Why Modern Churches Are Carnal
Gods Plan For A Scriptural New Testament Church
By J. B. Sparks
(Added One Year Later During Third Printing, June 1997)
Well, I hope that God has blessed you by the reading of this book. It has been a year now since I first completed it and it has created quite a stir. I would like to explain how I came about to write the book and then describe some wonderful events that happened in the next several months after I completed it. After being saved in 1970, I was baptized and joined a Baptist church. I was a Baptist, and I tried to be a good one for the next 26 years of my life. But, during the summer, 1995, I began to have a desire to get closer to the Lord, because I realized that being 43 years old, my time was running out. I also realized that I was probably living in the last days, and that the Lord could come back anytime, so I really wanted my life to count for him. I began to dig in the Scriptures and to pray that the Lord would help me to have a closer walk with Him and that He would use me in anyway He wanted. It seemed as though the Lord kept asking me, "Are you willing to suffer?" I said that I was. (Little did I know how much, even to the point of my life being threatened). As I continued to study and pray, I became very dissatisfied with, not only the church that I was attending, but with Baptists churches in general. (I know in the book, I seemed to really be picking on the Baptists, but I used them mostly because I was more familiar with them than other denominations.) So, don't misunderstand. I believe there are many fine Christians in the Baptist churches that love the Lord. I believe that I was one of them, and I have many good friends still in the Baptist churches. We always loved the people in the churches that we were members of, but we always had problems with the way the churches were operated. My problem was not so much with the Baptist people, but the Baptist system. I didn't know why exactly, I just knew something wasn't right, and question marks kept popping up in my mind. After having some problems, concerning legalism and pastorial dictatorship with the last Baptist church that we were members of, my family and I became very discouraged, so we left. This was in August 1995. I finally felt that I would try to start a Baptist church in the town where I lived, and try to run it the "right way," what ever that was. After getting a commendation from another Baptist church, I rented a storefront in town, put up a sign, and began to take my family to it and preach to them. I got out and went door to door witnessing and inviting people to come to "my" church. Soon, a few people began to come visit. But, because I was really studying the Word, praying, and committing my service to the Lord, the Lord really convicted me that the approach that I was taking was wrong. So, in January 1996, I closed up "shop", and decided that I didn't know what I was doing. I was determined to know what the Bible had to say about starting a church. Quickly, I found out that I wasn't to start a church, but that the Lord would. So, I began to pray earnestly that the Lord would raise up a "right kind" of church, whatever that was. (I really didn't know what exactly a right kind of church was; I just knew that the one I was trying to start and the ones I was familiar with weren't right) In February 1996, I made the decision after much prayer to get out of the Baptist system altogether. I wrote the commending Baptist church and told them I was no longer a Baptist. I began to assemble with my family only in the Lord's name in my home on Sundays and God began to bless us, as I began to search His Word concerning what a Scriptural church was. I also began to busy myself preaching the gospel over the radio and through bulk mailings, and waited for the Lord to reveal to me His will concerning a Scriptural church.
February through June, 1996, I studied the Scriptures to find out what God's will was for a New Testament church. I only used a Bible and my computer. From my findings, I wrote this booklet, "The Truth about the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ". I have never written a book before, and this was never intended to be a book, but later developed that way from my study notes. I felt I would put my findings in booklet form so that I could give it to anyone who questioned how I believed and to defend my position concerning the church.
