PART 2 – JUST SO YOU KNOW – THIS IS NOT AN EKKLESIA by Doug Krieger
When I was in training in the US military, we “endured” hour after hour of indoctrination on survival and how to eliminate (aka “kill”) the enemy—an ethnic group I had never met in my life! Since I never was much of a “killer” it became obvious to the management (although I was given a medal as a “sharp shooter”), I’d better serve the “cause” if I were placed behind (at the time) a typewriter, rather than a rifle; although that option remained a present danger for me and all of us. I was impressed, however, with the overall success of the indoctrination, coupled with the intensity of the schedule—putting it mildly, the US military had it down; they knew what worked and what didn’t. Indeed, we were involved in a major “group think” effort that boggled the mind; and, if you from time to time “got out of line,” you would quickly be reminded through various activities that put you back on course, lest you forget how, where, when, why and in what manner you should be acting! A somewhat unforgettable experience. The distinction between one’s “ministry” and the Ekklesia experience must be kept in view here. If you would, the “civilian life” is akin to the Ekklesia; whereas military training can be likened to “ministry.” I know, a shockingly stark illustration—but it serves the purpose. There is a difference—a somewhat immense difference, come to think of it. The ministry experienced at a Bible Institute, for example, is done in accordance with the dictum of that school—whereas, the schedule of someone who longs for the experience of Ekklesia should be very different. If you find yourself grossly involved in what purports to be an Ekklesia, enduring hour after hour of “training” and lectures from the “group’s” leadership—you’re probably not in an Ekklesia, but engrossed in someone’s ministry. Now, if the leadership of said group is clever enough—they will try to align your little Ekklesia experience with that of their ministry’s experience. Let me illustrate: Initially, you find yourself at someone’s home gathering; let’s say, and after several hours of casual eating, accompanied by fellowship, prayer, worship, along with some Bible study shared by a multiplicity of brethren – then a “ministry hour” is held by an instructor of sorts. There’s clearly a demarcation in the timing of said “teaching”—and it is even declared as a time of “ministry” by the brother teaching. That may certainly take place; however, may I suggest that the proximity to an Ekklesia-style gathering—that is, “ministry” immediately following, by dent of its timing—inadvertently demands those gathering for the Ekklesia wherein all may share “one by one” and where “each one has” are not subjected (if you would) to the singularity of someone’s ministry. NOT FAIR! Why do I say this? Because the very purpose of a gathering of the Ekklesia is designed for general participation and contribution—whereas, the purpose of ministry is for (now don’t get upset with me here) INDOCTRINATION or, better said, personal edification by a pastor-teacher, evangelist, apostle, and/or even a prophet. Again, don’t get me wrong here. Gifted members of the Body of Christ—apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors-teachers – or those identified as “workers of miracles” or having “gifts of healing” (1 Cor. 12:29-30) or other manifestations such as “a word of wisdom” or “the word of knowledge” or the manifestation of “faith” or of “tongues and interpretation” (1 Cor. 12:4-11)—such gifts and gifted ones can and should be manifested in part and/or in whole at a gathering of the Ekklesia – but the overall “appearance” of an Ekklesia gathering is not eclipsed by the endeavors of gifted ones nor of any one gift so manifesting! Thus, the proximity of a “minister/ministry” adjacent to an Ekklesia-style gathering should be avoided. God’s people need to come to grips with: “For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function . . . having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, LET US USE THEM: if prophecy, LET US PROPHESY in proportion to our faith; or ministry, LET US USE IT in our ministering; who who teaches, IN TEACHING; he who exhorts, IN EXHORTATION; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, WITH DILIGENCE; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness” (Rom. 12:5-8). How will the Ekklesia have growing participation if, once again, the “pulpit/pew” becomes the norm? How will God’s people learn to FUNCTION if there is not abundant opportunity to do so. The Body of Christ has MANY MEMBERS and they all do NOT have the same function; however, the way things are today one should consider the current expression of the Body is this HUGE MOUTH committed to the pastor/priest-teacher who is given the main platform at all our “services”—services, which we will soon discover in a later chapter, have their roots in Medieval Christianity wherein tradition has bound us all! Let me clarify: An evangelist does not leave his/her gift at the door upon entering an Ekklesia-style gathering. For example, the ministry of a gifted prophet will from time to time within the context of an Ekklesia manifest his/her gift. I can’t imagine that Philip, the Evangelist, and his four virgin daughters . . . “. . . the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, and stayed with him. Now this man had four virgin daughters who prophesied” (Acts 21:8-9) simply sat around without exercising their gifts of evangelism and prophetic utterance while gathering with the saints in Philip’s house? Do you