By Pamela Sheppard
” Many readers and visitors to pamsheppard.com will be shocked to hear a minister of 30 years write that for most of you, it is best that you not attend church in your local community. I served as a pastor for about 15 of the 27 years both denominational and nondenominational service. Today, I personally believe that a person can grow spiritually without regularly attending an organized church. Most definitely, you should assemble with the saints, but the word of God does not lay out a detailed order of service, nor does it suggest the day you should assemble, the time or even the nature of the place or building where gathering together should take place. We live in a computerized world, where we can “assemble” 24 and 7.
Simply put, I truly believe that the organized church as it now stands will be completely revamped by the Lord. Why? Because quite frankly, the traditional structures are not working. I myself have no replacements to offer, as my ministry is in the process of being completely revamped and reformed. When I wrote 3 of my 6 books, I was hopeful that repentance would bring about reformation and renewal to the organized church. However, the love of money, which is the root of ALL evil, has permeated most of the church and I seriously doubt if the Lord is going to allow it to continue to exist in its present state. Judgement is swiftly coming and I shudder at what is going to happen to church and to churchgoers. In the meantime, for those of you who feel that you need to assemble in an organized church, the following comments are provided for you to assist you in your pursuit to find a church.
The following excerpt is taken from one of the chapters in “Faces of the Religious Demon.” If after you read this you would like to obtain either the ebook or the softcover, click here. In truth, I do not believe that Jesus intended for any one who follows Him to lower their spiritual guard by relying on others to watch on his behalf. Just as we don’t need a weather man to tell us that spring is coming, we also don’t need people to complicate the obvious. Case in point. If the Anti-Christ is actually a human being, then it is clear to me that he shall come forth out of Christianity for a very simple reason. Satan has had a seat in the organized church for centuries. There is no better place for the devil to conceal, prepare and empower his son of evil and destruction than within a worldly Christian system.
The word of God clearly testifies not only to the fact that demons were operating during the Lord’s earthly ministry, but that renewed demonic activity will manifest in the latter days. (I Timothy Ch:4:1-4) Paul’s warning to Timothy does not merely relate to new manifestations of evil in the world but to an ever-increasing apostasy in the professing church, a cult promoted by seducing spirits of a highly sensitive spirituality. In spite of this infiltration by demons into the organized church, it is not my personal intent to disparage the local church or to suggest that all local churches need to be closed down. I myself pastor a local assembly as well as an international Internet body of believers. However, the organized church is an institution created by man, not even described or promoted by the Word of God:
“There is nothing inherently wrong with being involved in a local church. But realize that being part of a group that calls itself a “church” does not make you saved, holy, righteous, or godly any more than being in Yankee Stadium makes you a professional baseball player. Participating in church-based activities does not necessarily draw you closer to God or prepare you for a life that satisfies Him or enhances your existence….Sadly, many people will label this view ‘blasphemy.’. However, you should realize that the Bible neither describes nor promotes the local church as we know it today. Many centuries ago religious leaders created the prevalent form of ‘church’ that is so widespread in our society to help people be better followers of Christ. But the local church many have come to cherish—the services, offices, programs, buildings, ceremonies—is neither biblical nor unbiblical. It is a-biblical— that is, such an organization is not addressed in the Bible.” (Revolution, pg. 37) 5
Therefore, since the church model of modern times is neither promoted nor discredited in the Word of God, I believe that it’s viability should be determined by some very wise and practical applications:
1. In terms of its structure, is it an episcopal denomination or an independent body? Quite frankly, if it is a connected church, then even though it may be uncorrupted at the local level, linked to an ungodly authority or “Mother Church”will eventually spoil or damage the spiritual fruits throughout the entire system. By nature of its organization, a religious demon will have a seat in high places. The complicated, political form of an episcopal church with a connected governing body should be avoided primarily due to its structure. Consequently, its bishops and leaders will be prone to cover-ups, particularly where improprieties and outright sin may be involved among its various charges. In my second book, I describe this dilemma:
“A Bishop’s power lies in his ability to appoint a pastor and fill a pulpit. Since pastors in full-time ministry are totally dependent each year upon whether or not the Bishop chooses to favor them with an appointment to a church that will be lucrative enough to continue to provide for themselves and their families, a conflict of interest automatically inherent within the Episcopal form of church government will ultimately manifest.” (The Making of A Prophet, pg. 84) 6 Dealing with sin in such a structure is like trying to eliminate roaches from a city block where all of the buildings are erected side by side and are therefore “connected”. If you bomb one apartment with a pesticide, or even exterminate an entire building, the roaches will simply run upstairs, downstairs or to the building next door. Regardless of how clean you keep your apartment, you will not be able to contain the roaches, especially after dark. Just go in the kitchen and turn on your lights and hundreds of them will be flying around as if they had wings!!! Every connected building has to be bombed from one corner to the other on the entire street, or the roaches will soon return. So is the fate of the connected churches. The leaven of the Pharisees is impossible to contain without a complete annihilation.
2.Where an independent church is concerned, the issue is not so much its structure but whether or not it has a system in place to avoid spiritual neglect or abuse. Within a small assembly or a mega church, every sheep in that church should have someone who personally knows him and who ministers to his personal needs. If members are compelled to go outside of their local church to receive competent counseling, deliverance, healing and recovery, then I suspect that the primary benefit experienced in church is merely a soothing of their flesh as a byproduct of the worship experience of song and praise. Moreover, congregations of this kind provide a social environment for family members. In my opinion, social contacts with Christians can be obtained at a Christian concert and family activities are available at the local YMCA. If your spiritual needs are not being met at your local church, then you are just involved in a social club and your local church has no real spiritual value. Recently I learned that state of the art children’s ministry programs can become traps due to the fact that the parents won’t leave a church even when they realize that the basic core of the church is corrupt. The pressures for dissatisfied parents to remain are exerted by the social and entertainment needs of their children.
