May 17, 2007

The Church and Religious Substrates: Let There Be No Divisions In The Church

Now, dear brothers and sisters, I appeal to you by the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ

* To stop arguing among yourselves.
* Let there be real harmony so there won't be division in the church.
* I plead with you to be of one mind, united in thought and purpose.

For some members of Chloe's household have told me about your arguments, dear brothers and sisters.

* Some of you are saying, I am a follower of Paul.
* Others are saying, I follow Apollos, or I follow Peter, or I follow only Christ.
* Can Christ be divided into pieces?
* Was I Paul, crucified for you? Were any of you baptized in the name of Paul?

See 1 Cor. 11-14 - The Apostle Paul said…

I. How have substrates operating at religious centers affected each one of us?
God's people are hopelessly divided from their sisters and brothers in Christ because of demon-inspired/man-made constructs, inventions and conventions (that have been mixed in with our faith). In much the same way that our Federal Government is often hopelessly gridlocked, the church is in a similar predicament, it appears to be hopelessly divided.

In Congress for example, even though American citizens elect Representatives to Congress and the Senate during mid-term elections, by and large our Representative's voting choices are driven more by the political substrate that each member operates under, their respective Parties' (Democratic or Republican usually), than as a consequence of the will of the American people who placed them into office in the first place; the same individuals whom they are supposed to be representing. Our elected Representatives give more allegiance to their Political Party bosses (and will often vote in political blocs), whereby satisfying the desires of a Majority or Minority Leader or Party Whip. That is not the way that a Representative government, in a government for, of and by the people is supposed to work.

In much the same way as the Federal Government often fails to respond to the will of the majority of the American people, many religious groups and their leaders fail to be submitted to the will of God and to 'the Spirit' of God. And more often than not the direction that churches go in are decided more by some subdural quasi-spiritual layer operating from some remote location, and in some instances from a not so hidden secular layer that is visibly and invisibly operating at the church.

How is it that there is one God and one Spirit operating in all of the members, and driving all of the gifts in the body (See 1 Cor. 12:1-14 and Romans 12:4), and somehow we have ended up with so many denominations, sects, synods and different religious organizations, each having its own unique doctrine? One Lord, one faith and one baptism (see Eph. 4:4-6)? Father, make us one!

There are currently over 1500 religious denominations in America, all of which claim to represent one God, as well as over 300,000 congregations. And when we consider the rest of the world, and all of the religious organizations and religious groups, (not just Islam and Judaism) in the world, one can easily see that there is a hodgepodge of religions, and most of them purport to worship the one God.

I either stumbled across or was led to the book, A Secular Faith, written by Danny Hart, after I began writing on this subject--it is a must read. Mr. Hart wrote, "...both Protestants and Catholics claimed to be Christian and to follow the ethical teachings of Jesus Christ, and yet could find no basis for religious cooperation".

Now how does that jibe with those scriptures which teach us that there is one Spirit operating within the church (see above)? Based on the scriptures and the example posited by Danny Hart, could one conclude that either both our religious organizations and many individuals who claim to know God either do not really know God or they are simply not submitted to the Spirit of God? Anecdotally, we all plan to be 'one' when we get to heaven, in spite of the fact that we lack unanimity here 'in earth' (our human bodies), so how will we suddenly become one united group in heaven? All of us should recall that Satan and his group of fallen angels were removed from heaven given their unwillingness to submit unto God.

Now this statement will truly open up 'Pandora’s jar', and is bound to get a reaction from those intolerant believers, who hold that they have a monopoly on the truth. During an annual ecumenical prayer service that I recently attended, I worshipped with Rabbis, Imams, Priests, Pastors, Hindus, Jews, Christians and others-- and all of us managed, respectfully, to pray and honor God together. I believe that the highest activity of man is prayer.

1). How could one denigrate or forbid another human being from praying to God? The Pharisees did not believe that God (John 9) would hear a sinner’s prayer. Oh that men everywhere would lift up holy hand and pray unto God!

2). Why isn’t anyone, particularly the world’s religious organizations, attempting to address the problem, a problem which repels many individuals from coming to religious centers and to Christ at all? Because those who cause the divisions and create or build the manmade constructs, are either benefiting the most from having them in place, are intellectually lazy or too spiritually insensitive to realize that this is not what God expected from his 'one body membership'.

II. Our cities of churches and other religious organizations.
While visiting my birthplace during the spring of 2007, Akron, Ohio, I came face-to-face with one aspect of the topic 'Church Substrates' that I have been discussing in the blog. What I experienced in Akron was a microcosm of a larger phenomenon that has been and is taking place all over the nation if not the world. It is the phenomenon of institutionalized religious, denominationalism and sectarian substrates.