think? I doubt you could shut them up—for these gifted ones would “minister” whenever and wherever they found themselves . . . but, again, there’s a time and place for such “indoctrination” and/or singularity of the manifestation of a gift. How About “Deliverance Ministry?” Incidentally, issues of “deliverance” and of “casting out of demons” within the context of the New Testament experience, aside from the gospels (Matt. 4:23-24; Mark 5; Luke 9-10); and some mentioning in Acts 19:13-20; and although . . . “These signs shall follow them that believe” (Mark 16:17, KJV). “The Lord working with them and confirming the word with signs following” (Mark 16:20, KJV). The deliverance ministry is intended to follow the teaching and preaching of the cross. (I am aware that the validity of the texts just cited is questioned by some, but the principles inherent in them are underlined elsewhere in the Scripture: Acts 8:1-7; 1 Corinthians 2:1-5; Hebrews 2:4.) (From: “Dangers in the Deliverance Ministry” by K. Neill Foster of the Alliance World Fellowship) . . . . . . such “deliverance ministry” is virtually non-existent within the context of an Ekklesia gathering and is certainly not mentioned, per se, as one of the “manifestations of the Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:7). Tragically, there are some who use Paul’s recitation of: “My preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power” (1 Corinthians 2:4) to highlight their own abilities; thereby, gaining authority and blatant control over their adherents.
YOU SHOULD BE UNDER MY REPUTABLE COVERING
The “indoctrination” of “specialized teachings” and “ministry” which draw attention to the gift—not the Giver—borders at times on idolatry whereby just as Simon Magus (Acts 8:9-24) sought to obtain the power of the Holy Spirit akin to Peter’s empowerment, and was summarily chastised for such a foolhardy effort, parallels those who justify their own efforts to “desire spiritual gifts” (1 Cor. 14:1) not realizing we should “especially” seek after the spiritual gift to “prophesy” (1 Cor. 14:1) for “he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men” – and this is spoken of immediately after Paul’s “more excellent way” of LOVE in 1 Cor. 13! Frankly, if anyone “stands out” at an Ekklesia, it should be inadvertent. ALL CAN PROPHESY—not just an elite few. That smarts with the Simon Magus types and may do some damage to the ego of certain gifted ones—but the “atmosphere” of an Ekklesia IS THE EKKLESIA, not Simon Magus, nor Doug Krieger, nor any one superlative individual with the gift of healing or someone running around prophesying over folks . . . can you follow me? Our attention should be focused upon the Lord Jesus Christ. I find it a bit disconcerting to behold the “ministry of deliverance” DURING an Ekklesia and the apparent “Special Knowledge” accorded the “exorcist” to perform the exorcism. Whenever such “specialists” show up to exercise their spiritual gift, it should be done without fanfare and without drawing attention to either the individual being exorcised and, especially, not to the one(s) involved in the deliverance. Again, if such “manifestations” were accorded such prominence, then why is this “alleged gift” of deliverance wholly omitted from the only abundant example found of an Ekklesia gathering in the New Testament—i.e., 1 Corinthians 11-14? Think about it. “Once Saved Always Saved” in our Church, Group, Click You can readily tell you’re not gathering as an Ekklesia if your big or little group somehow has achieved “exclusive rights” for doling out “salvation tickets.” In other words, you can’t participate in the “salvation raffle” unless you get a ticket at the door of the gathering—once you get a ticket, you enter into the bliss of our corner on salvation . . . but, once you leave the group by “hook or by crook” you leave your salvation experience. Some “churches” out there have the uncanny notion that without formal membership in their group—either through “confirmation” – “baptism” or some other methodology—you’re not saved, you’re not a part of the “chosen few” – because you haven’t been initiated into the group—THAT IS NOT AN EKKLESIA! Some churches actually initiate formal membership as a “covenant procedure” whereby the would-be member undergoes, not only a membership class, but must SIGN a document (virtually in blood) whereby they promise to swear allegiance to that particular church—somehow that church is able to squeeze such a “covenant relationship” out of their Bible’s amplified version. I am bemused at Protestants who accord as much, even at times more, significance to the “salvation experience” confined to their church roles—i.e., unless you are a member of “my church” you are not likely to experience heaven’s bliss! Face it: A doctrine, a church, a group of individuals did NOT save you, a Person did, and His Name is Jesus, having wrought so great a salvation by giving you the New Birth by the Spirit of Him Who raised Christ from the dead! As they say: “Being born in a barn doesn’t make you a chicken” - even so, being “born into the church” does not a Christian make. It is the Holy Spirit Who anoints and chooses—not the “Church of the Immaculate Perception” nor some “all-seeing Eye.” Playing God and determining who is and isn’t worthy of salvation is idolatrous. Jeremiah 17:10 still stands today: “I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give every man according to his ways, According to the fruit of his doings.” We don’t determine salvation’s gift—“it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph. 2:8-9).