After completing the book in June 1996, my wife and I soon became very discouraged, because we didn't know of anyone practicing these NT principles. We thought we were the only ones to believe this way. But, surely there had to be others. Many times, we wondered if we were wrong about the whole thing. But, whenever we became discouraged, we would take the book and read it over again. I read it several times, and the Scriptures in it always comforted me each time. Yes, they had to be true, even if there were no churches practicing them today. We continued to feel that we were the only ones that believed this way, because when we took inventory of all the denominations, we didn't see anyone out there meeting according to the Scriptures. Some of my closest friends, who read the book, told me that they couldn't disagree, but "why are you the only ones to believe this way? Surely, if you're right, then there would have to be others." So, we felt like Elijah. We prayed and agonized, and wondered how all this would ever turn out. I remember telling the Lord that even if we never found anyone else that believed this way, that my family and I would continue to believe it and practice it in our home on Sundays until His return. This went on for the next 3 months, until sometime in October 1996, God performed a miracle. We went to the library and checked out a book about denominations in America. We were thrilled when we discovered that there was one group of people who refused to call themselves by a denominational name and that they did in fact assemble together exactly as I had studied. Oh, we were so excited. In the book, they were referred to as "Plymouth Brethren", but it said that they were referred to this name by outsiders, and that they refused to call themselves by that name or any other manmade name. In the back of the book from the library, we got the name of the man who had given the information to the publisher. With the Lord's help, we were able to contact him and get information about two "assemblies" of these kinds of believers in Kentucky. One of these assemblies is in Lexington, so we visited there, and found them to be practicing exactly as God had shown me from the Scriptures. Not only do they practice the New Testament pattern for a church, but they gave me a directory that listed thousands of these assemblies of Christians in America and Canada. (Earlier, I had felt like Elijah, but now it seemed as though God was saying, "See, I've got thousands of assemblies of Christians around the world that have not bowed the knee to traditions, commandments of men, and to denominationalism.") There are indeed many thousands of these assemblies around the world. There are hundreds of these New Testament assemblies in India alone, mostly small, but some are very large having 2-3000 Indians assembling in Jesus name alone. (Many of these countries don't like Western denominationalism.) Around the world, there are over 1500 missionaries starting and planting these Scriptural assemblies with the same New Testament principles that Paul used to start the early churches of his day. How exciting it was to see that God is still blessing his pattern today as He did when He instituted it 2000 years ago. God created this pattern for a New Testament church so that it could grow to its fullest potential and that it would even thrive under persecution. For example, whenever the enemy came into a village and burned down traditional church buildings and killed the pastors and missionaries, the denominational churches usually fell apart and the native people went back to what they were previously. But with God's design, they might kill the elders, but the Christians will go underground and continue to meet just like the early church did, because there is no dependency on one man, a clergy, or a central headquarters. The Head is in Heaven and they can't get to Him. All of this is evident today in places like China.
In comparison of their size, these assemblies probably give more to missions than anyone. They are very mission minded. Anyone called to the mission field doesn't go to different churches gathering support, but after being commended by their home church, they go directly to the mission field, trusting in God to meet their needs. Different assemblies become aware of their needs and support soon follows.
I have also discovered that many of the doctrines that I as a Baptist held so dearly, were discovered, promoted, and carried on by these "brethren" who have no denominational name. Since I have been around them, I have seen that they are very strong believers of these doctrines, such as salvation by grace, eternal security, priesthood of the believer, and clear separation between law and grace, the premillennial return of Christ, and so on. I was also very surprised to discover that many of the great Christian writers and missionaries of the past, were of these simple brethren who met in New Testament assemblies and believe and practiced it's principles. Men such as: John Nelson Darby, Robert C. Chapman, George Mueler, Hudson Taylor, H.A. Ironside, C.I. Scofield (a Congregationalist, but promoted these principles in his notes in the Scofield Study Bible, and it was funded by "brethren" assemblies) John Phillips, CH MacKintosh, Samuel Ridout, and many others.
From October 96 to February 97, we drove the 70 miles from Louisville to Lexington to met with these dear brothers and sisters in Christ who practiced these NT principles. There I became more grounded in these precious truths from God's Word. I also learned the importance of the "breaking of bread," which is the highlight of their meeting each Lord's day in the remembrance of the Savior. My family and I have been so blessed by this meeting which focuses on the Person and the Work of the Lord Jesus Christ. It was interesting that while writing the book, I prayed and asked the Lord to give me a picture of the early Church's meeting, and I began to get a glimpse from 1 Cor. 14 (see pg. 53). I pictured the early saints coming in and quietly sitting down, reading the Scripture, praying, and asking the Holy Spirit to lead in the meeting. Then one by one the men would have liberty to walk up front and lead in Scripture, exhortation, prayer, or in a hymn. A few times, some of my friends came to visit on Sundays, at my home, and I would tell them how I believed the early church met. And, then we would do it. But, the only thing that bothered me was the podium I had up front. I didn't feel it was what the early church had, but I didn't know what else would be there. When I took my family for the first time to the assembly in Lexington, I was overwhelmed. As I walked in, I saw how the people there were sitting quietly reading their Bibles, praying, and meditating just as we had done in my home. But, at the front of the room was the Lord's table with the "bread" and the "cup," I exclaimed to myself, "That's it! That's what should be there." Oh, how excited I was to see the emblems that represented the Lord Jesus Christ as being the center of the meeting. Praise His worthy Name for leading me by the hand into these precious truths. Friend, I am nothing special. The Lord will show His blessed will to any of His children who are looking for the right way to please Him.