During my stay Akron, in addition to preaching I spent time trying to visit friends, relatives and acquaintances (mostly religious people) at several churches and cathedrals. I was even invited by one friend to visit and worship at Mosque #38, her place of worship, in addition to the Pentecostal, Apostolic, African Methodist Episcopal, Methodist, Non-denominational, Baptist and Independent churches that I visited.

What was so striking about what I observed was that each church that I visited, and I know that the Muslims believed the same way as the Christians believed, all of these religious groups had one thing in common -- each one purported to believe in the one true and living God.

It begs the following questions:

1). If there is only one God, how come God’s people won’t come together in harmony, under one banner (and that is not to exclude the Muslims or any other groups that purport to believe in the one true God)?
2). Why isn't there a burden by those who claim to know God to reconcile his body? I am speaking of those who claim to know the truth, evangelicals, fundamentalist groups, Pentecostals and others. The latter are as divided as any of the other religious groups that are parts of God’s universal body.
3). Are we experiencing the age of Pergamos, see John’s epistle to the Church at Pergamos (See Rev. 2:12-16)? Are God's people truly settled into the world, having habituated as well as adopted the ways of the world (Roberts Rules and all) as a substitute, to be used in place of God's providence and guidance?
4). And isn’t it truly amazing that monotheistic Christianity (Muslims don't believe that we are), and Monotheistic Islam, Judaism, the African Traditional Religions and other religions that purport to know the true and living God cannot come together and worship the one true and living God in unanimity?
Historically, we know how the separations and divisions came into being, however, that does not explain why all of God’s people cannot come together today, given that there is reportedly ‘one spirit’ working in all of us, the World Council of Churches and National Council of Churches not withstanding.
5). And what impact does our separation and infighting have upon those who are sincere about coming to or serving Christ, those who are genuinely confused about which brand, denomination or institution they should come to in order to pursue and worship God? As a result some aspirant will simply attend the religious center in their communities, or the one's that their parents, friends or other relatives attend, having given up on trying figuring out 'which one of these is the right one'. That brings us back to Paul's appeal in his epistle to the church at Corinth, Paul appealed to believers at Corinth by the authority of Jesus Christ to eliminate the man-made divisions, to stop the bickering and to be of one mind and united in thought.

III. In the annals of human-history, this is not a new phenomenon. According to what we read in history, humans have been conflicted about who, what, where and how to worship all along. And the reason for it is simple; it has to do with man's refusal to submit to God and to the word of God; just consider Cain and Abel. Cain brought a sacrifice of the fruit of the ground, and Abel brought a blood sacrifice. Even the purported followers of God have created a phalanx of man-made substrates that enables them to operate churches, mosques and synagogues, in a manner that pleases them rather than God.

I once read an advertisement on the internet, in it a church in Cleveland Ohio advertised a pastoral vacancy that they hoped to fill (as soon as possible). One of the primary requirements for the prospective pastoral candidates was that he or she be immersed in Baptist doctrine? I have seen numerous advertisements for pastors and teachers that are similar to this one on the Internet and in newspapers. What ever happened to the doctrine of Jesus Christ, I ponder within myself, each time I read this type of advertising?

Frankly, the doctrine of Jesus Christ has been supplanted even in Christian churches by all of our proprietary doctrines. Today’s minister has to have a doctrinal specialty. He must be immersed either in Apostolic, Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Catholic theology…, other doctrines or some 'dispensational theology' of someone else's choosing in order to be acceptable to certain denominations. It begs the question, should ministers be acceptable to denominations or unto God?

I am reminded of an injunction that God gave unto the prophet Ezekiel in the book of Ezekiel (3:1-11), also see 2 Tim 4:3. Ezekiel was told that he was being sent to a 'stiff-necked' people who were not going to listen to the message that was being sent from God. Timothy, in his charge that he received via the Apostle Paul, was told that there would be times that people are simply not going to endure sound doctrine, instead they would find teachers that they prefer listening to, who would tell them the things that they wanted to hear, as opposed to what God was saying to them. Now does that disqualify one from being a shepherd or minister that has been sent by God, because the people won’t receive the message sent by God?

If the leadership of today's churches and religious organization will not submit to God and his leading, than what can we expect from those who are taught to follow their leadership? I have had pastors confess in the past (from certain denominations), that they were not permitted to preach certain parts of God’s word in their churches. For in the final analysis, their church board members would fire them if they did. And I have had, on the other hand, members of churches come to me to inform me that their very well-respected pastors were curiously and unmistakably avoiding certain parts of God’s word!

