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OceanSide church of Christ
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THE APPEAL OF THE COMMUNITY CHURCH
Victor M. Eskew
The Community Church movement began many years ago. It was a movement that permeated denominational boundaries. The result of this new approach to church growth was the formation of many mega-churches. Thousands and thousands of people flocked to the Community Church buildings.
The concept of the Community Church still thrives in many of the big cities. The buildings still house multitudes of worshipers each week. Many people are still impressed with this “market approach” to “Christianity.” This writer has spoken to members of Community Churches. They were extremely excited about their membership there. However, during the course of the conversation several things about the Community Church became apparent. These are some of the things that draw the large crowds to their buildings.
One of the first things this writer noted was the lack of respect that those in the Community Church have for Bible authority. Jesus told His disciples that they were to teach new converts only the things He had commanded (Matt. 28:20). The apostle Peter commanded his readers with these words: “If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God…” (I Pet. 4:11). Paul set forth the need for divine authority with these words: “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him” (Col. 3:17). The words “in the name of the Lord Jesus” mean by the authority of the Lord Jesus. All of these verses stress the importance of following the Word of God in everything we do.
There are many things those in the Community Church do for which there is no Bible authority. Most of these churches are organized under a one-man pastor system. Most of them use instrumental music in their worship of God. Most teach the doctrine of salvation by faith only. Many allow women to hold leadership positions in the church that function both privately and publically. None of these things can be found in the New Testament of Jesus Christ. It is ironic that the Community Church claims to honor the Bible as the Word of God, but they call those who try to follow its teachings in a strict, detailed manner, legalists. It seems that they only believe the Bible as it pertains to certain elements of worship, life, and service. However, it was Jesus who said that man is to live by “every word” that proceeds out of the mouth of God (Matt. 4:4).
Another thing this writer found out about the Community Church is that it appeals to the carnal side of man. Worship services are especially geared to appeal to man’s flesh and emotions. The sounds of bands and orchestras fill their auditoriums. Theatrics are done by their ministers to ignite the lusts of the on-lookers. This author was told that one preacher rode up onto the pulpit on a Harley-Davidson motorcycle and that he swung to the podium from a rope tied to the rafters. Even those who attend the church admitted that these things sound like some type of showmanship. Raffles, lattes, casual dress, and exclusive performances by talented artists are some of the other things that are used by the Community Church to appeal to man’s flesh. The problem with this type of worship is that it is intended to please men, not God. Jesus said: “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). God does not allow man to worship Him anyway he pleases. To worship as one pleases is will worship and is condemned in the Bible (Col. 2:23). Worship must be done with the right attitude (spirit) and in harmony with the Word of God (truth). If worship is not done in faith, it cannot please Jehovah (Heb. 11:4). All worship is vain and empty if it involves the commandments of men (Matt 15:7-9). Lastly, it was apparent that many of the members of the Community Churches are centered upon one man, the pastor. He is usually a very polished speaker. He is an individual with an endearing personality. He is also a leader that others desire to follow. Many become so attached to this individual that upon having to move to another area of the city or state, they establish satellite churches in the area where they move. The services of the “parent” church are broadcast onto a screen in the satellite church. This enables these individuals to continue to have a connection to their pastor. This type of “preacher worship” was what Paul wrote against in his letter to Corinth. “Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ” (I Cor. 1:12). In I Corinthians 3, Paul called “preacheritis” carnal. “For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?” (I Cor. 3:4). The minister is not to be the focal point of Christianity. “So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase” (I Cor. 3:7). The one Being who is to be glorified is Jesus Christ. “For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (I Cor. 2:2).
Hundreds of thousands of people have been swept away by the Community Church movement. The sincerity of these individuals is not doubted. Their zeal is not questioned. However, sincerity (Acts 23:1) and zeal (Rom. 10:1-3) will not save. One is saved by obedience to Jesus Christ (Heb. 5:8-9) and His Word (Matt. 7:21). Our prayer is that those in the Community Church will study their Bible enough to see the fallacies of many of their beliefs and practices before they stand before the Word of God to be judged (John 12:48).