Many times it is recorded in scripture that the prophets of God have admonished the Saints to do “house cleaning” both in leadership and doctrine. The prime directive of our Lord in John 17 is unity, “The unity of the Faith in the bond of peace. (Eph. 4:3-13).” Some of the denominations have gone very far afield in divisions and kingdom building. Some are even now in the process of becoming cults. The division of the THREE MAJOR STREAMS and the hundreds of tributaries in the Church of Jesus Christ is not healthy. Godly unity is absolutely necessary for the release of power needed by the Church to do her assigned work of making disciples and to function within the Lord’s vision statement.
The Three Major Streams:
God’s LOVE in Jesus Christ and His grace as has been heralded by the
God’s HOLINESS in the Almighty Father as has been the focus of the
God’s POWER in the Holy Spirit as has become the mighty cry of the
Pentecostal and Charismatic Churches
The gifted leaders in these three wonderful streams of God’s truth and divine nature have tended to split God up in the eyes of the saints who are under their care in seeking God’s truth and light. Each stream has protected their own denominational Sacred Cows by manufactured glasses that only see their particular doctrinal point of view. Each stream states very clearly that they have it all and that they are a Berean type of Christian Church (Acts 17:11). Each stream does carry certain highly needed vitamins and minerals for the Church of Jesus Christ. However, none of the denominations, in and of themselves have the complete balance of vitamins and minerals to present Christ Jesus effectively in power to the world of our generation.
The birth rate of the world is much greater than those who are becoming Christian on any given day. Other world religions and cults are in full control of countries that used to be Christian and are persecuting the believers that remain. The United States is also headed toward apostasy unless the power is returned to the Church. The most healthy and expanding Christian Fellowships are those who are simply Christian, worshiping in House Churches or Fellowships. But even here there is a lack of understanding concerning the needed balance of all three streams of the faith.
This chapter is set aside for today’s errors and omissions. I will not try to address the positive sides of each of the great streams of faith which include the Evangelical, Liturgical and Charismatic. This chapter will concern only today’s “Sacred Cows.” The Golden Calf of Aaron seems to have been brought from Egypt and is now all grown up and reproducing. That calf was set up in the absence of Moses for the people of Israel to worship while the Prophet Moses was long time up on the Mt. Sinai with God. Is it possible that we are doing the same thing today in the absence of our Lord Jesus Christ? Is it possible that our denominations have become our golden calves before which we have been dancing?
“Sacred Cows” are hard to spot because we have become so use to them and they so appeal to our flesh. We love our traditions that we grew up with and accept them as true and valid without going to the scriptures. Sacred Cows abound in our religious systems of today. Please try to stay with me when I go from teaching to meddling when I get to your favorite “Sacred Cow.” God made Israel eat their “Golden Calf” and we also may be made to eat ours sacred cows of tradition as well. The majesty of Christ will not be revealed in His Bride to the Church until we are willing to slaughter our sacred cows. Try to remember that the Religious Elders of Israel were the ones who crucified the Lord of Glory due to their “Sacred Cows” of tradition and doctrine nearly two thousand years ago.
The Three Great Streams of the Christian Faith, out of balance.
Evangelical: Without the Liturgical and Charismatic balance the Evangelical Church tends to emote with the love of God’s grace in sincerity and truth but stays mostly within the scope of God’s love. God is love but He is also holy and of great power. The worship flows with little of the Majestic Holiness of God of the Liturgical Church or the freedom of worship as experienced in the supernatural that is enjoyed by the Charismatics. The Evangelical Church will magnify the Grace of God and tend to promote an easy or cheap form of grace. Indulgent love will produce pride in doctrine and spoiled kids without responsibility. The worship will tend to be cerebral and two dimensional. The doctrines of Calvin, though true in a timeless dimension do not tend to reinforce man’s personal responsibility in freewill very well. The Kingdom of our Christ will not open due to the lack of faith in the supernatural presence of the Holy Spirit. Normally the net will be thrown at the end of the service for a few converts. There will be great rejoicing with the Angels for the repentant sinners, and this is as it should be. Only with this imbalance the world cannot be won. Our Lord spent His time making power filled disciples not converts. Godly worship and praise open the doors to the supernatural presence of the Holy Spirit. This cannot happen without faith for the supernatural presence of the Holy Spirit. In only a very few Evangelical churches have I experienced the freedom for the Holy Spirit to move as in the Early Church.