IV. One Church with many Branches
At least 20 times a year, I worship at the National Cathedral in Washington DC. The National Cathedral is considered just as its name implies, America's national church. It is also known as The House of Prayer for All People. All people, especially American citizens are welcome to worship at the National Cathedral. And on many occasions, don't be surprised to find a mass (the College is actually made up of Episcopalian clerics), with protestant ministers, black and other gospel choirs (not to mention the Cathedral's own world-class choir and singers) or even the former President of the nation of Iran or other luminaries speaking at the Cathedral. Often when I sit in this venue and others like it, I wonder, why we all cannot simply get together. And I wonder why so many of us are not trying to get together? The folks at the National Cathedral are certainly willing to do so.

It is so interesting to hear the word read and preached in other venues, and most of the time it is the exact word read and preached at every other religious center that I have ever attended. It is amazing how much all of us really do have in common.

Some of the more profound sermons that I have ever heard preached were given at St. Mary's Cathedral in San Francisco, California, at a Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, also, in Akron Ohio and at the National Cathedral in Washington D.C.. I still recall the sermon title given by the minister at the CME church, it was entitled 'Jesus Christ in the Cosmos or The Four Horses of the Apocalypse'. At St. Mary's, the pastor provided us with a wonderful articulation of Job, chapter 32. The title of the sermon was, There is A Spirit in A Man, and I have heard a number of stirring and memorable sermons at the National Cathedral in Washington DC, too numerous to mention in this forum.

Albeit the liturgies were different than what I had been accustomed to, particularly the high services at the Cathedrals, it was still a worthwhile blessing just to know that I was attempting to worship with other members of God's flock. When I was an Administrator at Stanford University, I would frequently visit (when not preaching myself) and enjoy the splendor of the Stanford University Chapel. I would sit with other believers and simply meditate while enjoying the beautiful stained glass windows, mosaics, inscriptions on the walls and galleries in the Memorial Chapel. Another one of my favorite haunts on ‘Good Friday’ was and still is for that matter, the Carmel Mission in Monterey California. The Carmel Mission, despite some of its unpleasant history (Father Junipero Serra was somewhat unkind to the Native Americans), has a special spiritual aura about it for me. I would drive down to Monterey on each ‘Good Friday’, spent a part of the day at the Mission, and then attend other ‘Good Friday’ services in the area in a city named “Seaside”. I would usually end my day sitting and dining by the ocean in the city of Seaside or at Carmel!

Let’s look at it another way. The Apostles wrote epistles, and John in the book of Revelations referred to the churches in different cities and regions by their regional names. Neither he nor the other Apostles wrote to the Baptists, Gnostics, Pentecostals, Methodists, and Muslims and so on. The churches were referred, to given their geographical locations which were influenced by locale, geography, distance, political boundaries and barriers like the mountains and the seas. The latter prevented different groups from worshipping all at the same location, not to mention that the hundreds of new believers could not fit into one house or room.

As a result, in the Apostles time, churches were referred to with names like the church at Corinth, Galatia, Ephesus, and Colosse, Jerusalem and so on. However, make no mistake about it; all of the churches in their various locations comprised one church, the Church of Jesus Christ.

So I ask you, how come we can't have the church at Akron, Washington DC, San Francisco California and so on throughout the world? Keep in mind that many of the New Testament churches were set up in individual’s homes and on occasion in buildings or rooms that were suitable for assembly and worship. We know that there was not one exclusive location at Corinth, Galatia, Ephesus, Colosse, Jerusalem or elsewhere to worship, however, each branch was considered to be a part of one geographical church, and all churches, regardless of their locations comprised one church and one church only in that area.

Today, you have to work through a whole litany of terms to determine the type of church or religious center that you are worshipping with. Are we as hard-hearted or stiff-necked as the refugees at Chebar, that Ezekiel was sent to minister unto. Just consider for a minute the explosive Middle-East where 3 of the major religions of the world are centered, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Is there another region in the world as volatile as this region is whose composition is mostly religious people? In the words of that illustrious philosopher, Rodney King, can't we all just get along?

Similar to Akron and the many restaurants and food franchises that were located there in, there are a myriad of churches, denominations, mosques, synagogues and temples, in addition to Prelates, Bishops, Pastors, Overseers, Elders and Ministers representing different denominations, organizations, synods and councils in the majority of American cities. Each one is offering its own brand of spiritual cuisine and programs to suit your taste. And keep in mind that in many instances, many denominations bearing the same name have Bishops and Prelates presiding over churches, who do not have any affiliation with a cross-town Bishop of a denomination bearing an identical name. In fact, instead of working together many churches often compete against each other, or over the year’s exchange and shuffle members back and forth!