“MY CHURCH CANNOT SAVE ME AND YOUR CHURCH CANNOT SAVE YOU”
Yet, what is all the more tragic is when you think you have arrived at the real experience of Ekklesia and find when someone “leaves the group” and then is shunned by the group’s members or is “distanced” through innuendo or rumor. “Where’s brother so-and-so?” “Oh, he had ‘issues’ and refused to SUBMIT or ‘go along with the ministry’ of brother so-and-so.” The somewhat slanderous use of 1 John 2:19 is often used out of context: “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.” The above verse immediately follows: “Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour” (1 John 2:19). Do you see the connection? The ones leaving are directly connected to the spirit of Antichrist. So, why not attach that onerous label upon the person who leaves your “Ekklesia” by insinuating they left because they were ANTICHRIST? Can it get that bad? Yes sir! Any group which has such an “exodus” of an individual who finds themselves outside of a given group of believers, aside from overt sin and an unrepentant heart, and is adjudged by the group as some kind of Antichrist, is NOT an Ekklesia! And, if the group or “church” deigns to place a “curse” on any of its “followers” if they are to fellowship elsewhere or simply “go out into the world”—they have NOT the Spirit of Christ with such derogatory declarations foisted upon ex-members. Christians Who Sue Their Brothers and Sisters We might, at this juncture, for doctrinal reasons, disassociate ourselves as evangelicals from overt “cults” as the Mormons or Jehovah Witnesses but have you ever noticed: They do NOT sue their critics for defamation of their “churches” and/or “organizations?” “Libel” is a difficult thing to prove in a court of law—but Christians who practice and justify clamping down on their critics by going after them via expensive lawsuits to the point of financially breaking those who oppose them—has absolutely nothing to do with Christ and is NOT an Ekklesia in any sense of the word. We can dance around 1 Corinthians 6 all we want – but the plain text is unequivocal: “Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints? Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters . . . Now therefore, it is already an utter failure for you that you go to law against one another. Why do you not rather accept wrong? Why do you not rather let yourselves be cheated? No, you yourselves do wrong and cheat, and you do these things to your brethren!” (1 Cor. 6:1-11 excerpts). If your “Ekklesia experience” is involved in such lawsuits toward other Christians, I suggest you leave posthaste no matter what justifications are used by that group’s leadership if they persist in going to court with other believers! Clump Mentality If what’s keeping your Ekklesia or “group” together is a set of peculiarities, policies and “ways and means” dribbling down from a “council of ecclesiastical brethren”—however they are tagged (“the caring brethren” – “the council of 12” – “the united front” – “the 12 apostles of the church” – the “eldership” – the “board of deacons” – “those in authority” – “the blended few” – “the tribunal speaking on behalf of the Trinity”) – it’s probably NOT an Ekklesia.
WHAT’S UP WITH THE GUY NOT DOING THE “HEIL HITLER?”