In summary, a strict evangelical who is totally absorbed in the Grace of God will tend to become indulgent both in His personal life and with those around him. Many who need to be called to true repentance by the Holy Spirit will be coddled. Most evangelicals may not fully understand the importance of free will and personal responsibility. An evangelical will also tend to deny the ability of the Holy Spirit to do the same works today that He did in the Early Church. God’s grace and sovereignty will be the center plank for their efforts. Most of what they do will be by the force of self will and emotions and not by the power of the Holy Spirit. God will honor His Word but they will work far too hard and spend much too much for the little results that are produced. Ultimately many evangelicals become bored and settle into just being a Sunday morning church member. True evangelism will be very difficult, so many will seek to support others to do the work of evangelism. They will tend to become very successful in houses, lands and business. Pride and lethargy will set in. Some Saints, perhaps with a true calling on their lives will be shelved or become ineffective. This is due to a lack of understanding for the need of a true balance in love, holiness and power. “Not by might nor by power but by my spirit saith the Lord of hosts”(Zechariah 4:6).
Liturgical: Without the Evangelical and Charismatic influence the Liturgical Church tends to lend itself to being very professional, lofty, canned and programed as to the liturgy. The focused liturgical Saint will be taught to come, sing hymns which includes some great melodies at times. But very little in the way of the power from the Holy Spirit is present. The music can be very touching, but normally everything proceeds as it has for hundreds of years. The saying of prayers of contrition, absolution, sharing in the great celebration (Eucharist) listening to a 15-20 minute homily of wisdom as per the church calendar and going home within the hour; not exactly Joshua circling Jericho for the walls to come down. The Structure is ancient, the scripture is there in the readings but there is little to experience of the power of the true faith. Many folks do not even come into an understanding or an experience of basic salvation with this program. As far as seeing the book of Acts coming alive in this time, there are not many liturgical churches that have found freedom. Many more divisions are in process today in the liturgical church. These divisions are due to the differences between basic theology and carnal philosophy. This church has become an assembly of God’s frozen people dedicated to the preservation of the stuff. Church of the Redeemer, Houston, Texas and Fullerton Emanuel have been wonderful exceptions.
As to the structure of bishops and presbyters (Priests) the structure is based on tradition. The word bishop is a Greek word meaning overseer. This could mean apostle-elder or pastor according to the calling of the elder. I have found some bishops that were none of the above. Priests (presbyters) is a misnomer in the liturgical church. It appears that presbyters were Godly older saints or ministers in authority in the absence of elders. They attended but did not seem to be authoritative in the apostolic counsel of elders in the consensual relationship. Authority is covered in this book under God and Authority. Early Church New Testament elders were always very careful to move in unity so as to not confuse the flock of God. My, how badly the flock of God is confused today concerning doctrine and morality due to lack of unity.
Charismatic: Without the Evangelical and Liturgical balance the Charismatics tendtobecome mostly holy roller Christian theater. The “Worship Center” is mostly set up for the worship and praise of man and most will have difficulty focusing on Jesus. The basic format is theater style stage and seating for entertainment. There is a “Worship Team” to entertain the Saints with applause following. Then the pastor comes forward at the right moment to M.C. the show and may take the offering at half way. A good sermon, hopefully, and an altar call. I sometimes think that the pastor must be sorely tempted to secure His position in the church by the number that may come forward at the altar call; a sort of report card for the days services that many times seems only to be a carnival. Often there is Senior Pastor burnout with Charismatic Churches due to the one man show and high energy control factors. The Vineyard Fellowship has been an excellent exception. I personally know of almost a dozen pastors who have run off with the pianist, organist or secretary of their church in the past 45 years. Christian divorce is now about even with the world, one in two. It is time for some major changes.
