Anyone who knows me know that I despise cliches. In my opinion if the world believes something it is invariably wrong. If you reverse most cliches, you would actually have a very powerful truth:
- Always count your chickens before they are hatched
- Believing is seeing
- Words speak louder than actions
- The grass is never greener on the other side
- You can judge a book by its cover
- Love is not blind. Hate is blind.
- Ignorance is not bliss, it is deadly. Right knowledge is bliss
See what I mean – any time the world tries to be pithy and wise, it gets it wrong. That is because the wisdom of man is not the wisdom of God (see James 3.13-18). And we expect the world to get it wrong, but what is tragic today is that Christians have our own brand of cliches that are equally as false. In fact, if you turn them around you get powerful truths as well:
- When God opens a door, He doesn’t open a window. He wants you to go through a door, not jump through a window!
- Not everything happens for a reason
- God doesn’t need another angel in heaven, and did not take Aunty Jean home!
- You can put God in a box
- You can know what God is going to do!
So, Christians can be equally wrong with their pithy and wise-sounding sayings. How can we tell the wisdom of man? Well, James says it is: earthly, sensual, devilish and brings envy, strife and confusion (James 3.15-16). That’s how you tell.
And I think one of the most single earthly, sensual, devilish, envy-causing, strife-causing, confusion-causing statements a Christian can make is this: don’t go to church, be the church. It is a faith-destroying, love-destroying, disciple-destroying, grace-destroying statement that contains absolutely no wisdom from God at all.
I understand the reasoning behind the statement. Generally the person speaking is trying to let people know that we should act like Christians 24-7. I have no truck with that. Often the emphasis is on working miracles in the street and in the supermarket, and again I have no problem with that. What I have a huge problem with is the cavalier attitude to church that has nothing to do with Jesus, nothing to do with the New Covenant and nothing to do with being a disciple of Christ.
This phrase is often used by evangelists, often young evangelists, and they are on the street doing miracles and getting people born again, and it looks impressive watching their youtube videos and what they do. I believe 100% in streetwork, and I have been on the streets twice this month telling people the gospel and seeing people healed. This is not the issue.
The problem is that immature, undiscerning Christians see the miracles and see the power and think that this evangelist is a great Christian with great wisdom. And then when that guy says “don’t go to church…” they take it as a great piece of life advice. Listen to me very carefully – anybody can work a miracle. I have seen people heal the sick who are living together without being married, I have seen people heal the sick whose whole life is a mess from beginning to end. Jesus said any believer can lay hands on the sick – not mature believers, not holy believers, not living for Jesus and walking with Jesus believers – any believers. So we need to stop getting excited about people healing the sick. I once saw a drunk man in a bar lay hands on someone in the name of Jesus and heal them of a heart attack, it was a totally genuine miracle of God. So let’s not automatically see someone as a great disciple and great source of wisdom just because they heal the sick!
I’ve had a couple of young evangelists come to the Tree, and a couple have left and don’t even go to church now. They are still in the streets, still making YouTube videos, but they are not in relationship with the body of Christ, they are not being discipled, and when you spend time with them the overwhelming thing you realize is how immature they are across their whole life – they have big problems in their marriage, they can’t handle money well, they cannot relate to people well. They can go on the streets and heal the sick, but that is not fruitfulness. They will never make disciples because they are not disciples, and until they learn to be disciples they will be a mess.
Now the church might have tried to help them, tried to point out that their marriage needs work, that they borrow money and don’t pay it back, that they are heavy handed with offerings, whatever. So they are now offended at the church as they don’t like correction, man’s wisdom never does. So now they travel around, and do their thing, but offended at the church. Now a Christian that knows the Word and knows Jesus will wonder – why is that person not at church? Why would someone who claims to be anointed and heal the sick not know how important going to a local church is to discipleship? Why would this person who seems so amazing not want to be with the Lord’s people on Sunday morning? So they respond with this cliche to avoid people noticing their lack of godly attitude and action when it comes to local church: don’t go to church, be the church.