A “ministry” may have its oversight board which can justify the anointing of a new member into their ministry—but know this: “But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and YOU ALL KNOW all things . . . but the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him” (1 John 2:20, 27). I would be safe to state, such an “anointing from the Holy One” and YOU ALL KNOW ALL THINGS is intrinsically connected to the Ekklesia and is NOT consigned to any one ministry. Yes, it is the sole criteria for participation in an Ekklesia. Now, when Paul and Barnabas got to their impasse over the “profitability for the ministry” concerning John-Mark . . . THAT was a separate matter, having nothing whatsoever to do with the Ekklesia, but having everything to do with a ministry (Acts 15:36-41). John-Mark and Barnabas were NOT “kicked out” of the Ekklesia—“they departed from them . . . and had not gone with them to the work” (Acts 15:38). That’s as far as it goes—you cannot be removed from the Ekklesia aside from overt sinful practice (1 Cor. 5:1-13). The Witch Who Broke Up Our Gathering I once was involved in a most wondrous Ekklesia-style gathering of believers which eventually included nigh unto 300 or so brethren who gathered on Thursday mornings in what was called “the Upper Room” at a local business. The gathering grew to such an extent that they had to move the proceedings to a local community hall—meetings were held on Thursday morning and/or evening and then on Saturday evenings. A problem arose in the group—which group truly was an “Ekklesia experience.” A “witch” came into the assembly and would neither repent nor leave the gathering of the saints—in point of fact had joined herself to one of the “worship teams” in the leading of worship, praise, singing, etc. When several prophets and intercessors of the gathering objected to the witch’s participation (and she was overtly confronted with her designation and did not deny her affection of the same), a would-be exorcism was held both formally and informally by accomplished brethren known to have such ministry—but to no avail—she would not give up her identification as a witch! Now, something so stark a contrast between “light and darkness” should have been more than apparent . . . it was to some . . . but to others it was seen as both a challenge to the “spiritual prowess” of the Ekklesia, as well as a matter of manifesting the “Lord’s patient love” toward the witch in wooing her to the Savior! I know—but you would have had to have been there to understand the “dynamic” taking place among those trying to deal with this “problem” or “challenge”—however you wished to view it. Tragically, the once vibrant group of nigh 300 discontinued its gatherings, became divided over how to deal with the witch—and everyone went their own way.
A WITCH JOINS THE WORSHIP GROUP
You might say, at the same time, that the “internal policies” of the members (there was no formal membership—all who “called upon the Lord” were included and seen as “full members” of this Ekklesia experience) were not administered with a “heavy hand”—liberality was given to all. The leadership of the group was most benign—“rewards and losses” were NOT discriminate—i.e., the more you cooperated with the group, the more you were accorded greater responsibility and position . . . such was NOT the case. No . . . there was little “manifestation” of an ecclesiastical authority apparent in the group. There were, however, those who appeared to be “genuine” as it declares in 1 Corinthians: “I hear that there are divisions among you, and in part I believe it. For there must also be factions among you, that those who are genuine (“approved”) may be manifest among you” (1 Cor. 11:18-19). Such genuine brethren were most definitely present, but when “push came to shove” – the witch had her way – the saints collapsed under the “gates of Hades” – although, some would say otherwise and viewed the disintegration of the experience as naught but a “season” and thus we “moved on.” Now, you might say that a “heavy hand” or “formal authority” is needed in a “Church setting”—you can’t have an Ekklesia unless and until you have formal authority controlling the environment or such things as a “witch” coming into a group will blow it up! That, however, is not what the Scriptures suggest when an Ekklesia occurs—no “heavy hand” or “authority” wrought by human instrumentality is to eclipse the gathering. Again, “factions” (not “factious” individuals) are NECESSARY, so that those who are “genuine” or “approved” might be evident, or manifested (1 Cor. 11:19). If you don’t have such factions—then those who are “genuine” have little opportunity to “manifest.” In the case of the witch, those who had the capacity to manifest, simply recoiled, and did not do their “genuine” obligation to “keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3). If we do not “endeavor” (lit. Strong’s G#4704 “spoudazo” – “to make [an] effort, be prompt or earnest – to hasten to do a thing, to exert oneself, endeavor, give diligence”) – then you can kiss the “unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” goodbye! What that means is this: If you come to a gathering and are but an observer—and not a participant—i.e., do not “have a stake” in what’s going on . . . then you can simply “stand from afar” and observe the happenings but you’re really not all that concerned as to what is happening because you’re not making any earnest effort “to hasten to do a thing” nor are you “exerting, endeavoring, nor giving diligence” to affect the situation for a better result. It’s like a “Good Samaritan Law” where you see an “accident” or “tragedy” taking place and take a position of “indifference”—walking away from doing anything about it. In certain jurisdictions, if you react