Yesterday was Mother’s Day! My three boys and I spent Sunday morning cooking mom a special lunch! We did not go to church. We did not go last week either. Actually we don’t go to church much any more…
To be more accurate, we did not leave “the church”, we just take a break from it Sunday mornings from 10 – Noon. In fact, we have church at home a lot, we just don’t tell our friends that!
Many people, though, wonder “Why don’t we go?” “What is our bone we are trying to pick…” It is a fair question and I want to give a partial answer here.
Maria often uses this line when expressing to others our “deficient” church attendance:
”Going to church is the least scriptural 2 hours of my week!”
We have had friends laugh right out loud when they hear that line for the first time. I think for many people there is an embarrassed laugh of confirmation going on inside their heads as well!
I shudder to even bring up the unscriptural examples of churches in ages past being led by professionals who were the “only ones” who could speak the Holy Language of Latin or more recently the huge, mega-churches where you are resigned to little more than watching the pastor on the JumboTron! We all must be aware of the legacy that these “professional – based clergy systems” have left behind and how it wrecks havoc on the church today.
Take a pulpit for example: try and find just one amongst the believers in the New Testament. You can’t! What about “taking communion”? We were supposed to have a “Love-feast” together, eating real food and drinking real drinks and then afterward share with each other the wine and the bread, “proclaiming His death until He comes!” We turned it into a solemn affair with a cracker and a sip of grape juice while looking at the back of someone’s heads. (1 Cor. 11)
We desperately need a church gathering that lets every member be a priest AND allows every member to function in their spiritual gifts. Isn’t that what the Bible teaches:
”What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation Let all things be done for edification.” 1 Cor. 14:26
We have been very active as laity in churches over the past 20 years, which included teaching, leading worship, teaching the kids, praying for others and the like. All this still misses the point because we were only operating in half (or less) of our real gifting AND (sadly) keeping an artificial substitute system alive for another day!
“Church-as-we-know-it” is not a real life environment but more of a “performance” driven one. Why do you think people in nearly every country on earth still “dress up” for Sundays?
This is why Maria’s quote is so spot-on! At home my wife is praying for her own kids, serving her neighbors, bending over backwards to be a blessing for her Day Care customers. Yet ONLY on Sundays is she asked to be a spectator. (After all, we are paying someone to “lead this thing” aren’t we…?) We have lived out this routine on three continents so don’t feel personally offended. We are not speaking to any “one church” in particular but pointing our fingers to “The CHURCH” in general.
We MUST have a dramatic shift in the gravitational pull of how we “do church” in the local church now so that we will be prepared and mature for the difficult days that are coming. (Matt. 24:12; 2 Thess. 2:3; 1 Tim. 4:1-3)
Size, dear people, does matter!
Our answer is the same as it has been for the past 10 years. House churches! That was the answer we saw in Tajikistan in 2000 and that is the answer we saw in Texas in 2005 and the answer we believe is right for Wisconsin in 2010.
In a smaller group that fits in our homes everyone can “have a psalm, have a teaching, have a revelation, have a tongue, have an interpretation” I like the phrase “maximum participation for maximum edification”! If it needs to get bigger because of new growth, then start ANOTHER house church.
The tragedy here (and it is almost universally so) is that folks start out dynamic and full of participation in homes and then they grow a bit “here and there” and soon enough they have lost the functioning of every member and have to add a pastor or two… add a better sound system or two… add a new building project or two…
In a smaller group that fits in our homes you can have a real “Love feast” and share real communion around the supper table! I don’t know about your family but we usually eat at home near the kitchen. Don’t forget that those early believers who gathered in their homes in Corinth were in such a festive setting that when they “went to church” they were (wrongly) getting drunk at the communion table! (1 Cor 11: 21-22)
In a smaller group that fits in our homes you don’t need professionals to lead you; its too small! You just need capable “working elders” who lead the flock and also are working in the community.
”Nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with labor and hardship we kept working night and day so that we would not be a burden to any of you; not because we do not have the right to this, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you, so that you would follow our example.” (2 Thess 3:8-9)
In a smaller group that fits in our homes there is built-in protection, privacy and safety. I can only shake my head when I read of “new churches” that meet at Starbucks or McDonald’s! I would rather have “tongues and interpretation” or casting out demons in the privacy of my own home rather than at Starbucks! Sometimes we are just too clever for our own good.
Every letter of the New Testament was written to a house church and its local network. This is the gospel truth. I dare anyone to challenge that. Paul said it straight-out:
Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus… also greet the church that is in their house. (Romans 16: 3,5)
Paul wrote just one letter to the Romans but that one letter would be circulated through all the house churches in Rome – a city of nearly 1 million people! Yet when we read those letters we read them through the lens of professional-based (and building-based) clergy systems.
As far as my family goes, we do line up with the local church as needed. There are community wide events that we want to be involved with. There are times when we go to church to pray out missionaries or to pray for the missionaries that serve in foreign nations. My kids are all active in the youth group on Wednesdays.