I can visit almost any city in America, for example, that has 50 Apostolic churches within that city, only to discover that clusters of Apostolic churches within that same locality belong to one organization that is presided over by one Bishop, that has nothing to do with an organization that is also Apostolic in origin that has another Bishop that is just down the street from the other. And the same is true of other denominations. Er herm, so why won’t these folks work together and cross-pollinate, and help bring souls to Christ using their combined spiritual and financial resources? Is it because each of these groups has their own agendas?

V. What keeps God's people (the actual temples of the Holy Ghost) separated? It is those human layers that been injected into God’s plan, and individuals who either do not know God at all or those who refuse to submit to God’s plan that keeps God's people separated. I don’t believe that God ever intended for this kind of separation to have a place in his body, even though he obviously tolerates it (probably because we will not resolve our differences). But what would be the state of the church, and how strong would we be 'if God's people were to humble themselves' and seek the face of the Lord, and submit their wills unto God's will?

Paul asked the members of the church in his epistle to the church of Corinth (1 Cor. 10-17) is Christ divided? Did Peter, me or anyone else die for you? Yes, Apollos of Alexandria was an excellent orator, however, did that mean that the members of Christ’s body should follow certain ministers and reject others based upon personal preference or ability? The Apostle Paul did not believe so and neither do I. Does it sound naive to propose that God’s people should be working to reunite God's disjointed church, and allow it to once again become one unified church? Why aren’t we doing so?

Just think of your own body. What good would it be if the legs, arms or other appendages were to separate themselves from the rest of the body. Some individuals are challenged as a result of members of their natural bodies being amputated. On the same token the spiritual body suffers because of all of the amputation that is taking place within the body of Christ. If a 'divided house' will not stand, well then, what about a body?

When I grew up in Akron Ohio, I always believed that the late Bishop Francis Smith, former Presiding Bishop of the Pentecostal Assemblies of the world had to have been ordained by God to be the Bishop of the church at Akron and beyond
(no matter what branch a congregant claimed to belong to). And even though I wasn't raised in the organization that he presided over, if he or any other minister of God for example were to tell me 'to jump', I would simply ask, how high? What made Bishop Smith so special? I believe that it was because of the Spirit of God operating within him, and his willingness to submit to it that made him so unique! In my mind if a man is Bishop of God, and I am a saint of God, I am supposed to submit to the man of God whether I am a part of his manmade organization or not.

Some would disagree with my conclusion just as they did with Moses and other of God’s leaders. Many wondered in Egypt, who made Moses a ruler over us, and many wondered the same throughout recorded Biblical history—who made you a ruler over me? Folks, what happened to the Old Testament injunction that God would supply ‘pastors’ according to his own heart? Or, has God provided and set aside pastors to preside over all of the different man-made denominations that we humans have created. I don’t believe so? What should be important to all church leaders and more emphasis should be placed on it, is not whether you please the people, but more importantly is whether or not God is pleased with you.

Are you recognized by God in the position that you hold on earth? And, followers of God should seek after the ones whom God has ordained and sent to preside over them. Then, if you are still rejected by the people, remember what God told Samuel when the Israelites requested a King, God said it was God that the people were actually rejecting. Many individuals today do not realize that when they reject God’s leader, the one whom he has sent, they are rejecting God. And this happens a lot more than we realize!

Houston, we have a problem on earth. I long for the day when I can enter into any city or place in the world, and step into any religious house or building and know that God is there, and that the group that I happen to be worshipping with at that time is one with the group down the street or across the street or across the world. For all places of worship should have one thing in common, Jesus Christ in the center of all of the candlesticks!

Why aren’t we working on it? And why won’t we permit it to happen? Some will say because we do not believe alike? Clearly that is a part of the problem, however, in terms of a solution, I believe that the real problem is that God’s people have not submitted to God, so that he can fill us with love, knowledge and understanding, whereby making us one.

Our human nature, that at times, takes pre-eminence over our spiritual nature (Romans 7), prefers a place to worship that is to our comfort, and a minister who is to our liking, someone like Apollos of scripture. Apollos was taken aside by Aquila and Priscilla, given that he did not have a full revelation, and he was only preaching what he knew at the time. He was eloquent, but limited. Many of God’s people today have selected eloquent but limited leaders to feed them.

