As I encounter people I often get asked “Where do you go to church?” The grimaces that I receive in return as I explain that we don’t go to “church”, but that we have a home fellowship that we host are often hilarious. You can almost see them squirming in their skin as I attempt to answer their questions. Honestly, what is so disturbing about the idea of likeminded people meeting in a home to fellowship, worship, and study the scriptures? After all this is what the “church” in Acts did, right?
Acts 2:46-47 And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.
Still, with the example given us by our early church fathers, we are often looked at as rebels because we refuse to conform to the popular idea of what it means to “go to church”.
I have also found over time that most people are really not prepared, nor equipped to handle such an encounter without some level of awkwardness. Truth be told, they were probably just trying be polite or simply attempting to understand my theology based upon some denominational allegiance. But when my response doesn’t match an expected criteria, they simply don’t know how to respond. However, there are a few people that are intrigued and want to know more about what we do, and why. With those few, I revel the opportunity to share my faith and how God has literally transformed my life since we have come into The Way.
Just so everyone knows, I grew up in a spiritually dead Free Methodist church. Then after a period of ungodly living, and after a life altering event in my late twenties, I became involved with and faithfully served in several Baptist churches. I participated in the services, I preached, I visited the shut-ins and jails, and knocked countless doors like any good Baptist would. That was several years ago, and through a series of unfortunate events we began to experience a very dry spell, spiritually speaking, that lasted for almost three years.
Still struggling after moving back to Michigan, we sought out yet another church. Bouncing around for a while, we finally settled at a quirky little Baptist church on the side of town. It wasn’t much, and the people were a bit odd, but there was plenty of opportunity (at least in my mind). It was then that I really started to see a conflict between what I was reading in my Bible, and what I saw in the “church”. And it was then that we also went from the famine to straight up desolation.
After reviewing this last weeks parshah, I am reminded of Isaac as he crossed Canaan digging wells in dry places. For us it was those experiences in the spiritual desert and our desperation for truth that led us to just dig in, and start studying for ourselves. We still taught the teen class on Wednesdays, and I filled the pulpit when the pastor was out, or just needed a break. But as a family we started studying Moses and then the prophets, and quietly we began keeping the Sabbath. I’m still not sure how to explain, it but there was a supernatural calm that began to envelop our home on Shabbat as we sought to be obedient to our Heavenly Father, and thankfully it still does to this day. In Hebrew its called שָׁלוֹם Shalom.
Six months later it was time to cut the cord and finally say goodbye to the church for good. It was honestly harder for me than it was my wife. She was done with all the fakeness a long time ago. I was holding on to helping the few teens we had, and honestly, I needed the fellowship. But truth be told, we were a square peg in a round hole. And it was clear to me by that point that there was so much wrong with the nominal church that we could no longer out of good conscience participate in its folly. So, here we are a little over a year later with a small home fellowship, growing and learning like never before. We went from a barren desert, to a well-watered garden, lush with truth just waiting to be picked.
So, what does all this have to do with the church as a whole? Well honestly, a lot.
I am a nut for word studies. They are generally very fruitful, and given the fact that for the time being I cannot read Hebrew and Greek, I am limited to tools such as lexicons, dictionaries, and concordances. As limited as those tools may be, they have proven to be invaluable in my studies. I would recommend any serious Bible student to get a couple, and even invest in several Bible versions, compare, cross reference, and compare again. All translations have errors, and are influenced by the agendas of those doing the translations. So, tread carefully, pray and seek Gods guidance as you search the scriptures.
This is where the nominal church falls flat. They don’t teach their congregations to study, let alone instruct them to be as the Bereans and search out the things that they themselves teach. If they did I believe they would soon be out of a job.
It was not too long after our personal journey began that I happened upon this little verse in 1 John. I still find it odd (well not really) that I never heard much preaching done on First John. But as you will see, there is probably a good reason for that.
1 John 2:26-27 These things have I written unto you concerning them that seduce you. But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.
In this passage we see that John is plainly saying that we have no need for a teacher because, “him that abideth in you” (the Spirit of God) will teach us ALL THINGS. So, hold up… What’s the pastors job again? To teach us? Ahh, so that’s why I never heard a sermon on this passage. What is even more interesting is that John connects this truth with a warning about those that seek to seduce us or lead us astray, more on that later.
Now before I get attacked, I am not saying that every pastor out there is seeking to lead the people astray. I know that there are many well meaning “pastors” that preach their hearts out, but that doesn’t mean that they haven’t been deceived themselves. Trust me, I was there studying as a pastor’s assistant, just a blind as I could be. The truth is that most false teachings are passed on due to ignorance, presuppositions, and indoctrination. Howbeit, there are some that preach for personal gain and notoriety, but the vast majority, are simply passing on what they themselves have been taught.
Bottom line, we need to be lead by the Spirit, and we need to honestly, and humbly seek the truth, having faith that we may receive it.
Hebrews 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
Showing up once or twice a week to warm a pew is hardly diligently seeking, nor is it an act of faith. So simply attending a church does not qualify you to receive any further knowledge or reward from God. We have to want the truth, and to receive it, we have to approach God on His terms, not our own. I can personally testify to the fact that since coming to his place in my walk, I have never read, studied, prayed over, or searched the scriptures more than I do today. And I absolutely love it.
Now going back to the word study thing.
I would like to take this time to explain a few things about church history that you are not going to learn from your pastor, or your run of the mill seminary student. But that doesn’t make it any less historical or factual.
