You Are Being Warned

The following was posted in the comments section of my post “Clearly Some Don’t Want To Understand”.

[https://onesimusfiles.wordpress.com/2014/06/13/clearly-some-dont-want-to-understand/]

 

Just in case it’s overlooked, being in such an out of the way place, I’ll post the following statement, (made against me) so people can consider its warning. Although after the warning I will point out the serious inaccuracy near the beginning.

 

FOLKS WHO ARE READING THIS “Please wake up. This man basically with one or two days or weeks of exceptions, hasn’t even attended church for 25 years and he’s trying to be your Christian spiritual guide. This man will lead you right into the abyss if you don’t smarten up and see the deception. Just read the mocking self-righteous tone he exhibits in all his writings. If any of you readers have actually stopped attending church because of the man’s writings, I strongly implore you to delete this man’s blog from your bookmarks immediately, and find yourself a good Christian church and join it and begin worshipping the Lord in a church setting and fellowshipping A.S.A.P!! As your final proof, just review the remarks he makes, both on this blog, and follow the link to Derek Leman’s blog at the top of this page and read the comments he made there. And finally, let this man’s final remarks to my comments here be your guide as to whether he is a real Christian or not. God be with you.

 

 

Serious inaccuracy:

 

It is claimed that I have not “attended church” for 25 years apart from “one or two days or weeks of exceptions”. Considering that for 15 of those years I was going through a “spiritual crisis” a time when I was struggling with extreme doubt, maybe we can reduce that to 10 years.

 

And could we please take into account the time when my faith was starting to be restored and I spent months checking out churches in my local area, visiting local ministers followed by months of attending home fellowship meetings? And then I moved to a new town and started the minister-meeting process again.

 

And what about the six months at the charismatic fellowship that ended when the fellowship’s devotion to the charismania of the TACF became prominent (TAFC is the church responsible for the “Toronto Blessing”)? And the year and a half at the traditional denominational church that ended when their Calvinist leanings were pushed more to the fore?

 

And where ought I have gone next? The Pentecostal church influenced by word of faith and the NAR? (NAR – Peter Wagner’s New Apostolic Reformation) Or the new group in town that my research indicates have a cult-like nature? Or maybe for appearance-sake I should just turn up at the High Anglican or Roman Catholic churches or one of the remaining denominational groups that meet for services for one hour a week? I suppose it all depends on what one considers to be a real church and what is actually Christian fellowship.

 

Yes, in recent years I have spent far more time away from institutional churches than I’ve spent in them, but FAR more than the claimed “one or two days or weeks”. And I’ve spent more time interacting with other believers outside of the bricks and mortar than I was able to while attending Sunday services.

 

If there was a suitable Christian group around here I’d be happy to join with them. If you are blessed to be part of a thriving and nurturing fellowship focused on Jesus – thank God for it.

My situation hasn’t been hidden from readers of this blog or the forums where I’ve contributed, but if my lack of “church” attendance offends any reader of this blog, they are free to shun me.

 

As for the rest of the claims made in the above warning, I invite you to read more of the comments section at the above link so you can make a more informed judgement of the accusations being made.

 

Then you can decide whether:

1)     I’m trying to be your spiritual guide.

2)     I’m leading anyone into the abyss,

3)     I’m a deceiver.

4)     I’ve exhibited a mocking self-righteous tone

5)     I’ve encouraged others to stop attending “church”.

 

And the countless other claims being made by “endtimedelusion”.

What Ever Happened to … ?

I saw this on the TV on Sunday evening. (about 1/2 hour)

 http://www.abc.net.au/compass/s3795778.htm

It is mainly about Harry Westcott, a man who played a massive part in my Christian life through the 80s.

mamreHe led (leads) a group called Vision Ministries. In the early 1980s I started their Bible College correspondence course and completed about half of the requirements for their lowest qualification (certificate of theology – or something like that). I went along to a lot of their big events in Sydney to hear speakers like Colin Urquhart, Benson Idahosa, TL & Daisy Osborn and others. David Pawson was a regular speaker but I never got to hear him in person.

Vision Ministries started to hold Saturday night meetings in Parramatta and I drove there from Wollongong as often as I could to attend, taking a few friends along each time. It was about a four hour round trip.

