For nearly 15 years my wife and I were involved in an SGM church. While I believe the Lord used the church to minister to us in many ways, at some point it became a place of bondage.
I want to initially say that I believe we bear the responsibility for submitting ourselves to the organization beyond the bounds of scriptural instruction. While we did much of this in ignorance, the power of submission was always ultimately ours. We have since repented of what we now recognize to be profound idolatry. A religious brand, a “local church”, alleged spiritual leaders, and other things became the focus of attention above Jesus himself. And to any of you whom we may have played a role in compelling to submit to this, we ask your forgiveness, and we open our lives to any reconciliation for anything we may have done to cause you to stumble.
Today we stand joyfully in a place of glorious liberty, with others who know the true spirit of sonship purchased by Jesus with his own blood.
And yet we also have heavy hearts for dear brothers and sisters who remain under the grip of religious bondage. That burden extends to the leaders who labor under the same bondage (maybe greater) in their perpetuation of a religious system that is run by “philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ”. (Colossians 2:8) Sadly their alleged pursuit of “sound theology” perpetuates a knowledge of Jesus that is according to the flesh.
THE GOSPEL produces a love of Christ that controls us and compels us to live for him, not for ourselves. This is the glory of the new creation. In him we are the righteousness of God. (II Corinthians 5:11-21)
The “church” gospel produces a counterfeit love… one that is directed back at itself. It refuses to find life through death, but instead seeks to control others to live for the church rather than Jesus. And sadly it insulates people from the power of the true gospel that liberates us from sin consciousness (Hebrews 10:1-2)
We are profoundly thankful for the Lord’s faithfulness to deconstruct us from “human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.” We enjoy the blessing of true Ephesians 4 leadership that continues to equip us “for the work of ministry”. These are not overlords, but brothers who have the entire Body of Christ in view, not a sect or brand of their own creation. Their purpose is that we “attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may not longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine….” (Ephesians 4:1-16). The church gospel previously bound us in eternal infancy at the feet of endless teaching no one ever graduates from, and few are ever equipped. All too many are simply corralled and controlled and their God given gifts are suppressed. Though the motive for this is probably sincere, the result is kingdom resources are bound up in this system of religious cronyism and nepotism that prevents God’s people from truly being HIS “workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works… “ (Ephesians 2:10)
Today we stand as ministers of the New Covenant, now boldly renouncing “disgraceful and underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.” (II Cor 4:1-2) Sadly we believe the idolatry of the “local church” gospel has extended a veil over people that blinds them “to keep them from seeing the light of the glorious gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is NOT ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with yourselves as servants for Jesus’s sake. (II Cor 4:3-5 emphasis mine).
So today, my heart is not to “recruit”you to join us or any entity. It is to appeal to you to treasure “treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” (II Cor 4:7) Jesus is the treasure… not a “local church” or its leaders. If we are truly “dead”, there’s nothing to defend or protect.
I’m reminded of the song we often sang, “Jesus, Lover of My Soul”. The chorus sums it up so accurately.
It’s all about you, Jesus
And all this is for you.
For your glory and your fame
It’s not about me,
As if you should do things my way.
You alone are God and I surrender
To your ways.
So this is what burns in our hearts. We, as brothers and sisters desire to see all of His people walk in liberty. For this reason, as the Lord leads, this will be the first in a series of articles to uncover the “veils” of religious deception that captivated us. By God’s grace we hope it will lead others to true freedom in Jesus. And as always, we stand ready to help and encourage you in any way we can.