by Pastor David Cox
When we begin to examine what is the local church, its concept and definition, we must understand that the local church is a concept conceived in the genuis of God’s mind. It is His answer to how we humans should do the ministry of God. It is His method, and it is His creation. It is the biblical and spiritual pattern for doing the work of the ministry, and man will always twist and pervert that divine biblical pattern, but those who are true, obedient Christians will resist going for the “new thing” and instead support the divinely ordained thing.
First let me explain a confusion introduced in the beginning movement which eventually became the Roman Catholic Church. There is no such thing as the universal church as many Christians conceive of it. The Bible speaks of the church using local examples or in general of the concept of the church. It is like same biblical example of marriage and the family. The Bible speaks to husbands, and to wives as to their duties, obligations, and privileges. It tells children to obey their parents, parents not to be rough with disciplining their children, and wives to submit to their husbands, and husbands to love and cherish as precious their wives.
But there can be no such thing as a “universal marriage, family, husband, wife, or children”. It simply doesn’t exist. The concept can be theoretically separated and examined and talked about (i.e. “marriage is good”), but marriage doesn’t really exist outside of individual examples of marriage. The existence of a husband means that that man has established a relationship of marriage with a woman (in the Bible’s view, a formal spiritual and civil relationship). Two men together are not a marriage, two women together are not a marriage, a single woman with her child is not a marriage (some seem to take on weird roles as if that was a marriage). Every marriage is established by two people, “until death do they part.” Now the Bible speaks of marriage in general terms, but that does not mean that there exists or that there can exist a marriage without a man and woman making that relationship. Being a pastor that counsels, I think many men and women live together with a marriage certificate on the wall, and they don’t have a clue what a marriage is either.
So when we see the concept “church”, it is literally the called out of the world redeemed ones of Christ. A “church” or a “congregation” is always a group of people in that unit that defines them, the church. You individually as a Christian are not the church of Christ, because a church is a “GROUP” called out of one body to form a new and different body. A single member isn’t the group. A single church does constitute a “church” though because they (PLURAL – PEOPLE) form the church. One single person can never be “a family” or “a marriage”. It takes two. You cannot have a church without an identification with the redeemed. Christ did not save you, and only you. The concept of church is a local group of redeemed which meets locally to do the purpose God gave the church to do. Within Catholicism,it became fragmented into “ministries” which each one took a life unto itself over time. They want to function supporting one another, but they are not under the authority of the central government of the Pope and Rome, (much less Christ), and so they draw resources and people from each other in competition with each other.
That has transfered to the Christianity of our day. We have ministries galor, but as much as these ministries want “to be biblical” (they drag a single verse or phrase or word out of the Scriptures to give biblical justification for their existence), they just make up this stuff. There is no warrant for Christian summer camps, for Christian Universities, Christian radio stations, Christian counseling ministries etc. That is not to say that these types of “ministries” shouldn’t exist.
The Bible presents the pastor-shepherd as the person who cares for the flock of God. Pastors who fulfill their mission and divinely appointed ministry will counsel, but when this “ministry” is broken away from the biblical context of a local church, everything goes wrong. We see no financial charging as a condition for counseling in the Bible. The good shepherd gives his life for his sheep, and he doesn’t take a pound of flesh from the sheep every time the sheep needs the pastor’s attention.
The “Jesus University”
Why didn’t God make a Christian University in Jerusalem under the direction and teaching of the Apostles? It is very noteworthy that God totally by-passed the concept of a Christian School to opt for the concept of a local church. What is the difference, and why is it important (or is it important, or is it all the same?). First of all, the difference is that a Christian School charges for its services (as does the vast majority of Christian ministries today). We should also note that for a “normal” family, the purchase of a house for them to live in is an economic project that lasts many times 30-40 years. Yet sending two kids to a typical Christian University for 4 years each will cost the same as a house. Is it right, just, fair, and approved in God’s eyes to spend the equivalent of a family’s most major purchase in their entire life (the purchase of a house) on their children’s “Christian education?” We have been brainwashed into think that this is correct. Those families that don’t have the money and the kids individually get school loans and pay for 20-30 years of their lives for an education that in 30-40% of the cases will not prepare them for their life’s vocation, and they will have to retrain after failing in their endeavors to find work in what they studied in, and just get into some other profession. Christian universities don’t get young people into good paying jobs, their business is to fleece them of their life’s savings. Very few schools have guidance counselors and none will turn down youth from a field because it is saturated, it is impossible to get into, or because the student just won’t make. The norm is to graduate them however is possible, so that they will get 4 years of tuition out of them, guidance counselors are just a “thing of the past.”
Mat 10:8 “freely ye have received, freely give”.
Christ set the spiritual principle that ministry is not to be charged for. When he sent out his disciples to evangelize the lost and teach the converted, his instructions were set in a principle like one of the ten commandments. It is simply unspiritual for a minister of the gospel to “charge” or “ask for money”. There are counterbalancing principles that the people of God have a financial obligation with the minister that serves them (physically teaching them in the local church), but even then, the requirement is set many times in speaking of a minister that he is not to covet other men’s clothing, silver or gold. Ministers are to teach the obligation of support (a worker is worthy of his hire 1Tim 5:18), but to charge or ask or demand for a certain amount is simply the mark of a false prophet.