In our English translations of the Greek New Testament, the word “church” is a actually a horrible mistranslation. I’ll get into the origins of this word in a moment, but first I want to look at the words that are actually used in the original manuscripts. All through the Hebrew Tanakh (Old Testament) the main word used for the gathering of God’s people was called qahal.
קָהָל qâhâl, kaw-hawl’
from H6950; assemblage (usually concretely):—assembly, company, congregation, multitude.
In the Greek “New Testament” and even all throughout the Septuagint (the Greek rendering of the Hebrew Scriptures) this “gathering” it is referred to as the ekklesia.
ἐκκλησία ekklēsía, ek-klay-see’-ah
from a compound of G1537 and a derivative of G2564; a calling out, i.e. (concretely) a popular meeting, especially a religious congregation (Jewish synagogue, or Christian community of members on earth or saints in heaven or both):—assembly.
So why is the Greek word ekklesia translated as “Church” in the New Testament when it is also used in the Septuagint in place of the Hebrew word qahal, which is translated “gathered” in the “Old Testament”? Remember when I said that “All translations have errors, and are influenced by the agendas of those doing the translations“. Well this is a prime example. Unfortunately this mistranslation or rather substitution has led to some serious error in doctrine over the centuries.
By the time King James commissioned a new translation which we now call the KJV, it had been almost 600 years since Yeshua ascended after His resurrection and a lot had happed in that time. As the Gospel spread across the known world especially through Rome and Europe, it encountered a plethora of pagan practices and people steeped in idol worship. Among those, the major pagan practice that seemed to know no boundaries, cultural, geographical or otherwise, was sun worship.
Almost all cultures of that time had some form of sun worship. From the Greek Apollo, and Helios, the Sumerian, Ba’al, Tammuz and Ishtar, the Egyptian god Rah, and the Norse god Sol, the regions surrounding Judea were covered in a literal pantheon of false sun deities. So when Christianity came to Rome a struggle between Christianity and sun worship ensued, and led to the persecution of Christians throughout the Romans empire.
The influence of sun worship on Christianity can be seen even as early as 150AD. Just over a hundred years after our Messiah walked this earth many “church fathers” such as Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Cyprian, Jerome, Tertullian, Justin Martyr, and Irenaeus were already trying to justify the merging of sun worship with Christianity, and other various sun worshiping practices such as praying toward the east. Later in 313AD due to the constant struggle, Constantine issued the Edict of Milan which adopted a policy of universal religious freedom which basically ended the persecution of the Christians and gained him favor in their eyes.
Later in 321 and with his new found appreciation from the Christians, Constantine issued yet another edict that dedicated Sunday as a rest day in honor of the “Unconquered Sun” to take place of the biblical Sabbath. The “Unconquered Sun” was later referred to as “Christos Helios” or “Christ-the-True-Sun”. This order also brought with it a punishment for any that were caught working on Sunday. Later other orders were put in place that punished any caught “Judaizing” by keeping the Biblical Sabbath on the seventh day as God had commanded.
I don’t know about you, but just the similarities of the terms applied to a pagan god, and the terms used in reference to One that I have come to know as my Savior and God are way too similar. And I know by studying the Scriptures that God is jealous over His name, and will not tolerate mixed worship. So this made me dig in even further and that is where I discovered the origins to the English word “Church”.
It didn’t take long to realize that the word Church has absolutely nothing to do with a building or the gathering of people. But rather takes its roots from the old English/Anglo-Saxon word “circe”. So what is circe? Circe was known as the goddess-daughter of the sun god Helios. It is also where we get our word circle from which also relates to the circuit or path of the sun over the earth.
So why substitute “gathering” qahal in the Hebrew and ekklesia in the Greek with Church? Well by the fifth century the “church” had been so interwoven with sun worship practices that it was literally called the daughter of the sun.
Fast forward another two hundred years, and by the time the KJV was conceived, the amalgamation of sun worship and Christianity was so complete that the true Qahal was nearly nonexistent. Couple that with a growing hatred for anything Jewish and the results were inevitable.
At the council of Trent in 1562 the Archbishop of Reggio openly declared that the church traditions superseded the Scriptures, thus putting an end to the supreme authority that Scripture had over the church. And we see as history documents that they (the “church”) officially changed the Sabbath from the 7th day of the week to Sunday “the Venerable day of the Sun” or “Sol Invictus”. They did not do this by the authority of Scripture, (because that is a practice you will never find in scripture) but by their own self proclaimed authority.
Looking back, I hate that I even had a part in the “Church”. All modern denomination have their root in this adulterous marriage between pagan idol worship and true Christianity. We were, like many, engaged in that system in ignorance and with a true honest desire to know God and His ways. However, ignorance is no excuse, and neither is tradition. Like I said, YHVH will not tolerate mixed worship regardless of why it is done. We came out of the church prior to truly understanding the history behind it and what it really stood for, and now I am so grateful that we did.
So I will leave you with this one last truth. The true Qahal or Ekklesia of God isn’t a building, but a body, and it isn’t mixed with pagan practices, but keeps itself chase and pure. It is governed by the Supreme authority of the Word of God, and lead by His Ruach Hakodesh (set apart Spirit). We have no need for someone to be our head or teacher, because our Head is Yeshua. We have no need for an unbiblical tithe because we meet in homes rather than a large building that we cannot afford. Our members are our brothers and sisters, not just friends. We assemble before the God of creation on the day He appointed, in the manner that He ordained, in an effort to be pleasing and obedient to Him.
So no, I do not go to “church”, do you?