Wednesday, April 28, 2004

I don't normally mass mail...but I sent these articles out. If you have time to read this here, I encourage you to do so.

LIE # 1 - "ASK JESUS into our Heart"
-by Andrew Strom.

One of the most basic things that has amazed me for
many years is the preaching of "Giving your heart to the
Lord" or "Asking Jesus into your life" to become a
Christian. Do we not realize that such a practice is
found NOWHERE in the entire Bible? Is there ANY
example of someone "asking Jesus into their heart"
(or similar) to become a Christian in the book of Acts?
NO - NOT EVEN ONE. The book of Acts is full of literally
thousands of people becoming born-again Christians.
And we are often told exactly what these people did. But
there is no record of any of them doing anything like
"asking Jesus into their heart" to be saved.

Now SURELY, if the church has even remotely got it's
act together, it would have this one thing right. Surely
this has got to be one of the most crucial and basic
points in the whole New Testament:- How exactly are
people supposed to become Christians? What were they
told to do in the New Testament? A very simple and
straight-forward question, you would think. And so vitally important.

But incredibly, it seems that very few of us have even
bothered to ask this question or to take on board the
glaringly obvious answer. Here we have one of the most
vital, fundamental points that it is possible to have in
Christianity:- "What shall we DO TO BE SAVED?" And
generally speaking, our answer today is utterly different
from that of the apostles. Incredible really, isn't it? It's
right there in black-and-white, time after time! But
TRADITION has blinded our eyes to the Truth. And I'm
sure that even many of you reading this will be shocked
at how obvious the truth of this matter is.

Let's start with the day of Pentecost (-a great place to
begin!) As we all know, the Holy Spirit fell on the 120,
and they all began to speak in tongues. This is officially
known by theologians as the birth of the Church - the
beginning of Christianity as we know it. And after Peter
preached his convicting sermon to the gathered crowd
that day, another 3000 people were added to the church.
And we are told exactly what occurred:- "... They were
cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the
apostles, 'Brethren, WHAT SHALL WE DO?' And Peter
said to them, 'REPENT, and be BAPTIZED every one of
you in the name of Jesus Christ for the FORGIVENESS
OF YOUR SINS; and you shall receive the gift of the
HOLY SPIRIT'" (Acts 2:37-38 RSV). Notice how different
Peter's reply is to what we tell people today. We might
have said something like, "Just say this little prayer after
me" but Peter said nothing like that at all.

There were three elements to what Peter told them:-
REPENTANCE, WATER-BAPTISM and receiving the
HOLY SPIRIT. We see this pattern repeated again and
again, right through the book of Acts (-in fact, throughout
the New Testament writings) in the most glaringly obvious
way. And yet still we hear, "Just ask Jesus into your
heart" preached throughout Christendom today.

The next significant people-group to be reached by the
early Christians were the Samaritans. In Acts chapter 8
we read how Philip the evangelist saw massive Revival in
Samaria:- "But when they believed Philip as he preached
good news about the kingdom of God and the name of
Jesus Christ, they were BAPTIZED, both men and women...
Peter and John, who came down and prayed for them that
they might RECEIVE THE HOLY SPIRIT" (Acts 8:12-17).
Note the identical pattern to the salvations on the day of
Pentecost.

I hope you realize that we have been talking about
THOUSANDS of conversions here. And NOT ONE of
them involved "Giving their heart to the Lord" or "Inviting
Jesus to be their personal savior". If you look up these
Scriptures in Acts, you will see that every time it was
"Repentance, Baptism and Recieiving the Holy Spirit".
-Over and over again.

The next significant people-group to be reached by the
early church were the 'Godly' gentiles (-Acts chapters 10
and 11). Peter was led to preach to Cornelius and his
household. And God suddenly moved even while he was
still preaching!:- "While Peter was still saying this, the
HOLY SPIRIT FELL on all who heard the word... they
heard them SPEAKING IN TONGUES and extolling God.
Then Peter declared, 'Can anyone forbid water for
BAPTIZING these people who have RECEIVED THE HOLY
SPIRIT just as we have?' And he commanded them to
be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ" (Acts 10:44-48).
Peter later described the scene again: "As I began to
speak, the Holy Spirit FELL ON THEM just as on us at
the beginning" (Acts 11:15). He also referred to it as them
being "Baptized in the Holy Spirit" (Acts 11:16). I hope
you can see from these passages that the Holy Spirit
'FALLING' upon people is the same experience as people
'RECEIVING' or being 'BAPTIZED' in the Holy Spirit.

