Fruitless Searches for a Church, and Our Online Outreach

Frequently I receive emails from Christians, most of whom have been or are being abused by an evil spouse and further oppressed by their churches for daring to expose the abuse and request justice…I receive emails from them in which in part of their story (by the way, I never tire of hearing your stories and you don’t need to apologize for them being long), includes their fruitless searching for a sound local church where Christ’s Word is genuinely taught and practiced. A church where the pastor and people are born again and really do love one another. A church where, well, where this is happening:

Heb 5:14 But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.

And so they look. They try. They get their hopes up and then Wham! There it is. The same old, same old, yada, yada teaching about how God loves everyone the same, how we are to love everyone the same, how all of us are sinners just like our abusers, how marriage and divorce are…., and you know how to complete that sentence. They find themselves traumatized once again, they get in the train wreck over and over, the fog of confusion grows thick once more, and the search goes on.

I can tell you that people like this search for YEARS and keep coming up empty for the most part. Once in a great while they will succeed and find the real remnant flock, but increasingly it seems that the odds of that are growing to the same as winning megabucks.

Recently I wrote a response to just such a person – a searcher – who had found our online outreach. One of you suggested that I post it here as a blog article as it may help others as well. So, here it is and I hope that it does help-

Dear ________:

I was thinking about what you said regarding the corrupt state of the churches today and how in your area there is a church on every street corner, but they are all just counterfeits. I can assure you that your analysis is quite accurate. I don’t say this so I can be self-righteous or because I am one of the types who just loves to run down other ministries and claim that I am “the only one” who has it right. I have seen those kind before and I never want to be like that.

But the truth of the matter is that the churches for the most part with rare exception are exactly as you describe. Over the years I have corresponded with people who have found my books or our blogs and livestreams of sermons and Bible studies, and they report exactly what you are saying. They looked and they looked and they looked. They tried and tried and tried…to find a sound church. Some of them even moved to other areas, and one in particular went to your area looking. Always the same. Usually sooner than later, their hopes were dashed as they realized the preaching and teaching was fluff. It was not sound, solid biblical truth taught AND applied. Sin was tolerated in the church. The pastor and other leaders really didn’t care about the people. When real truth was spoken, the person was shut down – it was too much of a threat to the system. And so these people moved on in their search.


One friend of mine in another state went through all of this. She was even a counselor on staff at a large church. But eventually they fired her for exposing wicked abusers sitting right in the pews and calling for them to confront that sin. They refused and they fired her. So she kept looking for a church. One after another. And then she wrote to me and said “I have been looking and looking, and it suddenly hit me – I have a church and a pastor.” And by that she meant us and our online outreach to the people of Christ who have been scattered by wolves. She plugged in as a member of our body online, follows the services and the Bible studies, communicates with me to share her questions and comments, and she is doing great. 


My purpose in writing all this to you is to encourage you by sharing with you that you could move to a new place (but as you say, you have no idea where), you could keep looking in those brick buildings on every corner for the real thing, in the end the common experience of the real Christians I know is – you are going to come up empty. At best what you are going to find, unless you happen to be as lucky as a lottery winner! – is shallowness and superficiality. Trite teachings that please the unregenerate person in the pews. God loves everyone the same. All of us are sinners just the same. God knows we aren’t perfect and He forgives us. We need to always forgive and reconcile with others. Salvation is easy. Most everyone who says they are a Christian is. And on and on it goes.

One person put it like this: “After listening to your sermons and Bible studies over the past few months I’ve realized that I have had no in depth teaching in the church I was in. Even the small groups I have been in there over the years have felt like the person leading was unqualified or it was nothing more than the nonsense of collecting everyone’s thoughts on verses – “what does that verse mean to me” – and it was useless.”

And this matter of no in depth preaching of the Word is not just a matter of shallowness in objective doctrine. No. It creates an environment where evil can take root, grow, parade as light, and attack the sheep. I see the online outreach to people like yourself as a valid, real, church. A ministry to the people of Christ who are scattered. We have been joined by wonderful people whose faith is real in Ohio, Tennessee, Indiana, Illinois, California, Michigan, Oregon, Scotland, the Netherlands, and more. And they love it.  They  communicate with me and in some cases now with one another. 
I write all of this just to encourage you and to let you know that you are very welcome to be a part of Christ’s church through these means without having to wear yourself out looking and being disappointed or hurt over and over again.

