Have you ever sat in an argument with someone who tries to defend the practices of his church? To such people, you find that there really is nothing you can say to help them see the light, except such is open to the truth for what it is. Sometime ago, I engaged a close family member in a discussion on some of the practices of her church. I did this not with the mind of spiting what was going on, but because I knew that such was a form of hindrance to true worship. I asked what was the basis for such practice, and how scriptural is praying to saints to intercede or intervene on our behalf. She went on a journey of explaining the long held traditions of the church and how this is an ancient practice. I asked again, if the man whom we all serve, Jesus, gave us such an example to follow. I know there is only one mediator between man and God, Christ Jesus. All I could see was this dear family member had really been ‘churched’. This also gave me occasion to look back at my life and realize that I too had been seriously churched and cannot exonerate myself from the stronghold of church captivity.
Using my life as an example, some years back as a church musician, I held on strongly to the idea that praise music should be fast paced, while worship music should be slow. So every time I hear singers trying to increase the tempo of a worship song, I get upset. The truth is simply that I just cannot recall where I got that idea from. It was simply just a church practice that had become a dominant and an acceptable idea in my head and I taught others this as well. The words are what matters and not the tempo. I had to learn to deemphasize the style and concentrate on the content. Also I couldn’t understand why in some churches the communion was taken under very hype circumstances. I had always believed that it should be a sober celebration of life, where we remember what Jesus had done for us all. I went into a church where when the communion is being served, praise and worship is going on and people are dancing. I churned within to face this new style. The problem is I was simply very churched and was held on to by the strings of religious traditions. God deliver me.
Now let me talk about something a bit more controversial. All through my church experience, the consumption of alcohol has been an issue that the judgment was very simple: You are a sinner when you take alcohol. I wrote a note about this sometime ago called “Rethinking Everything”, where I raised some important issues. Two instances made me rethink the use of alcohol. First, I had the privilege of attending a private birthday party of a reputable person. After lunch he went up his house and came back with two bottle of original Palestinian wine, which he brought back from a recent trip to Israel. Friends, I only had a less than a quarter of the glass and moments later, I felt I had grown taller. Then I suddenly knew what fine wine, according to Palestinian standards meant. No wonder the Pharisees accused Jesus of being a “winebibber” (Matt 11:19), simply because he eat and drank such wine with the ‘sinners’. A second instance was when I received the Holy Communion at an Anglican church during my friend’s father’s memorial service. I went for that service on an empty stomach and after the communion wine, my eyes were rolling. I had to settle for fast food before I insulted someone innocent. This was original Communion wine from the Middle East.
However, I have severally argued with some folks that are really churched about the use of alcohol. It is clear from scriptures that it is abuse that leads to sin. Fermented fruits have their value to the body, but like the harmful results of the abuse of anything, abuse of alcohol makes a mockery of you. But you see churched people think it is a sin to drink one bottle of beer, but righteousness to drink two to three bottles of chilled Coca Cola on a hot day. This is the kind of bondage that churched people have created and I am no better. We the churched have put ourselves under some kinds of rules we cannot obey and have also caused many who are weak to feel condemned because they cannot carry such weights. Does this remind you of what Jesus told the Pharisees? We have left the most important part that we should highlight; Self Control, which is a direct result of God’s Spirit within a man. We all need this element in everything we do; from eating, drinking, talking, sleeping, and in our several desires. Self Control is the virtue we should imbibe and advance to others as well.
On another case, a wrong perception of sex has destroyed a lot of lives in the church simply because churched people have refused to talk about the issue. When you try to talk about sex openly, churched people will label such discussions as sensual and corrupt communication. Meanwhile, the enemy is having a field day warping the mentalities of our children and they are growing up to be outwardly Churched, but inward sexual perverts. The American society is full of highly religious people, whose succeeding generation has totally gone on sexual rebellion all because the church was too hypocritically sanctimonious. I am amazed at how many young church men are caught by the law who are child molesters. We organize Family Seminars and Relationship talks only to cover truth and pretend about the reality of what church folks are facing. Gradually sexual purity is being thrown out the window and churched people are pretending that nothing is happening or that it is not affecting them.
Churched people are very notorious for pointing fingers. They are very quick to judge and throw down those who have succumbed to one weakness or the other. It took me certain encounters with God’s word to be delivered from this Churchy attitude which dominates a lot of our assemblies today. Those who make the most commentaries after the media when a ‘Man of God’ falls is churched people. But I remember I remember our Big Brother telling us in John 5 that He himself judges no one. But many in the church today quote Apostle Paul and state that the spiritual man judges all things. Perhaps, if such judgment were out of love, maybe the effect would be different. But since most of such judgments come from self-righteous commentaries, it produces a damaging effect on the church.
When the church condemns its own, what would the world then do? I remember many years back a famous pastor whose name starts with Jim pointing accusing fingers at another fallen pastor whose name is Jimmy. All of a sudden, Jim also fell, and great was his fall. A pastor once told us a story of how he joined in accusing another pastor who had messed up, only to come to a point of stagnation in his life. After many years of seeking God’s face, God told him to go and apologize and ask for the prayer of that pastor, who by now had been restored. I remember that our Saviour told us: “Judge nothing before the time…” But churched people love to do it before the time. I refer you to a note I wrote on Ted Haggard. This should clear my position on the matter.
So much to talk about here, but my point is that at we all have been churched, and define our relationship with our Father based on what human organizations have defined. This is very dangerous because we have placed more burdens on ourselves more than that which Jesus has permitted us to carry. I am reminded that His yoke is easy and His burden is light. This is one reason why the church has become a very worldly institution, where much rules and regulations exist and a taking-on of the form of secular structures. In fact I am beginning to think that Jesus has to be delivered from the church today, because we have saturated it with human and carnal motions that have killed the essence of His message and what He came to do on the earth.
The last part of my muse will be to consider what the church really is, and what it stands for. I have been amazed by my recent discoveries of what the church really means and what God really intended by leaving us here on earth. This way I hope to also liberate someone else to enjoy the fullness of the life of Christ within us, rather than be hindered by human mechanics that has nothing to do with the purposes of God.