January 8, 1997, three families in the Louisville area began to meet in my home on Wednesday nights to learn more about these NT truths concerning the church. On Sundays, we continued to meet with the assembly in Lexington. February 23rd, we had our first meeting on Sunday morning in my home to gather around the Lord's table to break bread. Four families were present. We then began to look for a building that we could meet in, and soon found one in Mt. Washington, KY. The Lord has blessed our meetings. We have also been reaching out to the community in the Lord's name with gospel bulk mailings, jail ministry, radio preaching, and Emmaus Bible correspondence courses, etc. Thank the Lord there is now a small assembly of Christians in the Louisville area that are trying to follow the Scriptural pattern for a local church. There are no doubt many, many Christian families in the Louisville area, but here are four families that are assembling according to the Scriptural pattern that the Lord gave us. It is our desire to please God, not man. We believe that the most precious thing to God in the Bible is His beloved Son, and the most precious thing about his Son, was His obedience unto death. A death that paid for our sins and redeemed us unto Himself. Friend, Jesus is worthy of all that we could ever do for Him. Doesnt He deserve a "right kind of church," that will follow His pattern from the Scriptures?
God never left it up to us to meet in any way we want. Have you ever heard when someone gets saved that they many times are told to "join the church of their choice? Where is that in the Scriptures? That is heresy! The Greek word used for "heresy" or "sect," which is from the same Greek word, means "choice." When a person "chooses" a denominational church (sect) to "join," then that is "heresy." God never left it up to us to choose how we are to meet, but He gives specific directions in His Word on how we are to come together in the local church. We are to obey and meet according to His Word.
I want to say that I am so thankful to the Lord that I have discovered these principles from His Word. They're in the Bible. You can read them for yourself. They have always been there, but I never could see them before, because my eyes had been clouded by denominationalism. I had always read the Bible with "tinted glasses." People always told me that I was looking for a "perfect church", and that I would never find one, because churches are made up of imperfect people. True, but I was not looking for perfect people, but a perfect pattern, and God has given it to us in the Scriptures. God is interested in how we as saints meet in the name of his Son, because we are the "Body of Christ." Yes, God is concerned about the body of His Son, so He gave us a pattern of "how we are to behave ourselves in the house of God."
I also thank God for introducing me to these fine saints of God who do believe and practice the New Testament pattern that He gave us. Doctrinally, they are exactly like the Baptist, but differ 180 degrees in polity and church organization, in that they practice and hold strictly to the New Testament pattern. Furthermore, I have found them to be very serious about their faith. They don't assemble for entertainment, emotion, or to be social, but to worship, learn, and exhort one another in the Lord Jesus Christ. You may ask, "Why have I never heard of these people or these N.T. assemblies before?" Well, maybe it's because they have never taken on a name for themselves or promoted any other name, except for that wonderful Name of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is hard to be well known or remembered when you don't promote yourself. But, God knows who they are, and God will always remember them.
Listen to these words from a couple of "big names" from the past. "Since you would know by what name I would be distinguished from others. I will tell you I would be, and hope I am a CHRISTIAN, and choose if God will to count me worthy, to be called a Christian, a believer, or other such name which is approved by the Holy Ghost. And, as for the titles of Annabaptist (Baptist), Independents, Presbyterians, and the like, I conclude that they come neither from Jerusalem nor Antioch, but from Hell, or Babylon." by John Bunyan, 1672, author of "Pilgram's Progress".
Listen to this one, and I quote, "In the first place, I pray you to leave my name alone, and not to call yourselves Lutherans, but Christians. Who is Luther? My doctrine is not mine. I have not been crucified for anyone. Paul would not that any one should call themselves of Paul, nor of Peter, but of Christ. How then does it befit me, a miserable bag of dust and ashes, to give my name to the children of Christ? Cease, my dear friends, to cling to these party names and distinctions; away with them all; let us call ourselves only Christians, after Him from whom our doctrine comes." Martin Luther.
Following is just one example of how a group of Christians started a Scriptural New Testament church without any denominational help or influence from man.
Mr. Richard Hill, well known Bible teacher in the U.S. for many years, spent some of his earlier years as a missionary to some of the European countries during or after the First World War. He told the following interesting story.
While serving the Lord in the country of Persia (now Iran), he heard of a company of Christians who met in accordance with New Testament teachings a number of miles from where he was then laboring for the Lord. He had a deep desire to make their acquaintance. Very early one Sunday morning he started out on foot to find this group of Christians in this distant town. When he reached the town he had no difficulty in locating the building in which they met for the townspeople seemed to have perfect knowledge of its location.