All you need do to join us is to let me know. If you are a real Christian who loves the Lord and yearns to know Him better and to obey Him better, then you are welcome.

Blessings in Christ,

Jeff

What Does a Real Church Look Like?

1 Kings 19:11-14 ESV  And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the LORD.” And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake.  (12)  And after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper.  (13)  And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”  (14)  He said, “I have been very jealous for the LORD, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.”

The lesson Elijah (and all of us) had to learn is this – just because we cannot see a hurricane, earthquake, or blazing fire of activity it does not mean that the Lord is not present and working. Elijah had seen God’s fire from heaven at Mt. Carmel, but now Jezebel was out to kill him and no heavenly inferno seems to be coming down on her. Elijah fled.

Now, we all know that many if not most local churches today are favorite venues for evil to oppress victims. Most of you have been through it yourself. The wicked are embraced and the oppressed are shown the door. It is quite typical for a domestic abuser to “serve the Lord” in a church where everyone believes he is a fine saintly man whose wife just pushed his buttons and then, poor man, she deserted him.

So it is very important that we see things as the Lord sees them and specifically here in this article I want to talk about the question, what does a real church look like? Or, I suppose it could be stated in the negative, what does a true church NOT look like?

Most professing Christians think they have the answer to these questions – but I am sure that they do not. They will answer, “a true church is a church that preaches the Word, exercises the sacraments, practices church discipline, and is shepherded by pastors and elders.’ That is the formal answer. But….what are most people really looking for “in a church”?

Recently I was looking on social media where I came across a church that belongs to the home missions organization I used to belong to. I spent some time looking around the site, especially at all the pictures they had posted there. And I was, I don’t know, I guess you could say “triggered.” What I mean is, I found myself as an outsider now looking in on a world I used to be part of. And what was that world like? Well, it was a world of activity. Of busy-ness. A world of full-range Sunday school classes, of choirs and solos, of committees and men and women’s ministries. There were summer picnics, campouts, and conferences. People standing up and giving their testimony of how they came to faith in Christ. There were connections with other churches and pastors and special services featuring a visiting speaker or music group. There was a mid-week or Sunday night youth group. It was a very active, busy, event-filled place, and everyone in it called it, the church.

I lived in that world and was a pastor in that world for years. It was a place where the hurricane, earthquake, and fire were sought. Why? Because everyone believed that unless they saw the Lord’s working, nothing was happening. So the pastor was expected to “produce.” When he couldn’t, people complained or grumbled or even left the place because, as they said, the Spirit wasn’t working there.

So I want to tell you something – I was triggered when I looked at those pictures because…I now know that in that world, the Lord wasn’t present at all. How do I know? Because behind the scenes, in the back of all that “holy busy-ness,” evil lurked. Most of the Christians there, weren’t. There was constant bickering and friction. In reality, regardless of all that activity, people were not truly coming to know Christ. And evildoers were tolerated, in the name of “grace.” Very, very few actually knew the Lord. As a result, it was a setting for the oppressed to be further oppressed and for oppressors to wear their Christian disguise.

I know now that the true church, a real church, is a remnant. I know that the Lord is always working in amazing ways, but like a gentle breeze that few even notice. The fact is, we walk by faith and not by sight. All of those programs and activities and “doings” that most professing Christians crave in a church are in fact after all plain old expressions of the flesh seeking gratification. And if anyone might doubt this, just read Revelation 2-3 and compare the church at Smyrna with the church at Laodicea.

Don’t Make Traditional Church an Idol – A Great Article by Sam Powell

Christ Reformation Church reaches out via an online format to many people who have been sorely treated by and even cast out of local churches. We invite any genuine Christians or those genuinely seeking to know Christ to plug into this resource, and we receive comments constantly thanking us for this ministry and outreach and how the people “out there” really do consider CRC to be their own church family.

I very much recommend to you the following blog post by Pastor Sam Powell which can be found here.  It is about how making a narrow model of “church” is akin to Baal worship, and he refutes the notion that alternate models of meeting together – such as an online format – are not permissible by God. Pastor Powell believes, as do I, in the local church and we maintain that when there is a true church available that we can belong to locally, we should do so. Everyone that I know who is part of this blog family here or who is a distant member of CRC via social media believes the same thing.

Continue reading “Don’t Make Traditional Church an Idol – A Great Article by Sam Powell”