Do you know any churches that have no pastors? Are you aware of the fact that many of God’s faithful people attend churches that do not have a regular pastor? This situation is not going to get better in the sense that there are going to be more pastors; it is going to get worse. This is actually good news, however, because there are going to be more churches developing so fast around the world that there are not going to be enough pastors to care for them all.
Today many are meeting in homes or in unheated buildings because they have no other place to meet. There are some churches where the members are meeting in secret because of religious persecution, and most of these churches do not have a pastor.
By the way, how many people do you have to have to form a church? Have you ever thought that through? According to Matthew 18, you have to have two. In the book Upward Look, 315, Ellen White wrote an interesting statement about the church. It says, “God has a church. It is not the great cathedral, neither is it the national establishment, neither is it the various denominations, it is the people who love God and keep His commandments. ‘Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.’ Matthew 18:20. Where Christ is, even among the humble few, this is Christ’s church. For the presence of the High and Holy one who inhabits eternity can alone constitute a church. Where two or three are present who love and obey the commandments, of God, Jesus there presides. Let it be in the desolate place of the earth, in the wilderness, in the city, enclosed in prison walls.”
Many people think it is a great calamity to be without a pastor, especially people who have attended large churches where they have had somone to preach to them regularly. They are used to going and sitting in a pew, listening to the choir, organ and piano, and listening the the speakers and sermons; and they think, “My, if we had no pastor, what would we do?” However, even if you consider it a calamity, it is certainly not nearly the worst thing that could happen to you. Do you know what is an infinitely worse calamity than having no pastor? It is having an apostate pastor. It is much better having no pastor than to have one who is an apostate. So, do not get to feeling too sorry for churches that have no pastor. They are not in nearly as bad as shape as they might be.
Every Christian today needs to understand what the Bible says about apostate pastors. Are you aware of how dangerous it really is? If you sit and listen to an apostate pastor, you are in danger of losing your soul.
According to the Bible, one of the primary characteristics of an apostate pastor is that they preach a peace and safety message. “Because from the least of them even to the greatest of them, everyone, is given to covetousness; and from the prophets even to the priests, everyone deals falsely. They have also healed the hurt of My people slightly saying ‘Peace, peace! When there is no peace.” Jeremiah 6:13, 14
It is the natural human tendency, when there is the belief that there is going to be peace and security, to relax and feel secure. A false sense of security, however, is not going to keep you from being destroyed.
Part of the peace and safety message is the concept that you cannot keep the law of God perfectly. When a person who has been taught this peace and safety message meets someone who knows what the New Testament truth of obedience is, it is a very shaking experience for him. His initial reaction is to go back to his pastor and to his fellow church members, who have been taught this same lie, and talk to them about it.
Now one of two things has to happen. When a person is confronted with the truth, they will either yield to the truth or decide to keep believing the lie that the Christian’s experience is one of sinning and confessing. If they choose to believe the lie, they will then feel the need to rid themselves of those people who keep troubling their conscience.
In Testimonies to Ministers, 409, 410, there is a prophecy. It was prophetic then, but it is taking place now. She said, “Many will stand in our pulpits with the torch of false prophecy in their hands, kindled from the hellish torch of Satan. If doubts and unbelief are cherished, the faithful ministers will be removed from the people who think they know so much. ‘If thou hadst known,’ said Christ, ‘even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto they peace! But now they are hid from thine eyes.’”
If you go to a church and listen to apostasy being preached, convicting yourself that you are strong and that you are going to do missionary work, you are committing the sin of presumption; and God will not work a miracle to save you. I cannot overstate how serious this is. It has to do with understanding how the human mind works. If you have studied psychology, you already know that if you tell someone something long enough, they will believe it. That is the way the human mind works.
There are going to be millions of people who sat in churches and listened to this type of smooth preaching, who will come to the Lord in the day of judgment, and who will be lost. We are talking about a serious matter. We are dealing not with life and death; we are dealing with eternal life and death.
So, if you are listening to false doctrines being preached that are not according to the New Testament, if you stay listening to that, you will eventually believe it, even if you do not believe it now. You might say, “My pastor is wrong.” Listen, if you know your pastor is wrong and you keep returning to listen to that error, the time will come when you will believe it. If you do not accept and follow all of the truth, eventually you will believe a lie and be deceived and be lost. This is very clearly spelled out in 2 Thessalonians, chapter 2.
“I was shown the necessity of those who believe that we are having the last message of mercy, being separate from those who are daily imbibing new errors. I saw that neither young nor old should attend their meetings; for it is wrong to thus encourage them while they teach new error that is a deadly poison to the soul and teach for doctrines the commandments of men. The influence of such gatherings is not good. If God has delivered us from such darkness and error, we should stand fast in the liberty wherewith He has set us free and rejoice in the truth. God is displeased with us when we go to listen to error, without being obliged to go; for unless He sends us to those meetings where error is forced home to the people by the power of the will, He will not keep us. The angels cease their watchful care over us, and we are left to the buffetings of the enemy, to be darkened and weakened by him and the power of his evil angels’ and the light around us becomes contaminated with the darkness.