At those meetings I met a woman called Jackie Hamill, a very friendly God-loving woman who always made my friends and I feel very welcome. She was a full time student at the Vision Bible College. Whenever I went to a Vision event she was often the first to greet me. She later gave her life for the Lord, becoming the only literal martyr I’ve known personally.

She went on a mission trip to the Philippines, was taken hostage while visiting a prison and was raped and shot . (see here for more information  http://onefiles.blogspot.co.nz/2009/08/martyrdom-of-friend.html)

dishYears afterwards I found that Harry Westcott entered his own period of spiritual crisis in the late 80s (around the time my own crisis began). He left Sydney and moved back to his parents’ property in Parkes. He was given his parents’ house and given the opportunity to buy some land around it to farm. After a little time away from ministry he turned part of the property in a new Vision ministries headquarters where he started holding annual “Old Fashioned Camp Meetings” to which people would come to stay in tents and caravans to hear invited speakers. After one camp was disrupted by severe storms he set out to build a “Bush Cathedral” – a huge shed with meeting facilities to house future events.

About 10 years ago I got back in contact with Harry, and when Gloria and I started looking for a country escape from Sydney, Parkes was my favoured choice (though we didn’t end up living there).

On one of our regular trips to stay with Gloria’s parents, we decided to go a different route, heading through Parkes instead of Wagga. My planned visit to have coffee with Harry and his wife Doreen was changed to an overnight stay at their invitation. We were given accommodation in a cabin next to the main house, and spent the evening with the Westcotts. The visitors book in the cabin was fascinating – seeing names (and addresses) of some very well-known preachers. It was tempting to note down addresses, but I thought that would have been an abuse of our host’s hospitality.
arenaFurther involvement with Harry and Vision Ministries didn’t eventuate. I felt there were still too many associations with questionable personalities from the charismatic and WOF worlds. Although he was one of the few who spoke out against the excesses of Toronto when that was happening, he remained loyal to the late Benson Idahosa, one of the Nigerian adherents to the prosperity “gospel”, and from the video linked above it is clear that Westcott still holds to the prosperity “gospel” himself.

For a long time Harry and Vision Ministries seemed to have most of the answers I was looking for – they were almost OOC before anyone had dreamed of there being OOC believers. Harry was big on inter-denominationalism,  drawing people from all kinds of backgrounds together to put the focus on Jesus and the gospel instead of denominational theology. But while the right desire and intention may have been there – putting it into practice wasn’t always a success.

More anti-Body, anti-leader accusations…

I am so disgusted with the unscriptural “anti-Body” and “anti-leader” diatribes on this thread that I am shutting it down.

Blessings to all.

Andrew Strom

That is the closing comment of a recent thread on Andrew Storms Revival School blog. See the opening article and the following 214 comments here:  http://www.revivalschool.com/weve-lost-christianity-by-andrew-strom/

One of Strom’s most common complaints over recent months (maybe a year or two) is that too many followers of his blog are “anti-Body” and “anti-leader”. If that is the case, then maybe Strom can’t avoid some of the blame, having exploited the so-called “Out of Church Movement” for a considerable time before turning against those who he had labelled as “Out of Church”.

Like so many times in his Christian life, Strom added another “why I left the …… movement” (fill in the blank with the movement of choice) to his CV. Hopping from one “move” to another, Strom has never really settled to demonstrate his own recognition of leadership or body life. He has never really answered that unspoken question about his own relationship to leadership and the Christian body. Does HE practice what he preaches in this regard?

I know from personal experience how Strom will cut off anyone who tries to question his views, whether in comments on his forum, his blog or through personal email. Several people I know have been banned from his sites for making relevant comments and raising very reasonable questions.

Is this reluctance to accept counsel from others the same reason he has been unable to settle into any regular and consistent face to face fellowship for more than a short time? Is this why it seems he has been unable to practice what he preaches regarding leadership and body life?

I’ve approached Strom personally about his own leadership/fellowship situation and whether it meets the same expectations that he requires of others. He replied asking  “Since you don’t live anywhere near me, how do you claim to know what I am ‘not’ doing?”

I can assess his situation by what is NOT being said on his blog and what he will not say in personal emails. Add to this his past record and the example he has shown on his various sites as well as the  correspondence I’ve had with others who know him and have dealt with him in the past.

Maybe it’s time to set a public example and TELL his blog readers how he is fulfilling those things that he claims others are rejecting regarding leadership and body life, and tell them how it’s all working out so well.

