Divorcing the church system

 Ephesians 5:25-30 New Living Translation (NLT)

25 For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her 26 to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word.[a] 27 He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault.28 In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself. 29 No one hates his own body but feeds and cares for it, just as Christ cares for the church.30 And we are members of his body.

We left our local church again.

Why?

Short answer: God said.

Long answer: We came to a fork in the narrow road where we had to choose to be loyal to a church system or submit to what Scripture and the Spirit were saying.

divorcing.jpgAfter many months of searching Scripture, praying, sobbing, contemplating,  receiving visions and dreams from the Lord, and wrestling through my selfish desire to remain in fellowship with my friends, we divorced the church system.

We LOVE the church, the body of Christ, His bride. But we can no longer submit to man’s system of doing church. The cry of our heart is to BE THE CHURCH, worshipping the Lord in Spirt and in Truth.

John 4:21-24 New Living Translation (NLT)

21 Jesus replied, “Believe me, dear woman, the time is coming when it will no longer matter whether you worship the Father on this mountain or in Jerusalem.22 You Samaritans know very little about the one you worship, while we Jews know all about him, for salvation comes through the Jews. 23 But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. 24 For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.”

Charming and I were raised going to church, long before we became part of the Church. I was part of the Presbyterian system and we have been part of the Methodist system, the non-denominational Baptist system, the non-denominational Pentecostal system, and the non-denominational mega system.

We had fantastic pastors and not so fantastic pastors. We had pastors who shepherded these stupid, stubborn sheep! And we had pastors who became power hungry, prideful dictators that pursued their own empires. Honestly, I don’t think they knew what they were doing. They didn’t realize they were neglecting the sheep because they were too busy managing the system. They didn’t see the enemy sneak in to steal, kill and destroy the flock. They didn’t hear the cries of the wandering sheep who needed to be led back to the safety of the sheepfold. The sheep became just another number. Just another servant of the system.  As my friend said, “just a cog in a wheel.” Just another passenger on a runaway freight train; who’s tracks were already laid, who’s schedules were already made, and who’s conductors weren’t concerned with a few passengers hopping off at the station, because greater numbers would jump on at the next.

I have forgiven those shepherds.

Just as the Great Shepherd has forgiven me.

I’ve never been given the title of pastor, but I understand what it means to pastor people, to shepherd the sheep. Charming and I have led others in service teams and small groups for over two decades in local churches and in ministry through the non-profit we founded in 2010.

I understand wanting to be used by God.

I understand wanting to serve people.

I understand wanting power.

I understand wanting a position.

I understand wanting to please others.

I understand wanting to be on a platform.

I understand wanting the praises of others.

I understand wanting big numbers; people and dollar bills.

And, I understand grieving the Spirit by obeying the system instead of obeying Him.

But I also understand that God’s kindness led me to repent.

Repent for the lust of my eyes, the lust of my flesh and the pride of my life.

And a result of His revelation, He required a response: divorce the church system.

Jesus said, if I love Him I will obey His commands.

I do. And I did.

The divorce has been painful for our family.

But the Lord has been faithful. We are no longer bound to a system. Instead, we are free to worship the Lord in Spirit and in Truth with other parts of the body. Gathering at home each week, we’ve gone back to the simple way (Acts 2); worshipping, praying, studying Scripture, and sharing communion and meals with one another.

If we believe, receive and confess Jesus as Lord and Savior…

We are His church.

We are His body.

We are His bride.

We believe in the Father.

We believe in the Son.

We believe in the Spirit.

We believe in the baptism of water and fire.

We believe the Father gives good gifts to the church.

We believe the Son gives good gifts to the church.

We believe the Spirit gives good gifts to the church.

We believe the church is to be disciples and make disciples.

We believe Jesus is the head of His church, His body, His bride.

We believe the Spirit is preparing the bride for the Grooms return.

We believe Jesus will present His pure and spotless bride to the Father.

Ephesians 4:1-16 New Living Translation (NLT)

Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future.

There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism,
one God and Father of all,
who is over all, in all, and living through all.

