BTC – Phase 4 – Lesson 6
The Church Being Built on the Rock
Note: Now that we have covered “Baptism,” and much about The Holy Spirit and Grace, let’s talk about what “The Church” truly “Is” as well as finding appropriate fellowship and how to work through differences between members of the Body, should they surface.
“The Church” within us
It is wonderful to have a local “church home,” but whether we have a specific place to go or not, rest assured that “The Church” can actually be found within us.
Jesus teaches that “The Church” is being built “on the Rock.” But, what is “The Rock?” It is another term for those of the Body of Christ. So, “The Church” is really representative of a quality of consciousness and spirituality which is “being developed” within us, rather than just describing “a place” we might go to worship or to study about God.
But we also know now, that the “Kingdom of God” is within, so are the two related? Yes, you could say that. If we as individuals are being formed into “The Church,” then this is so we might abide in the Realm which is known as the “Kingdom of God,” here on earth and beyond.
“Neither shall they say, Lo here! Or, lo there! For, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.” – Luke 17:21 (KJV)
Distinguishing between “The Church” and the “churches”: In order to separate the significance and purpose of the “outer assemblies” (places we go) from what truly is “The Church” (what the Spirit is building within us,) I will often refer to churches as “gathering places.”
Another way we will distinguish this important difference is to spell “the (c)hurches” (assemblies held in our communities) with a small “c,” and spell “The One (C)hurch” (being formed within us) with a capital “C.”
Why is this important? Well, first of all, sadly, not everyone in the Body is actually engaged in the process of growing up spiritually. There are some who “believe” that Jesus existed and they might even attend ceremonies or cultural events otherwise known as “religious” events; but this does not guarantee that they are submitting to (or even interested in) undergoing any transformation of the soul. And without walking in Mercy or depending on Grace (The Spirit), one cannot be considered a part of “The Church,” since Mercy and Grace are elements of the spiritual transformational process and the “Foundation” upon which Jesus “is building” His Church.
The Purpose of the churches: Conversely, one might not happen to be a member of a neighborhood church at given times; and yet due to an allegiance to “The Christ” (Spirit of God) along with a deep abiding relationship with the Holy Spirit, one can be a (24/7) part of “The Church” (being built within us) by the Spirit.
We will visit what makes up this critical distinction later, in some of our Studies; but for now, just understand that the purpose of going to fellowship centers (such as “churches”) on the “outside,” is to work with the Spirit and others to develop “The Church/Kingdom of God” on the inside of us. You could say then, that we go to church to support us in “Becoming The Church.”
So whether we are fortunate to have a “church home” or some other wonderful group of caring folks to turn to or not, we can still participate in the growth process every day; and no special ceremonies or memberships are required, only a commitment to developing our personal relationship with God, by His Spirit.
Note about MOTL Online Library: We exist as an independent support group (not associated with any organization, denomination or religion, for all those who are undergoing the spiritual transformation process by the Spirit of God, whether they have a “church affiliation” or not.
Finding a “church home”: To locate a “church home,” you might want to visit various gathering places as the Spirit of God leads. As you do, look for those places where the members are known for their kindness and mercy toward others and where living by “the leading of the Spirit of God” is not only taught, but encouraged and cultivated. The most nurturing environment to find, would be one where folks will love you just as you are, while supporting you in undergoing the process of identifying more and more closely with the Holy Spirit as you develop attributes of “Nature of Christ” over time.
Remember, there is no rush in choosing a church home, so take all the time that you need and always remember that you already are a member of “The Church” if you are extending mercy to others and living by the leading of the Spirit, seeking God and His Living Word in all aspects of your life.
Micro Churches & Home Church Ministries: When it is a challenge to find a “church home” for whatever reason, such as distance to a gathering place, theological differences, the discover of “added” legalism to a group’s doctrine, etc., ….then one can still meet with friends and family to study, sing, talk, pray, have a communion service, and enjoy the presence of God right in one’s home, in a park, or some other appropriate setting. These small “assemblies” are sometimes called “Micro Churches” or “Home Churches.” This is the way that many of the first Christians would meet, that is… until their numbers grew large enough to require greater spaces; this eventually brought about elements of our traditional “church” services which we still find today.
Bonding & fellowship at the heart of Cell-Ministries: It is also true that folks who do have a “home church” still enjoy meeting in smaller groups known as “Cell-ministries” during the week in addition to their Sunday services. This allows additional time to connect with others on a deeper level or to share study and prayer time that might be difficult to do in the context of a more populated event.