Schools will defend themselves with the argument that they are teaching institutions, and as such they need classrooms, teachers, dorms, etc. Yes, to have all that you need money. But that is why the entire system of a Christian school is wrong. God has provided for the education of his people in a system called a “church” in which in each locality there is one set up by spiritually mature people who are committed and sacrifice to the work of God in their town, and that church is supposed to be in charge of the religious education of God’s people. Nowhere is anything else proposed as an alternative.
THE method which God has given us is local churches. The problem here is that (1) an alternative exists although it is unbiblical. (2) most local church pastors are lazy, don’t study much themselves, are not interested in doing the hard work of seriously preparing people for the Christian life, and leave all that to “when they get to a good Christian college, they will learn what I haven’t taught them.”
They “delegate” their spiritual responsibilities to Christian colleges, and in the end analysis, this is sin. It is wrong. There is no biblical warrant for it in Scriptures, and to “pass the buck” is just not obeying God. What if a man says he doesn’t want to father children, and so he lets some other man go into his wife. He is delegating his duty to somebody else. Is that biblical? God doesn’t allow you do delegate what is your individual and personal responsability to do.
Another issue here is that between local churches and Christian schools they regularly pass the buck on the failure of these youth to be real serious Christians. The churches say they send their youth to the Christian college to get a good sound education. The school says “Garbage in, Garbage out.” Having said that, they mean the youth come with no spiritual interest, they are worldly, unsaved, and reprobate in general, and the school cannot do anything with them. Basically what both are saying is that the current system everybody so proudly promotes just is in complete shambles and failure. It doesn’t work. The youth learn facts and figures, and get a “good, well rounded education” (what is that? Why are they strong Christians coming out of these places?), but in general, you follow their lives, and they are generally a spiritual failure.
Well, let’s see. (1) They aren’t local churches, and the kids learn that local churches are unimportant things that one can use real well to get married in, get buried in, and basically other things, but they aren’t really essential to their spiritual life. Running down the road back to the Christian College every 3-4 months is what keeps them spiritually on a high though! (2) While in school, church attendance and participation isn’t a requirement, it is for extremist students that are religion majors. (3) They have no real moral education in a Christian school. Many will take issue with that statement also, but God has set in concrete the principle that we learn morally at the feet of a person is first has a vibrant relationship with Christ, secondly lives a good Christian life in front of his “students,” and thirdly, teaches them well. The whole situation of a Christian school is to shelter and hide the daily lives of the “spiritual teachers” from the students. It is intensive, but there is no shortcuts to learning the Christian life, so being intensive doesn’t work. It only shifts the majority of the learning from moral principle learning to head knowledge that is not given a chance to be lived out in actual life of the people.
This where God has the upperhand. College educated Christians know more, and live less of the Bible, and church educated (in a biblical church setting) live the Bible they know. Christian schools teach spiritual hypocrisy from beginning to end. We all know what Christ taught about our obligation and duty when we see a brother or sister sin, go to them one on one. In a Christian school that is thrown in the trash, and we are to report them to the administration. The entire biblical system is ejected and not used “because we are a school, not a church.” Rules (without biblical support) are imposed as if the school has a secret communication with God, and life becomes militarized. This is how you become spiritual. Kowtowing to the administration, and ladder climbing are the way really spiritual Christians are identified. Anyone who falls into that system cannot function in a local church or in their spiritual life until they “undo” all that they learned in the Christian college.
What good is it to learn spiritual principles that don’t work, aren’t biblical, and that you have to “unlearned” them before you can be of any good to God? When we break the biblical pattern, we break everything, and we are no longer “biblical”. God’s genius, eternal wisdom, and infinite understanding of how things work, and how man functions, including his propensity to corruption, is all behind God’s orders and the divine patterns He gives us to follow. When man “improves” on God’s plan, he ruins it, totally ruins it.
God is a genuis. God put all His genuis into making the structure of the local church. That is what God uses to do the work of the Lord. There is nothing wrong with a young person going off to college to learn a profession. But it is sheer folly to think that going to a Christian college will make a young person a Christian, or a better Christian. A strong Christian will go to a Christian school, and wherever he goes, he will continue to grow spiritually. Perhaps being around a bunch of other Christians will be a great help to his spiritual growth. Being around a bunch of hypocrites in a system that plays on hypocrites and false appearances of spirituality can also be his downfall, as many who go to Christian colleges return in failure to their families.
The burning question in all of this is simply this: If God made a system for us to learn the Bible at the feet of a godly man of God, a Pastor of a local church who lives week in and week out his normal life before his congregation (including the members knowing his children, his family, his personal life, being in his home, he being in their homes, etc), what biblical reason do we have for dumping this in order to learn our Bible and morality at a Christian school? Why should we spend so much of our money for something which God has set up that we should get for free (for those who are immature Christians, and mature Christians give what God moves on their hearts, and in no way are these Bible teachers to set up million dollar buildings)? You cannot just set aside the pattern that God has imposed for something else.
Many Christian youth could go to junior colleges and live at home for a fraction of what a Christian College costs, but the guilt trip that pastors (who have sold their souls to these Christian schools so that they can get notoriety from them) put on these Christian families is all too much to bear. Their spiritual leader (their pastor) tells them, encourages them, and basically pressures them to go to the indicated Christian school.
God’s genuis is set aside for man’s masterpieces, the Christian college. If it is right and the best way, why didn’t God give us this in the first place?
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