Thus we see the same pattern as before, in the salvation
experience of Cornelius' household - (1) Repentant hearts,
(2) Receiving the Holy Spirit and (3) Baptism.

Another good example involves some disciples of John
the Baptist whom Paul met at Ephesus:- "And Paul said,
'John baptized with the baptism of REPENTANCE, telling
the people to believe in the one who was to come after
him, that is, Jesus.' On hearing this, they were BAPTIZED
in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul laid his
hands upon them, the HOLY SPIRIT came on them; and
they SPOKE WITH TONGUES and prophesied" (Acts 19:1-6).
I guess I hardly need to point out the pattern by now?

Notice too that there were no "instructional classes" to
prepare people for baptism. All the way through the book
of Acts, people were baptized STRAIGHT AWAY, as
soon as they were believing and repentant. With the
Phillipian jailer, he and his entire household were
baptized immediately - IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT
(-Acts 16:32-33). With the Ethiopian eunuch, he was
baptized by Philip straight away, in some water that they
saw while travelling in his chariot (Acts 8:35-38). And
the apostle Paul himself was baptized immediately by the
disciple Ananias, who said something very interesting to
Paul beforehand:- "Rise and be BAPTIZED, and WASH
AWAY YOUR SINS, calling on His name" (Acts 22:16).
This verse would be treated almost like "heresy" by
many in today's church. How shocking to imply that
baptism might have something to do with forgiveness
and cleansing from our past sins! However, there are
many verses like it scattered throughout the New
Testament. Also note that Paul was told this DAYS
AFTER he had had his blinding 'Damascus Road'
experience. Today's Christians might assume that Paul
was "born again" during this blinding encounter with
God. Not so. Not until Paul was to be BAPTIZED was
he to have his sins "washed away". This is clearly
what the Scriptures say. Arguments, anyone?

Many Christians are taught today that Baptism is basic-
ally a 'symbolic' act. In my youth I was raised mainly in
Baptist churches, and they always taught that baptism
is an "outward SYMBOL of an inner change". Thus
baptism is stripped of much of it's significance and
power in Christian thinking. For a "symbol" is never as
important as the real thing, is it? I have studied baptism
extensively in the New Testament. It is NEVER spoken
of as a mere 'SYMBOL'. Rather, it is spoken of as
being a 'circumcision of the heart', a "cutting off", a
"burial" into the DEATH of Christ. And it is also spoken
of as being "for the forgiveness of sins" and to "wash
one's sins away". I am convinced that in the spirit
realm (from God's point of view), baptism is seen as a
LITERAL "burial into death" (-see Romans 6) which has
a profound effect on our hearts and lives. But still we
preach, "Ask Jesus into your heart", and deny many
people one of the most vital keys to living a Christian
life. I am also convinced that baptism MUST be by
'FULL IMMERSION'. Sprinkling little infants is not
enough. This must be baptism for BELIEVERS. And
the original Greek word 'baptizo' actually means "TO DIP
OR IMMERSE". So people must be 'buried' under the
water in baptism, not just sprinkled. (-I'm sure most of
you already agree with this).

Likewise I am convinced that Baptism in the Holy Spirit
(accompanied by 'speaking in tongues') is ESSENTIAL.
It is NOT just an option. As we have seen in the book of
Acts, the way that people became Christians in the New
Testament was to (1) Repent, (2) Be Baptized in water
and (3) Be Baptized in the Holy Spirit (accompanied
by 'tongues' as far as we can tell). What right do we have
to change the fundamental teachings and practices of
the Bible, just so we can make things more "convenient"
for new converts? Unless we are getting people saved
the Bible way, how can we claim to be getting them
saved at all?

We are forever talking about being "born again" in the
church today. But are we truly getting people 'born
again' like they did in Acts? Bearing in mind the
pattern that we have seen in the New Testament, what
exactly do you think Jesus was talking about when He
declared that, "Unless a man is born of WATER and of
THE SPIRIT he cannot enter into the kingdom of God"?
(Jn 3:5). Born of WATER, born of the SPIRIT.
Hmmmmmm. That's a tough one!