Just a suggestion

“Out of Church Christians”: a book by Andrew Strom.

Andrew Strom did a lot to promote the term “Out of Church Christians” and yet, taking a look at the majority of people he places under this label within this book, we can see how wrong the use of the term is.

Strom’s label is steeped in the idea that “church” is a type of organised institution with a particular structure, meeting regularly to be addressed by an appointed leader. The people described in this book don’t see themselves as “out of church” – they see themselves as a more authentic expression of what church IS. They have departed the traditional and routine organisations with their weekly passive meetings to seek genuine Christian relationships that last longer than an hour or two a week in meetings where most of the time the most they see of others is the back of their head.

With this book and with the first incarnation of his revival school forum, Strom brought together hundreds (maybe thousands) of hopeful believers who for various reasons had left traditional churches. His resources gave them links to others around the world in similar situations. It was an exciting time – until Strom withdrew his apparent support of this large group of people, a move that broke up and scattered them around various new internet forums.

Strom has since grown seemingly weary of those who were once his hopeful supporters and dismisses them as being “anti-leader”, “anti-body” lone rangers. Maybe it’s time he revisited his own book and renewed his acquaintance with those who helped to give him a brief time of recognition as the “leader” he wants to recognised as. Sadly he wasn’t content with the group he helped to bring together.

see

http://www.amazon.com/The-OUT-OF-CHURCH-CHRISTIANS-ebook/dp/B004WDZST4/ref=cm_cr-mr-title

or to read online:

http://homepages.ihug.co.nz/~revival/00-Out-Of-Church.html

In, Out and Roundabout.

87-1249563570xI1JI see the same old arguments are being made on “Revival School” about the need to be “in church” and the same kind of admonishment is being given to those who are “out of church”.

I have also seen the term “lone ranger” being used a time or two in that interaction.

One person involved in the discussion has never answered the question I posed to him a while ago: “what is more dangerous, a “lone ranger” Christian, or a lone ranger Christian who starts and leads his own “church”.?”

I asked this at a time when I knew that he had tried and failed to fit into a couple of existing churches and was trying to establish his own (a little easier to do when you have a sizeable family).

Overall that never-ending discussion is based around a wrong understanding of what “church” is – many never move on from the idea of an organised meeting in a recognised building. Yet many that ARE part of that “acceptable” face of church membership never meet with other believers out side of those meetings.

Personally I’m happy enough with what Jesus said about the situation when two or three gather in His name, whenever or wherever that may be.

 

___________

photo from

<a href=”http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=3576&picture=church-entrance”>Church Entrance</a> by Vera Kratochvil

Word and Spirit and…

Christians tend to be conditioned to rely on the teaching of professional clergy for their understanding of God and His ways, I see that as being counterproductive and very dangerous.

My own view is that believers need to search the scriptures for themselves and to rely on the Holy Spirit to teach rather than man. However this in itself, if practiced in isolation, can be no less dangerous than blindly accepting the teaching of a church pastor or priest. It is easy for us to project our own prejudices and expectations into what we read in scripture and think that understanding came from the Holy Spirit, when it really came from our own imagination (or worse!).

In addition to the scriptures and the Spirit I see a third requirement – fellowship.

By this I don’t mean meeting with a group of virtual strangers in a designated building for an hour or two each week to sing hymns and listen to a talk. To me fellowship is regular interaction with (Spirit led) believers by any means possible, wherever possible.

This contact gives the opportunity for our personal understanding to be tested. The conclusions we have drawn through our interaction with both scripture and Spirit can be confirmed or corrected through relationship with spirit led believers as long as we genuinely desire the truth.

REPENT! And Bring Back the Gospel.

As I write this I’m about halfway through Called to Controversy, Ruth Rosen’s biography of her father, Moishe, founder of Jews for Jesus. I’m enjoying the insights it gives into the man, the organisation and a significant time in recent history: the time of the “Jesus Movement”.

Use of the term “recent history” clearly reveals my own vintage. My serious journey to Christian faith began around the time that the Jesus Movement was touching Australia in the early 70s.

When I now read about that period of Christian history it reminds me how much things have changed. Attitudes have changed, priorities have changed, and the perceived nature of the gospel has changed. None of this change seems to be for the better.

A lot of it seems to have taken place in the 1990s at the same time I was going through a “spiritual crisis” that kept me away from Christian contact for almost 15 years. That crisis also seems to have kept me away from the causes of the change.

Prior to my crisis the believers I knew had a much different attitude to what I see today. Churches then held beach missions, sent people out onto the streets preaching the gospel and were devoted to evangelism. People were excited to share the gospel no matter how daunting it could seem at times. With the company and support of others it was easier to overcome any fears.

Maybe I’m looking in the wrong places but that kind of evangelism and commitment to the gospel, seems to be a thing of the distant past. There’s no longer a sense of urgency. There’s no noticeable desire to risk reputation for the sake of others and their eternal future.

Overall the purpose of those formerly evangelising churches seems to have changed. They have either slipped into a similar cultural rut to the historical, traditional churches or they have become self-absorbed centres of “blessing”, primarily desiring personal encounters with dubious signs, wonders and “prophetic” claims.

The whole focus of the gospel has been removed from any idea of repentance and the need for reconciliation with a Holy and Righteous God. The focus now seems to be on a desperate god so sentimentally attached to humanity that he will go to any lengths to win mankind over.

The “Churches” have by and large abandoned any sense of the genuine gospel. In most cases now, the gospel of Jesus seems to be entrusted to a scattering of individuals.

Lone Ranger

“Lone Ranger” Christian.

That is a term I’ve seen thrown around quite a bit in the last couple of weeks, referring to believers who are outside of established church structures. These people have been accused of being “anti-leadership”, “anti-meeting” and “anti-body”.

I know I would be seen as fitting that “lone ranger” tag – because I’ve not been involved with an established church for about three years. I have also spent most of my Christian life “out of church” – after starting it with a decade long association with a Pentecostal fellowship where I was Youth Leader and occasional preacher.

That 10 year period ended when I entered a time of spiritual confusion. I got mixed up with some very dodgy teaching, became disillusioned and drifted from one group to another looking for one who demonstrated evidence of the Christian life I’d been led to expect: the kind of life that was supposed to be normal yet no one seemed to be experiencing.

 After trying almost every Pentecostal/Charismatic church in the city I drifted away from fellowship altogether. It took over 15 years until my faith was stirred again. I immediately started to look for a church to join, but every attempt failed. No group seemed interested in relationship. All they wanted was increased numbers in their meetings. It was the major thing they talked about. Attempts to develop friendships failed. Eventually I gave up on the “church” idea.

A new town, a new opportunity.

Two churches, two extremes of false teachings and practices.

Back to the “out of church” status.

 Out of “church” but not out of fellowship.

“Churchless” but not faithless.

My main contact with other believers has been via the internet. Not ideal? Probably – but it’s kept me stronger than I was in my early church-going days. I’m no longer tossed to and fro by every appealing, ear-tickling doctrine that comes along offering THE answer.

I have learned to depend more on God than on man. It was dependence on man, and looking for men to teach me that got me into the troubles of the past.

Am I anti-leader? No. But my idea of legitimate leadership is different from that of people with vested leadership interests. Leadership to me is demonstrated in maturity and the willingness to serve. It is demonstrated in pointing to God rather than man, saying follow HIM not me. Legitimate leadership equips people to be independent of the leader and dependant on God.

Am I anti-meeting? No. But my idea of meetings is different from the one where people sit in rows, one behind the other staring at the back of someone’s head while being entertained by a man telling stories at the front of the designated building. Meetings to me are GENUINE meetings – you meet with people and don’t merely gather with them in the same place. You communicate; speak with each other instead of all listening to one man. You share. You get to know each other. Ideally this would be face to face, but when that’s not possible, it can be over the phone or the keyboard.  And the sharing is about Jesus and our faith in Him. It’s not discussing the weather, the football or similar topics.

Am I anti-body? No. And most of my thoughts on this are the same as those in the previous paragraph. A body is about connection with other parts of the body, recognition that the role of each part is important. And most importantly that CHRIST is the head of the body, man isn’t. And each part of the body should be directed by Him.

Out of Church?

 What makes a church a church?

A building?

A seminary trained minister?

 Organised meetings – especially on Sunday?

A history?

Community recognition that THIS is a church?

Or is it any group of believers meeting any place they can at any time they can as long as their focus is relationship with God through Jesus: whether others recognise it as “church” or not.

I suspect many recognised, respectable “churches” would not fulfil that last definition.