3.The independent churches that can be very dangerous include those that call themselves “deliverance churches.” In some of these assemblies, the religious demon and the witchcraft spirit are running rampant with counterfeits in worship, doctrine, prayer and other strange practices including a heavy emphasis on being slain in the spirit.
“A demonstration of real power is not falling slain. We see a lot of this phenomena in the ministries of TV evangelists, particularly in the Pentecostal and non-denominational churches. Demonstration of God’s power would be after you have fallen out in the spirit, what condition were you in when you got to your feet?!!! Where you healed? Were you delivered? Did God speak to you a word in due season concerning a special problem you have been challenged with? Or did you just pass out because everybody else was passing out!? ( The Making of a Prophet, pg. 199) 7
4. I agree with Dr. Rebecca Brown’s warning concerning various counterfeits manifested through the speaking in other tongues, primarily among word of faith, pentecostal and Charismatic Catholic churches:
“Christians have made the terrible mistake of assuming that ALL tongues are from God. How wrong they are!…It is well-known that many occultic rituals are done in tongues….The fact that Catholics speak in tongues is not proof that they are filled with the Holy Spirit. Too many of these precious Catholic souls assume that because they are speaking in tongues, they are saved. How can the Holy Spirit be operative and manifesting in a system of idolatry? Those involved in the Catholic Charismatic movement who really start reading and studying the Bible soon realize they must separate themselves from the idolatrous Roman Catholic Church if they are going to serve the true Jesus of the Bible.” (Prepare for War, pgs. 182,183) 8
5.However, the crucial factors of your assessment of a local church actually relate to the security of your eternal life,which is truly where the rubber meets the road. Why go to church if, in the final analysis, you do not escape damnation by traveling the narrow way to eternal life? Assuredly, you should examine how and with what regularity the doctrines of repentance, resurrection and rebirth are being preached and taught? A church with a Jezebel influence will minimize or overlook the importance of these “3 R’s” through excessive tradition, polity and other less important priorities of doctrine.
6.If a local church minimizes the need to learn the devices of the devil or does not even recognize the existence and the workings of demonic forces in these times, then it is in a low condition of spiritual life and power. I believe that such a church should be avoided like the plague. In fact, such ignorance on the part of a congregation’s leadership is an indication to demons of the leaders’ accommodation to them through fear, an open door to demonic influence. According to Jessie Penn-Lewis:
“A perspective view of the ages covered by the history in Bible records, shows that the rise and fall in spiritual power of the people of God, was marked by the recognition of the existence of the demoniacal host of evil. When the Church of God in the old and new dispensations was at the highest point of spiritual power, the leaders recognized, and drastically dealt with, the invisible forces of Satan and when at the lowest, they were ignored, or allowed to have free course, among the people.” (War on the Saints, 9th edition, pg.27)
Consequently, if there is no emphasis in the local church on spiritual warfare and deliverance, that church is without spiritual power.
7.The emphasis upon the Word of God in a church should and could be a good sign; Nevertheless, it is misleading and immaterial to base your assessment of a church solely upon evidence that all its members carry bibles, yellow markers and recite scriptures. For when leadership doe not rightly divide the word, then heresies posing as revelation truths give place to the doctrines of devils that Paul warned Timothy about (I Timothy 4:1): the prosperity gospel, dominion teaching, “name it and claim it”, pre-tribulation rapture, submission to authority, eternal security, no ordination for women, and other doctrines too numerous to mention even in one book.
False doctrines of this kind are skillfully birthed by teaching demons to deceive and exploit the people. If the devil had nerve enough to get “religious” by reciting scripture out of its context to tempt the Lord Jesus Himself, then he has trained his demonic army to do likewise to us. (Matthew 4:1-11) “Out of context” preaching tends to draw those who have not truly repented nor been converted, but who are enticed to come to church by the excitement that scriptural hype can produce. Such preaching and teaching draws people, places and things to the building.—those who seek blessings to get their needs met or to fulfill their dreams—but they have not really been drawn to Christ.
8.A church after the Lord’s heart is the church of Philadelphia: those who do not deny His name and who have kept His word.(Revelation 3:7-13) This is a church that will not compromise the truth, either for the favor of the world or for unity with other churches. Since we all see through a glass darkly, a good pastor is one who continually examines if he is rightly dividing the word. When errors and contradictions are uncovered, then a good pastor openly and publicly admits to his or her mistakes, correcting any inaccurate teachings without hesitation. The Lord declared that the church of Philadelphia was of little strength, so it is clear that His assessment was not based upon numbers of members, wealth or resources. I believe that a major part of keeping His word is to go forth and cast out demons. A good church is about building people so that they can confront the demonic influences to expel the darkness in their own environment, equipping the sheep to be living stones, holy vessels for the Spirit of the Lord to dwell in.
9/22/11 I’ve come a long way since I wrote this article. In this hour, I believe that all churches have become dwelling places of demons for one primary reason. They all teach that man chooses God by a decision of his or her own free will, by saying :I accept Jesus” and by asking Him to “come into my heart.” Jesus is at the right hand of the Father. The Holy Ghost comes into the human spirit and not the heart. The heart is a function of the fallen soul of man and it is desperately wicked, and as such, has no capability of choosing God without the ministry of the Holy Ghost.