Saturday, 31 January 2015

The Buffet Church

As a child, my favourite restaurant was a full buffet or smorgasbord as some prefer to call it. I remember sitting with delight at the restaurant table waiting, with bated breath, to be given permission to take my plate up to the buffet and choose what I wanted to eat! Whilst waiting, my siblings and I would discuss with great delight, all the different food options, delighting in the fact, that we didn’t have to eat anything we didn’t want to! WOW! No peas, no beetroot, no 3 bean salad for me! Yippee!!

You can see why I loved it! 
I was in charge.

There are full buffet churches too. In a buffet style church, you don’t have to feed on anything you don’t want to. You get to choose. You get to be in charge. All the things you don’t like, can be left out. You don’t ever have to digest those difficult bible passages, that are in direct violation to the buffet style church. They aren’t even even mentioned. It’s all very cosy.

This is not a new phenomena. It has been around since New Testament times. It’s still around here in Brisbane, 2000 years or so on. Let me explain. But first, let me get some definitions straight.

What is a church?
The word church in the greek is ‘ekklesia’, meaning 'to call out from and to gather or meet together'.  It is not just my husband and I living out our lives in our home and meeting around the breakfast table, to pray and read the bible or the ad hoc meeting with other christians for our children’s playdate or a BBQ. It is more formal than this, which is why the bible gives directives as to how these meetings should be ordered. 

The bible translates 'ekklesia' into phrases like:  

‘when you come together’ (1 Cor 14:26)

‘in all the congregations of the saints’ (1 Cor 14:33)

‘for your meetings’ (1 Cor 11:17)

‘tell it to the church’ (Matt 18:17)

‘let us not give up meeting together’ (Heb 10:25)

‘for your meetings do more harm than good’ (I Cor 11:17)

What is worship?
There are several words in the greek that we translate into English as ‘worship’. They all mean ‘to show reverence to someone or something’. I love how Vines puts it

“The worship of God is nowhere defined in Scripture. A consideration of the above verbs shows that it is not confined to praise; broadly it may be regarded as the direct acknowledgement to God, of his nature, attributes, ways and claims, whether by the outgoing of the heart in praise and thanksgiving or the deed done in such acknowledgement’ (Vines p 686)

Worship is word and deed under the authority of the Living God. God gets to define how he wants worship done, not us.

How is a church meeting to be ordered?
One of the best passages of Scripture on this topic is 1 Cor 14:26-40. There are quite a few directives here, many of which are ignored these days, with our preference for the full buffet church. 

In the Old Testament, the Lord gave the people of God an exhaustive list of how worship was to be ordered when they met together. It went into a LOT of detail. One only needs to read the books of Exodus, Leviticus or Numbers to discern this. Interestingly, the Lord significantly disciplined the people when they refused to obey these worship commands, proving how they worshipped was a big deal to the Lord.

In the New Testament, we are told that the worship ceremonies of the Old Testament, called the ceremonial law, have been made obsolete, because of the finished work of Jesus on the cross. There is no longer a need for animal sacrifices and a levitical priesthood. All has been fulfilled by Jesus’s death and resurrection. He was the last of the sacrifices. (Hebrews 9, 10)

“Because by one sacrifice he has made perfect, forever those who are being made holy.” 
(Heb 10:14)

“”And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. (Heb 10:10)

But many seem to think that because the ceremonial law was done away with, there are now no laws at all with regard to worship. This is just not true. The Lord Jesus has given us specific commands in regard to how we are to worship and the bible teaches that when we operate outside these commands, it displeases God and results in our being disciplined, even to the point of death.

I think for me this has been one of the biggest lessons the Lord has ever given me. I used to worship the Lord incorrectly. I have spoken of this in other posts. You can look at this here.

Jesus’ Instructions for Church Meetings

1. Worship is to contain songs of praise to the Lord (greek ‘humnos’); a word of instruction; a revelation and a tongue with an interpretation, so that everyone is blessed and strengthened in their faith. 

“When you come together, everyone has a song of praise, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue with an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church.” (1 Cor 14:26)

2.  Many men are to share and speak, not just one. It is to be open to all men attending who wish to worship the Lord, not just those up the front. There is a freedom here that I believe we have lost. This is more of a group discussion than a lecture, for whatever one man speaks is to be weighed carefully by the others and is to be open to refute. The bible speaks of turn taking amongst the men, that is not pre-planned! What I currently see, is highly, pre-planned meetings where only those who are deemed suitable to speak are given permission to speak and there is never any course for discussion. This is wrong.

“Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said. And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop. For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged.” (1 Cor 14:29 - 31)

3. Speaking in tongues with interpretation is not to be forbidden in a church meeting. I have yet to be in a church where this happens as the bible describes it. Either tongues are forbidden in the service or tongues are allowed but there is never any interpretation. Both are heresies. 

Those churches who forbid tongues tend to use a verse in 1 Cor 13 where it says that tongues, prophecy and knowledge will cease. The irony is that they still assume knowledge has not ceased! By taking this verse completely out of context, they twist the word of God to their own benefit - for here the Lord is speaking, about a period of time after Christ returns to earth. They ignore the large passages of scripture that support the use of tongues in worship.

“If anyone speaks in a tongue, two  - or at the most three- should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church meeting and speak to himself and God.” (1 Cor 14:27,28)

“And do not forbid speaking in tongues. But everything should be done in an orderly way.” (1 Cor 14:39,40)

4. Women are to remain silent and the men are to lead and give a word of instruction, a revelation or a tongue with an interpretation. When women teach or speak in church the Lord calls it a disgrace! Everywhere I look these days, churches are full of this heresy - where women are allowed and encouraged to preach and teach in direct disobedience to the word of God! I refuse to attend them.

“As in all the congregations of the saints, women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission,as the Law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.”

5. Married women with short hair are to cover their heads with either a hat or scarf etc, when praying or prophesying. Now since women can pray silently within a church meeting, this would mean that women attending a church meeting should have their hair covered if it is short.  This passage though does not confine women’s head covering to church meetings, for women can pray anytime and when they prophesy it is is clearly not within a church meeting. It seems far simpler to me, for women to actually look like women and have long hair. This solves this dilemma quite simply. I have written on this in more detail here.

6. The Lord’s Supper is a shared meal between Christians attending the church meeting - those, who because they are Christians, are not engaging in idolatry, sexual immorality, greed, slander, drunkenness or swindling. (I have written on this topic in more detail here.) 

When is the last time that you saw someone refused the Lord’s Supper? 
When was the last time you saw the men of the church refuse to eat with such a man or woman? 
When was the lsat time you saw such a man or woman expelled from church? 

You actually have to have relationships with people to know what they  are up to. I don’t believe this can happen in a large church. I don’t see any integrity here in the current churches in this matter. Disobedience on this matter always leads to discipline. It’s not comfortable. It’s sobering. Read what Jesus said to one church in Thyatira.

“Nethertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols. I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling. So I will cast her on a bed of suffering and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways. I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds and I will repay each of you according to your deeds.” (Rev 2:20-23)

The Lord’s Supper is a shared meal which serves as a time for remembrance of all that the Lord Jesus has done. All should be able to eat and drink without anyone being greedy and overeating or drinking. The Lord says that if you are unable to control yourself, and greedily eat more than your share, then you should eat at home, so that you don’t bring judgement on yourself. We are to be known for our generosity and sharing with others in need, not for being selfish. Those who practice greed will be disciplined by the Lord, at times to the point of death! (1 Cor 11:29-32)

I don’t believe the Communion or Lord’s Supper ritual that goes on in most churches, is what the Lord requires. If it was to be that ritualistic, I believe there would have been way more detail given to us. Rather, I believe we have become hooked on our traditions and forgotten what the word of the Lord actually says.

“When you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper that you eat, for as you eat, each of you goes ahead without waiting for anybody else. One remains hungry, another gets drunk.” (1 Cor 11:20)

“So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for each other. If anyone is hungry he should eat at home, so that when you meet together it may not result in judgement.” (1 Cor 11:33,34)

“But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral, or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked man from among you.”  (1 Cor 5: 11-13)

Why do I speak on this?
Because I too have made every mistake I have spoken of above and the Lord called me to repent.

Why do I share this?
Because I see no integrity amongst those who claim to love the Lord. It sickens me.

Where is the obedience?
Where is the humility and repentance that leads to change?
Where is the grieving over our sin and all that we have lost?

I don’t believe the Lord is present in the churches that do not routinely practice what Jesus has clearly commanded in Scripture. There is a short period of grace, but then he departs, when repentance is not forthcoming. Those, who, in their arrogance refuse to repent, are disciplined. Those who grieve and lament over the detestable things that are done in the land, are not. (Ez 8-13) 

“Then the glory of the Lord departed from over the threshold of the temple and stopped above the cherubim.” (Ez 10:18)

“If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from it’s place.” (Rev 2:5)

“I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm - neither hot nor cold- I am about to vomit you out of my mouth.” (Rev 3:16)

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