And as a result man made layers, barriers and boundaries that keep us apart from our sisters and brothers in Christ as well as from fully understanding God’s word, thrive. Why? Because God’s people still have itching ears, and many of God's people, similar to those formerly at the Church at Corinth will only hear from those for whom they have a predilection.

Besides, if we were to unite as one and would permit ourselves to be placed under leaders (see Acts 13:2) that God has ordained to be over us and to feed us with knowledge and understanding, many of today's leaders would be out of the jobs (hirelings) that they fight so hard to hold on to. And the positions that they hold within the manmade religious substrates of today, would be done away with, along with the manmade substrates.

The way it stands, too many religious groups are still capturing men and women, enslaving them into human enclaves and fiefdoms. They are preventing them from doing what God wants, or rising to the level that God intended for them. In fact religious leaders of today, many times are guilty of inveigling God’s people into being subject to some manmade organizational layer, instead of teaching them to submit to the leading and to the will of God. Jesus asked the lame man, will thou be made whole?

Have I come full circle on this topic? I don't know, God keeps giving me more to write! As I close, I asked God several decades ago, why there was so much division within our churches. He referred me to 1 Corinthian 8:1-3), his answer to me was, because they seek an answer in theology/knowledge and not in love! Love humbles us; however, knowledge puffs us up, causing us to believe that our superior intellect, understanding and conclusions are more valuable than they really are. Whereas love, will remove the barriers and the substrates which divide us!

Peace & Grace
Rev. C. Solomon

As Jesus once questioned Peter about his motives, I am convinced that there are quite a few mainstream religious groups and organizations in America (many bearing Christian names) that we really need to be concerned about. What spirit are they really of, I ask? For the weapons of our warfare, are not carnal weapons. You will be shocked by some of the names on this list, however, here are the names of some mainstream American political/religious substrate organizations that are on my list that I believe that we should all be keeping an eye on, whether you are a member of one of these groups or not:

The Army of God
The Council for National Policy
The Eagle Forum
The Family Research Council
Focus on the Family
The Rutherford Institute
The National Association of Evangelicals

The Heritage Foundation
Concerned Women for America
The Religious Right/Christian Right
The Moral Majority
Name Watch
Operation Rescue

Higher Education Facilities
Bob Jones University
Liberty University
Regents University

The Prince & Merill foundation
The Makinac Center for Public Policy
The Christian Broadcasting Network
The Southern Baptist Convention (now split)
The Christian Coalition

The Institute for Christian Economics

Volumes, Tomes or Books by
Rousas Rushdooney and other Dominionists and Reconstructionist e.g. Institutes of Biblical Law

My concern about each of these groups is whether or not their real motives have any basis in agape love, or whether they are a result of a misguided love for their own cultural/political constructs, or misinterpretations, misrepresentations and misappropriations of the scriptures that have been mixed in with pseudo-faith. I suspect that their true motivations are as a result of the latter which is a form of an unfortunate but willing deception. Instead of solving problems using Godly methods, they have abandoned the methods of God and have instead substituted carnal political tactics and strategies in order to accomplish their own heartfelt and mostly carnal objectives.

Despite all appearances to the contrary, particularly given the size of their ranks, I am reminded of scriptures which read that any man that does not have the spirit of Christ is none of his. I have frankly not sensed the spirit of God from many in their leadership ranks, and that is to include Pat Robertson, the late Jerry Falwell, Tony Perkins, Tim LeHaye, Dr. Dobson and many others who are in leadership roles within these religio-secularist organizations. In my opinion, these folks, if they ever knew God at all, lost faith in God's ways a long time ago, and instead they have set about to establish their 'own righteousness' in the earth by employing carnal weapons.

Time, I believe, will confirm that these people are not of God and that instead they are being guided by the spirit of error, and as a result they have gone about to establish their own form of righteousness (just as Israel did and is doing), using self-devised carnal tactics that has been coupled with self-righteous zeal. I believe that these purported angels of light, as well as their accomplices will be exposed in time as a major part of Satan's scheme to further dilute and persecute the church of God, as well as to deceive the world if not God's very elect. And some of God's elect, seem to already have been deceived.

I believe that the groups mentioned here and others that I did not mention, and their partnerships with Satan will result in the earth's institutionalized church receiving its final knockout blow - who will believe in Christianity when they are finished? Similar to the Apostle Paul and prior to his transformation on the road to Damascus, many of these individuals who purport to be fighting for God will be exposed instead for persecuting the church and for 'fighting against God', his people and his plan of salvation for all of humankind!

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