12 March 2010 (Shleshi/Kippur)
Avoiding Bad Christian Communities
I don't want to get into a debate on theology today or to get in the minutae of doctrine. There are very few sound Christian congregations today and people regularly ask me who they should fellowship with because we don't exist in their area or country. Many Messianics in particular feel that they should not fellowship with evangelicals because they don't honour the Sabbath, use the Divine Names, etc.. I believe, however, that Yahweh has other priorities.
When I visit my home village in England I usually go to a small independent evangelical church. There are no messianic congregations in the area and even if there were there would be no guarantee that they aren't heretical. Many are. Over the years I have rotated between an Anglican, Methodist, Baptist, charismatic and an indepedent (non-charismatic) evangelical assembly. The Anglican and Methodist churches are spiritually dead (sadly), the charismatics are into their usual theatrics, leaving a choice between the Baptists and Independent Evangelical. The Baptist Church has grown large and impersonal so after several years of trying them out I go the Independent Evangelical. What did I base my decision on? And might I change my mind again? To the second question, I have to say that I might change depending where the Ruach (Spirit) is operating. To the first question I hope these guidelines may help you. Here are some things to watch out for:
These are things to avoid. As I said, this is not by any means an exhaustive list. You need to make your own in searching for a good congregation. Try not to be so strict that you will never be able to find any kind of fellowship or be too liberal that you end up having your faith watered-down. You may find a congregation which has none of these faults but which is nevertheless spiritually dead. And maybe your calling is to go to it and infuse it with some spiritual life! Remember, you exist not simply to be blessed and served but to bless and serve yourself!
- 1. False Doctrine. Here we have to be a little flexible because the chances are you'll never find a church or assembly which agrees 100% with the doctrine you believe in. It's a question of finding a congregation which you agree with on the essentials of salvation. And of course, it is essential that you listen to Yahweh and go where He sends you. I am sure your list will vary from mine (and mine is not exhaustive), but these are what I consider to be the main serious false doctrines to avoid:
- 1. Salvation by good works;
- 2. Yah'shua/Jesus is one of many ways to Elohim (God);
- 3. There is no heaven or hell;
- 4. That Yah'shua/Jesus is not Elohim/God;
- 5. We have to go through a charismatic leader to get to, or be blessed by, Elohim/God.
- 2. Occult Teachings. So many churches are embracing occult teachings and practices such as New Age theology, reincarnation, meditation, spirit-channelling, astrology, spiritism (contacting the dead);
- 3. Psychology and Positive Thinking. Many churches incorporate humanist thinking into their teachings and practices. They are 'seeker-friendly' and make the believer or investigator the centre of attention instead of Yahweh. They put psychology (self) before the plain teaching of Scripture. Look for a community that puts Yahweh first;
- 4. Sinful-Lifestyles. Many congregations tolerate or endorse sinful lifestyles that are fobidden by scripture including homosexuality, non-covenantal marriage practices and sexual cohabitation;
- 5. Disrespect for the Bible. These congregations take away from, twist or ignore what is plainly written in Scripture. Some churches even depart entirely from the Bible, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of demons;
- 6. Controlling. Some churches and messianic assemblies are very controlling, requiring approval from leadership for everyday decisions (e.g. car and house purchases, relationships, etc.);
- 7. Abusive Leadership. Many churches and messianic assemblies have abusive and mean-spirited leaders who vent their frustrations upon the sheep. They use the pulpit to 'beat' the congregation into submitting to things that are not the will of Yahweh (such as paying money for prophecies). They strangle all individuality and terrorise the congregation with condemnation;
- 8. Steamrolling the Boundaries. Many congregation leaders steamroll the boundaries of family government, break up marriages, alienate family members and destroy entire households (e.g. demanding that all women submit to men - wives and daughters are to submit only to the husbands and fathers - where the proper pattern is being observed, a minister will speak to the husband and father who alone has the right and responsibility to discipline).
What about positive things? Some of the positive and spiritually healthy things I would be looking for would probably include whether it:
Wherever you are, Yahweh will lead you to fellowship, whether with a congregation or just a few dedicated disciples. Don't let differences blind you to what is common and good.
- 1. Is wholeheartedly open to the whole Body of Messiah/Christ;
- 2. Maintains strong unity and a spirit of faith (the 'Joshua and Caleb spirit');
- 3. Majors on essential doctrines and minors on the non-essentials (e.g. not condemning people to hell who don't use the Divine Names or accusing those who observe the festivals as being 'legalistic');
- 4. The congregation is filled with the love of Elohim/God (a major essential);
- 5. Has a local, national and international vision;
- 6. Has the five-fold ministry - apostolic, prophetic, evangelic (missionary/witnessing), pastoral and teaching (Eph.4:12-13);
- 7. Balances regular biblical corrections with loving edification and encouragement;
- 8. Is open to the Leading of the Ruach haQodesh / Holy Spirit;
- 9. Makes decisions by prayer and seeking Yahweh;
- 10. Deals swiftly with blatant sin in the congregation;
- 11. Is fervent in spirit;
- 12. Teaches how to overcome the flesh, world and demonic spirits;
- 13. Teaches financial stewardship (tithing), giving and receiving;
- 14. Lays on hands for the sick;
- 15. Is open to all races, colours and peoples;
- 16. Has an evangelism program with a positive impact on the surrounding community;
- 17. Takes care of the hungry, widows, etc.;
- 18. Shows no partiality;
- 19. Encourages a balanced mixture of individuality and community;
- 20. Helps develop your calling;
- 21. Teaches you to hear Yahweh for yourself; and
- 21. Stays on the cutting edge of what Yahweh is doing on the earth, resulting in continuous growth in quality and quantity.