Baptism in water and the Spirit are never regarded as
mere 'options' in the Scriptures. In fact they are clearly
ESSENTIAL experiences to begin to walk in Christ's
kingdom. There are many Scriptures on this that are
often bypassed today or regarded as "inexplicable"
because they do not fit in with current tradition. Please
take the time to look up the following:-
Mark 16:16-18, 1 Peter 3:20-21, Titus 3:5-6, 1 Cor 10:1-2,
Gal 3:27, Col 2:11-12, 1 Cor 12:13, Heb 6:1-2, Rom 6:2-11,
Rom 8:9, Mt 28:19, etc.

I really mean it. Please do take the time to look at the
above Scriptures if you have any interest in this issue at
all. Many people write to me with their opinions, saying,
"I cannot believe you are teaching this." -And yet they
have never bothered to actually look up the Scriptures
on the subject! PLEASE read Acts and look up the
above Scriptures before sending me your views.

It is my belief that there are a number of important
teachings and practices from the early church that will
be restored during the coming Revival. (-God often
does this in Revivals). I am convinced that the above
teaching will be one of them. (-I have believed this for
many years).

I realize that I have probably shocked and provoked a
number of you with this article. Please believe me, I
myself was very shocked when I first came face-to-face
with these truths some years ago. They really are very
apparent when you study them, but I was blind to them
for many years. I was amongst those who gave out
tracts like 'The Four Spiritual Laws' and led people in
the "sinner's prayer". Like many, I would back this up by
mis-applying Rev 3:20 - "Behold I stand at the door and
knock. If any man hear my voice and open the door I
will come in to him, and sup with him and he with me."
It was only later that I realized that, as Leonard
Ravenhill points out, this Scripture is clearly aimed at
the CHURCH, not at unconverted sinners. It is Jesus
standing outside the 'Laodicean' church, trying to get in!
Please go and read the whole passage - Rev 3:14-21.
You will see what I mean. It is very clear.

I am not ashamed that I used to preach these things.
It was all I knew at the time. But I was certainly shocked
to discover how much of the basic gospel I was leaving
out. Like me, there are a number of you who will have to
"search the Scriptures to see if these things be so" just
as the Bereans did. Believe me, I fought these truths for
months before I simply ran out of corners to back into.
I knew the implications of this were huge and I just did
not want to face it. But there they are in black and white.
And this is not a trivial matter. These are key gospel
truths that we are talking about here.

After writing the first version of this article, many people
wrote to me pointing out that the THIEF ON THE CROSS
was not baptized or Spirit-filled, yet he was clearly saved.
Please believe me, I had all these same objections when
I first came across this teaching. But God annihilated all
my excuses one by one. So let me deal with this "THIEF
ON THE CROSS" thing right here.

The most obvious question is:- When did this event occur -
was it under the OLD Covenant or the NEW Covenant?
When Jesus proffered salvation to the thief, was the Old
Covenant still in place, or had the New begun? For clearly,
it only became possible to become an actual CHRISTIAN
(-born again - a member of Christ's body) AFTER the New
Covenant had started. And for the New Covenant to begin,
Jesus, the sacrificial Lamb had to die and also be RAISED
FROM THE DEAD. The New Covenant could not begin
until this occurred. Surely we all know this? Jesus had to
die and be raised from the dead, and then ascend into
heaven, sending His Holy Spirit, before the Church could
truly begin or people could start becoming born-again
Christians. That is why people in the Old Testament, or
even in Jesus' own day were not "born again" the way we
are today. They simply couldn't be. Remember, Jesus
said that John the Baptist was the greatest born among
men, but even the least in the kingdom was greater than he.
John the Baptist couldn't become a "born-again Christian"
because the New Covenant had not yet begun. I bet he
would have loved the opportunity! Jesus died in agony and
was raised again, to purchase for us this wonderful new
life in Him. Surely we all know this? GLORY TO GOD!!

Now back to the thief. Did he have his conversation with
Jesus and die under the New Covenant or the Old? The
answer, obviously, is:- The OLD Covenant. He was
presumably a Jew - one of God's chosen people (though a
sinner), who received a wonderful pardon from Jesus when
he repented and turned to Him. But those were very
different conditions to those that we live under today. We
now have a NEW Covenant - a NEW "agreement" with
God, very different from the Old. We have a new and living
way in which to walk. How do we enter into it? By being
born again - of water and the Spirit. And this has only
been possible since Pentecost - the day the church
began. I am not saying that "death-bed repentance" is
not possible today. I'm sure that God has reached down
in His mercy many times to people who have turned to
Him when they were close to death. But these are
special cases. They are not the "norm" for New Testament
Christianity. Repentance, Baptism and receiving the Holy
Spirit are ESSENTIAL to enter into the New Covenant, I believe.