in this manner, you can literally be prosecuted by the authorities and be charged for your lack of intervention. “Clump mentality” is a most dangerous commodity afflicting a would-be Ekklesia experience. We are simply NOT all the same; to wit: “There are diversities (lit. “allotments or various kinds”) of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all” (1 Cor. 12:4-6). Ekklesia Under Strict Eldership Guidelines There is a genuine desire on the part of some ministers of the gospel—gifted ones—to foster a greater desire for God’s people to enjoy Ekklesia-style gatherings. Yes, this should be encouraged; however, the minister(s) must remember and embrace the “equipping of the saints” is for “the work of the ministry . . . for the building up of the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:12). The notion that one is equipping the saints for the “building up of my own ministry” is antithetical to the essence of the functioning position of the gifted ones. May I give a stern, and grossly misunderstood, warning: Leave well-enough alone! The “ministerial tendency” is to treat the Ekklesia and/or those entering into the experience of true Ekklesia (it’s both a “verb” and a “noun”) as one’s pet who needs training—but even (hate to use the illustration) an animal will not forget its training. Once trained—the dog will more than serve another master . . . are we humans far superior to the animal kingdom? Ministers who keep a tight grip upon “Ekklesia” via “centrality of control” (e.g., an area-wide eldership) are walking on a very thin “Ekklesia-ice shield” apt to cave in at any moment. This is NOT what is in view in the New Testament—rather, a much more fluid expression which meets from house-to-house or wherever allowing God’s people to come together “on their own” and at their “own timing” to gather around Christ. Our problem as ministers, pastors-teachers is this: We can’t leave well-enough alone—we simply will NOT allow the saints to “grow up into in all things into Him who is the head—Christ . . . to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:15, 13). Instead, we have this idea that the success of any ministry is its multiplication, not its duplication. Holding the Head (Eph. 4:15 - lit. “speaking the truth” means “holding the reality”), even Christ, is one thing . . . holding on to the saints for the sake of “my ministry” is wholly something else. Brethren, we are NOT building “our ministry” we are building “a dwelling place of God in the Spirit” - “a holy temple in the Lord” - upon “the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord” (Eph. 2:20-22). Notwithstanding, preacher after preacher is under the erroneous concept that a good shepherd of the sheep must be responsible. True—to a point. Notwithstanding, isn’t it time to grow up as well into Him, Who is the head, IN ALL THINGS? If we cannot entrust His people to the Great Shepherd of the Sheep (Heb. 13:20), we just might be missing the mark. If a minister insists he is to “Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers (lit. “caring ones”) not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being masters over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock” (1 Peter 5:2-3), then he better well examine his “example to the flock” is not that of a “master” nor is it for “dishonest gain” but is a caring and most willing endeavor—nothing compulsory here (this isn’t some “job”). Caring for the flock is not the MASTER of the flock. The best illustration is the growth of one’s own family—the kids grow up—they still respect their parents and love being with them . . . but these kids are “on their own” notwithstanding the “extended family” ties. THEY HAVE TO GROW UP—and the parents must allow them to do so. Holding “tight reigns” over a network of Ekklesia is, in a word, dangerous. The Ekklesia is NOT like any “social network” - membership is universal and able to “meet and greet” at a moment’s notice. It’s not the minister’s personal “fiefdom.” Each “expression of the Body of Christ” wherever it gathers should be under the headship of Christ, the Head of His One Body. The “churches” or “lampstands” of Revelation 2-3 were all different—yet their “communion” was universal—they were all GOLDEN LAMPSTANDS—each with their own approbations and criticisms (5 of the 7) from the Son of Man in their midst. Incidentally, they were all golden—even Thyatira. Attempting to make your “network of Ekklesia” uniform is NOT the model of the New Testament—may be your model but not that of the NT. Conformity and uniformity is NOT the NT model . . . UNITY with DIVERSITY is the model. We are NOT advocating bedlam but we are advocating “organized chaos” - let me example once more: This is NOT a “controlled burn” - it’s a WILDFIRE. We simply cannot “organize the move of the Spirit” - it’s a waste of “spiritual energy” to “consolidate” God’s people who by very dent of the Lord’s declaration were told to EVANGELIZE THE ENTIRE EARTH. If you are somewhat familiar with the lot of the original apostles of the Lamb . . . virtually all were martyred and were scattered to the four winds—especially, after their disbursement from Jerusalem prior to its demise in 70 AD. To say the very least—their “organization skills” were fairly loose - they were too busy keeping the “main thing” the “main thing.” “Get out of your Mind” – “Stop thinking” – “That’s of the Flesh” “Cognitive Dissonance” is mental discomfort (psychological stress) experienced by a person who holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values. To coup with this “disorder” one must compensate by, in the main, avoiding one’s normal critical thinking skills which are contrary to the “group think” which has been most likely instilled into the group by the leader or cabal at the helm.