“I saw that we have no time to throw away in listening to fables. Our minds should not be thus diverted, but should be occupied with the present truth, and seeking wisdom that we may obtain a more thorough knowledge of our position, that with meekness we may able to give a reason of our hope from the Scriptures. While false doctrines and dangerous errors are pressed upon the mind, it cannot be dwelling upon the truth which is to fit and prepare the house of Israel to stand in the day of the Lord.” Early Writings, 124, 125
The question remaining in people’s minds is how to start a church without a pastor. This is keeping any people from starting home churches which they should have started long ago but were afraid to. Yet in the New Testament, there were many churches that had no pastor; and before the end there are going to be many more. So, we are going to look at the divine counsel for a church that has no pastor. We are going to look at how to have a Sabbath school and how to have a church service when you have no pastor.
“On the Sabbath, the few friends here assembled in Edson’s parlor for Sabbath school. There are four families—twelve persons in all—who usually meet for worship. Edson conducts a Sabbath school when he is at home. After Sabbath school they either have a Bible reading or a prayer and social meeting.”
The first service you want to have on Sabbath morning, if you have a church without a pastor, is Sabbath school. Notice that for church they did one of two things. They either had a Bible reading or they had prayer and a social meeting.
Ellen White goes on to say, “The family altar should be established in every home; and if in any locality there are more than two or three of like precious faith, they should meet together.” Ibid.
You do not say, “Well, I do not have a pastor, or my pastor is preaching heresy, so I am just going to stay home and not go to church.” What does it say in Hebrews 10:25? “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” Is the Day approaching?
We have more need to get together for worship now than we have ever before. I have been a pastor now for some years, and over and over again, I have observed that when people do not meet together and worship, their faith and love grow cold. If you go directly contrary to Bible counsel, you are guilty of the sin of presumption; and, as we said before, God is not going to work a miracle to keep the result from taking place. It is just like jumping off of a building and saying, “Lord, please keep the law of gravity from working now so I will not get hurt.” It is not going to happen.
Did you know that God writes down in His book which people meet together and worship Him today and which people do not? “Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another, and the Lord listened and heard them; so a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the Lord and who meditate on His name.” Malachi 3:16. You must never think that because you have an apostate pastor and you cannot go to this particular church that you are to just stay home and have church. You have a worship service. Did you notice that she said they either had a Bible reading or prayer and a social meeting? Do you know what a Bible reading is? A Bible reading is when nobody preaches. Instead, you study the Bible together. It is something that anyone who is able to read can do. In fact, people who cannot read can do it if they can ask questions of people who can read.
“Well,” someone asks, “What should we study?” There is more than one subject that Ellen White lists that should always be included, but I am only going to mention one. This is never to be left out when you come together and worship. She calls it by two names; she refers to it in one place as practical religion and in another place she calls it practical godliness. What is practical godliness? It is “to see the necessity of religious principle and righteousness in everyday life.” Testimonies, vol. 3, 237. Practical godliness has to do with the way we live every day. You cannot read much from the Bible without getting into that subject.
Suppose that you are responsible for the church service and you cannot preach. Can you talk? Can you read? If you can talk and read, you can have a Bible study; and that is all that is necessary. In fact, Ellen White told our ministers that they were doing too much preaching. She said they would be better off, if when they went to church, they just had a Bible class.
Suppose that we had a Bible class for about ten minutes on the subject of practical godliness. Are there any passages of Scripture that come to your mind? What was the greatest sermon ever preached? The “Sermon on the Mount.” That whole sermon is about practical godliness.
In a sermon, if you ask questions and have the Bible texts to answer the questions you have time to go through about twelve to fifteen texts at the most. If you are in a home church, you do not have a preacher, and you have to prepare a Bible study, you do not need a hundred texts. Ten to fifteen is all you need on the subject.
By the way, you could have a Bible study on practical godliness every Sabbath for a year and you would never run out of material. You would have more and more and more; the more you started studying it, the more it would start opening up to your mind and you would have more and more material. Practical godliness is not something that happens in an instant; it is something that takes time.
Here is a passage you could read in a Bible study on practical godliness in 2 Peter 1:5-7. “But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue, knowledge, to knowledge, self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.”
Peter goes on to say that if you do this, you are going to be saved. This passage is called Peter’s ladder. It is very practical. The top rung of the ladder is love. Do you know what love is? To understand what practical godliness means is to understand what God’s love is like and to partake of that love in our life. The Bible is just full of illustrations, stories, and examples on this subject.
If you understand this subject of practical godliness, then God can use you to start churches anywhere in the world that He might send you.
Every one of us here can look back into the past and remember a time when, if someone had not brought us the precious truth about Jesus and His soon coming, we would have been left in the dark. There are still some people out there friends. They are not going to drive one hundred or maybe not even fifty miles to go to a church. If we are going to save them, somebody is going to have to start some churches closer to where they are.
You do not have to have buildings and money and ministers. All you must have is an understanding of practical godliness. You have to be experiencing sanctification yourself and understand what the Bible teaches. Then share your faith with somebody else. You can start a home church if there are only two of you. Let us pray that the Lord will use each one of us to do this.