Certainly we all agree that the body of Christ is “more than a meeting”, yet it seems that quite often we have left church hearing that same old refrain: “See you next Sunday…” (Translation: “See you at the next meeting”) For that matter, we have heard this refrain in house churches.
My fear is that we are trying to “play our best golf” on a swing that we learned in Grade School and are now left now with a horrendous slice which we can only try and compensate with yet more unorthodox motions. Maybe we should just get rid of “the ole Grade School swing” and start over…
Jesus wants nothing more than then best for His Bride!
Yours for the Name above all Names,
Jeff and Maria Gilbertson
Just a few days before His crucifixion, Jesus spoke a parable (with Himself as the main character) to explain what would soon happen regarding the kingdom of God. It was an obvious question on everyone’s mind…
While they were listening to this, He went on to tell them a parable, because He was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once. He said: “A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return. …He was made king, however, and returned home. Then he sent for the servants to whom he had given the money, in order to find out what they had gained with it..” Luke 19:11-12,15 NIV
Jesus is coming back like He promised. It might be soon. He is coming, this time riding on a white horse that will rend the heavens. It won’t be hidden! I offer here 10 future global events that MUST happen before He can return.
1. Birth Pangs. (Mtt 24 / Mark 13:12-13)
The earth will physically respond to the coming presence of King Jesus to this earth. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to this present time (Rom 8:22). The closer it gets to the time of His return the earth will react with stronger and stronger eruptions and disturbances. Think “2010 Finland volcano” x 10!
This tumultuous and chaotic time for “Mother Earth” will lead to extreme anxiety for all of humanity. As the earth more and more violently reacts to Christ’s Return, society will be more and more unstable which will cause a heightened reaction of man against man. The whole world will be on alert and we will become aware of this by the famous “wars and rumors of wars” events! “Nation against nation. Kingdom against kingdom. Brother will betray brother to death. Christians will be hated by all nations.”
I believe we are not there yet but everything is in place for the “birth pangs” to begin soon!
2. Gospel preached to all nations. (Matthew 24:14 / Mk 13: 10)
One of the most exciting parts of the Last Days is the expectation that His return will result in the gospel being preached in all nations as a witness to the whole earth! Because the earth is reacting and mankind is literally “killing each other” (lawlessness), the world will grow to a greater extent into a cold place to live. BUT the heat and fire of the Gospel and believer’s lives will be more attractive than ever! Great numbers around the globe will hunger after Jesus!
3. Rise of the great harlot (who rides on the scarlet beast with seven heads and ten horns) Rev. 17-19
We will see increasingly more of Satan’s “great harlot” rise in direct opposition to the Bride of Christ as Jesus’ return nears! We can see it already in the “religious pluralism” that is worshipped as truth around the globe. Satan has concocted a deceptive “great harlot” centered in Babylon in an all-out battle to replicate God’s Bride centered around the New Jerusalem.
Satan in his final act of desperation will allow the great harlot to ride on the back of the antichrist and be used by the beast to successfully plant his “kingdom” in all corners of the world! She will be a worldwide source of great wealth, commerce and seduction! Revelation 19 describes her as having “corrupted the earth with her immorality.”
“Society, science, culture and what is commonly called “modern civilization” are her handmaidens.” (Lambert Dolphin)
4. Rise of the 10 nation federation (out of the former Roman Empire) Daniel 2/7, Rev 12/13/17
After having studied Revelation and Daniel together for some months it is clear to me that one of the final warning signs to all the earth is a mind-boggling and unorthodox amalgamation of 10 nations (kingdoms) that will come together to “solve the world’s problems “. These countries will arise out of a revised form of the old Roman Empire, both east and western halves! This is a revival of the same Roman Empire that was in power during Christ’s crucifixion and will be embolden (satanically) once again at the “end of this age” to try and kill Christ once again!
These 10 horns/kings first appear to us in Daniel 7, where we see them on the fourth beast coming out of the great sea. This fourth beast is, with little doubt by most scholars, represented in the Bible as the Roman Empire.
”The fourth beast will be a fourth kingdom on the earth [Roman Empire], which will be different from all the other kingdoms and will devour the whole earth and tread it down and crush it. As for the ten horns, out of this kingdom ten kings will arise; and another will arise after them, and he will be different from the previous ones and will subdue three kings. He will speak out against the Most High and wear down the saints of the Highest One, and he will intend to make alterations in times and in law; and they will be given into his hand for a time, times, and half a time. But the court will sit for judgment, and his dominion will be taken away, annihilated and destroyed forever. Then the sovereignty, the dominion and the greatness of all the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be given to the people of the saints of the Highest One; His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all the dominions will serve and obey Him.” Dan 7: 24-27
5. Covenant with Israel. Daniel 9:27
The worldwide event that will solidify Satan’s chosen man at the end of this age will be the miraculous covenant for peace in the Middle East! This is a similar scene to the time when Satan entered Judas at the Last Supper. Satan will “enter” or at least give all his power and authority to one man, which scripture names “the beast from the sea”.