GET OUT OF YOUR MIND
If you’re not thinking the way the group thinks about “spiritual matters”—i.e., “what constitutes spirituality” as explained by the “teachings of the master instructor”—cognitive dissonance will undoubtedly set in . . . you’ll have to accommodate, adjust—GET OUT OF YOUR MIND—and start thinking like the group thinks or you’ll be ostracized from the group. Such a phenomena is NOT an Ekklesia experience. I’m not suggesting that we should not be all of the same mind; as in: “Fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind” . . . but listen to the rest of this admonition: “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. LET THIS MIND be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Phil. 2:2-8). Having the “mind of Christ” is altogether different than the “mindless meanderings” suggested by the phrase: “Get out of your mind.” The Bible does NOT encourage mindless adherence to anyone—it does encourage us to have “the mind of Christ” and to THINK SOBERLY as members of the same One Body of Christ: “For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another . . . having then GIFTS DIFFERING according to the grace that is given to us” (Rom. 12:3-6). Please notice—“all the members do not have the same function – individually members of one another – gifts differing.” All this to say we’re not a bunch of mindless followers. There is incredible variety in the Body of Christ—we’re not all the same in function, not even in the portion of grace given to each member! Don’t be shocked if someone enters your Ekklesia experience and is wholly different than you or shares a completely “out of the box” doctrinal leaning. “Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” does not mean we set aside our mental faculties in order to be “one in the spirit.” Thinking soberly suggests we should “sober up” and not act like a bunch of drunks. I’ve had the distinct privilege of witnessing a “drunken brawl” – no one is in their right mind. Having an opinion during a drunken brawl is NOT occurring in the minds of anyone. Grief, I sat next to a brother at an Ekklesia gathering the other day, who told us he had “three angels” with whom he was most familiar; and who “ministered” to him from time to time. He was most aware of their ministry. I’m thinking: SAY WHAT!? Then, again, what do I know. My dear shirt-tale relative at age 96 (or was it 97?) just had a glorious salvation experience after our prayers on his behalf nigh fifty years or more. How? Well, two angelic beings showed up in his little home (out building) up at the ranch near the old farm house—he clearly saw them and described them in detail. Although I couldn’t tell his story with precise accuracy—suffice it to say, their “message” to him was clear . . . it generated great faith in him to believe the Savior’s claims and he accepted Jesus as Savior and Lord—has read nearly all the Bible and written a 50,000-word book on his experience; all the while witnessing to all his relatives and friends of his encounter with the Living God via angelic messengers. So, what do I know? Talk about “getting out of your mind!” It is one thing to encourage dependence upon the Lord and quite another thing to deny there’s a “right and a wrong” – or there is “good and there is evil.” Adam and Eve partook of the “Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil” wherein, like God, they could discern the difference and thereby stay away from the evil and choose the good. Suggesting one’s partaking of the “Tree of Life” has nothing to do with “good and evil” is preposterous and can and has led to countless indiscretions where “leaders of the group” inform the unsuspecting lambs to choose LIFE (i.e., the leader’s interpretation of what is and what is not life) and to suggest otherwise is nothing but the “Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil” – No, no, no—THAT is not an Ekklesia experience! If someone’s ministry participates in “evil” (monetary or moral, for example) and it is overlooked “for the sake of the ministry” – and then attempts to justify such error by stating those who detest such evil—are unable to tolerate it—are IN THEIR MINDS (ipso facto partaking of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil) – such “leadership” is from the pit of hell itself! If you’re suffering from such cognitive dissonance, I suggest (a) you FLEE that group or (b) confront the evil within it—and, if the leadership will not hear you, and “turn from their wicked tolerance (i.e., “ways”),” then go back to point (a). “Hit the Road Jack . . . and Don’t you come back, no more, no more, no more, no more” Dis-fellowship, isolation, shunning of former members of what claims to be His One Body, the Ekklesia, is at variance to the Word of God. The ONLY reason why someone can be dis-fellowshipped from the Ekklesia is overt and unrepentant sin, witchcraft, and obvious divisiveness (they cause brother to turn against brother) . . .