Other times, believers form groups based on “like interests or similar needs” such as parents with young kids who may need flexibility which families with older kids no longer require. The sky’s really the limit on the types of cell-ministries or reasons for forming them.
Quality of teaching and experience: Any “church” option on the outside of us, is really only as effective as the depth of the personal relationship with God that members of that group have on the inside, along with passion and commitment to the spiritual growth process. Therefore, we need not be concerned about “missing God” because of an interest in fellow-shipping in smaller groups. There are benefits of gathering in smaller circles, just as there are other benefits for joining larger assemblies. Either setting, in the right season of our growth, can be wonderful.
For a Season: In the process of visiting different assemblies, don’t be surprised if at some point, you feel called to sit in the pews of a particular gathering place where you, in fact, “don’t exactly jive” or agree with every practice or belief there. I believe that at times, God can lead us to certain places for our learning and development, which might involve just sitting, observing, and contemplating within a given group, and praying without judgment, while staying open to what He is trying to show us.
Should I stay or should I go? Another reason why we could choose to remain somewhere for a season, is because at the time, we might recognize the benefits of doing so for one or more of our family members, such as for our children or our spouse. Perhaps there is a great “youth program” at the neighborhood church or relevant support offered for couples; and sometimes, we may just like being around certain role models who can help us “see” what living for Jesus can be like or what spiritual maturity looks like. After all, we can always supplement “man-made church doctrine” with additional study and teaching at home, to fill in a bit where certain elements may be lacking at the gathering place. This way, our family members can learn from us about the Doctrine of Christ as well as from the local church; and in so doing we can all support one another in learning how to handle differences in theology as well as experience how to interact patiently, diplomatically, and compassionately with others in the Body of Christ.
Divine appointments in The Church with no walls: Remembering that “The Church” which Jesus “is building” within us, actually has no walls and extends everywhere that people are who walk by Mercy and Grace… then, it is “no wonder” how God can arrange these divine appointments from all places. Even outside of “church gatherings” I have experienced feeling “sent,” such as when my husband and I would find ourselves in many a meaningful discussion with clients who had hired us to do some remodeling work. Somewhere between hanging cabinets and sweeping the floor, a profound conversation would often begin with the homeowners. I have experienced that such spontaneous moments of positive communication can happen at any moment and in any place and it is always marvelous when love and caring is exchanged between fellow “travelers.”
Still today, each time I find myself at a Divine Appointment when the opportunity presents itself to share about God with someone, I ponder in amazement, how much our Creator loves us and is aware of our needs, “arranging,” these nurturing encounters, pulling folks together who can be of comfort to one another, even from such seemingly unrelated corners of life. Yet He does all of this with such great precision and always at the perfect time.
When communication or change is needed: So, it is “do-able” to interact peacefully for years in a particular church community, even if there are minor differences in theology between you and the group, especially when there is Godly purpose in being there for a time. But in a situation where the “man-made doctrines” become clearly more important to a group than operating by the leading of the Spirit, it may be necessary to move on and find others to fellowship with. The question then becomes… how to know if moving on is best or if we just need more information or communication with others at the “church” to improve conditions and perceptions.
Wheat, the Tares and the Dead in Christ: Coming into the “Net/The Body” (being saved) grants us “position and standing” to walk deeper with the Spirit of God, but it does not guarantee that all individuals or groups within the Body will choose to “seek the Spirit.” Thus you see Paul suggesting that there are two groups in the Body, those who “seek after the flesh” and those who “seek after the Spirit.”
“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” Romans 8:1 (KJV)
So, unfortunately, all is not perfect in the Body; and I don’t want to burst anyone’s bubble about “everyone getting along in the Body,” but Jesus tells us, that the reality is, that “tares” (false/empty wheat) can be found among the plump wheat kernels and that there are both “good and bad fish” in the Net.
In other words, folks can enter the Body and even “receive the Seed of the Spirit,” but not all continue to seek the Spirit in order to die to the habits of the old nature (old-man). Those who do undergo this “death to the old,” come to be known as the “Dead in Christ” since their goal is to become dead to the former ways/wiles and alive “in or by” the Spirit of God.
Faith Comes by Hearing: Here is an interesting question and one which many puzzled observers of the Body have had… “What is going on when the Spirit or the Holy Ghost seems to truly move and minister through certain cranky Christians upon occasion, yet off-stage, that same speaker or preacher seems utterly disinterested in submitting to any real death to the self-nature and its ways and thus remains very difficult to deal with? Does this represent some sort of “religious schizophrenia?”…. Not exactly. What might be in operation under those circumstance is, that for a variety of reasons, some members of the Body simply are not engaged in any personal experience of soul-transformation and instead are satisfied to participate in cultural or religious events, often not even knowing what the Spirit has for them in the way of spiritual growth.
