One of the things which often puzzles newcomers to Christianity is the differences in opinion many of its adherents have, when it comes to what would logically be assumed to be its basic beliefs, or basic understandings about what Jesus of Nazareth taught, and why.
This page is written from the perspective of an older person who has "been there and done that" in his life, and has tried quite a range of groups of Christians, some of whom one could speculate seem pretty clueless (that isn't meant as an insult) about what it's all about.
People in society at large are usually familiar with organisations like clubs, who have a charter or constitution, and perhaps bye-laws. They are also familiar with the concept of organisations being governed by committees, something that works upward and downward in the community, with several levels of government up to the world government umbrella organisation currently known as the United Nations.
So it isn't really a surprise to them when they encounter decision-making processes within collectives of Christians where often the validity of those decisions appears to be moot.
Perhaps, for the new Christian, it might be useful to explain the structures that we people have built, ostensibly to support the promotion of faith, and teaching and ruling of Christians. Yes "ruling" - but the concept of rule is actually biblical.
When the Presbyterian church first came into existence during the Reformation (16th Century, and in this case in Scotland) it was determined that their organisation would be based on the concept of Presbytery, a grouping of Presbyters (from the Greek Presbuteros meaning an overseer) also thoroughly biblical, to get away from the hierarchial system the Reformers were attempting to escape from. Within their concept were Presbyters, also known as Elders, and it was realised on looking at the early 1st and 2nd Century church that there were two lots of people with "authority" (not power, that came later, because they were escaping from the power motivation of the church from which they had left).
The types of elder were actually called "Teaching" elders and "Ruling" elders, and of the two, the teaching brethren were regarded as far more useful in the gospel context.
In fact those like John Knox - who was instrumental in founding the Presbyterian Church (also known as the Church of Scotland) - was a magnificent teacher of the gospel. Who could deny the founder such an important role. And the same went for many other 16th-Century reformers, such as Martin Luther. And other names like Zwingli spring to mind too.
All the basic or "primitive" churches (as those which clung to Mother Rome sneeringly named them) closely examined the 1st and 2nd Centuries AD Christians to ensure they didn't fall into the man-made structure pattern that evolved through the corporatisation of the faith following Constantine's supposed conversion, and then giving Christianity (but only the bits of it he agreed with) basically "Government Department" status in the Roman Empire.
It would have been really great if they has stayed that way. And the same attitude towards basics is still ridiculed by the big monolothic structures man has built. Those who would like the simple New Testament 1st and 2nd Century ways are still called by names. Now they are "fundementallists" or "fundies" for short.
Sadly man has the great ability to corporatise everything and build structures. Of the groups I have worshipped with, I think only the Open Brethren seem really close to their model or pattern. (NOT the Exclusive Brethren, who are full of power and control stuff.)
So to ask the question the Latter-Day Saints (Mormon) missionaries do, when teaching potential recruits... "Which church is right?" Well, for starters, not theirs, lol.
Probably bits of many church organisations, called "Denominations", are close to "right", whatever "right" may actually mean. It probably means different things to different people.
The majority of the huge "mega-churches" should be shunned. Run as far and as fast as you can from them, because they have wandered as far from truth as the Roman Catholic Church had when Martin Luther precipitated the largest of the Reformation splits. I'm serious. In these days of the internet there is absolutely no excuse to be unaware of the excesses, lies, false teachings, and power play the "big boys" with their corporate structure money-making regimes in place.
While I can't literally prove everything I say on this page, because I'm not a lawyer, my "gut feeling" which seldom lets me down tells me so, supported by anecdotes on-line and in printed form that say the same things.
So, without being judgmental at all, I've come to a conclusion, which I find is supported by many others who have come seperately to the same conclusion.
There are Christians in many churches. Real genuine Jesus-loving and Jesus-following Christians. Christians with a Big-C. That includes those in ministry, but not all.
Remember Jesus pointed his finger at the era we have struggled into. An era where even church leaders are more interested in legislating for social justice, the planet, and not saying that the only way to heaven is via Jesus.
There are also, sadly, a majority of those who attend churches, who don't realise that they are actually participating in a club. These are the Little-c christians, those who attend their club-house weekly or even more frequently. All clubs demand dues, have rules, and so on.
They go along with the President's and C.E.O's addresses week after week to the membership. For President read Minister, Reverend, Pastor, Priest, what-have-you, where they have given in to the secular system - and many have.
The pulpit he (or she in some of them, shudder) occupies is used to promote the current official view of the company or organisation - the denomination or grouping of churches, rather than what scripture teaches, which these days is frequently quite different. They frequently get quite antagonistic towards we who haven't two doctorates in theology and philosophy, who dare to suggest they may not be quite right in what they teach their flocks.
Surely, it was Jesus Himself who said that after he had gone, "Wolves would come in among the flock and scatter them".
So, you may well ask, "Where should I go?" A tough one to answer. I don't agree like some who are disillusioned say, that nobody is right, so we should not meet with anyone. Remember that Jesus said several times in several places that HE would gather His "remnant" - those few in size, who are obedient to Him in every way we possibly can be.
Consider the obedience of the early Christians who were burned, thrown to the lions, crucified, and died in other uncomfortable (actually very painful) ways.
Consider those in the Reformation era who suffered similarly.
Consider current Christians in Iran, Indonesia, China, North Korea, Sudan, Pakistan.... and the fact they also do not renounce their faith to protect their hides while we in middle-class financially well-heeled decadent western society prefer a rock-star type minister's platitudes because there is no danger.
Is there no danger? What about the removal of so many rights for those who genuinely follow Jesus? Maybe the rock-star led congregations will be safe anyway, because we know from scripture that what the Mormons call the "Great and Abominable Church" of the endtimes will come out the the apsotate majority-membership church.
I hope this has got you thinking. How many western culture Christians would bend under attack and renounce their faith in the face of physical torture? I'm serious. It will come, because the rapture is false doctrine. God will not pull all the club membetrs out at the start of the tribulation. Why should he? But that is another story.
There is hope. Not in principalities and powers - human and spiritual leaders of the dark realm.
Help and hope has to be centred in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ; we have no choice. It is follow Him, or "eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die", after all. Remember Noah. My goodness, he would have been lonely.
Jesus has many followers in his "remnant" - within the big boys' clubs, and in the smaller unaffiliated groups that have been described very well as "Independant Wilderness Christians"