It is truly from the wisdom of man, and truly comes from the flesh. It is not something the Spirit of God would ever, ever, ever say. I know one evangelist who was with our ministry, and we held a conference. I let all our church leaders preach, all the local pastors, the youth pastor and the children’s pastor, and this guy – as an evangelist. What happened was every single other speaker stayed around and listened to everyone else – they had their notepads out and they were learning. The other guy just turned up for his session and didn’t listen to a single other person. I thought “that person won’t be with us long, because he can’t listen, and the first time he needs correction he will be gone”. Sadly, I called it exactly as it was.
I’ve seen many people like this before. We had one lady come and preach at Tree of Life Church. She preached a good Word and people were blessed. We gave her a great offering (we are very generous at the Tree). The next Sunday she didn’t go to church, she went for a walk and posted on social media that she felt sorry for the silly people who felt it was important to go to church every week, and didn’t know that God was as much in the walk as in the church service. I thought “well, she didn’t mind about the silly people who gave her money, she didn’t mind about the silly people who got up early to set up chairs for the other silly people to sit on to listen to her, she didn’t mind about the silly people who ushered so other silly people were made welcome to here her, she didn’t mind about the silly people who gave up their precious time to here her”. Guess what? She will never be invited back to the Tree – that reaction is just staggeringly immature! And yet these people sadly presume to be teachers!
Sadly, many of these people who say “don’t go to church, be the church” will go to church – if they are the predominant voice for that service and they are getting the money. That is staggering, but is sadly true. Always be aware that some people don’t want to build the building, they just want to sit on top of it!
Andrew Wommack says this about the church:
The local church is the backbone of God’s work here on earth. There are ways that a local church can feed you that no other ministry can. You can’t call me in the middle of the night or have me perform your child’s wedding or help counsel them. You need the fellowship of other believers. I can’t offer you that, but the local church can.
How can you possibly call yourself a disciple of Christ if you are ignoring the backbone of God’s work here on earth? How can you sleep at night if you are getting up and telling people don’t go to church? How can you believe that you are extending the kingdom of God if you are neglecting church?
I believe we should be the church, but you cannot possibly in any real way be the church if you don’t go to church. As a pastor of six churches, I see the people who are inconsistent in church attendance – they are the ones having huge big problems in their lives, they are the ones where every drama becomes a crisis. I see the consistent people – they are the ones who become superstars, in their marriages, with their children, with their jobs. Favour just flows through them!
How can you be the church? Go to church. Stop listening to the demonic wisdom and start listening to the wisdom of God:
Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. (Hebrews 10.25)
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. (Acts 2.42)
Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace and was strengthened. Living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers. (Acts 9.31)
Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. (2 Tim. 4.2)
Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you. (Hebrews 13.17)
But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction, and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Live in peace with one another. (1 Thess. 5.12-13) NOTE: one of the reasons many of these people do not go to church is because they haven’t matured enough to live in peace with one another!
On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul began talking to them, intending to leave the next day, and he prolonged his message until midnight. (Acts. 20.7)
There are many more Scriptures that discuss attending church and going to church, but these are sufficient to anyone who genuinely wants to honour God to know that they should be part of a local church.
I have seen the fruit of this foolish doctrine and it is not pretty. We had a speaker in our church say that he didn’t go to church, pretty much boasting to my children that he went to the pub with another Christian and that was church – what an evil thing to tell young people. Now he is divorced. Oh he still preaching in the local churches, so the only time he is in church is when he is the predominant voice and the money heads his way. That is not a builder!
So action points:
- Do go to church
- Get up and go to church. Be there. In fact be there early and help!
- Don’t listen to people who are not committed to their local church. Don’t be afraid to find out what church a speaker goes to, and ask them who their pastor is. If they hesitate a while, that speaks volumes to you that they are not someone with a shepherd therefore eventually confusion will come out of their mouth.
- Remember Bible College is not church, a para-church ministry is not church, street evangelism is not church, meeting your mates in the pub is not church. Church has the five-fold ministry equipping the saints to do the works of ministry, and church has elders who are appointed by the pastor. There is teaching, there is worship, there is prayer together.
- If you can’t get to a good church, go to an average one. Be prepared to drive an hour to get to a decent church.
- Don’t be swept away by someone who has a healing ministry but no fruit. If someone tells you 10 people got saved on the street today ask how are they going to be discipled, what church will they be going to. If 10 people get healed, ask about discipleship and follow-up. If the person responds “the Lord will take care of it”, then you know they need to go to church themselves!
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