As I said, many people offer me their own views and
opinions on all this without truly studying the basic
Scriptures on the matter. It is important to remember that
fundamental doctrines are not about mere opinion. They
are about what the SCRIPTURES SAY. I tell you, I have
put MONTHS of study and prayer into this whole subject.
I could tell that it really was THAT important. I honestly
considered EVERYTHING - every angle I could find.
Please treat this with the seriousness that it is due. This
is a very crucial area. I believe these are SALVATION
issues that are being discussed here. And the case is
enormously strong. Just read the Scriptures. (-It should
take less than an hour to read through the Scriptures
highlighted above). I urge any of you who are the least bit
interested in this to PLEASE read those Scriptures.

I am well aware that 'doctrine' tends to be divisive by it's
very nature. And I know that I am taking a big risk talking
so openly about such a controversial teaching. I try and
keep right away from doctrinal debates in general. It is
only the most fundamental and important issues that
I bother making a fuss about. You will notice that even
though I run a 'Prophetic' site, there are no debates about
the 'Pre-trib'/ Post-trib positions or the exact meaning of
Daniel's 70 weeks, etc. I just find such debates pointless
and utterly dull, to be honest. I heard the arguments many
moons ago, and just cannot stomach any more. I have no
desire for nit-picking arguments. But the BIG issues, like
New Testament salvation and God's plan for His church -
these things I really do care about. For I believe the devil
is robbing us blind in some of these crucial areas. And
God wants to restore these truths to the church.

Just imagine for a moment that I am right, and baptism
and receiving the Holy Spirit are a lot more important
than we have been led to believe. Just think how many
thousands of believers around the world today have
received the Holy Spirit (including 'tongues') but have
simply not bothered getting baptized. After all, it's only
"symbolic", right? Or perhaps they say, "I got sprinkled
as a baby." I myself know many people in this exact
position. I think it's terrible, and I believe God does too.
Not to mention all the believers who still have not been
baptized in the Holy Spirit. Don't you think God's heart
aches over all this? Why do people ignore His commands?
Our church traditions and habitual patterns have a lot to
answer for in this area. This has got to change, my
friends. And I believe it will only change when the
underlying doctrines are challenged. But if I am right,
the devil will fight this all the way. He likes anything
that leaves believers impoverished or still chained up in
any way. This really is crucial doctrine, otherwise I simply
would not bother with it. I have really stuck my neck on
the line and risked my reputation over this. And I do not do so lightly.

I have been accused of being "legalistic" and 'majoring on
minor points' by a couple of readers. I really cannot see
this. As I have said, some doctrine is "straining at gnats"
and some is really crucial. I believe this issue falls into the
second category. Others accused me of being "too literal"!
(I had to laugh over this). Now this is basic Bible doctrine
we are talking about here, isn't it? Too literal? What on
earth else should we be?

Other readers accused me of believing in "baptismal
regeneration". This is not the case. I believe that
(1) Repentance, (2) Water-Baptism and (3) Receiving the
Holy Spirit, are ALL ESSENTIAL. I do not believe in
"baptismal" regeneration. These elements are all equally
important and we need to have all three to be able to call
ourselves 'New Testament Christians', as far as I can see.

Other readers have brought up the verse in Romans that
says "If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and
believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the
dead you will be saved" (Rom 10:9). Actually, a number
of theologians believe that this statement was used as a
kind of "baptismal confession" in the early church. I
remember a fellowship I was involved with years ago that
used it in exactly this way. To me, this verse "proves" little
doctrinally, either way. It needs to be put into context with
the WHOLE New Testament to gain the proper perspective
on it. I certainly don't see it as proof for 'asking Jesus into
our heart'.

