Saturday, February 28, 2009


[Subversive Underground]
Article #178

by Keith Giles

On Tuesday of this week I received an email from someone who had a question for me regarding the mounting debt issues at their church.

The email read:

"Our church is in debt. We owe the bank thousands. We now need the debt to function. We have become dependent on it. My spouse challenged the finance person, in private, about this and got no where. We suggested we stop doing stuff and paying so many people to run the church. These suggestions feel on deaf ears."

Now, my perspective may be different than most in this situation, but since the question has been asked, and since I believe that many other Churches will soon find themselves in the same boat very soon, I wanted to take the time and respond here on the [Subversive Underground] newsletter.

For a bit of background on my personal situation, let me make it clear that my wife and I have fairly radical views when it comes to the Church, and especially when it comes to church finances, offerings and tithes. For our family, it is our conviction that the offering belongs to the poor and not to the Church to spend on herself and her own comforts. This is why, 3 years ago, we left our on-staff, paid pastoral positions and started a house church where 100% of all offerings could go to the poor in our community. I do not take a salary. We use every penny received in our basket to buy groceries for needy families and to help people in need.

However, many churches, if not most, do not operate in this way. Most churches in America today are operating as a business. Because of this, these churches, like every single other business, are suffering financially and facing economic hardships that force many to make difficult decisions about staff, expenses and programs.

Like every other business, Churches around the nation are laying off workers, cutting back on programs and down-sizing to make it through these uncertain economic times.

Could it be that God might be allowing the Church as we know it to go out of business so that she can realize that He has never intended her to operate as a business in the first place?

Most Christians today cannot imagine Church without a paid professional clergy, a large building, a state-of-the-art sound system, and programs for youth and children. However, the historical evidence is that people have been operating without these things for literal centuries. These churches have been making disciples and preaching the Gospel and serving the poor and worshipping Jesus just fine, thank you. All without a building, a paid professional clergy, or programs or a thousand dollar sound system. Seriously.

Furthermore, the New Testament tells us that Jesus refers to His Church as a Family, a Body, an Organism and a Bride. He never treats her as a business and, in my opinion, the Scriptures reveal a very different DNA for Church than we've adopted here in the West.

One pastor friend recently shared that he had approached his board of directors at his church about not continuing to take a salary for his services. He wanted to take a job in the real world and not be a burden to the Body financially. This, I thought, was a wonderful idea. However, they wouldn't allow him to work for free or to take his salary elsewhere. This response puzzles me in many ways, but sadly, most cannot conceive of running the Church in any other way than as a business.

Over the last few years I have met three different pastors, here in California, who have found it necessary to let go of their church building and their paid staff due to financial hardships. In each case, these pastors made the decision to re-organize as a series of house churches. All of them have since discovered the joy and the freedom of "Being the Church" rather than asking their people to attend one. None of them would ever go back. None of them would have taken the step towards House Church if their bank accounts were bursting either.

Now that they have made the leap towards organic forms of "being Church" these three pastors have also discovered that, instead of shrinking in size, they are growing, in maturity and in numbers. Instead of hurting for money they cannot help but generate money, because they have little to no expenses. Instead of spending thousands of dollars a month on utilities and bills, they now spend hundreds of hours in community and in fellowship with one another and have discovered what it means to really be the Family of God.

Our house church, The Mission, has been together for just over 3 years now. I have been very blessed to grow alongside others who share our passion for living outward-focused lives of love. My family has been blessed to open our home and discover true Koinonia fellowship and community with people who have a sincere desire to follow Jesus. We've all been blessed to encourage one another in our faith and to spur one another on to do good works which God has prepared in advance for us to do.

We've been blessed to share our finances with one another, and with those we encounter in the community, who are in need. We've been amazed to connect every dollar we give with actual people whose lives are blesssed because of what we share.

Of course, this is no way to run a business, and that's the whole point. Our passionate desire is to live our faith and share what we have been given without allowing profits or corporate strategy or ROI to muddy the waters.

Perhaps God has other reasons for allowing financial pressures to put the Church out of business? Perhaps our economy will rebound soon and all of this will go away? Who knows?

I just cannot help to see God at work in all of this, especially when I hear joyful reports of pastors who are seeing growth and maturity in their church as the walls come down and the people discover what it means to be the Church they were always meant to be.

My hope and prayer is that the people of God here in America would really begin to fully understand what it means to operate as a family, and to share what they have, and to embrace one another, and the poor, no matter what the cost.



