If you’ve been a born-again believer for any length of time, you’ll have personally experienced what I call the “split personality” or “tale of two churches” characteristic of Christianity. I’m not talking about the Catholic/Protestant divide or the countless denominations that have since arisen because of that divide; I’m talking about God’s Church and the worldly church.
These are the two Christian churches co-existing today. I could call them the “real” church and the “fake” church, but that would be a misrepresentation, as both churches are real. I know, because, even as a born-again believer and card-carrying member of God’s Church, I actively participated in worldly churches.
I don’t anymore.
Worldly churches are, as their name implies, focused on the world, whereas God’s Church is very much focused on God’s Kingdom.
CHARACTERISTICS OF WORLDLY CHURCHES
Worldly churches are all about “inclusion” of everyone, regardless of whether or not they’re actually followers of Jesus or even want to be followers of Jesus. They have an open-doors policy, and the church leaders are rarely (if ever) born-again.
Worldly churches are all about the nuclear family and (other than for Catholic churches) are usually headed by married ministers with a wife or husband and a brood of children.
Worldly churches have mission statements, creeds, and “What We Believe” statements to advertise their belief system.
Worldly churches stress the importance of generously donating to the church (for which, they promise, you’ll get blessings from God and a tax receipt) and to various affiliated registered charity organizations (for which they also promise you’ll get blessings from God and a tax receipt).
Worldly churches are headed by professional preachers who preach for a paycheck, benefits, and a retirement package and who might not preach if they weren’t getting these things. This doesn’t mean they’re not good at their job; it just means that preaching is, in fact, a job to them rather than an extension of who they are.
Worldly churches generally serve as a community center more than a place of worship, making them social clubs rather than faith communities.
CHARACTERISTICS OF GOD’S CHURCH
God’s Church is the collective of born-again souls whose full membership is known to God alone. You cannot get into God’s Church unless you’re born-again.
God’s Church is 100% based on the teachings of Jesus Christ and the example Jesus showed us of how to live our lives. In other words, how Jesus lived his life on Earth is precisely how people in God’s Church should live their lives. The “What We Believe” of God’s Church is the Bible.
God’s Church holds that those who are considered worthy of the Kingdom don’t marry (aren’t a spouse) and don’t give in marriage (aren’t a parent), and that a Christian’s real family are those who do the will of God.
God’s Church holds that you cannot serve God and mammon. Charity is to be done low-keyed and anonymously, with no expectation of a tax receipt.
God’s Church is headed by preachers who do not expect to be paid for their services. These preachers consider it a privilege and a joy to preach the Word of God and do it willingly and for free.
God’s Church is solely for worship and fellowship in God’s Kingdom and is “in service” 24/7 wherever a born-again believer is.
Again – I would not call the worldly church a fake church. I was heavily involved in a worldly church for three and a half years after I was born again (even had a key to one, I was there so often), and the worldly church served its purpose of feeding me and surrounding me with the Word of God. However, when I was spiritually old enough to feed myself, God got me out of the worldly church and into his Church full-time. I won’t be going back again to the worldly church as a member, in the same way, after I graduated from High School, I didn’t go back to Grade 10 again. Going back wouldn’t make any sense.
Although the worldly church is, in many ways, opposite to God’s church, it still plays the role of a transitional zone between the world and God’s Kingdom. It forms a kind of spiritual bridge, and in that it is useful. However, the aim should be to move people across the bridge as quickly as possible into God’s Church, not stall them indefinitely in the worldly church, admiring the view.
The worldly church fulfills believers’ desire to be with other people who believe and gives them a readily accessible framework of “to do’s”, but it can also become a trap that keeps them from achieving full fellowship in God’s Church, as the worldly church’s focus is still the world and the world’s systems.
If you participate in a worldly church, be warned of its limitations. Jesus used the synagogues to preach the Word, even outing himself as the Messiah in one of them, but he didn’t use any of them as a home base. Those of us who are born-again are also invited by God to use the worldly churches as a place to preach the Word and share the Good News of the Kingdom. However, we should not become participants in those churches; we should instead pass through them and use them just as Jesus passed through and used the synagogues.
Keep in mind that, even as it’s unadvisable to participate in the worldly churches, the people in them definitely do need to hear from us: they need to hear that there’s SOMETHING MORE than just what is being served up in the worldly churches as Christianity. Jesus condemned the leadership of the synagogues for being hypocrites, but he didn’t condemn the people. He called them “lost sheep”, and bringing the lost sheep into the fold (God’s Church) was the primary focus of his ministry work.
The aim is to guide people across the transitional bridge of worldly churches into the light of God’s one true Church of born-again believers, like Jesus did. Jesus taught his disciples to become leaders who, once graced with the Spirit, themselves were able to teach disciples to become leaders who, once graced with the Spirit, themselves were able to teach disciples to become leaders, and so on, and so on, all the way up to us today.
Our mission, then, is to continue this work of teaching and leadership-building started by Jesus, and we do this from the position of God’s Church, using the worldly church as our resource.