-the-job-training entails acting out what you are learning. It is absurd to think that people can learn much of anything about everyday Christian living by SIMPLY LISTENING TO SERMONS every Sunday (compare James 1:22-27), by regularly sitting in Sunday school classrooms, or by merely reading inspirational books on the subject! What good is any of that without practical experience? Would you even consider permitting anybody to operate on you who had ONLY WATCHED surgery? In the same way, the Christian life must be learned in the context of the real world, not behind cloistered church walls.

SERVICE, NOT SERVICES

And, regarding the "worship services," we need to take a hard look at this. No one is denying that there is something a bit more formal about "when ye come together" (1 Cor. 11:20,33, KJV), when the women are instructed to refrain from speaking out in the assembly (1 Cor. 14:35). I am not saying that congregational worship should not be conducted "decently and in order" (1 Cor. 14:40, KJV). However, it's quite a stretch to intimate that the New Testament actually teaches what we call "WORSHIP SERVICES" today. One is forced to retreat to the Old Testament to find such practices. I suspect that our problem is a failure to fully understand the true nature of worship; it is not spatial (see John 4:20-24). The pomp and circumstance of "church services" is nothing but a throwback to the old schoolmaster (the Law of Moses) and not to Christ (compare Gal. 3:24,25). Church buildings merely "house" such liturgy and appear to legitimize it.

The rationale behind numerous "building Programs" is ultimately found in the Old Testament with David, Solomon, and Ezra. This was a point of departure among the last words of Stephen: "However, the Highest One does NOT live in houses which men build with their hands. This is what the Prophet Isaiah wrote: "The Lord God says, "Heaven is My throne. The earth is a place to rest My feet. What kind of house could you build for Me? There is no place where I need to rest! Remember, I made all these things!" (Acts 7:48-50, SEB).

Why do we think that God will bless our efforts in building such magnificent edifices? They will amount to nothing in a few years. How can we say that this is justified as following "the pattern" of the Book of Acts? We should be building people, not buildings. Why are we wasting so many millions of dollars on something so UNNECESSARY? Most churches struggle very hard just to keep their doors open. Often, churches take on more than they can afford and become slaves to the lender. The greatest percentage of their church budget goes toward keeping their facility maintained and staffed by professionals. Only a pittance of the funds collected go toward doing what God has plainly told us to do! Why are we spending so much money on something that we have NEVER been told to do in Scripture? Have we slowed the spread of the gospel by wasting our resources constructing massive buildings in each new location and by requiring that these structures be staffed by professional preachers? Could it be that we have gotten side-tracked?

Something else seems to go along with these buildings – the implied requirement to dress up in our "Sunday best." Can you see how this would make some people uncomfortable about coming to these "services"? No wonder they feel especially "out of place." Why is it not less formal? Shouldn't all unbelievers be encouraged to come as they are? Some cannot afford fancy clothes. They may not have anything else to wear but their everyday clothes. It is one thing to wear old clothes, and it is quite another to be compelled to wear them because one has nothing more (cf. James 2:1-6; 1 Pet. 3:3; 1 Tim. 2:9)! Would they feel different if our meetings were held informally in our living rooms? Put yourself in their place. Would you want to go to a place which EMPHASIZES your poverty? Clothing means nothing to God, as long as it is modest dress.

After a while, once groups become enslaved to man-made traditions, they seem to "operate" just fine - whether God is present or not! They just go along "conducting business as usual," service after service. Many of these folks may love the Lord, but have become trapped inside this institutional system, and they would feel very uncomfortable outside of it. They have become a full-fledged organization instead of the living organism that God intended for them to be.

THE POWER OF MONEY

And, concerning professional "ministers," once money is brought into the picture, a whole host of new problems arises. In John 10:12-13 Jesus himself summarized the principle for true shepherds: "A man who has been HIRED is not really a shepherd. The sheep do not belong to him. When he sees a wolf coming, he leaves the sheep and runs away. The wolf catches them and scatters them. The man doesn't care about the sheep, because he is a HIRED man." It's no wonder that these professional preachers play the "musical chairs game", often changing pulpits about every two years. Consequently, because of this endless cycle, they suffer, their families suffer, and their congregations suffer.

Just as the fine horse farms of Kentucky have little to do with horses (it's about gambling), the ornate church buildings with their plush carpeting and padded pews have little to do with the worship of God Almighty (it's all about the status that money brings). Both have become "respectable" institutions.