Saturday, February 21, 2009


[Subversive Underground]
Article #177

The Cult of Christian Personality
by Keith Giles

"For when one says, "I follow Paul," and another, "I follow Apollos," are you not mere men? What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building." - 1 Cor 3:4-9

One thing that concerns me was I see this growing house church movement flourish is the celebrity effect.

When I first stepped into this there were a few books out there to help me get my bearings and for those books, and to those authors, I am grateful. Some of them even made themselves available to me and those who were local even took time to meet me for coffee.

Now I see us selling books on organic church that are topping best-seller lists, and our annual house church conferences are selling out early (better get your tickets now before they're all sold out), and our spokesmen and women are now becoming minor Christian Celebrities.

I suppose I fear that, if we're not very intentional about all of this, we risk becoming the thing we're raging against.

I was reminded of this when reading Lionel Wood's excellent interview with author and house church leader Jon Zens over on his blog this week. Zens urged those who are new to the movement to remain humble to not allow people to cluster around them.

If we really believe in this peer-led, leaderless concept of "being Church", and if we really are convinced that God's Spirit is active in each of us just the same, then I would love to see us model something different at the highest levels of our movement...something really unique and refreshingly inclusive.

Each of us can also check our own hearts and do our best to avoid hero worship and the fan-club mentality around our favorite author or speaker or blogger.

We would do well to heed our own advice, and the commands of Jesus when he instructed his disciples:

"But you are not to be called 'Rabbi,' for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth 'father,' for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called 'teacher,' for you have one Teacher, the Christ. The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted."- Matthew 23:8-12

If we put our hope and our faith in men, they will let us down. They are all as weak and as fickle as we are. None of us is righteous. No, not one.

Instead, let us place our hope and our eyes on Christ alone. Let us consider one another equals, and brothers, and let us not exalt one over the other in the Body of Christ.


Saturday, February 14, 2009


[Subversive Underground]

Article 176-
"The Human Temple" by Keith Giles

"In those days, when your numbers have increased greatly in the land," declares the LORD, "men will no longer say, 'The ark of the covenant of the LORD.' It will never enter their minds or be remembered; it will not be missed, nor will another one be made. At that time they will call Jerusalem 'The Throne of the LORD', and all nations will gather in Jerusalem to honor the name of the LORD. No longer will they follow the stubbornness of their evil hearts." – Jeremiah 3:16-17

In this passage from Jeremiah, God speaks of a time that is coming when no one will speak the name of the ark of the covenant, nor will it be remembered or missed or rebuilt. Why? How? What could possiby bring such a thing to pass?

The ark of the covenant was the place where the Holy Presence of God rested. Behind the thick veil of the tabernacle, and within the temple in Jerusalem, it was placed. Only the priest could enter in at specific times to offer the sacrifice for God’s people. No one else was permitted to stand before the ark of the covenant, and even the priest who stood near it was in danger of falling dead if he failed to deal with his own sin accordingly.

Yet, God tells us that the day is coming when the ark, and all it represents will be forgotten, and never remembered or spoken of again among God's people.

This is the significance of the tearing of the veil at the crucifixion. Because of the finished work of Christ upon the cross, the Holy of Holies where the ark of the covenant sat was suddenly wide open to any who would receive Christ and allow Him to enter in and dwell (tabernacle) with them.

In 1 Chronicles 28:2, we read, "King David rose to his feet and said: "Listen to me, my brothers and my people. I had it in my heart to build a house as a place of rest for the ark of the covenant of the LORD, for the footstool of our God, and I made plans to build it."

The ark was considered the footstool of God, the place where His presence rested.

However, God clearly says in Isaiah 66:1 - "Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. Where is the house you will build for me? Where will my resting place be?"

God's response to David regarding the need to build Him a temple is:

"I have not dwelt in a house from the day I brought the Israelites up out of Egypt to this day. I have been moving from place to place with a tent as my dwelling. Wherever I have moved with all the Israelites, did I ever say to any of their rulers whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, "Why have you not built me a house of cedar?" - 2 Sam 7:5-7

Clearly, God never asked for a temple to be built for His presence. He wants to be "the God who is with us", Emmanuel. Not kept in a structure built by human hands.
Yet, we continually insist upon building great structures and temples for God.

In Daniel 2:44-45, King Nebuchadnezzar's dream about the future is interpreted for us:

"In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever. This is the meaning of the vision of the rock cut out of a mountain, but not by human hands—a rock that broke the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver and the gold to pieces."