One of the most serious allegations I have faced is that I
am preaching a kind of "justification by works" by saying
that baptism and receiving the Holy Spirit are so essential.
And that I am "adding to the gospel" and taking away
people's freedom like the Galatians!! Serious charges,
indeed. But let's look at this carefully. Is baptism a "work"
that I can do to myself? Is receiving the Holy Spirit a "work"?
I don't think so! These are initial experiences that are
'DONE TO US' or given to us - they're not things that we
can "DO" ourselves, as such. Can I baptize myself? No!
And isn't it a brief one-off act of simple faith and obedience
anyway? To me, baptism is no more a "work" than, say,
the act of "praying a sinner's prayer". The act of opening
one's mouth, moving one's jaws and praying is not seen as
a work. And neither should baptism be. They only take an
instant, after all. The real question is:- Is baptism a truly
spiritual act, or is it merely a symbolic ritual? That is the
real question. This also brings up the whole issue of
'convenience'. For we love neat little packages that are
comfortable and easy in this age, don't we? (-"Just asking
Jesus in"). And baptism is so wet and messy, we think.
But at the end of the day, what it boils down to is this:-
We have to make a decision between doing things the
Bible way and doing things the modern 'convenient' way.
It is that simple.

Now, onto something else that numerous people raised:-
Where does FAITH come into all this? Aren't we supposed
to be saved by FAITH? Absolutely! And faith is at a
premium right through this whole thing. What happens
when someone hears the gospel and BELIEVES it? (-A
crucially important moment). Are they automatically a
'Christian' now? Just through believing what they have
heard? Or do they have to act on that belief in some way
to become a Christian? Were the Jews who were 'cut to
the heart' when Peter preached at Pentecost automatically
Christians right then at that moment, or did they have to
DO something in FAITH to become Christians? Clearly, they
needed to DO something, because Peter told them, "Repent
and be baptized, and you will receive the gift of the Holy
Spirit." And it is clear that each one of these elements
involves the exercise of faith in Jesus.

However, I believe that when the Bible speaks of the
"faith that saves us", and being "JUSTIFIED BY FAITH",
it is speaking of the LIFE OF FAITH that we undertake
after we have become a Christian. It is 'WALKING IN
FAITH' day by day, moment by moment, after having
become a Christian that justifies us before God. It is the
covering of the blood of Jesus that hides our sin and
makes us clean in God's sight. If we are walking in faith,
covered by the blood, we are saved, and we must
continue to walk in it. And it is clear in the Scriptures
that it is only by the POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT that
we can walk in this kind of saving faith. This faith is a gift
from God -"Not of ourselves, lest anyone should boast..."
Like the love of God, this faith is shed abroad in our
hearts by the Holy Spirit, who is given to us. So how
can we obtain it without RECEIVING THE HOLY SPIRIT?
(-Which brings us back to Repentance, Baptism and
Receiving the Holy Spirit as our ESSENTIAL starting point in the faith).

Actually, a couple of readers mentioned something quite
interesting about baptism in the book of Acts. For it is
noticeable in Acts that everyone was baptized "IN THE
NAME OF THE LORD JESUS" or in the 'NAME OF
JESUS CHRIST'. Now most churches today baptize in
the name of the 'Father, Son and Holy Spirit', and I guess
this is a small point, but I believe that if they felt it was
important in Acts to speak the name of Jesus Christ
over people as they were baptized, then I should do it too.
I am not legalistic about the need for this, but personally
these days I baptize people "in the name of the Father
and the Son and the Holy Spirit, in the NAME OF
JESUS CHRIST". (-To make sure all the bases are
covered).

To sum up, it is my belief that God has been slowly
restoring truth to the church over the centuries since the
Dark Ages when so much had been lost. Luther's
Reformation saw the restoration of 'Justification by Faith',
the Anabaptists re-introduced baptism by immersion,
Wesley re-introduced the importance of the 'new birth',
and this century the Pentecostals re-discovered the
infilling of the Holy Spirit and spiritual gifts. (There have
been many other things over time also, but this is just a
simple overview). It is my belief that we are now at the
stage where God wishes to restore the church to her
true original glory, with all the basic doctrines and
practices, "church life" and the full original gospel, the
'five-fold' ministries, etc. -Everything. That is what is
about to occur in the coming Revival, I believe. And that
is another reason why I believe basic New Testament
doctrines are so important.

In past centuries, as now, the believers of that time
walked in the light that they had, and God will judge them
according to the light that was available to them. But now
it is time to see the church truly restored to fullness in
many areas. And it is going to be UNCOMFORTABLE,
and it will surely leave much "SHAKEN" in it's wake. A
new Reformation is coming, and it is important that it
leaves nothing undone that needs doing. Otherwise our
children are going to have to have a further Reformation
to correct all that we left undone. Let's make it as
complete as possible this time, shall we? For Christ
cannot return until a glorious Bride is made ready for
Him, without "spot or wrinkle or any such thing".
Surely we live in the days of the 'restoration of all
things' about which the Scriptures speak.

