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Welcome to "Knowing Him Together" Ministry
Written by Tom Sparks   
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Since I'm not writing as much these days as in the past some have requested that I make it a little easier to find any new articles I've written, so moving forward I will list here the Article Categories and Sub Categories as well as article titles for quicker and easier acces to newer articles:

Newer Articles:

Under the Articles and Spiritual Life Category:

Sin, Grace, and Consequences (2015)  
A Culture that Markets Dissatisfaction
(2014)
God doesn't Give and Take Away
(2013)
The Death of America and Western Christianity
(2013)
The Crassification of Society
(2013)
Pope Francis - a Softy on Homosexuality? 
(2012)
Quantum Physics of Faith
(2012)

Under the Articles and Reforming Church Articles Category:

Churchy Nonsense(2011)
 
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Introduction to "Knowing Him Together" website:
 
Let me begin by welcoming you to Khtmin.org and provide a little explanation for the purpose and tone of this site.

I will freely admit that what you will read here will challenge the traditional approach to Church, and I'm sure in some of the older writings from my early days of transition that the tenor will be terse and seem unkind.  Sometimes passion for the truth sacrifices tenderness of speech in favor of recovering the importance of truth that has been lost. My apologies if they appear lacking in charity towards an approach to Church that I no longer embrace, but we make no apology for the things we now hold dear as insight we believe we've gained from the Lord.

My heart embraces the entire body of Christ, and if you sense any rankor here it is not just intended to offend those who embrace error but rather to confront both them and the errors they promote.  The concerns expressed are towards a "System" of doing Church that throughout Church history has appealed to the weaknesses of security and significance in its leaders.  From the fall in the garden of Eden until the birthing of the Church men have always struggled with deriving security and significance from the things they have pursued but nowhere is this more evident than in the development of Church after the time of the Apostles.

Purity of motive is severely challenged by issues of security and significance. It is a great challenge to resist the urge to derive these things from the services of ministry, but resist them we must if we hope to truly honor the Lordship of Christ and suffering He endured to bring forth His Church.  We have observed in ourselves and others we served with a deep measure of pollution surrounding these issues so out of concern for this we write passionately. When we derive financial security or personal significance from our ministries we are on dangerous ground and most often the result will be a diminishing of the centrality of Christ in our gatherings and a magnification of the will of man.

We believe Jesus, in His awesome grace, maintains involvement in a system and practice of Church He never desired, both because He recognizes how deceived His leaders have been conditioned into throughout history and because it is His way to influence from both within and without this system.  We believe we must be faithful to the light we have been given, and to write what we believe He has put upon our hearts.  If at times this feels too confrontational or lacking in charity it is our passion for the truth and our grief at the way His headship has been disdained that leads us to speak the truth in love and do so with clarity and firmness. To that end...please read on...

I will begin by taking a quick examination of the nature of Church, and then leave you to ponder your beliefs in this area. 

What wasn't the Early Church?:

1.  It wasn't a Building. (But the majority of today's churches are...) 

2.  It wasn't a Business. (But the majority of today's churches are...)

3.  It wasn't an Institution. (But the majority of today's churches are...)

What wasn't characteristic of Early Church Leadership?:

1.  They didn't have titles. (But the majority of today's church leaders do...)

2.  They didn't have positions, I.e. Senior Pastor. (But the majority of today's church leaders do...)

3.  They weren't called "Pastors." (But the majority of today's church leadership are...)

4.  They didn't control the people in how the gathering time happened. (But the majority of today's church leadership do...)

5.  They didn't receive a fixed salary. (But the majority of today's church leadership do...)

6.  They didn't derive their security or significance from their ministry. (But the majority of today's church leadership do...)

7.  They didn't dress differently than others in the church.  (But the majority of today's leadership do...)

What wasn't characteristic of Early Church gatherings?:

1.  They weren't program oriented. (But today's church gatherings usually are...)

2.  They weren't lead by highly trained officials from the front of the gathering. (But today's church is...)

3.  The people weren't required to sit passively and observe a service. (But today's believers are...)

4.  They didn't ask for regular tithes or pass some kind of tithe collecting device. (But today's church does...)

5.  They weren't services. (But today's church gatherings are...)

6.  They weren't gathered into formal church buildings. (But today's church is...)

7.  The people didn't sit in pews or carefully aligned chairs.  (But today's church usually does...)

8.  Their places of gatherings didn't look religious with stained glass, etc.. (But today's churches usually do...)

9.  The children weren't taken off to specialized classes for them. (But the majority of children are in the modern church...)

