Throughout history God has sent preachers of righteousness to various peoples, but…
God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead. (Acts 17:30-31)
Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. (Matt 28:19-20)
- 1/3 of the world are unreached people groups
- 150,000 people die every day
The first century church reached all the nations in one generation. Why haven’t we? Compared with how they did it, I believe the task goes unfinished today because the traditions of men consume the focus, effort, and resources of the church.
Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from Me. But in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men. Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men. (Mark 7:6-8)
Jesus rejected the host of extra-biblical traditions invented and imposed by hypocrites. This is one of the reasons they rejected Him. He started a spiritual revolution; exactly what we need! Leave out the traditions of men and Christianity is really simple:
Those who had received [Peter’s] word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls. They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer… And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved. (Acts 2:41-47)
Every Christian is a priest and has received a gift to serve others. (See 1 Peter 2:1-12; 4:7-11) First century Christians continually did so. On the first day of the week they gathered to eat the Lord’s Supper. (See 1 Cor 10-14) This was like a family get-together in someone’s home to enjoy a love feast, and each prepared a Scripture reading, a psalm, a teaching, an exhortation, etc. Some generous hosts even remodeled their homes to accommodate more Christians.
What happened? The church today is burdened with a host of extra-biblical traditions invented and imposed by men. Spreading manmade religion is overwhelmingly more complicated than spreading the good story. So how did we get so far from the simple Biblical pattern that was easily duplicated throughout the first century world in one generation?
Hundreds of years later, Roman Emperor Constantine legalized Christianity, then hijacked the church and transformed it. He gave buildings to the church, mixed in many pagan practices, and paid professional clergy to perform – turning everyone else into spectators and setting the stage for religious tyranny. Power-hungry men claimed to rule the universal church. Through political manipulation they made it illegal for any but themselves to own Bibles, they invented a host of extra-biblical doctrines and traditions, and they persecuted any who didn’t submit to their reign of darkness. Catholic means universal; hence the Catholic Church.
Hundreds of years later, the Protestant Reformation was an effort to reform the Catholic Church. But this ended up forming denominations, each protesting various Catholic doctrines while keeping most of the manmade traditions. These denominations each developed their own creeds and hierarchies. In Protestant countries, many who did not submit to their reign were persecuted.
Hundreds of years later, the Restoration Movement quit trying to reform the traditions and creeds of men and attempted a simple and genuine obedience to the Bible. A wide cross-section of people from different denominations and countries, many unknown to each other, rejected many more false doctrines while keeping numerous other manmade traditions. The main thrust of the Restoration Movement was a plea to return to the word of God as the basis for unity among believers and as the sole authority in everything pertaining to life and godliness.
Today, the good story is spreading fastest in places where the traditions of religious hierarchies are not imposed and believers feel free to learn and apply the word of God to their unique circumstances. Once again there is an emerging movement of people around the world who are trying to imitate the New Testament church. More manmade practices are being rejected, including “sacred” buildings and the clergy/laity format where the masses pack the pews while the professionals tell them what to think, or just tickle their ears with entertainment.
You can still visit just about any denomination’s “sanctuary” and get some variation of the same basic format that goes something like this: Sunday school hour followed by the main assembly hour which usually includes a prayer, a few songs, communion and/or a collection, and a sermon. Where did this format come from? Not the Bible. Why do so many maintain this rigid ritual as if it were a sacred ceremony? Those wanting to differentiate themselves from manmade religions should be asking many such questions.
Traditions aren’t wrong just because they’re traditions. For example, some believers may have the tradition of meeting for prayer at 6:00 am on Friday mornings. Good idea. It’s also a good idea to review traditions on a regular basis. It may be helpful to think in terms of good, better, and best. If a tradition is no longer profitable, make adjustments consistent with the Biblical pattern.
Those who unquestioningly follow traditions go through the motions in vain, because their heart ends up far away from God. Those who believe God believe that His ways and thoughts are better than man’s. (See Isa 55:6-11) Some of the following traditions are wrong, while others are not necessarily wrong unless they are considered to be the ideal model to be duplicated everywhere. Everyone and every church are at various locations on the spectrum with regard to each of these issues.
Which direction are you moving? With a sincere desire to keep moving in the Biblical direction, I have written this interactive book (Jesus4King.net) to discuss what God says in His word about these topics. Maybe you have been thinking about some of these very things or are already involved in the spiritual revolution and have some insight to offer. All who would like to have an honest and mature discussion about dropping extra-biblical burdens for the sake of finishing the task are invited to participate.
We pray for a growing sense of urgency about reaching all the nations in our generation. Please let us know how we can help you.
In service of the King,
The Spiritual Revolution
- Churches send preachers out v. Churches hire preachers to serve them
- Intentional evangelism v. Visitors might accidentally learn what they need
- Saints build the body in unity v. That’s why we hired a preacher
- Members gifts developed v. Members do no more than sit in a pew
- Mutual edification v. Clergy/laity
- Each one has a psalm v. Designated song leaders
- Each one has a teaching v. Designated teachers
- Elders lead by example v. Elders are a board of directors
- Autonomous churches v. Corporations and franchises
- Adult baptism v. Child baptism
- Parents teach children v. Anyone but parents teach children
- Meet together v. Divide into age groups
- Meet in homes v. Maintain a building
- Worship in spirit all the time v. Worship in a building at designated times
- Transformation of character v. Go through the motions
- Saints are holy new creatures v. Sorry sinners are nothing but forgiven
- Authentic relationships v. Keep it to Sunday
- Love feast v. Formal ceremony
- Freedom in Christ v. Divisive laws invented
- Full stewardship taught v. Don’t get too personal
- Collections as needed v. Collections regardless of needs
- Devoted to God’s word v. Devoted to men’s word
- Summary & Conclusion