Yet God has provided a way for any of us in the Body, regardless of our current level of understanding, to be “used” as a vessel of inspiration for someone who is ready to “hear” some Good News or for someone who “seeks a word” of inspiration, whether the “speaker” is engaged in transformation or not.
This is why Scripture tells us that “Faith comes by hearing” rather than by “preaching” alone. I guess you could say that this is one of God’s “back up plans” so we can still receive what we need in the way of encouragement, in spite of the fact that we are all “works of art in progress,” including our preachers.
“So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. (Romans 10:17-KJV)
The Gates of Hell: In your travels about the Body of Christ, you may meet some people or groups along the way whose allegiance has shifted from “minding the Spirit” to “minding the doctrines of man” to the point where the training they give and receive is limited to only what will serve the interests of a denomination or organization; and at that point, a free exchange of information is discouraged.
So what about the “gates”? Well, if you think of a “gate” as being an element which brings “division,” (keeping information from coming in or going out), then one could correctly say that there are such “gates” of division in the Body. What?
What about what Jesus said about the “gates of hell?” Well, Jesus did say in Matthew 16:18, “I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” So, by saying “will build” (future tense), He not only indicates that there is a process involved with “Becoming His Church,” but that “The Church” is not to be confused with “The Net,” which is where we are in the Body while we are “being transformed into becoming The Church” (spiritual beings) by the Spirit.
“What’s your 20?” So the Kingdom of Heaven (or the Body of Christ/The Net) is a way of describing the spiritual location where we find ourselves after we establish our relationship with Jesus; and this remains a kind of “place of gestation” (A.K.A. “the wilderness”), where we in the Body remain throughout our transformational process on earth.
Whereas “The Church” found within, reflects the “New Birth by the Spirit condition” of our souls, which naturally happens over time as we become more and more “grafted” or connected in consciousness to the Spirit of God.
The Wilderness for the New members of the Body: So, in other words, some refer to the Kingdom of Heaven as the place where we undergo our “wilderness experiences” or “growing pains unto transformation,” which can be considered a “type and shadow” of that process found in the Scriptures with regard to the Hebrews. We all know that they left Egypt and began their journey toward the Promised Land, yet they still wandered for years in the desert, going through all kinds of changes. Some might say that they were preparing to take up residence in the “Promised Land.” Thus we hear the expression in the Body, “Getting the Hebrews out of Egypt was one thing, but then getting Egypt out of the Hebrews became another.”
Thus this challenge also remains for each of us. That is, we can “leave the world and its motives but it may be a while before we are able to get the world-nature out of us.” But then, this is not a bad thing; it’s all part of the transformational process; so…let’s stand by one another, helping each other as we grow. Amen?
“To re-cap”…let’s say again, that for us to be considered part of “The Church,” we must be among those named as, “minding the Spirit” while continuing to operate in Mercy. Or… though we may be a member of a local church somewhere, we may not be operating as “His Church” there or anywhere else if we lack Mercy or do not seek the leading of the Spirit in our daily lives. Interestingly, in Hosea 4:6 (KJV) we find, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me.”
Unity in Christ anyone? Wow. As organizations pop up by the thousands, many are claiming that they hold the only patent for the process by which one gets into heaven. Hence, more and more “gates” are being built within the Body while at the same time we are growing farther and farther away from the experience of Unity by the Spirit of Christ. Some report that less and less Fruit of the Spirit can be seen flowing through members of the Body, as well. Yikes!
So, with buildings popping up everywhere, where is “The Church” disappearing to, one “doctrine of man” at a time? A friend of mine recently commented, “Yup, we’ve organized God right out of our churches.” Short and sweet and to the point, this statement was, but is this true?
First of all, how can one answer that question unless we come to truly know what the Church really is? Religion can help bring structure and fellowship, but whether one participates in religion or other cultural groups …or not… study, listen, learn, and watch…and with God leading the way, you will come to know what “The Church” is and you can yourself become a “Shining City on a hill, everywhere you go.”
Lord, Lord!: There are warnings upon warnings (in Scripture) about what can happen to those who have passed through the Body (The Net), and yet in the end will cry, “Lord, Lord,” such as when Jesus tells us that he will say to some of these, “Depart from me!”
“Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? And in thy name have cast out devils? And in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” (Matthew 7:21-23 KJV)
What? If these ones described in Scripture will have been among those who attended church, preached, prophesied, and paid their tithe and so forth, how could this still happen?