True Worship : Our Worship needs the “Grace of God’s Great Love” with the “Bones of the Liturgy furnishing the structure for God’s Holiness” and the release of the “Power in the Holy Spirit”. Only then may we see the walls of Jericho fall. When God is in charge of worship then hearts will be changed, folks will easily and naturally receive deliverance and healing with not many left standing due to the presence of the Holy Spirit. In Worship and Praise we need to find the peaceful presence of the dove of the Holy Spirit ministering the life of Christ to the Church and only the Lord Jesus receives the glory.
As in a good piano all the keys must be tuned and working properly to produce great music. None of the keys can be missing or be sticky or tight. The Holy Spirit needs the Body of Christ to yield into being His Holy Piano, if you will. God’s Heavenly music can only be played in a cleansed spirit in holy truth. All the keys must be tuned and work properly to play God’s heavenly melodies. In truth this is a most important factor for Godly victories. How deeply I personally enjoy this wonderful event. Oh how wonderful it is to be just caught up in Jesus without any hype, manipulation or theater. To be able to see Jesus come alive in His people and receive all the glory without interruptions of announcements or receiving of money.
The Church may have Music of Joy, Praise, Worship and Worship in the Holy Spirit. Our worship must be directed by the Holy Spirit and not be canned or programmed. Praise and Worship can not be a hype or a program to get the Saints hyperventilated. It is not a time to try to be emotional but the Holy Spirit can make the time very moving and emotional. Worship is a priority to opening the windows of heaven. It is a time to chase the demons away from testing the flock of God. Little else will happen in the gathering of the Saints if the worship is ineffective, contrived or canned.
Just a Few Sacred Cows
The Church can not use law, pride, threat, bribe, praise, lust, fear, guilt, materialism, competition, showmanship or any of the manipulations and motivations of this world system and the enemy of our souls for the building of the Kingdom of God. God can only honor the use of loving influence and faith through the power of the Holy Spirit for the ultimate honor and glory of Jesus, The Christ. It is surprising how much of what the church does today is not sponsored by the Holy Spirit. God will not allow the Kingdom to be built with the glue of this world. This sacred cow is hiding everywhere. Fear is faith going backwards.
The divisions and traditions of denominational pride are mighty sacred cows and will be difficult to slaughter. Denominations are the result of Satan’s attempt to weaken the Kingdom of God through division. Great strength is found in the loving unity of being with one mind, heart and spirit. Unity in apostolic doctrine, love and truth is the only way to a true and powerful worship of the Father; our Lord Jesus made this very clear. The Kingdom depends upon the Disciples of Christ coming into one mind and one spirit. This can take much effort and time but it must be done. And it can not be done in a denominational bias. All doctrine must go on the alter of God for re-evaluation and correction. There can be no sacred cows left alive that cause division among the brethren (Prov. 6:12-19).
Elders called of God must come to be recognized by all the other Elders, who are called of God. Godly servant Elders holding one or more of the five eldership offices in a given area need to find unity doctrine and the bond of peace with each other. There is no such thing as agreeing to disagree and to also enjoy Godly unity. Differences must be submitted to the altar of God’s wisdom in the Holy Spirit to bring about the powerful unity that is required to effectively minister the Great Commission and see the Kingdom of God on Earth as it is in Heaven. Divisions are an anathema of the Church. Look around at all the church skeletons not even buried. Oh how we love to justify our wonderful little man made religious kingdoms. This sacred cow is a wonder of rationalization and defensiveness. It has also eaten most of the clover.
Elders in a given area should have the same financial care, one for another, as laboring together in the flock of God. All buildings and land that are dedicated to the work of the Ministry of Christ should be subject to the consensual rule of the counsel of servant Elders. It is a travesty of God’s love to see some Elders live in poverty while other Elders live in luxury. Some worship in store fronts and some have great church buildings that are nearly empty, this should not be. Until these physical walls come down for the Glory of God our display of unity is a just a phoney facade. It is very easy to have superficial phoney religious unity as long as no one digs too deep concerning the use of funds dedicated to the work of the Lord.