“But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner—not even to eat with such a person . . . ‘put away from yourselves the evil person’” (1 Cor. 5:11, 13). But, again, what if this “evil person” repents? “But if anyone has caused grief, he has not grieved me, but all of you to some extent—not to be too severe. This punishment which was inflicted by the majority is sufficient for such a man, so that, on the contrary, you ought rather to forgive and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one be swallowed up with too much sorrow. Therefore I urge you to reaffirm your love to him . . . lest Satan should take advantage of us, for we are not ignorant of his devices” (2 Cor. 1:5-11). Being “ignorant of Satan’s devices” has a whole lot to do with excluding a repentant brother for whatever reason; normally, “to teach him a lesson” and “make him an example” to the flock . . . better not do what this brother did or you’ll suffer the same fate! How tenderhearted is that bunch! Instead of “restoring such a one in the spirit of meekness, considering yourself [lest you also be tempted]” (Gal. 6:1) you/we, instead, take the attitude of the so-called leadership and exclude the penitent from our fellowship—taking our que from the noble leadership who have discerned the guilt of the former member and deem him altogether unworthy of our presence . . . this is naught but “cruel and unusual punishment” not worthy of any Ekklesia. Of late, I’ve had the opportunity and challenge to witness “shunning” by family members of a father who was caught in a moral failure (aka “sin”). Actually, several brothers “caught” in this manner. Certain family members (the more devout as it turns out) and entire churches, have excluded these brothers from their immediate fellowship; although they have repented, and have undergone disciplinary action by various brethren who wished to restore them to fellowship. Both brothers have repented—even with tears—to other brothers who “earnestly care for their estate.” The “overtaken in a fault” demands a response—but such a response must be done in accordance with “Scriptural intent.” Then, of course, there are those who despite the penitent brother’s actions and desire for restoration—refuse to grant restoration because they “sense there is something else” going on . . . so they keep the brother under a form of suspicion, which borders on condemnation. Frankly, brethren who take such a “spiritual attitude” toward their brethren and refuse to embrace them in faith (viz., the brother overtaken in a fault), expose themselves to Satan’s devices; they have become IGNORANT of Satan’s devices and are now vulnerable to the wiles of the Devil! Why? Because they are NOT accepting the repentant brother at “face value.” We are NOT told to accept “such an one” at arms’ length—but to receive him in love, just as God, for Christ’s sake, has forgiven us. What’s even worse is when certain brethren embrace the penitent and are then identified as complicit in the penitent’s fault—in other words, the REAL PROBLEM are those who “side with the penitent” (even after his repentance) and refuse to “teach him a lesson” concerning faithfulness to the Lord. They are accused of “compromise” because they have genuinely embraced the brother or sought to restore “such an one” through diligent fellowship and various forms of discipline—allowing (in the minds of their accusers) additional “undisclosed sin” to fester inside the “evil brother” . . . for with certainty they suppose if there’s that much smoke “in there” then surely, secret fires lurk therein! Thus, not only is the original one who is “taken in a fault” under cloak of suspicion, but now those who would forgive such an one are worse than the original brother overtaken in the fault. So clever are the devices of the Wicked One. “Boys will be Boys and Girls will be Girls” – and then there are “dress codes” Maybe I should keep these items separate; but they do have common warning signs which are enemies to the gathering of the Ekklesia. When any group superimposes some restriction above and beyond the roles of male or female, of brother and sister, in a group; well then, there’s probably something haywire going on. What do you mean by that crack? Ever notice certain groups are altogether enamored with 1 Corinthians 11:3-15 but just don’t seem to make it to 1 Corinthians 11:16? “But if anyone seems to be contentious, we have no such custom, nor do the churches of God.” The word “contentious” is taken from the Greek word, philoneikos (Strong’s G#5380, taken from G#5384 “denoting loved, dear, or friendly” and means: “a quarrel, fond of strife, disputations, contentious” – in other words, “love to quarrel” “fond of strife” and love to involve themselves with “disputations”).