 

Sooo, what are we to make of the differences between the early Church and today's Church?  Is it ok that the modern Church is so radically different than the early Church?  Is it just chance or personal preference among the early apostles that the Church was setup in the way they set it up but it's just fine that much of the structure and nature of gathering has changed so dramatically? Are those accurate that tell us "Sure, the early Church was setup as you describe but as time has gone by the Lord has both given permission for and endorsed the changes of approach that have taken place. He knew that time and culture would change and thus fully anticipated and made room for adaptations that would result in a very different looking Church from the one first established in the early period."? Let me say it as charitably and honestly as I know how to say, this is just plain wrong. I think I understand how they came to such an erroneous conclusion but error is still error and if we are to be healthy then we must walk in the truth as it is in Christ. To do otherwise is to deny the intent of divine truth - that we may be free, healthy, and whole.   

Who was the Lord and Head of the gathering in the early Church?  Clearly it was Jesus.

Who is the Head of the modern Church gathering?  Clearly it appears to far more be the Pastor of a given congregation, who while acknowledging the lordship of Christ still exerts his/her own brand of oversight that leaves Jesus less room to lead than seems consistent with early Church patterns established by the apostles.  It is just plain wrong and inconsistent with Scripture to relegate Jesus to the periphery of our gathering times while we do our thing with His people and stamp His name and approval on it.

Is this ok?  If it is ok with you is it something you have carefully reasoned through from the Bible and concluded that Jesus is ok with this arrangement? 

Here's what we have concluded:

1.  The modern Church has almost no biblical support for what it has become in physical structure and business format.

2.  The modern Church has almost no biblical support for its form and functions of leadership.

3.  The modern Church has almost no biblical support for how it gathers. 

4.  AND THIS REALLY MATTERS TO JESUS AND SHOULD TO US!!!!!  (But, in the majority of churches it doesn't seem to...)

You see, here is how I look at this whole thing:  If I had been the one to die for the saints then I'd figure I had the right to setup Church in whatever way I wanted to, but I didn't, and the way Jesus set it up is what matters most because He is the One Who died for it.  If I'd been the one to die for the saints I'd figure that I had the prerogative to think that the early apostles established church in the way that they did according to their personal individual choices but that it wasn't a divine pattern given by the One Who died for the Church, but I'd be seriously wrong to do so, and Jesus did directly guide them and give them a very specific pattern that He intended to last for all time.  If I had been the one to die for the Church I'd consider it was mine - lock, stock, and barrel and that I'd always have the right to be its Head, decide how it should look and function, and that if anyone attempted to usurp my direct oversight of my Church while I'd still love them I wouldn't be pleased with their choices and I'd know that the outcomes would never be as excellent as if they had left it to me to oversee it directly, and the only difference here is that it isn't mine...it is Jesus' and this is exactly how He looks at things.  Unfortunately the modern Church missed this important distinction and as a result the Church is no where near what it was or what it was intended to be.

 

People often wonder why I'm not as actively involved in the modern traditional Church as I used to be.  Here's my answer...:  When I walk into their buildings, observe their leadership, and experience their forms of gathering my spirit experiences a significant measure of grief at how disenfranchised Jesus appears to be in their midst and I am uncomfortable by it. I'm not saying I couldn't restrain or control my sorrow, but my concern is great and attending such settings could only be done by direct guidance from Christ.  I may one day reconnect to some degree in these settings when I believe I have been called to do so.  I am certain Christ is involved in the traditional Church and as such I want to be open to being His servant there or anywhere He would lead, but I would need to know it was His leading and not my "need to be needed" that was guiding my involvement. Listen, no matter what setting we find ourselves in we are all learning and undergoing change.  It behooves all of us to be gracious and recognize that no one has arrived at a perfect understanding of Christ's desires for His Church.  To react harshly at "what is" is to fail to assess the magnitude of His love for the body and His willingness to take all of us right where we are in our understanding.  At the same time, to speak forthrightly and with conviction, while it may appear harsh, will at times be necessary so as to confront the wrongs that all too often prevail. We all need to project His loving attitude wherever we find ourselves, but true love is never called to deny the truth.