Frequently, church leaders are influenced, even controlled, by certain well-to-do members who are needed to pay off the church mortgage and to keep the church afloat financially from week to week. The rank-and-file members are frightened into submission by the mere threat of exclusion, i.e. the possibility of being kicked out of the religious country club (compare John 12:42,43). They gradually become browbeaten by the intimidating, arrogant leaders (compare John 7:45-52).

LESSONS FROM HISTORY

Finally, speaking from a historical perspective, we need to "FIGHT FOR THE. FAITH which God passed on to the holy people once for all time" (Jude 3, SEB). Whatever the first-century Christians had is what I want! In the early years of "the faith," ministry (service) was for EVERY believer. Every Christian was a "minister" (one who served). There was no such thing as the modern-day distinction of the clergy and the laity. All were simple followers of Jesus. The Greek word EKKLESIA (incorrectly translated "church") never referred to a building. Many of our brethren think of their "churches" like the Jews thought of their synagogues, having "rulers" (Mark 5:22) and being, in fact, buildings (Luke 7:5).

The Jews built a temple and thousands of synagogues. Why didn't the Christians do the same? In the early days, the Christians were considered strange because they did NOT have buildings. That could be one of the reasons that Christians were so feared. They were so unconventional. The earliest followers of Jesus really BELIEVED AND PRACTICED their new teachings - that THEY were the temple (1 Cor. 3:16, 17; 6:19, 20; 2 Cor. 6:16), that Jesus is its cornerstone built without human hands, that they themselves were its living stones (1 Pet. 2:4, 5; cf. Eph. 2:19-22), and that they could get along just fine without "church" buildings. Not only did they have allegiance to a different Lord (not Caesar), but they could be found anywhere. In just a few years, their message spread all over the Roman Empire like a prairie fire (Col. 1:23). They had infiltrated the entire culture, right down to Caesar's own household (Phil. 4:22) and the Praetorian palace guard (Phil. 1:13).

In the years that followed, the first known church building was built in 232 A.D. Archeologists located it at Dura Europa. Even then, it was actually a Christian home which had been enlarged to accommodate a larger group.

The real tragedy in church history occurred about 325 A.D. when Emperor CONSTANTINE ceased all persecution of Christians and legalized their religion. That was the worst thing that could have happened, because a large influx of PAGAN people began to flood the ranks of the Christians to curry the favor of Constantine. Before that time, no less than ten fierce but unsuccessful Roman campaigns were leveled at the Christians to utterly and systematically wipe them out. This kept the Christians "on their toes" for almost three centuries. They knew what to expect. They knew whom they could trust. Before 325 A.D. the enemy was mostly on the OUTSIDE. But after 325 A.D. the enemy was on the INSIDE. When Constantine declared all things Roman to be "Christian," the game changed forever. The Roman government needed a clergy to manage all those people. Public buildings (some of them even pagan temples) became church buildings almost overnight. Constantine completely rebuilt the city of Constantinople, complete with OFFICIAL CHRITIAN PLACES OF WORSHIP, along with pagan temples. Within a few short decades, church buildings were in vogue all over the Roman Empire. Not long after that, the Dark Ages ensued. And, unfortunately, the structure of all churches has continued essentially the same ever since.

STARTING OVER

The Reformation of the 16th Century may have changed some of the focus centered around salvation (i.e. restoring personal faith and the priesthood of all believers), but it did little or nothing to examine the causes of deeper decay. I believe that a major theological shift is now taking place in which a majority of religious people are seriously questioning the validity of existing church structures. Their spiritual needs are NOT being met, and they want to know why. People everywhere are discovering increasingly that small, informal, home-oriented meetings provide much more opportunity for each believer to participate and grow. The emphasis should be upon equipping the saints and maturing believers.

The goal of true disciple-making is to teach others to continue looking for God on their own. The goal is not to establish a spiritual hierarchy, based on who was discipled first and who discipled whom. A true teacher should teach individuals how to depend upon God instead of upon ANY human being.

In the final analysis, it all begins or ends with YOU! If you want to, you can be like Nympha (see Col. 4:15).

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

Juanita and Johnny Berguson, Whatever Happened to Christianity? A Loving Challenge to Current Church Structure, (Mansfield, PA: Kingdom, 1991)

Gene Edwards, How to Meet under the Headship of Jesus Christ (Beaumont, TX: Message Ministry, 1993)

Jim Rutz, The Open Church

Cliff Sheats, Lean Bodies (Fort Worth, TX: Summit, 1992)