Anti-Berean Churches

 A Berean is one who scrutinizes all viewpoints in light of scripture and allows themselves to be scrutinized in like manner. The term itself is derived from Acts 17:11 "Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true." But while the Bible endorses such as "honorable", most churches today are anti-Berean, in that they don't allow such scrutnizing.

Indeed I myself have recently been expelled from two churches being a practicing Berean. Denomination churches are, of course, by their nature anti-Berean. For by their nature they don't allow any scrutinizing of their denominational opinions. They interpret scripture in light of their theological forefathers, like Wesley, in the case of Methodism, or John Calvin in the case of Reformed churches. And, much like in Catholicism and Orthodox Christianity, it is not allowed in their church to call into question the opinions of their theological founders. All such churches are inherently anti-Berean.

Non-Denominational Denominations

What about those churches that refer to themselves as "Non-Denominational"? In reality most non-denominational churches are actually denominational in disguise. Namely when they mean by non-denominational is that they are not a name-brand denomination. But in fact most are denominational in themselves. That is their institutional leaders, be it a pastor or board of elders, define for their institution a set of viewpoints which are not subject to scrutiny. The Bible is only allowed to be interpreted in light of their viewpoint rather their their viewpoint being allowed to be scrutinized in light of scripture.

Consider examples of "Statement of Faith" of such churches as they post on their site. Typically they'll include standard creeds and then add to them something unique to their sect. For example I found one that stated, "We are neither Five-Point Calvinists, nor are we Arminians". Apparently such Calvnist or Arminian Christian are not welcomed to be included in the "We". Many churches  in their statements of what they call "Our Beliefs", also include the Charismatic doctrine of the Baptism with the Holy Spirit restricted to subset of believers, a sort of sectarianism within sectarianism.

Who is "We" in these statements of faith? If believers are assembled together, they collectively are supposed to be the "We". But in Sectarian Churchianity, the "We" is simply a section, a division, a faction of Christians who chose not to fellowship with those they even reckon legitimate Christians, but who don't hold their particular sectarian opinions. Furthermore, as I mentioned, such churches do not welcome Bereans. For even if a Berean agrees with their particular sectarian opinions, the fact that they've made such opinions the basis for fellowship is what the Berean will not tolerate without speaking out, and consequently getting thrown out of such a church.

What's the Function of an Institutionalize Church?

All who are believers in Christ are in one family. The institutionalizing of local body of believers was supposed to be for the purpose of facilitating the assembling of the family into local communities for the purpose of the exercising of their collective gifts to the edification of the body as a whole.

But as the mustard seed grew into a tree, the birds came to develop their own nest eggs in its branches. Sectarian leaders arose who have been scattering the flock, as Paul predicted of the Ephesian elders, "know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them." Acts 20:29,30 These paid professionals have restricted fellowship first by driving out anyone who doesn't hold their sectarian opinion, and also by overly restricting the participation of those they allow to attend. There's generally very little fellowship in churches today. People go to church, are told what to say, what to sing, then are indoctrinated, not allowed to speak, gagged and tied to their chairs, and then they go home, having experienced no more fellowship than if they had listened to the service online, though they may have had a nice nap.

This is much in contrast to what the Bible teaches about the assembly.
"Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. If anyone speaks in a tongue, let there be two or at the most three, each in turn, and let one interpret. But if there is no interpreter, let him keep silent in church, and let him speak to himself and to God. Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge. But if anything is revealed to another who sits by, let the first keep silent. For you can all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be encouraged." 1Cor 14:26-31

"Speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work." Eph 4:15,16
Fellowship involves participation. Not simply attendance, but rather the exercising of one's spiritual gifts to the edification of the body.

But since the inception of Sectarian Churchianity, "the church" has been treated as if it was only the institutional leadership, and not the family of believers who assembly locally. For example Sectarian leadership will take a phrase like "tell it to the church" (Mat 18:15) and restrict the phrase to themselves as leaders.

Illegitimate Institutional Leadership

Historical precedence has show a correlation between religious leadership and megalomania. Who were Jesus' worst enemies? The religious leaders of his day. And why? Because of their pride. Such has largely been the case throughout history. Today many a church leadership reckons his realm of authority to be much broader that is his ACTUAL LEGITIMATE realm of authority. Therefore they restrict fellowship to those who hold his sectarian opinions and restricts what actually constitutes "fellowship" largely to attending his lectures and paying him a fee. Whatever he says is not to be scrutinized and whatever his edicts, they are to be obeyed. I don't see that as being what Jesus had in mind concerning leadership. That's not only lording it over the flock, but feeding on the flock and scattering it. (What animal does that?)

Biblical Leadership

Biblical leadership sets the example for others to follow. Many an institutional leader had told me that Jesus is not an example to follow! Even though the Bible says he he is. They say Paul is not the example to follow, even though the Bible says he is. The reason they do this is to follow the precedents set by Jesus and Paul will result in conflicts with the religious elite overstepping their legitimate realm of authority.

The Pastor who wants the fellowship to be all about him, would not want himself viewed as an example to follow because that would result in other megalomanics arising in his church threatening to usurp his authority. But the Pastor or other such church leader who follows Christ's example would set himself up as an example to imitate. Ask yourself - if everyone in the church behaved just as the leadership does, what would your church look like? Is the leadership elitist or are they like Jesus?

What is a Berean to do?

All believers should have the right to fellowship with their family, body of Christ, wherever it is. It seems to me that trumps any illegitimate restrictions institutional leadership places upon the local family of believers. Consequently believers need not require permission from local institutional leadership to meet with their family.

But the question arises as to whether these sectarian institutions are to be treated as legitimate entities of themselves, like secular or civil organizations. If a group of believers form a partisan political organization, would that organization be a "church"? No. The church is not an institution its the assembling of believers on the basis of their common faith in Christ which constitutes a church. These sectarian organizations today referred to as "churches" have legitimacy in a civil sense. Their leadership has legitimacy in a civil sense with regards to what goes on in their sectarian institution. They have charge over their facilities and meetings.

If a Berean attends such an organization for the purpose of fellowship, such a person will soon be driven out of that organization. Not much choice there. The choice is either to attend and get driven out, or chose not to attend in the first place. Bereans can try to find a non-sectarian church, but such are rare in my experience. Or form his own group. After all the Bible gives no indication as to how many believers are to assembly before it's reckoned a "church" - except what Jesus said, "Where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them." Mt 18:20 (Maybe that's the magic number!) Furthermore there's no indication in the Bible that organizations today referred to as "para-churches", such as campus ministries and such, are not of themselves legitimate assembly of believers. Today Bereans have to think outside the box and inside the Bible when thinking about fellowship.

Bereans Follow Jesus' Example

The hostility that practicing Bereans experience in churches comes primarily from leadership, corrupted by its pride of position, the megalomaniac effect seemingly typical among the religious elite throughout history. And as such the way Bereans are typically dealt with is to invoke the accusation of rebelliousness. In calling into question the opinions and viewpoints of the religious elite we are accused of rebelling against institutional authority. It's the same thing Jesus ran into, and what got Him crucified. Indeed it seemed He intentionally provoked the religious elite of His day to that end, calling to question their opinions in light of scripture. As such it seems part of what it means to follow Jesus is to be a practicing Berean, the expected end being that you will suffer persecution by the religious elite just like Jesus did.

The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources