As I continue to document my process of coming out of the institutionalized church and, adopting biblical ways of applying church gatherings into our lives, I continue to insist that it has not been an easy process and, that it continues to be challenging. The description of the church according to the Bible is not a difficult thing to find. However, many of us have been doing man-made church for so long, that it is hard to break from what is already established. We always have a little voice in the back of our heads that tells us, “You are doing this thing wrong.” I guess it does not feel normal when we don’t do normal things according to society. 

In a few weeks, June 8 to be specific, we will celebrate one year since the start of Manantial del Valle, and, during that time, we have seen people come and go. Since June 8, all the folks involved in our ministry belong to institutionalized churches. We have yet to have one person sold out to what the Bible tells us to do in terms of church. They come, some of them have come in great trouble in their marriages; some of them have come with a great deal of doctrinal confusion. We have taken the time to minister to them in our gatherings and have taken our time to successfully work through those issues individually. However, one by one, the great majority have gone back to what they know… to their comfort zone. This has been a painful and yes… very frustrating process!

In the last year, I have learned that folks, especially men, do not want to be challenged concerning their beliefs. See, when you gather according to Scripture, folks are allowed and encouraged to participate (First Corinthians 14:26). This is an uncomfortable thing to do. I am used to preaching and teaching without interruptions. It makes it even more uncomfortable when people share unbiblical things.  In this way of gathering as a church, it does not take long to know where people stand in their worldview. So, in this ministry I don’t preach or teach for 45 minutes and then sent everybody home with a benediction; in this ministry we will debate, we will confront, and we will correct according to Scripture. Until a person’s worldview becomes Godly; they are lost in their error. 

We are called Believers for a reason; this means that we believe in God’s way of doing things, we believe in Jesus’ commands, and we strive to apply those principles. We, as believers, work out our salvation with fear and trembling.[1] The word salvation here is the Greek word sōtēría; “Deliverance, preservation from danger or destruction.”[2] So this is not teaching us to work from our salvation from hell; salvation is not through works. What the Bible is telling us is to work out our deliverance from the danger and destruction of the world, the false doctrines, the false teaching, the false ideologies, and worldviews. That, beloved, is a process that requires work; that requires debate, discussion, pastoral guidance, and above all, the study of God’s Word. We all must have the dedication of the brothers and sisters in Berea. Acts 17:10-11 tells us about them,

The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. 11 Now these Jews were nobler than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. (ESV)

This is exactly what every believer is supposed to be doing, “… examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” To see if what that preacher is telling us on Sunday is true of God and if what I am saying is backed up by Scripture. This is our responsibility; this what make us noble. The word noble is the Greek word eugenḗs; meaning “Descended from a good family, of high rank (Luke 19:12; 1 Cor. 1:26; Sept.: Job 1:3). Metaphorically, meaning noble-minded, generous (Acts 17:11) … belonging to a king…”[3] There are certain beliefs and behaviors that are expected of us. There is no room for Rambo Christians to do things our way. We must learn the ways of God by hard work, searching the Scripture and applying what we learn, basing our decisions on such, and living our lives according to our King Jesus Christ. 

We don’t have a budget for advertisement, and we don’t manipulate people to come. As the Spirit leads we make invitations; everybody is free to invite others.  Sadly, the great majority of the folks that have come to our gatherings so far, even as they express how blessed they are, don’t go a step further and invite others. We have not been successful in making our folks understand that it is ok to open their homes for these kinds of gatherings. 

The true and sincere fellowship has been like pulling teeth. Folks are not understanding that fellowship amongst the saints is a natural expression of our faith. John tells us, “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” I John 1:7 (NIV) 

I have never felt closer to doing what God has called me to do, but the frustrations and pains are about the same as some of my experiences with the institutionalized church. Dealing with folks who are lost and filled with self-righteousness is a pain in the neck. Not all are like that, but a few are. 

Looking for other folks who are doing home churches has been challenging. I went back to Facebook to look for such groups. I found a group on Facebook, but I left that group shortly after. Meeting in houses does not make you automatically biblical. So, I am still looking to connect with others; but I also want to be careful that I don’t fall into the “networking mentality”. 

I do thank God for a good friend whom I met here in Arizona and who is now in Oregon, my friend Bob Lee. He is doing the same thing we are doing here. We encourage one another through phone calls and FaceTime. Every time I speak with him is such a blessing!  

I hope the Lord blesses us with disciples that we can send out to open their homes and spread all over Maricopa County, one home at a time, but for now, we are called to remain faithful. May the Lord give us wisdom and endurance, and may the Lord bless my good friend Bob and those brothers and sisters around the world who are responding to the call to go back to the primitive church… In Jesus’ name… Amen! 

[1] “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling,” Philippians 2:12 (NIV)

[2] Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2000).

[3] Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2000).

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