However, he has given each one of us a special gift[a] through the generosity of Christ. That is why the Scriptures say,

“When he ascended to the heights,
    he led a crowd of captives
    and gave gifts to his people.”[b]

Notice that it says “he ascended.” This clearly means that Christ also descended to our lowly world.[c] 10 And the same one who descended is the one who ascended higher than all the heavens, so that he might fill the entire universe with himself.

11 Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12 Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. 13 This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.

14 Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. 15 Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. 16 He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.  

Revelation 19:6-7 New Living Translation (NLT)

Then I heard again what sounded like the shout of a vast crowd or the roar of mighty ocean waves or the crash of loud thunder:

“Praise the Lord!
    For the Lord our God,[a] the Almighty, reigns.
Let us be glad and rejoice,
    and let us give honor to him.
For the time has come for the wedding feast of the Lamb,
    and his bride has prepared herself.

Shallow Worship

Psalm 150 

Praise the Lord!

Praise God in his sanctuary;
    praise him in his mighty heaven!
Praise him for his mighty works;
    praise his unequaled greatness!
Praise him with a blast of the ram’s horn;
    praise him with the lyre and harp!
Praise him with the tambourine and dancing;
    praise him with strings and flutes!
Praise him with a clash of cymbals;
    praise him with loud clanging cymbals.
Let everything that breathes sing praises to the Lord!

Praise the Lord!

I love the Caribbean Sea.

I love peering through the circular cabin window as the aircraft prepares for landing. I love snapping photos of the sun’s rays illuminating the turquoise water and multi-colored coral reefs below. I love the warm tropical breeze that smacks my face as we climb down the rickety stairs and onto the jet way that leads to the tiny airport terminal. Like a little girl, I can barely contain my excitement as we wait at baggage claim, pick up the rental car, and make our way through the rainforest to the hotel. As much as I appreciate a signature resort, it pales in comparison to the white sandy beach and crystal-clear water that beckons my soul as we FINALLY check in, get changed into our swimsuits, and make our way to my happy place.

I’ve seen the Caribbean from air and land, but I’m no longer satisfied just looking at it as a one-dimensional photograph. I’m no longer satisfied to just sit on the beach. I’m no longer satisfied to just walk along the seashore. I’m no longer satisfied to just stick my toes in the shallow water. I MUST go all the way in! I MUST swim in the deep blue sea. And, I MUST put on my snorkel gear to behold all the beauty that waits below the surface.

Did I mention, I love the Caribbean Sea?

Did I also mention, I love to worship?

I’m a vocalist, who’s married to a drummer, who has a daughter that writes music on the piano. Notes and sounds and rhythm and lyrics move my soul. I worship the Lord through music alone; in and outside our home, in small groups, in worship services, and in arenas packed with thousands of people.

IMG_4745.JPG
Heaven Come Conference, Bethel Music, 2018

I’ve worshipped with those who play their trumpet, piano, guitar, drums, and those who dance, clash symbols and clap their hands. I’ve worshipped with those who stand like impenetrable coral reef, satisfied at observing the praises of men to their God as they swim in His love. I’ve worshipped with those who peer through their circular cabin window, satisfied at being 30,000 feet below heaven. I’ve worshipped with those who snap photos of the worship team, satisfied with idolizing their talent. I’ve worshipped with those who ride the manifest presence of God, satisfied with never getting out of their vehicle. I’ve worshipped with those who stand on the beach, satisfied with never touching the water that promises eternal and abundant life.

shallow worship

I’ve been that kind of worshipper.

Shallow.

Dissatisfied.

But I’m no longer satisfied with peering out the window, snapping photos, feeling the breeze, and carrying my bags to the same hotel just to sit on the beach and look at the water. Like the woman at the well (John 4), Jesus beckoned me to drink deeply from His living water. He knew that Jacobs well would satisfy my body, but it would never satisfy my soul. As we’ve talked, the Lord has redirected my focus from the shallow worship offered in Jerusalem, to the deep praise of the Father offered in my heart.

Jesus can do the same for you.

Grab your empty pitcher.

Meet Him at the Caribbean well.

He’s waiting for you.

Sit and have a chat.

He wants to fill your heart to overflowing,

because the Father is still looking for those who will worship Him in Spirit and Truth.