Well, Jesus also tells us that if any of us become rigid and unforgiving, unmerciful or legalistic (rule-oriented to the point that we begin to justify conceit or even downright cruelty at times for any reason, including forcing our ideas on others)… we could be considered “workers of iniquity,” which is very upsetting to the Lord and not a position we ever want to be in.
“For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.” 2 Corinthians 11: 12-15(KJV)
Who are “The Called”?: Jesus and the disciples spoke a lot about the difference between those who are “The called” and those who in fact, “answer the call”… not just for a moment of genuflection at an altar somewhere, but in Ephesians 4:24, Paul describes another process for those who submit their mind, heart, and strength to undergo a full nature change, from flesh-minded to spiritual, “And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.”
Thus, many are “the called” but why then, are “few chosen” Well, it is us who must “choose to be The Chosen” by holding to the Spirit, no matter what is going on in life; and thus as “The Chosen” we allow and participate in the death of the self-nature as our souls are being transformed.
What we run toward: So, if we find that things are not as they should be in our group and if we are then considering a change, our move should be a reflection of what we are moving toward, not what we might be running from. Small disagreements and occasional feelings of discomfort over a message that may have hit too close to home…are not reasons to run to the next neighborhood church to see if we “feel better” there. Changes of gathering sites should be done prayerfully and without judgment of others. If we have asked God to confirm to us, “where we belong,” we can trust that, over time, He will show us the answer and we will ultimately have peace about what path to take.
The Order of Communication for the group or gathering: So, if you see something going on in your “group” that you become uncomfortable about, you may want to offer to “work things out” before deciding to depart. If so, you have a couple of options. For instance, you can always go home and pray about this, asking God to send strong guidance to the leadership for your group and then, simply “wait and see” what develops. Or, you could decide to speak with someone about your concern. If you take this route, then follow the order given to the Body by the Holy Ghost: Ask for a meeting with leadership, a deacon perhaps, and prepare yourself to discuss your understanding of things in a civil and respectful manner. In smaller assemblies, you may not have any other choice but to speak directly with the Pastor as there may not be various levels of leadership who handle discussions with the congregation.
Respect in communication: But whoever you speak with, always maintain spiritual decorum and respect, not only for the “unction” (blessing) over the Body, but for the “authority” (as a representative of Christ) which leadership represents, whether you agree with their policies and practices or not.
Dealing with religious extremism: If extremism is practiced in the group, you must also be prepared for the possibility that many Scriptures could be tossed out to you in a discussion; and some members or even leadership could become offended by what you express. But keep your heart pure, offer nothing with malice and never feel ashamed about legitimate questions you have.
Of course, what goes along with any process of communication, is to be realistic about human nature and therefore not to expect that one conversation will turn a situation around; though a discussion might let you see if there is reason to remain with the group or not.
Traditions of Man: Many “traditions of man” run so deep (AKA “strongholds), that folks may simply not be able to see their way clear to expand their perspectives, even if you effectively “made your case” so to speak, by having revealed Scripture to them, along with perhaps, a passage or two from the “doctrine of common sense.” In many cases, traditions and cultural practices are quite harmless, but in other cases, these practices can cause divisions. So when in a discussion with others, speak your peace, ask your questions and then depart in peace, refraining from engaging in a spirit of debate.
To recap this segment: Do not be disappointed if you are met with adverse or defensive reactions to your questions. You may be fortunate enough to find that you have succeeded in stimulating healthy discussion; and change could come as a result. Also, sometimes walking through the whole process of “reaching out” helps us come to a better understanding of what we believe for ourselves. But if not, then take your concern back to God and wait for the Spirit to lead you.
Do not be enticed by a spirit of shame towards yourself or indulge in unforgiveness towards those who have different beliefs than you do or in some cases, prefer life under what might be a cult. Some people simply feel safer in numbers and are not ready to jeopardize their standing before “man” or risk what could happen, should they question what they are being told to believe. For these ones, we must have mercy and pray, offering other the gift of our example of courage.
When it is time to say “goodbye”: In the end, after we have prayed and sought God about where we belong in the Body, we have no obligation to remain “under” groups operating outside of mercy or under those who dis-acknowledge a dependence on the Spirit of God. Our exit from the group can be diplomatic and gracious, on our part at least. We can extend a few thank-yous’ for the good experienced while having been a member there ; and then we can quietly exit. This can all be done without pointing fingers to anyone, stirring up the congregation or raising a fuss. There is nothing saying we can’t directly answer someone’s sincere questions in a loving manner about our decision to leave; but we need not create strife.