This prophecy reveals that God's Kingdom will be established, first as a small stone, cut from the rock "but not by human hands" and that it will grow to destroy every earthly kingdom and it will "never be destroyed" but "it will itself endure forever."

Jesus came as a stone, a small child that grew and became "the stone that the builders rejected" (Psalm 118:22). The Gospel that Jesus came preaching was about God's Kingdom, and Jesus gave rise to a nation of people who were once not a people, but through Him would become a "chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God," who "were once not a people but (who) now (were) the people of God." - (1 Peter 2:9-10)

The prophecy of Jeremiah is in harmony with God's promise to David; that God Himself would build the house of God, and that this new temple would be one "not made by human hands" but made up of "living stones (who) are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ." - 1 Peter 2:5

The Temple God has always dreamed of is the one He Himself is building. It is a building of living stones, it is a spiritual house. His resting place is within the human heart.

As Dr. G.K. Beale writes, concerning the Jeremiah passage:

"The reason the ark in the temple is not remembered is that a greater temple than the more physical one will encompass no only all of Jerusalem (Jeremiah 3:17) but the entire world. This future temple will be so incomparably greater than the former that God’s people will not even "remember it nor shall they miss it" (Jeremiah 3:16). Furthermore, a physical ark within a small temple will "not be made again" because everything to which it pointed has been realized.

In this light, the verse in Jeremiah 3:16 is affirming that once the greater glory of the eschatological temple comes, one will not focus on the lesser glory of the earlier temple, much less should one ever desire to rebuild it."
-(From the book, “The Temple and the Church’s Mission”, page 140, InterVarsity Press)

As Jesus said, "I tell you that one greater than the temple is here." (Matt 12:6) and when Jesus had fulfilled the role of the High Priest and offered himself as the final Lamb of God, and the veil in the Temple was ripped in half, from top to bottom, He made a way for us, the people of God, to become the new temple, not made with human hands, but spreading out over the whole earth, and living as the new priesthood of believers, to make known His Glory among the nations.

We do not need a temple because we are the temple. We do not need a priest, or a pastor, because we are all priests of God, empowered and filled by His Holy Spirit. We do not need an animal sacrifice to be made, because He was our final blood sacrifice, and we are now the living sacrifice, daily dying to ourselves and carrying our cross to follow Him.

Let us not return to the rubble and rebuild the man-made temple. Let us not take up needle and thread and repair the veil that was torn. Let us not commission special priests and clergy who will stand before God in our place.

Our identity, as followers of Jesus, runs deeper than brick and mortar. It transcends a building. It goes beyond ceremony. Our identity as disciples of Christ is defined by a relationship between a Loving God, and a Living Temple made of people who love God, and love others.



Saturday, February 07, 2009


[Subversive Underground]

Article # 175

Seven Mistakes Every Church Should Avoid
by Keith Giles

1) Embracing the building - Regardless of the fact that the New Testament emphasizes a Church made "not by human hands" but composed of people (who are themselves the Temple of the Holy Spirit), many churches in America today get very distracted by the need for a building. In fact, most christians couldn't imagine the possibility of church without one.

More on this topic HERE

2) Misrepresenting the tithe - Nearly everyone who finds out we lead a house church asks me if we at least make sure everyone tithes. When I say we don't they usually begin to cock their heads to one side and look at me funny. However, the Biblical mandate for tithing is purely an Old Testament concept intended to maintain the Jewsish Temple system and support the Levitical Priesthood. The New Testament church neither taught it, nor practiced it. In fact, the Christian Church didn't mandate a tithe until the 7th Century. Imagine, over 700 years with no tithe? How could that be? To begin with, offerings in the early, New Testament church were voluntary and freely given out of love. In fact, most gave more than a tithe, they sold everything they had and shared it with those around them who had need. Still, this offering wasn't a law or a command of the Church, it was freely shared out of love. Tertullian, in his "Apology" (2nd Century) affirms that no offering was taken out of compulsion but says:

"Even if there is a treasury of a sort, it is not made up of money paid in initiation fees, as if religion were a matter of contract. Every man once a month brings some modest contribution- or whatever he wishes, and only if he does wish, and if he can; for nobody is compelled; it is a voluntary offering…to feed the poor and to bury them, for boys and girls who lack property and parents, and then for slaves grown old." (Read the entire quote HERE )

Under Constantine, the clergy were paid for their services (for the first time in Church history), but that payment was provided by the Roman Government, not by the Christians themselves.