 

Now, don't misunderstand my above statements.  I'm not saying I don't love the brethren connected with these institutions.  I'm not saying Jesus doesn't love them.  I'm not saying Jesus is completely absent from their gatherings, because I'm sure He is active among them.  I'm just saying He is often not allowed to fully function as their Head due to the competion for headship by the traditional church leadership model.  It's not ALL about Him, but often is too much about the will of man.  I can't say the smaller and simple non-traditional setting is completely free of this tendency...it isn't, but at least there appears to be a growing awareness that Church must clearly be led by Christ rather than assumed that Church leadership is doing it His way just because they say they are.  This is a very delicate issue and one that needs far more exploring by both the traditional and home gathering models. It's not honoring to His death or His current role as Kingdom Monarch to fail to give proper place to His active leadership in their midst.  It's not anywhere near to His original intent, and until it is I have tended to hang out with Him where, according to Hebrews 13:13, Jesus is...outside their camp.  It isn't that He doesn't visit and work in their camp, because I'm sure He does, but from my perspective it appears He is more a visitor than Lord in their midst.  It is hard to bear such gatherings where His Lordship is more a "lip service" than a reality.  The Church knows He should be Lord so they call Him the Lord of His Church, but Jesus is not often enough allowed to function as Lord among them so He is relegated to a peripheral role of more observing than leading.  And secondly, because Leaders lead His Church the people are relegated to a far more passive and quiet role than in the Church Jesus originally established, according to apostolic pattern, and they aren't allowed to follow His lead directly and function according to His guidance.  In a word...they are stifled...

 

These things ought not to be, but they are the modern pattern, and the Church is so vastly unaware of these errors that they relate to it all as if they were living according to a biblical pattern which couldn't be further from the truth.

 

It is time for Jesus' Church to take another look at the Bible.  It's time for them to look into their spirits and experience the Holy Spirit's concern that things are not as they should be.  We need to accept the Bible as the authority for faith and practice, and dramatically adjust our approach.  It is time for Jesus to be the real Head of His Church rather than just so in name.  It is time for the Church to begin a process of changing its current mode of gathering and honor the Headship of Jesus in every respect.  When this happens the world will see a completely different Church.  May it be so...

And what might you do to encourage such a turn around?  Read many of Frank Viola's books that address these issues and then talk respectfully with your Senior Pastor about what you've read.  It will be difficult for him as he desperately attempts to justify his approach to Jesus' Church, and sense his struggle with the matter.  Then ask the Lord for whether you are to leave or remain where you are as a gracious influence towards change. Don't try to stage some Church seizing operation...just quietly pack up your life and move on if you believe this is how you are being led.  Many will not be led to leave.  The Lord often leaves His servants in the midst of situations that are far less than the ideal.  This is an important calling and one that should be handled with great grace. Rude confrontation and hurtful sowing of discord among the brethren is always the wrong response to newly learned truths. For my part, when I find myself in traditional settings I have chosen to carefully guard my concerns while there so as to promote love and avoid discord. Yet, when others invite me into an unbiblical environment, knowing that I see things very differently from them, then I will speak boldly and clearly, allowing the impact of the truth to create whatever pain is necessary to awaken their conscience, adjust their motives, and mend their ways.

If you have other believing friends who have similar concerns then gather them into your home to discuss these things and remain there or similar simple settings.  In time you will transition into becoming a truer expression of Jesus' Church, and you will overcome your bitterness about how wrong the Church did things and how it negatively impacted your life, and you will enter into an experience of Church far more like the first Churches did.  It will be a wonderful transition.

If you would like to read more on this subject my own site here is largely dedicated to this theme.  If you want to read the writings of one I consider to be the modern Church's foremost provider of insight into Jesus' original intent for His Church I highly recommend everything Frank Viola has written.  I'm not saying he is the only accurate voice today, but I'm not aware of any single author in the modern period who has more accurately, passionately, and Jesus honoringly decribed where the modern Church is, compared it to the divine pattern, and provided a clearer blueprint of where it needs to head than Frank.

God bless you in your journey.  If we can encourage you don't hesitate to contact us.

                                                       ____________________________________

Pharisees or Victims of the Security & Significance Bind?

I've often pondered if that which we see in the modern Church is reflective of ongoing Pharisaism or something a bit more benign, like the personal bind that issues of Security & Significance create within the human personality that create similar tendencies to the Pharisees of Jesus' day.  I've decided to conclude, for the sake of mercy, that modern Senior Pastors are not truly the modern counterparts of the Pharisees that Jesus encountered in his earthly journey but they share a similar leaning towards the very things Jesus confronted in them, and His words speak closely enough to their approach to ministry to justify at least a partial application of His words to them.

In the case of the Pharisee of Jesus' day we are not generally even looking at a true believer, but rather a hyper-religious individual whose primary, if not "only" concerns, were his own power and financial security, with no actual relationship with God at all.  They appeared to be God oriented, but in fact disdained God in favor of their own personal agenda to be worshipped and obeyed.  They were godless, evil, and fully anti-Christ.  Such is certainly not the case with the average modern Senior Pastor, at least not generally so.  Certainly there are bound to be some of the exact matches of the Pharisees of Jesus' day in our modern era but among Evangelicals at least this seems to be only a tiny minority.