God bless you all.

Kindest regards in Christ,

Andrew Strom.


======================================

CHURCH BUILDINGS are NOT in the Bible
-by Andrew Strom.

This is a simple statement of fact: Church buildings are
not in the Bible. Period. They simply do not exist. They
are another invention of man. You can search the entire
New Testament from beginning to end and you will find
no mention of them at all. It was only after two
centuries, when the church was slowly giving way to
apostacy and deception, that church buildings began to
appear. Even then, they were often just two houses
joined together. It was not until after 300AD, when the
church fell into gross Roman apostacy, that "cathedrals"
began to be built.

A lot of people think that us having church buildings
today "doesn't really matter". -They say buildings are
kind-of 'neutral'. -That they don't really affect us. They
are just a building, after all.

But I disagree strongly with this. I believe there is a
whole mindset and a whole pattern of "learnt behaviour"
that goes with church buildings. We find this difficult to
see, because we are so used to them. But I believe
that they are VERY harmful and affect us in all kinds
of ways that we are not even aware of.

Below are some brief quotes from scholars and historians
who have looked into this subject:

"'We have no temples or altars.' This statement, referring
to Christians, comes from the pen of the apologist Minicus
Felix, c 200, and all evidence supports its accuracy.
Throughout at least the first two centuries there were no
church buildings as such" (-J.G. Davies).

"When the church was very young, it had no buildings.
Let us begin with that striking fact. That the church had
no buildings is the most noticeable of the points of
difference between the church of the early days and the
church of today. In the minds of most people today,
"church" means first a building, probably something else
second; but seldom does "the church" stand for anything
other than a building. Yet here is the fact with which we
start: the early church possessed no buildings and
carried on its work for a great many years without
erecting any." (-Ernest Loosley).

"The church�s greatest period of vitality and growth until
recent times was during the first two centuries A.D. In
other words, the church grew fastest when it did not
have the help or hindrance of church buildings."
(-Howard Snyder).

ANDREW STROM again: Isn't this a remarkable thing?
Here we are in the 21st Century, still pouring so much
money and pain and sacrifice into our buildings - and
yet the whole concept is not even in the Bible!

So how did the early believers gather together then? Well,
there are two answers to this. A lot of people in the
"house church" movement will tell you that the early
Christians simply met in homes. They are right, but that
is only half the story. For in the early church in Jerusalem
they not only met in homes, but the apostles also held
massive OPEN-AIR meetings every day. -Huge outdoor
gatherings.

Where did they hold these great open-air meetings? -In
a place called "Solomon's Porch" - which was in the
most crowded and well-travelled part of Jerusalem. In
fact, it was right "in the face" of hundreds and thousands
of people passing by on foot. Solomon's Porch was in
the 'Courtyard of the Gentiles' which was a huge open
courtyard (the size of 5 football fields) attached to the
main Temple. In a lot of ways it served as the "town
square" of Jerusalem. Hundreds upon hundreds of
people passed through it every day. And there they
could see the apostles, teaching and healing the sick
right in front of the whole world. What a great place for
Revival meetings!! (-Actually, this is where Jesus
preached when he was in Jerusalem also).

That is why I talk so often about an "outdoor church"
and a "street revival". The fact of the matter is that
the original church WAS an 'outdoor church'. But you
would never know it looking at today's church, would
you? What we do today is hide ourselves away from
the world - behind 'four walls' (which usually cost a
fortune to build). How sad. And how unscriptural.

Jesus' ministry was mostly in the open air. John the
Baptist's ministry was very much in the open air.
The Book of Acts church in Jerusalem was mostly
in the open air. But we are the very opposite. And it
is costing us millions each year to erect more "walls".
No wonder we don't impact the world like we should!

Apart from the huge outdoor gatherings, the only other
place that the early believers seemed to meet was in
homes. There they would gather most days, sharing
their lives with one another. -Eating and taking
communion together, praying, operating spiritual gifts
and teaching new converts. -A whole lifestyle of love
and community. That is what the early church was
like. And no "church buildings" in sight.

Read this carefully (-Acts 2:42-46, NIV):
"They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and
to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
Everyone was filled with awe and many wonders and
miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the
believers were together and had everything in common...
Every day they continued to meet together in the
temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate
together with glad and sincere hearts." (-See also
Acts 4:32-35, Acts 5:12-16, etc).