3) Ignoring the poor - There are over 2,000 verses of scripture in the Bible about God's heart for the poor and His expectation that we, the people of God, should also love and bless their poor among us. The strongest verse, in my opinion, comes in Matthew 25 where Jesus tells us that, at the Judgment, He Himself will separate the sheep and the goats based on how much they cared for the poor and the outcast they encountered in their life. A few other verses include:

"There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land."
- Deut. 15:11

"All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do." (Paul being sent out as the first missionary by Peter, James and John in Galatians 2:10)

God is speaking of King Josiah and says: "He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?" (Jeremiah 22:16)

Much more on this subject HERE

4) Over-emphasizing the role of the pastor - Contrary to popular opinion, and American culture, the pastor was not the head of the church in the New Testament. The word "Pastor" only appears once and none of the epistles to the churches are addressed to the pastors, they are addressed to the church; the people themselves.

In the New Testament Church, no one could point to a single man and say, "There is my Pastor" even as none of them could say, "There is my priest". Why? Because everyone understood from Peter, Paul and the rest of the Apostles that THEY THEMSELVES were the Priesthood.

No Christian today would think it was Biblical to start offering lambs for sacrifice as part of Sunday morning worship, would they? Why not? Because Christ fulfilled that upon the cross and became the sacrificial lamb once and for all. Why then do we so easily embrace a priest and a temple? Didn't Jesus offer the sacrifice as our High Priest? Didn't Paul and Peter tell us that we were the Temple of the Holy Spirit?

Certainly, the temple and the priesthood and the sacrifice are all important to the worship of God, however in the New Testament Christian Church the people themselves are the temple, the priesthood and the daily sacrifice.

More on this hot topic HERE

5) Yearning for political power - Nothing underscores the frustration of the American Church more than the current lust for political influence and power. Because "Plan A" has failed to create the result we desired, we have now reverted to "Plan B" which is to attempt to Christianize the society around us and to legislate our Christian values.

The New Testament Christians lived under an oppressive pagan government. They were killed for sport and persecuted horribly. Instead of attempting to reform their government, they obeyed Jesus and loved their oppressors. They did not take up the sword and fight back. They did not verbally abuse the pagans for their sinful lifestyle. They did not attempt to form a coalition or a lobby group to force legislation that aligned with their views. Instead, they simply loved the people around them, shared all that they had with others and, in time, they turned the world upside down by imitating Christ Jesus our Lord.

We should do the same.

More on this topic HERE and HERE

6) Business-minded ecclesiology - Nothing has gotten me in more trouble than this topic, but it is something I feel passionate about. The New Testament never refers to the Church as a business. That's not my opinion, it's just the plain fact of the matter. The Church is described as a Body, a Bride, a Family, a Spiritual House, and an Organism where Christ is the head.

More on this HERE

7) Conversion-focus instead of disciple-making - So many Christian Churches today are focused on making converts with elaborate Easter dramas and Christmas Pageants and Outreach events that gather large crowds, ask for a show of hands from those who do not wish to burn in hell forever. Ask them to repeat a prayer and then count raised hands of those who repeated it.

One Church I visited recently did this exactly and cheered on Sunday morning that 500 people had surrendered their lives to Christ. This same church spent over $40,000 just to produce this event. Yet absolutely zero time, money, energy or thought was placed into making disciples of those 500 people.

For me, and I believe for those who follow Jesus, conversion isn't the touchdown, it's the whistle that starts the game. Jesus commanded us to go and preach the Gospel of the Kingdom and to make disciples and to teach them to obey all that He commanded. He didn't tell us to go out and make converts and count hands.

My sincere prayer and hope is that every Christian Church in America would repent of these seven failures and return to a more Biblical, New Testament form of Christian life.

Many of these practices above involve repairing the veil that was torn at the crucifixion and returning to an Old Testament form of religious worship where an elected priesthood offers spiritual guidance within an elaborate temple on behalf of the common people.

This is why the church we read about in the New Testament bears little to no resemblace to the church on the street corner, or the one we attend.

Can we hope to return to a Christianity based on freedom? Can we hope for the day that every believer is a priest of God? Can we pray that followers of Jesus begin to embrace the idea that they are actually the temple of the Holy Spirit, and that they are the ambassadors of Christ to the world?

Yes, we can hope, and we can pray.

And I do...