"Quite honestly, I say this knowing full well some of you, if not most will be offended by this statement, I find church attendance can be a hindrance to a believer's walk in faith"
Before moving on let's clarify what exactly a "Stumbling Block" is.
"an obstacle or hindrance to progress, belief, or understanding"
"An obstacle or impediment"
"a difficulty that prevents progress"
American Psychological Association (APA):
Stumbling Block. (n.d.). Kernerman English Multilingual Dictionary. Retrieved January 16, 2008, from Dictionary.com website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/Stumbling Block
Chicago Manual Style (CMS):
Stumbling Block. Dictionary.com. Kernerman English Multilingual Dictionary. K Dictionaries Ltd. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/Stumbling Block (accessed: January 16, 2008).
Modern Language Association (MLA):
"Stumbling Block." Kernerman English Multilingual Dictionary. K Dictionaries Ltd. 16 Jan. 2008.
proskomma pros'-kom-mah from 4350; a stub, i.e. (figuratively) occasion of
apostasy:--offence, stumbling(-block, (-stone)). - Strong's
Rest assured, that my statement comes not from anger, or someone who has been spurned by church at large. I've taken complete responsibility/accountability for my OWN relationship with the Lord. Over the years, I've come to realize that I cannot, and SHOULD not depend on a church/pastor to define WHO and WHAT God IS. I understand that when Christ sacrificed His body to overcome the sting of sin, which death, the veil in the temple was "rent" in two, (Luke 23:44-46) symbolizing free access to all who believe and confess Jesus, the Son of God. (Romans 10:8-12).
Having said this, my statement does not come from an attitude of anger, but, personal experience and observances. As a matter of fact, this observation started out quite innocently. After I left WWCG, I started studying the Word more avidly than I had previously. When speaking to other "mainstream Christians" about the Bible, they would often contradict what I had learned, by quoting their own doctrines, or by using scripture out of context. That would always drive me back to the Word for clarity and truth.
Since leaving WWCG, I've had many conversations with mainstream (not considered a cult by Christianity overall) church-goers. There are several things I've noticed they say, or don't say, regardless of church/religion affiliation:
1. Promoting concepts along with scripture (which is usually taken out
of context) from what they have read by a Christian author, or heard
in a sermon from their pastor/minister.
2. Promoting their specific church/pastor/religion than or over Christ Jesus as a whole.
3. The inability/confusion to dialogue conceptually regarding scripture,
outside of what they've heard in a sermon or read in a book
4. Largely ignorant of the history of Christianity and the destruction/pain that it's caused on secular society.
5. More inclined to defend the culture/traditions of Christianity, than "contending for the faith" as described by the Word. Book of Jude, verse 3
These are the things that I've notice consistently since leaving WWCG. I've always been encouraged to find the "right" church, which is absolutely un-biblical Ephesians 4. Again, I must emphasis that my statements are my consistent, personal observations that I've experienced over the past ten years (approximately) with various Christians from various affiliations! I am motivated to edify, not condemn.
"Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church." -- 1 Corinthians 14:12 (note: church is spoken here as singular, not plural)
Having said all this, I must return to my original thought, CAN modern (modern as opposed to original as defined by Acts 2 and promoted in Ephesians 4) day church be a stumbling block to the Bible-Believing Believer and the Jesus-Seeker? I MUST say absolutely yes, it can be.
Why?? From what I've seen, it promotes a comfort zone in two ways:
1. Traditions - which can result in familiarity or routine.
2. Relationships - Can cause the Believer/Seeker to seek a personal relationship with God vicariously through church attendance and/or the pastor.
Traditions itself, is not bad in any way, but it can be a inhibitor in how God may move His Laborer where He may, as He wills, if His Laborer is "stuck" in a comfort zone in which they will not consider moving from. Traditions can be a negative factor only if it becomes our comfort zone, in which we look to stability, define our faith and limit thinking capacity within those boundaries.
Likewise, Relationships are, of course not bad in and of itself, but we MUST realize the purpose of Christ suffering was so that we could have a DIRECT relationship with God the Father. It becomes negative when we do not recognize or accept our personal accountability TO GOD to HAVE a direct relationship with HIM. Reading, meditating, praying in submission to, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit independently and intimately with Him. Seeking Him first AND waiting on Him.
When we look to Saint Paul as an example, we understand what it means to be a Believer, by Biblical definition, and not a Christian, by modern standards/traditions.
"Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one.
Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep;
In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren;
In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness" -- 2 Corinthians 11:24-27
"For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.
And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong." -- 2 Corinthians 12:8-10
It is extremely difficult for me to associate the faith that I've seen today to the Faith that Paul has demonstrated in the Word. Yes, the world that Paul lived in then and the world today is vastly different, but the "power of Christ" should not be different.
Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever. -- Hebrews 13:8
If the "power of Christ" is not different, then what is???
Author's Note: I believe in the power of God, in stating that, I DO believe that there are independent churches that do not limit a Believer's walk as I've described here. HOWEVER, as I stated above, I have consistently seen otherwise. The power of God is beyond any measure that mankind may have. It can overcome the most false of doctrines and teachings to be exemplified for HIS own Glory! May He be praised always! If you find yourself questioning your faith, your church, turn to the one who created FAITH and CHURCH! Who else higher than the creator of FAITH and CHURCH would you seek for such answers? May God bless you and grace you with His knowledge in your quest for Him!