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¿Qué tiene que ver conmigo? por Teófila Gottfried

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If I Am Not A Member Of A Local Church, Am I Wrong?

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"Not Forsaking The Assembling Of Ourselves Together..." Hebrews 10:25


First of all, let us say congregating with our brothers and sisters in Jesus, and having membership in a local church are two entirely different things. We do not deny that the Bible commands us to congregate. For the Scripture says, "Forsaking not the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another..." (Hebrews 10:25). What we do dispute is people telling you that you have to have membership within a local church. Hebrews 10:25 doesn't even mention the local church, much less membership in one. And given that we must not add to, or take away from God's Word, how can we stretch "not forsaking the assembling of ourselves" to mean "you have to join a local church"?

Do People Accuse You Of Looking For The Perfect Church?


Supporters of having membership in a local church are frequently quick to say, "There is no perfect church, you know." As if you didn't know that. At times, they use every type of tactic to convince you you're wrong if you don't belong to any local church. For example, a pastor shared an anecdote in which a young believer calls the apostles Paul and John for them to tell him where the perfect church is. The apostle Paul tells him about the problems of about ten churches to give him the lowdown on their condition: "They're competing a lot against one another in Corinth. There's jealousy, arguments, even fornication. In Ephesus, many people lack love. They're walking disorderly in Thessalonica. They take sides in Philippi. There are doctrinal problems, even heresies in Colosse. In Galatia, some are backbiting, and there's quite a lot of carnality. They're too tolerant in Thyatira. The Laodicieans are lukewarm. There are strange doctrines in Pergamos. And they're prejudiced against the Gentiles in Jerusalem." The anecdote ends with Paul telling him to stay where he is, which sends the message that each person should remain where he is, whatever the problems of his church may be.

Now then, we really should ask ourselves why the church of Smyrna was left out of the anecdote. Could it be because it's the only church that received no criticism from Jesus? And because it proves that the aforementioned problems do not have to exist in the church? Such truth interferes with his desire to emphasize his advice not to look at the sins in the local church. We read, "Unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write: These things sayest the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive. I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty (but thou art rich). And I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan. Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer. Behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried. And ye shall have tribulation ten days. Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life." (Revelation 2:8-10).

Why didn't the pastor mention the church of Smyrna? Could it be because it doesn't fit with his sermon in which he accuses those who haven't joined any local church of looking for the perfect church? He only mentions the churches with sins and problems. The carnal churches. The churches too tolerant. The churches with people who have no love. The churches where they "walk disorderly", have strange doctrines, and prejudices. Why is that? Could it be that he wishes to downplay the seriousness of the spiritual condition of those churches? To say "strange doctrines" softens the reality that they were doctrines of devils. And, leaving out the church of Smyrna sends the mssage that ALL churches are "congregations of men and women who leave their past life behind them, strive together to walk in holiness by obeying the Word, and being guided by the Spirit. But that...when all is said and done, they are flesh and blood men and women." According to the pastor, the "perfect" church does not exist here on earth. Translation: There is no church without one or more of the sins mentioned. What about the church of Smyrna? They received no criticism from the Lord. And what about the Scripture of Titus 2:12? It says, "Denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, RIGHTEOUSLY, and GODLY in this PRESENT world"? "This present world" means ON THIS EARTH.

Plain and simple, the pastor's messages that teach that you're wrong if you don't become a member of a local church do NOT agree with the Word of God. And whenever we have teachings that go against Scripture, we should be suspicious.

Members Of The Universal Church


The pastor tries to make us believe that you can't bear fruit... That being members one of another is only possible when we're nearby. In other words, members of the universal church are not members of one another like members of the local church are with one another. But there's no passage or Scripture in the Bible that says there are various bodies and various Spirits. No. Ephesians 4:4 says, "There is ONE body and ONE Spirit."

If there's only one body, ALL the members of that one body have to work together. They should be united. They should love one another EQUALLY, independent of where they live. And who has heard of a healthy body whose members don't help one another? The body of Christ is spiritual, so of course its members are in various places. That's why the Bible tells us we should be in the same place...figuratively speaking. We read, "Be ye ALL of ONE MIND" (1 PETER 3:8).

First Corinthians, chapter 12 speaks of how the members of the body of Christ work. In no Scripture of that passage do we see the words "local church". It doesn't even make reference to a specific location. It is plain as day that the pastor is in error by teaching that God's children in China can't be members of Christ's body in a local church in France. Or that servants of Christ in a church in Brazil can't bear fruit by loving followers of Christ in Russia. Could this be why the Christians with this mentality don't bother to pray for their brethren persecuted for their faith...if those brethren congregate in a different church? Much less if they're in another country. What a shame. How sad.

We invite you to see for yourselves the universality of the international church by paying attention to what the Scriptures teach, not to the comments of a man whose personal opinions might have slipped into his sermon.

Greek Words Do Not Impress


To give credence to his teachings, the pastor begins talking about the meaning of Greek words used to speak of membership in the local church. He says that the meaning "behind" the Greek words translated prove that the authors were talking about physical closeness when they spoke of the congregation. Because "you can only love, console and exhort brethren when you're nearby." It's truly amazing that he overlooks the letters the apostle Paul wrote to love, comfort and exhort the brethren FROM A DISTANCE. It's as clear as day that he knew how to be an active member of the universal church, wherever he was physically located. How much more good can we do through the technology of e-mail, websites, and Skype, which allows us to look at the people with whom we're speaking!

The pastor harps on the first "records" of those who belonged to the local church. He speaks of when 3,000 people were added to the congregation in Jerusalem in order to emphasize the fact that there was a registry. And that the same Greek word used to speak of the census in the Old Testament was also used to speak of the church in the book of Acts. But look at what is said about the "membership" of that church: "There were added unto them ABOUT three thousand souls" (Acts 2:41). "ABOUT three thousand" is not an exact figure. If it was truly a registry, wouldn't it be an exact number? And if we're going to be guided by what the church in the book of Acts did, why don't we do ALL that the brethren back then did? For we read, "All that believed were together, and had all things common. And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need" (Acts 2:44-45). The local churches don't even want to have all things in common. They do not "sell their properties and distribute the proceeds according to the need."

What's more is that the pastor sends the message that people who join mega churches don't want to have to give account to anyone. Does he not realize he just praised the growth of the church in Jerusalem that grew by approximately 3,000? Three thousand or so people make a mega church. Is he saying those people joined a large church to avoid having to give account to anyone?

The pastor harps on the Greek word used to refer to joining a church. But doesn't the Bible say, "A man shall leave father and mother, and cleave (join) unto his wife"? (Genesis 2:24). Yes, it does. And that was said before registrys ever existed. It's obvious we can join other people without our names being added to a registry.

¿Is Membership In A Local Church Needed To Resolve Conflict?


Another reason the pastor gives for the need to belong to a local church is the need to call the congregation together before which we can deal with conflict with brethren, because "we don't want to bring out our dirty laundry publicly." The pastor refers to the disciplinary process found in Matthew, chapter 18. Numerous churches play favoritism. They look down on poor parishioners, singles, and those who have come out of certain lifestyles. What's more is they hold in esteem the pastor's family, and the families of the elders, the deacons, and those with positions within the church. The Matthew 18 passage does not say that conflicts have to be resolved within the local church. What about the apostle Paul's letters in which he judged problems and conflicts, because he was FAR away from the brethren? The Spirit of God does not need physical closeness to work. The Spirit does not need membership in any local church to use whom He will. Does the Bible command us to congregate with brethren? Yes, it does. Does the Bible command us to belong to a local church? We do NOT see that anywhere in Scripture.

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