So now we can see why, all the way through the New
Testament, Paul speaks about the "church that meets
in so-and-so's house":- "To Archippus our fellow soldier
and to the church that meets in YOUR HOME" (Phile v 2);
"Aquila and Priscilla great you warmly in the Lord, and
so does the church that meets at THEIR HOUSE"
(1 Cor 16:19). See also Rom 16:5, Col 4:15, etc.

When you really look into it, you discover that the New
Testament Church was simply one huge network of
house churches - all united "as one". These were not
independent fellowships or denominations. They were
"one church" - one body - under the leadership of the
apostles. No divisions or separations at all. How very
different from today.

The Damage Being Done

So what harm is it doing - for our church life to be so
focused around church buildings today? -I believe it is
doing enormous harm. You cannot stray so far from the
New Testament pattern without it doing tremendous
damage. But we in the church have been living with
church buildings for so many centuries now that we
hardly even notice.

As Beckham wrote concerning the Roman influence
on today's church: "Using a combination of the Roman
governmental and feudal systems, Emporer Constantine
developed a church structure that has lasted for seventeen
centuries.... People go to a building (cathedral) on a
special day of the week (Sunday) and someone (a priest,
or today, a pastor) does something to them (teaching,
preaching, absolution or healing) or for them (a ritual or
entertainment) for a price (offerings)."

-This is the way the church has operated right through
the Dark Ages and up to now. All of the above comes
from Romanism, not from true Christianity. It cannot be
found in the New Testament at all. But today we accept
it as "normal". And it is robbing us blind. How deceived we are.

Here are the specific ways that I believe 'church buildings'
damage and ruin Christianity:
(1) Church buildings lock us "inside" - away from the world that we are called to reach. This one aspect alone is good enough reason to abandon them.

(2) They waste colossal sums of money - literally billions of dollars just in the USA alone. This often puts real "money pressure" on preachers and congregations alike. And it tends to make modern Christianity revolve around "money, money, money".

(3) Church buildings completely scramble our concept of what the "church" is. Many of us start to think of it as a BUILDING - instead of actual PEOPLE. We start to talk about "going to church" instead of realizing that "We ARE the church". This often leads to Christians leading two separate lives - their 'church' life and their "rest of the week" life. What a disaster! It also leads to all kinds of foolishness - such as referring to our building as 'The House of God' and treating it as 'holy', etc. No
end of confusion and deception revolve around all of this.

(4) The building is really the center of an entire mindset of "Religion" and error - dating from the Roman takeover of the church 1700 years ago. It is the CENTERPIECE of the deception.

(5) The very concept of separated, walled-off congregations - each in its own little 'box' - lends itself to denominations and divisions and sects. Separate church buildings are a very big factor in DIVIDING the Body of Christ today. If we can get out of the buildings, there will be far more unity.

(6) Just think of all the committees and boards and fund-raising and loans and accountants that we could get rid of - just by getting RID OF OUR BUILDINGS! This is the 'red tape' and the subtle "money" pressure that ties the church up with the affairs of this world rather than the true work of the kingdom. How clever the devil is.

(7) Instead of "going into all the world making disciples", what often ends up happening today is "going into all the world and erecting monoliths wherever we go." The energy and time and money wasted on these things is staggering.

(8) Above all else, the best argument against church buildings is this: They are NOT IN THE BIBLE.

At this point a lot of people ask questions like, "But what happens when the weather is bad?" or "What do we do during winter?" The answer is pretty simple: We hire a warehouse or a disused carpark or something for 4 months and go out again when the weather improves. We also have our HOMES to gather in, all year round.

Remember, the early church was very PRACTICAL about such things. If you need to hire some place temporarily then DO IT. But please do not get stuck in a church building!

I believe we are about to see a powerful move of God and a great 'SHAKING' in the church - that will bring her into the kind of glorious, united, OUTDOOR Christianity that we have been talking about here. Personally, I can't wait!

God bless you all.

Kindest regards in Christ,

Andrew Strom.
____________________
SOURCES:
-Ernest Loosley, "When The Church Was Young".
-J.G. Davies, "Secular Use of Church Buildings".
-Howard Snyder, "The Problem of Wineskins"
-Beckham, "Second Reformation".
- www.churchinfocus.org .
-Darryl M. Erkel, "Church Buildings or House-Churches?"
- www.housechurch.org , "Miscellaneous House Church Quotes".
-M. Brown, "Revolution in the Church".
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