The Big Church (mega church) can be another Sacred Cow. We must disconnect ourselves from religious greed and pride and return to our First Love in Christ Jesus. As “Followers of the Way” when was the last time we went from house to house breaking bread together? Where are the House Ministries of the New Testament, the Godly fellowships that allowed for the hands on processing of leadership and the availability of that deeply needed touch from the Holy Spirit? When was the last time we were really moved in church by the presence of the Holy Spirit? Large church structures and buildings absorb most of the energy and funds in order to just exist. There are no “Senior Pastors” in the New Testament and they burn out easily. Not a few have ended up running off with the church organist or pianist due to the burn out. It is a very sad national joke in the United States.
The separation of Clergy and Laity is a Sacred Cow. This has been one of Lucifer’s most successful efforts. This keeps most of the Body of Christ under lock and key as far as spiritual gifts and ministries are concerned. Callings may be different but all the Saints should operate in the Gifts of the Spirit and many should have ministries in the Spirit. It is true that only a few may be called to be on the Council of Elders. These are to be Servant Elders whose delight is in the release of new ministries. Of course any such ministry must include the “Fruit of the Spirit” and the “Gifts of the Holy Spirit” or nothing will be done of any lasting value. To “make disciples” is the marching order from the King of Kings.
Sunday morning worship can be a Sacred Cow. Actually the Early Church met on Saturday evening at sunset. I have found this to be a much better time for getting together for the ministry of the Holy Spirit. They enjoyed testimonies, the ministry of the Word, a Love Feast with foot washing, Communion, Payer and Body Life Ministry. The gathering went on as long as the Holy Spirit was ministering with no concern about lunch or other activities. Sunday morning has become a neat little one to two hour religious event with lunch as the prime factor for conclusion. It is a time in which many just attend to pay their dues to God without changing.
Tithing is a major Sacred Cow. Under the Old Testament Law it was mandatory but not under the New Testament Covenant. The New Covenant states, “Every man as he purposes in His own heart.” The law makes nothing perfect and the letter of the law kills. In fact Paul was so concerned about collections that he asked that no collections be made when he came to minister. He did not want the unsaved to think he had come to town to preach just so he could collect the money, (I Cor.16:2) It is interesting to note that the only times the word tithe was used in the New Testament was in judgement against the Pharisees by our Lord, Lk.11:42, Matt.23:23.
Many disciples with God’s call burning in their soul have been shelved by the religious church due to a divorce and remarriage. In some cases this disqualification may be just but each case must be submitted to and prayed over by a Council of Elders. To make a law that some how a divorce is a total disqualification for ministry is contrary the work of Christ in establishing of a New Testament Covenant of reconciliation, love, covering, and total forgiveness. This religious law has made divorce an unpardonable sin. This is contrary to scripture. Jesus said ALL sin would be forgiven save one. Our Lord even used the Woman at the Well to open up the Gospel to Sameria (John 4). In Paul’s letters I believe that Paul’s concern was to prevent polygamy from entering into the Counsel of Elders, not forgiven divorce, (1 Tim.3: 2, I Cor.7: 15).
This sacred cow will be given more space in the chapter on Marriage in the next edition. It is so sad that so many excellent and gifted leaders have been detoured from their call of God into ministry by narrow minded religious judgement calls from the well-meaning leadership of God. There are many Sacred Cows that need to be slaughtered and if I have missed some, please send them on to me. The ones that you feel that I have left out may be include in the next edition, Lord willing. Freedom for a new day, each day, every day is possible for us because of our Lord Jesus Christ and the Grace of our God.
It will take time to envision the end-time church in loving unity. “The Bride of Christ” can help bring this unity to pass by joining one another in a balanced vision of love, holiness and power. Then the truly called of God “elders” will then consider their ways and return to the pattern that was laid out by the Holy Spirit in the Early Church. Many Godly Elders have been raised up in certain traditions but have not taken the time to check their denominational doctrines to see if they are biblically sound. Some already know the doctrines on church structure are not sound but the cost of change is very high. The needed changes for a New Testament Church will require a new wine skin for the new wine. The present structure will either bend or break.