CONFORMITY IS THE ONLY REAL FASHION CRIME
Some folks can’t stop telling the boys and girls their God-ordained roles in the Ekklesia—be it length of hair, dress, speech, ad nausea, ad infinitude. Could it be they LOVE TO BE CONTENTIOUS? Forbid! Again, I again bring up the Evangelist Philip and his four virgin daughters who are identified as prophesying (Acts 21:9). Do you think they were spouting off to themselves and “sharing” exclusively at the ladies home circle? Don’t think so. You can read into it what you may but the fact they were all prophesying ought to tell us something about women speaking forth on behalf of the Lord . . . sufficient enough to get themselves written up in the book of the Acts. What is it we don’t get here: ALL CAN PROPHESY (except the women) – EACH ONE HAS (except the women) – “ONE BY ONE” (women excluded) - there are diversities of gifts, ministries, activities (all of which exclude women) – I could go on but I think you get the gist of it. Sorry (no I’m not), a “male dominated” assembly can so easily lead to “sexual exploitation of women”—of that, there can be little denial—there’s just too much “proof” to go around! And, insofar as everyone looking alike . . . well, allow me to ask what’s this business of everyone in the group dressing alike – worse, when we come to a gathering for some inexplicable reason, we have to wear our “Sunday best” to be “in the House of the Lord?” Where did we get that one from? First, we’re too casual and expect everyone to dress casual and then we conform to all married men must wear a white shirt and a skinny black tie; and all women married or single must wear doilies atop their head at the gatherings – and, if they don’t, I’m going to get very CONTENTIOUS! What’s bizarre is to see women dressing in prairie garb as if we’re living in the Nineteenth Century. Everyone has their notion on what constitutes “modest apparel” – fine, try to keep it to yourself, please. Once we all start looking alike, forbid we deny we’re not some denomination. In point of fact, I am well aware of certain, beloved brethren who vociferously oppose the title of a denomination and go out of their way to deny they are a faction when in reality they all dress the same—men in black and women in “dress blues” just off the prairie, with little bonnets . . . but “we’re not a denomination” – oh, really – who knew? And, what’s with the hair? An entire denomination—well beloved—and truly “born from above” demands that the men look just like they got out of a military boot camp—with hair perfectly croft and slicked down so that not one hair is out of place . . . while the women have these little buns affixed to their hair and every time they comb their hair, and some comes out (as is normal), they literally save it and blend it into the bun in the back. Some of the buns are huge—just so you know (I know, too much information here.).
WHAT’S WITH THE BEARDED ONES?
Then the guys are insufferable and look like they just got out of the Pale of Settlement in Eastern Europe somewhere with beards galore. He who doesn’t have a beard is “other worldly” when “this worldly” bunch of bearded brethren know who’s in and who’s out of the group. Utterly noteworthy – right? If your Ekklesia experience has “a little of this and a little of that” – e.g., some bearded ones, some with cool haircuts, and some bald, some with long dresses, and some with white shirts and ties, and some with sandals, and some who just got back from a wedding—IT DOESN’T MATTER A TWIT! It may be your “custom” – then again it “may not.” Whatever, it is has little to do with the fellowship of the saints and keeping the “unity of the Spirit in the uniting bond of peace!” If you, however, think that by “dressing like the elders” makes you a candidate for “greater things than these shall ye do” – let me disabuse you of such grandeur. Playing the part “does not you the part make.” In a way, I hate to end this two-part series with these verses . . . but Jesus isn’t fooling around when it comes to outward appearances: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness” (Matt. 23:25-28). I genuinely hope we can all have a truly wondrous Ekklesia experience—for we are the Body of Christ and MEMBERS IN PARTICULAR . . . NOT PARTICULAR MEMBERS. Got it? Hope so.