The other day when I sat on the pews of a church in Bangalore, I heard a wonderful message from a dear servant of God from the church pulpit – a raised podium. The preacher wonderfully explained his message about the obedience of Abraham in climbing the mount in the land of Moriah for the sole purpose of sacrificing his only son Isaac. In this church, there is a good practice of the congregation taking down notes from the preacher’s message. In every church, there is a message from the pulpit and the congregation looks up to the raised podium, the pulpit to hear “God’s message”. The people on the pews are married couples, bachelors, spinsters, old people, children, etc. Every Sunday they continue to be seated on the pews, taking down notes or recording the preacher’s message through tape-recorders or through any modern electronic gadget. In every church, a mega-church or a small house-church, this is the practice being followed for ages. At times, the preachers ask a few questions from their congregations. There is always a gulf between the preacher and the congregation. In the Pentecostal and evangelical churches, the preacher is always known as pastor and the congregation as believers whereas in the Anglican and orthodox churches, the preacher is always known as the clergy and the congregation as the laity.

If we ask the people of God who attend such churches for the purpose for which they attend these churches, many of them will give any of the following replies:

“I want to worship God”
“I want to hear God’s message”
“I want to receive a blessing”
“I want to have fellowship with others”
“I want to receive a healing”
“I want to receive a word of prophecy”

If we take an opinion poll from those attending the church, a majority of them will reply in the above fashion only. Hardly will some come up with a reply, “I want to give the God’s message” or “I want to sacrifice for God”. All these years, the people of God are being taught to receive something from the local church and not to give or sacrifice in the local church. They are not equipped to preach or to minister to other believers in the church. The people of God have become mere spectators sitting on the pews and have not become priests so as to sacrifice for God. The church pulpits are meant for the elders or the pastors. Only the pastors or the elders are allowed to sacrifice by giving messages from the pulpits whereas the other people are merely taught to sit on the pews and to hear.

A local church is not merely a place of worship. The apostles and the disciples gathered themselves in the local churches for witnessing to the outside world. We find that only in the prison Paul and Silas prayed at midnight and sang praises unto God (Acts 17:25). The apostles and the disciples had no special places for worshiping God because the Holy Spirit manifested Himself in the midst of believers and not in any place. In today’s organized religions, we find places of worship. The people of God in today’s Christianity are taught to sing songs inside their safe places of worship. They are not equipped to go to the outside world. For witnessing to the outside world, they think that this is the job of specialized evangelists.

Secondly, we find in today’s Christianity the church pulpits or the evangelical daises. The church pulpits or the evangelical daises are merely places of exhibiting the talents or the gifts of the preachers but these platforms are not exploited to bring out the potentials of the other people of God. In a so-called revival seminar in Tamil Nadu, I almost find a set of evangelists using the same platform for giving “revival” messages. A reading of the Acts would show that the apostles had no pulpits for them. When they preached in the synagogues, there was stiff resistance from the hearers. In the churches or the synagogues, they taught the people of God continuously. Paul preached to the disciples who came together to break bread upon the first day of the week and he continued his speech until midnight. A young man who was there to hear the message of Paul fell down from the third loft and was taken up dead. Then Paul went down and prayed for him and the young man was brought alive. After breaking of the bread, Paul talked with the disciples there till break of day and then departed (Acts 20:7-11). Paul spent the whole night preaching and discussing with the disciples and there was no special dais for him to give his speech. The young man was seated on a window to hear Paul. In today’s Christianity, we have carved for ourselves pulpits or podiums.

Under the Old Covenant, people offered their sacrifices at the altar of God. Cain and Abel approached the Throne of God with their offerings only. In today’s Christianity, sacrifices mean offerings being given to the pastors/evangelists. The people of God do not sacrifice their time in preparing messages by meditating on the Word of God day and night (Ps.1:2). They merely expect the pastors or the evangelists to give them messages. The people of God do not sacrifice their time in intercessory prayers for others but expect the pastors and the evangelists to pray for them. The people of God do not sacrifice their comforts and their possessions for the sake of preaching the gospel in places not reached by the gospel but want to add comforts to their life-style through “miracles”. The people of God do not sacrifice their money for ministering to the poor saints in their midst but expect “financial miracles” from God. The people of God do not sacrifice their time and money for preaching the gospel to the lost souls in their towns and in the nearby villages but merely expect the evangelists to preach the gospel. They are just content with their worship services and with throwing some money into the offertory boxes kept in their churches. Whatever these people of God do are works just to please God and these are not sacrifices. God is not pleased with their singing psalms or hymns in their church services when many of them live in sins like adultery by entering into adulterous marriage covenants. Our God is a consuming fire. We cannot and should not dare to approach His throne of grace by living in such abominable sins.

During the New Testament period, the people of God had fellowship with one another by sharing the material things together and by ministering to the poor saints amongst them. The fellowship was not meant to exchange pleasantries as we witness today. They prayed for one another and did not come to the local churches just to be prayed for. There was no such “healing service” because there was no special preacher to pray for the healing. Of course, the elders were there to pray for the sick through the anointing of oil. The people of God were ministering to one another by words of prophecy. They did not invite anyone with the prophetic gift to minister to them. When are we going to perfect and equip the saints for the ministry? The five types of New Testament ministers are supposed to perfect and equip the saints for the ministry (Eph.4:11-12).

God is not interested in the majority of people attending church services or gospel crusades. But He is interested in the minority of His people who are prepared to do what He bids them to. In the 7th chapter of Judges, we note that Gideon raised an army of 32,000 soldiers to fight against the Midianites. Ultimately, God chose only 300 men for the war after a thorough and rigorous selection. Those who were fearful and afraid were allowed to leave the battlefield. God wants those people to work in His vineyard who would boldly preach and fight for the truth. He does not want the majority for the battle against the false prophets and apostates. Let the fearful go back and continue to sit in the barracks. The majority is those thousands of spectators on the pews or who worship God through their lips without presenting their bodies as living sacrifices. “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service”. (Rom.12:1). The 300 soldiers are the remnant in the Body of Christ who preach and fight for the truth. Are you one of the 300 soldiers or one of the thousands of soldiers who went back to the barracks?

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