When was the last time you have seen the likes of (I Cor. 14:30-40) in a fellowship meeting? It can not be performed in a theater style seating, it must be in a circle so the saints can see each other. Also the fellowship must be small enough to allow individual freedoms in the Holy Spirit. You can not experience (I Cor. 14) in a Mega- Church setting. Mega-Churches are great for apostles, prophets and evangelist that may need a larger facility for meetings to bring “House Church” ministries together for vision, correction or evangelism. Normally a local school gym works well for this kind of meeting without the very large overhead. Gifts and offerings in the Early Church went for the support of full time elders as needed and to help the poor. There is no record of the Early Church building anything. Our church buildings are one of our biggest sacred cows. Think about it, the Early Church of Acts turned the known world upside down in one generation and did not have a building, copy machine or even a telephone. It is not my position that we should get rid of anything, only I am concerned about our priorities.
Ministries or fellowships in China and South Korea and many other countries that are enjoying a Godly revival are using the “House Church” or “Cell Church” type of meeting that will accommodate a (I Cor. 14) experience and the pattern laid out in the Book of Acts. The Mega-Church is a Sacred Cow. Much damage is done to the leadership in that kind of ego structure. The responsibility for a large physical plant absolutely burns out the saints. The burn out for the “senior pastor” is also very real and under this kind of stress tend to be very vulnerable. A shepherd in that state of weakness may seek solace in a counter productive relationship; “The pastor has run off with the pianist”. The sheep are taught to only receive from the pastor and are really shocked when he comes up with needs. Wearing five hats is not an easy job, in fact it is impossible for any man. Many a good man, called of the Lord, has been destroyed in this way. He has been taught to be responsible and to be on point. Only very few pastors know how to work as a team and to receive ministry from the Holy Spirit through others. He is a leader and yet he must have humility for correction.
The care of the church is spiritual. If the elder’s calling is apostolic then His care is for elders and not for the flock. Any man who is an apostle will be working himself out of a job and be busy finding direction from the Holy Spirit to raise up leadership for placing another fellowship into action. An apostolic ministry is the CEO of the church and not in charge of manufacturing. Manufacturing is supervised by pastors, The pastor brings the flock together and he is the shepherd and counselor in charge of the clean water, food, protection and help with the lambs. The apostle is there to help the pastors or shepherds. The teacher assists the pastor. The evangelist is in charge of teaching the sheep how to reproduce and the prophet provides quality control. We have a clear road maps from the Lord but where are the men of God called to make the church perfect (Eph. 4:11-16) When is the last time you saw an apostolic company working together for the building of the Body of Christ? It does happen, but not often enough. I have seen this only once in my Christian pilgrimage of the last 44 years.
In the end time the scriptures says this of His Bride, “His wife hath made herself ready”(Rev.19.7; 21:9; 22:17). The last changes for church renewal will come from the saints. It is up to the saints to gather as the bride of Christ and then finally help in purging the heavens (Rev.12:10-12). Do you know your calling in the Holy Spirit? How does your gift, ministry or office fit into the overview of the building of the “Bride of Christ”. It is time that the saints take responsibility for the slaughtering of their own personal sacred cows. Please do not use these materials to try to fix others. Please use these materials only to minister to yourself. If they make sense in your own personal anointing then let’s start following the map, the way. Let’s quit throwing rocks at each other and begin to help one another find the unity that Jesus prays for in John 17. There is one mighty river of life being formed and flowing from the Throne of God. We are all invited to jump in for a good swim in the Holy Spirit of God. Lets find the balance to our faith in His Love, Holiness and Power and go get the job done that our Lord called us to do.
Discipleship growth was exponential as taught by our Lord. If disciples could double every year then the world could be brought to the foot of the Cross in less than one generation, even with today’s populations. Where are the disciples that are mentoring others? If you are yet to become a disciple that can reproduce a disciple in a year then you may find this little book of excellent help.