And the dragon gave him his power and his throne and great authority. Rev. 13:2
Dan 9: 27 “And he [antichrist] will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate.”
6. “The Great Apostasy”
One of the most tragic events of the Last Days will be the great falling away of true believers, who will betray one another unto DEATH! God is wanting to purify his Bride at this time and will allow those Christians with lukewarm, divided hearts to make final decisions as to which side they are on. In many ways this falling away mirrors the tragic scene with Lot and his family.
When Lot told his relatives to hurry and leave Sodom they laughed at him and thought he was joking! Lot himself hesitated and had to be grasped by the hand by the angels and led out of the city! Later as Lot and his wife and two daughters were potentially just some hundred yards before entering the safe haven of Zoar, his wife “looked back” (longingly) and became a pillar of salt! Her “turning away from the faith” lead to instant death. (If you think I am taking this too far just remember that Jesus brought up this analogy in Luke 17 in the context of the Last Days! “Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed.”)
Mtt 24: 10 At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other.
2 Thess 2:3-5 Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God. Do you not remember that while I was still with you, I was telling you these things ?
7. The Abomination of Desolation (in the middle of the week) Mtt 24:15 Dan 9:27 II Thess. 2:3-4
Jesus Christ refers back to this passage from Daniel: “When you see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place”. (Mt 24:15)
Samuel Tregelles writes that “the Antichrist will set up an idol on a wing or pinnacle of the temple (compare Mt 4:5), who makes a covenant with the restored Jews for the last of the seventy weeks of years (fulfilling Jesus’ words, ‘If another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive’), and for the first three and a half years keeps it, then in the midst of the week breaks it, causing the daily sacrifices to cease.” Tregelles thus identifies the last half week with the time, times, and a half of the persecuting little horn (Da 7:25).
8. Seal and Trumpet Judgments (Rev 6-11)
There will come 14 consecutive, numbered judgments that will commence with the Abomination of Desolation. This includes the famous Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse which are natural/man-made disasters (ie. war, famine, plague, wild beasts, earthquakes) plus the cosmic events like the sun turning black, the moon red, “stars” falling like figs to the earth. Later will come the demonic attacks of the locusts from the Abyss (who torture for 5 months those without the seal of God on their foreheads) and the 200 million army of demonic horses and riders who kill a 1/3 of mankind with plagues of sulfur, smoke and fire.
9. The 7th Trumpet. Rise, Rapture and Reward! (Rev 11/ I Thess 4/ Mtt 24/ I Cor 15)
Worldwide, ALL believers of ALL time – dead and alive – will rise to meet Jesus Christ in the air! Jesus will come from heaven with the angels to reward the saints according to what they have done (Rev 22:12) and mobilize them to fight in the Last Battle. (Rev 19:6-8, 11-16)
I Cor 15: 51-52 “Lo! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.”
1 Thessalonians 4: 15-17 We who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first; then we who are alive, who are left, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so we shall always be with the Lord.
2 Tim 4:8 In the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.
10. Return of Jesus Christ to this earth! (Zech 14/ Rev 19/ Mtt 24/ Luke 19/ Dan 7)
After the last trumpet and the rise to meet Christ in the air, all believers of all time will be rewarded and return with Christ to this earth with the heavenly Jerusalem. At this time the bowl judgments of Rev. 15-16 are poured out on the entire earth. No Christians are left alive on the planet, only those with the mark of the beast (666) and those who have resisted the antichrist and his empire but have not accepted Jesus’ salvation. This will be a 30 day of incredible worldwide devastation. (Daniel 12 :11) Painful and ugly sores one moment, blood poured into the sea and all freshwater the next. Scorched by the sun one day with intense heat and plunged into darkness the next! Finally the 7th angel will pour out the 7th bowl and the end will come — an earthquake like the world has never seen will collapse the cities of the nations and 100 lbs. hailstones will fall on the entire earth. (Rev 16)
Jesus will ascend His throne in Jerusalem and live with us forever! After He has destroyed every rule, every authority, and power Jesus will hand back the kingdom/earth to His Father (which will take 1000 years!) and God Himself will once again walk on this planet like He did in the beginning with Adam and Eve. The book of Revelation will lead us back to the book of Genesis and believers in Jesus will experience Eternity here on a “renewed earth”, living with the Trinity in a new heavenly city, the new Jerusalem, FOREVER! (Rev 21/22)
They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. And He will send His angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather His elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other. (Mtt 24: 30-31)
I Cor 15: 24-28 Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For He must reign until He has put all his enemies under His feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For God has put all things in subjection under His feet. But when it says, “All things are put in subjection under Him,” it is plain that He is excepted who put all things under Him. When all things are subjected to Him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be everything to every one.
Yours for the coming King,