As for the ones we leave behind, well…your brave and loving example are often more than enough love given, especially when accompanied by your prayers. After all, each soul must decide for itself, which doctrine to follow, the Doctrine of Christ or doctrines of man.
So, if change becomes necessary, do not “receive” condemnation unto yourself from others; and by all means, keep the members of The Body in your prayers.
“But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” – 2 Corinthians 3:18 (KJV)
“Submitting” to one another as part of the Order of Peace: In discussions with others, it is also important to learn that the Bible tells us that we are to “submit” to one another. But what does this mean…really? Some believe it means, that in order for us to be considered faithful, we have to do exactly as we are told by “management” so to speak, whether our “marching orders” come via the Pastor, or our male spouse.
Actually, the word “submit,” translated from its origin, points to avoiding the temptation to engage in a spirit of debate or argument. Unlike what some religions in the Body suggest, “Submitting” does not involve blind obedience. Rather, the requirement is one of “holding to peace” by the Spirit, instead of engaging in a “spirit of debate” or reacting from the old nature in a given situation. We can speak our concerns from our heart and remain at peace, even if there are differences. Regardless of how others react, we have the choice to adhere to peace and seek a Godly way to respond or we may simply decline to comment, if the environment cannot support a civil discussion.
Regarding leadership in a group, even if there is a serious problem with a leader, at no time are we ever to publicly criticize gossip about, or rebuke any leadership. We have already discussed in this lesson ways in which we can share our concerns with those managing a group; however, the point here is that we are to maintain respect for the anointing which is from Christ over the leader and out of respect for their position which is one of representing Christ in the gathering or group. We are to have compassion for our leaders, realizing that they too, need our prayers and our support, even if they err from time to time. If they seek God, they will be brought back around.
God’s Safeguard for the members: Besides, since “Faith comes by hearing,” (as mentioned before), then God has given us a safeguard so that those in the audience can still “receive” what they need, even if the person being used by the Holy Ghost to get that “good word” to the audience member is impaired or out of order themselves.
Wives be silent? OK. Now we are going to “get into it.” Right? Well, don’t be surprised if at some point in your time in the Body at large, you will run into those members from one gathering place or another, who will insist that women should not only stay out of any kind of leadership position (that women should be seen and not heard)… but some believe that “females (wives)” should be silent altogether and only discuss “things of God” at home with their “husbands.”
This perception could come from areas of Scripture, such as what can be found in 1 Corinthians or Timothy. But…to those who interpret the Bible this way, might I ask… what do single ladies do in the meantime with no spouse at home? Can they become pastors or deacons since they do not happen to have a spouse? Or are these Scriptural remarks pointing to something else? (Read more about this topic in the article, “Authority for the Anointing,” by Rev. G. E. Newmyer.)
How does one spell “metaphor?: How does one spell “metaphor?” Hmmm. In 1 Corinthians 11, it is true that we see references to a “woman or wife” and to a “man or spouse” but since Paul has already stated that there is no male or female, Jew or Gentile “in Christ,” then he is not attempting to silence women. Rather these terms are a metaphor for the congregation/wife and leadership/husband.
There are times when Paul is in fact speaking about the way a husband and wife should treat one another, but in other cases, these “spousal terms” are references to other matters, such as when the congregation/wife is to be silent in the gathering (not confronting leadership in the church) and instead those members of the Body who are experiencing conflicts or difficulties are advised to take their concerns home to pray about them, seeking the Lord, to whom we are all betrothed.
This matter of believing that women are “disallowed” to express themselves spiritually, or “forbidden” to walk in an Office in the Body, is another area of controversy and over time, we will cover the meaning of many of the metaphors expressed in Scriptures.
But for now, just know that there were many female leaders in the Body which are mentioned in Scripture and Paul himself walked with several of them.
Holy Ghost Appointments: Ultimately it is the Holy Ghost who appoints and “forms” people to the Offices of Leadership; and in turn, it is Leadership who are assigned to “confirm” those who are ready for Office as well as to discern who in the Body are spiritually balanced enough to serve as deacons, bishops or elders.
Conclusion: Now that we have defined The Church as distinct from other definitions of “gathering places” or “churches” within the Body, we can move forward and learn all we can about “conforming to Christ within” toward the aim of “Becoming The Church”; may the Lord lead you to loving and supportive friends and family in the Body of Christ with whom you can enjoy the fullness of His love and mercy.
By Ann M. Wolf – c 2015 – BMI – All rights reserved.