by Tom Wacaster
It has been a few years since I passed that little church building, but the sign certainly caught my attention. It read: "Evangelical Spirit Filled Orthodox Catholic Church of St. Thomas the Apostle." It was likely a spin off from the Catholic Church that had been influenced by the charismatic movement of the 60’s and early 70’s. Eleven words without a single reference to God or Christ. One can only wonder what they believed, and since my schedule would not allow it I did not take the time to inquire. Were I a “non-Christian,” I might read the title on that church sign and wonder, “Whose church is it, anyway?”
While that particular title may be a little out of the norm, so far as the number of words used to identify the "church" that meets in that place, there are many "names" and "designations" being used to "denominate" the large number of small, independent, and novel churches cropping up all across our land. We now have the "Cowboy Church," the "Community GLBT Church" (in case you did not get the GLBT, it stands for "Gay, Lesbian, Bi-Sexual, and Transgender"), and the "Liberated Theological Free Thinkers" church (which by the way, is an emalgamation of atheisits who have banned together to form a church for non-believers...really!). I have seen the “Harvest Church,” the “Palm Tree Church,” the “Fruit of the Spirit Church,” the “Little Country Church,” and the “Holy Spirit Filled Church” (all here in east Texas). In the past twenty years or so there has been a virtual “explosion” of independent churches cropping up and with them an attempt to come up with a unique name for a banner of identification. The most recent count of denominations in America has exceeded the imagination, not to mention the strange doctrines being taught and the so-called “worship” that takes place on any given Sunday. In fact, our society has become so inundated with these new churches that one wonders if the Lord has a church at all.
The Bible tells me that Jesus clearly promised, “Upon this rock I will build my church” (Matt 16:18b). I am interested right here in three simple, but important words. The “I” suggests the builder. Any religious institution designed, organized, and built by someone other than Jesus is bogus and exists without divine authority. The word “church” translates the Greek word ’eklesia,’ and means the “called out.” Those who make up the church are no more and no less than the saved and redeemed. One is added to that church upon obedience (Acts 2:41, 47). The most impressive word among the three is the word “my.” The church belongs to Jesus. He planned it, purchased it with His blood (Acts 20:28), and will save it in that final day (Eph. 5:23). If it is the case that it is HIS church, would it not be proper to say it is “Christ’s church”? Who would suggest otherwise? By the same token it is proper to speak of those congregations that are made up of the saved as “the churches of Christ” (Rom. 16:16). Where, then, is the authority [either by example, inference, or command] for any designation the likes of which we see on church buildings in our city, not to mention across this land and throughout the world? Dear reader, will you take just a moment, pick up your Bible, and search its pages? Is there just ONE reference in the Holy Book that contains the name of that religious organization to which you have entrusted your eternal soul? Why not pick up your Yellow Pages, turn to the section on “churches,” and put a scripture by every name that you can find in the New Testament. You may find yourself asking the same question I have asked: “Whose church is it, anyway?”