He arrived a short time before the hour of "breaking bread" in remembrance of their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He being a perfect stranger to these brethren, the elders in the assembly took him into a room, and using Mr. Hill's own description of that meeting, said He was "proud of the God given wisdom shown by these brethren as they questioned him of the reason of the hope that was within him and of the vital doctrines of Christianity." He said it proved to him that they were true shepherds of the flock.
When they were fully satisfied with his account of his conversion to God and his answers on the vital doctrines of Scripture, they received him to the Lord's table. He was given a warm welcome to remember the Lord and to read some passages from the Word of God, showing how the Lord Jesus instituted the Lord's Supper so that His own people should ever remember their Lord and all that He accomplished for them when He died upon the Cross. The brethren then asked him to minister the Word of God to them at the other meetings of the day. This he did with great pleasure, as they were all so anxious to hear the good Word of God ministered.
Mr. Hill was very anxious to hear how their assembly started and received from the elders the following story. "A number of years prior to that time a coporteur was passing through the countryside with his pack of books and Bibles on his back. He stopped at a field where a man was working and began to speak with him. After the conversation with the farmer, the farmer purchased a Bible from him. The Bible became a very interesting book to him and every moment he could, gave himself to searching its pages. He became embroiled in its contents. One day the light of Heaven shone into his soul and he was converted to God through believing the story of God's love in giving His Son to die the cruel death of the Cross. He had now received that for which he had been looking. The joy of the Lord so flooded his soul the whole community soon witnessed the difference in his life. He had the joy of reading the Bible to his family and of seeing them come to the knowledge of sins forgiven through faith in the Son of God. He then invited his friends and neighbors into his home to hear the Word of God and many of them became followers of the Lord Jesus Christ." Continuing to meet to study the Word of God, they soon found out that believers were to be baptized, signifying the fact they were no longer dominated by this present evil world, but were to live separated lives. Tthus showing forth the fact they had become a new creation in Christ Jesus. Mr. Hill asked, "Who baptized them?" The answer was that they baptized each other. Through continuing to study the Word of God, it was evident to them that the early Christians met together every first day of the week, to remember the Lord in the Breaking of Bread and partaking of the Cup, as instituted by our Lord Himself on the night on which He was betrayed. These Christians as they continued to study God's Word began to experience the truth of the words of the Lord Jesus, when He said, "When He the Spirit of Truth is come He will guide you into all Truth." As they grew in knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, such truths as the Priesthood of all Believers, the Indwelling and Filling of the Holy Spirit, the Truth of the Church, the Body of Christ, the Holy Spirit's Gifts to the Church, Divine order in the local church which is the House of God, the Coming Again of our Lord Jesus Christ and many other related subjects began to open up to them. The more diligently they studied the Word of God the more they found that God was equipping them as members of the Body of Christ to minister to each other thus building up one another in their most holy faith.
During the period of time Mr. Hill spent with this assembly of Christians observing their order in the house of God, he said he could not find one thing that did not comply with the teaching of Scripture concerning the New Testament church. He said it was the most remarkable thing he had ever witnessed. Here was a company of believers that had come together, led by the Spirit of God, taught by the Word of God, and meeting according to the truth the Word of God reveals, should govern a New Testament church. They had refused all sectarian names and were meeting alone in the Name of the One Who said, "Upon this rock will I build My church" and "Whose Name is above every name."
The great surprise to this assembly of Christians was when Mr. Hill informed them that throughout the world, there were many thousands of assemblies of Christians meeting simply in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ alone and in the manner in which they themselves were meeting.
Similar accounts of assemblies coming into existence apart from any outside assistance have been related by servants of the Lord many times. Which proves without the shadow of a doubt that God will lead His people to do His Will in all things, if they will only be obedient to the Truth and be willing to be led by Him.
Will not Christians, some saved even from heathendom, rise up in that day and condemn Christian leaders for not having been obedient to the Truth of God pertaining to the Unity of the Body of Christ. Who instead have allowed the whole earth to be filled with divisions or sects contrary to that which is taught in the Word of God and which are only monuments to self-will and doctrines of men. May God convict us of our disobedience in not following His Word, so that we may turn back to God and His Word and then Christ will be glorified in the Unity of His saints upon the earth.
The measure of our love for Christ is the extent of our obedience to Him. Our Lord said if ye love Me you will keep My words. (John 14:23). He that loveth me not keepeth not My sayings. (John 14:24).
(Article written by W. G. McCartney)
This book and addendum was written by J.B. Sparks. (Please write if you wish further information about the Scriptural New Testament church) mailto:Jamesbsparks@aol.com
PO Box 1232
Mt. Washington, KY 40047.
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