So, do Jesus' words to the Pharisees speak to the modern Senior Pastor at all?  I think they do.  Maybe not directly, and almost surely not in a one-for-one application, but if I were still a Senior Pastor and was interested in honoring the spirit intent of Jesus words then His words to the Pharisees would cause me no small discomfort...in fact...they did exactly that to me, and thus I live and write as a direct response to Jesus' words.

Listen to what He had to say:

Matthew 15:3  He answered them, "And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?
Matthew 15:6  ...So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God.
Matthew 15:9  ...teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'"
Matthew 15:12  Then the disciples came and said to him, "Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?
Mathew 15:13  He answered, "Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up.
Matthew 15:14  Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit."

I purposely removed some of the text from these verses because while I believe the modern day Senior Pastors violate the intent of Jesus' words here I do not believe them to be the exact equivalent to the Pharisees of Jesus' day.  I'm convinced Jesus' words have a powerful application to the modern Church, but just not a one-for-one application.

What has taken place in the Church is none other than breaking the direct commandments of God for the sake of developing a tradition that supports their issues of Security and Significance.  While they would not easily own this, the facts are clear on this matter.  Neither Jesus nor His Apostles taught anything like the modern approach to Church leadership.  Traditions have been developed in the Church that literally "make void the Word of God." This amounts to teaching as doctrines the commandments of men and not of God.  I don't know about you but this sends chills up my spine.  To think that this sort of thing has been done and has been tolerated as though it is "ok" is appalling.  That men should give themselves the latitude to do such things should upset all of us, but for the majority of the body of Christ they are either oblivious to it or don't care. 

The disciples were concerned about the very things many in the body of Christ are concerned about, and it is a concern for the wrong things - that the leadership of the Church might be offended by hearing the truth of the error of their approach to Church leadership. I echo Jesus' words - one day it will all be rooted up and offending them should be the least of our concerns.  I believe this is a "rooting up" day.  I've dedicated this website to "rooting up" these errors.  I care more about standing for the truth than being appreciated by the modern leaders.  I'd rather have them upset with me than deny the Lord of the Church His rightful place and approach to leadership. To at least some degree our Church leaders are blind guides and their failure of guidance has caused the Church to fall into the pit of a corrupted Church system.  I don't believe they intend for this to happen and I don't even think most of them are aware this is exactly what has happened, but they are the ones who are responsible to rightly divide the Word of God and in most cases they haven't in this area.

Listen, I'm doing each of them a favor in this website.  It is a horrible thing to be trapped in a religious system that sucks more out of you than it gives you back.  It is a terrible thing to wear out the members of the Church, offend your own children and spouse, dishonor the Lord, and call it ok. It is a wonderfully sweet thing to finally be delivered from all of this. I desire that all my brethren awaken and come out of these things because in doing so their hearts will heal, their families will heal, and they will have a deeper sense of honoring the Lord with their lives than they've ever previously known.  It is a terrible bondage to be a slave to Security and Significance issues. It is for freedom that Christ has set us free, and when we come out of this approach we begin to sense the freedom He spoke of.  Most don't recognize they've been in bondage most of the years of their ministry until they have a moral failure, marriage failure, or a health failure. 

So, while I wouldn't peg them as full-on Pharisees, I will go so far as to say that their lust for Security and Significance has blinded their eyes to the serious error they have propogated and it is long past time that some in the body of Christ call them to account and come out of their systems and come to Jesus Who dwells outside their encampments of this error.  To continue to fund their false needs of Security and prop up their false sense of Significance is tantamount to giving the alcoholic another drink when what he most needs is to go through the agony of addiction detoxification.  Once we realize that Jesus Himself will provide financial and work security for each of us, and that our significance is in direct relationship to the value He places upon us, we can begin the process of coming out of these things. We don't need the Church for a paycheck, and we are signficant because Jesus loves us.  Anything beyond this is of error.

Before someone says, "Tom, that's pretty heavy handed finger pointing when you were as a big a supporter of these things as anyone", I would agree completely.  I am willing to own my addictive tendencies, the error of approach I used to teach and practice, and as a result of breaking this addiction I have come out of these systems Churches and I'm calling everyone in the body of Christ to do the same thing.  This is no different than any other recovering addict.  Once we see how addicted we were and how much it was hurting our walk with Christ, our families, and the broader body of Christ, how can we do anything else but attempt to help others to see how hurtful this approach is?

Jesus' words here in Matthew 15 are chilling to say the least.  They should give all of us pause.  Do they do that to you, or are you still so intoxicated with the error of man's traditions that you can't see how addicted you are? You have my prayers...

 
Pics to Ponder

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