When the Lord prompted my wife and I to move to the mid-west from the Seattle area back in 1999, He gave me a dream which I did not understand until after we had left the institutional church the Lord sent us too.
I was driving a white 1965 Mercury Monterey convertible with light blue interior. Ahead were the gates of what looked like an old west log fort. The gates swung open and I drove in. The church the Lord sent me to was near the back of the compound. After parking in front of the church, I exited the car and went around to the trunk to collect the gifts I’d brought for the church. From everywhere it seemed, child-like dwarfs emerged and surrounded me. As I began to show the gifts I’d brought, they began snatching them from my hands, treating them with disrespect, grabbing gifts from the trunk and throwing them back after handling them carelessly. Several were letting the air out of the tires and kicking the side panels, while others were jumping up and down on the seats.
Frantically I was trying to take back the gifts and put them away, while chasing them out of the trunk and car, when a slightly taller pimple-faced teenager pressed into me and waved a clenched fist in my face. Finally I spoke a few words in the Spirit directly into his face and he was ‘blown’ away like a shot. No sooner was he gone then another appeared in his place, shaking a fist in my face and threatening to hit me. My anger took over and I seized him by the collar and reared back my own fist to hit him. At that PRECISE moment the pastor emerged from around the corner and while waving his finger at me shook his head “NO”. Then he called out “come on kids” and as fast as they had appeared, they disappeared after the pastor. I collected and put away all the gifts, closed the trunk and walked around the car to check the tires; no harm was done. I then seemed to be faced with the decision whether to join them in the building or to drive off.
I decided against joining them and after pondering whether to do a ‘donut’ in the parking lot to “show them”, I simply drove out the gates and into the wilderness which ended the dream.
At first I thought the Father sent me to that church FOR that church – to spark something, anything that resembled revival. Sadly, the church was resistant to all of it, preferring tradition instead of the Spirit. The dream it turns out was to show me how I would be received there and my eventual decision to follow Christ instead of man.
I have NO doubt that IF we returned to that church, people would feel better; many expressed the hope that we would. But God leads by example. And Christ Jesus, in whom God dwells, also led by example and demonstrated God’s established pattern of movement with His people Israel. As with the exodus, God moved, His people followed. Jesus moved, His disciples and the people followed. Clearly that’s the way God wants it to be with us.
Christ is IN us and lives THROUGH us. When Christ walked the earth, He walked OUT of the religious institution of His day and into the wilderness where He was free to teach and minister as the Spirit led Him. Christ IN us is STILL walking out of the religious institutions of men (Rev. 18:4) and into the wilderness where He alone is the object of our complete devotion.
While it is true that Jesus occasionally ventured into the temple and synagogues (which by the way He referred to as “your temple” and “your synagogues”), for the most part Jesus remained in the wilderness about which He said “the Son of Man has no place to lay His head” (Matthew 8:20). Like Jesus, no believer should “lay his head” at the feet of a man, yet that is precisely what believers do whenever they subject themselves to the religious institution of men and those who rule over and profit from it.
About that I am reminded of a song by Keith Green wherein he sings “I pledge my head to heaven for the Gospel and I ask no man on earth to fill my needs.” Perhaps Keith’s song was inspired by Paul’s letter:
But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ … Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head (1 Corinthians 11:3-4 ESV)
Scripture is clear that a man is to have just one covering, Christ Jesus. We are not intended to submit to men in an authoritarian sense, where we allow men to “rule over” us. Only to Christ do we submit for authority and rule. (See Acts 4:19, Acts 5:29, Romans 6:16 for additional insight). In keeping with the spirit of the scriptures, the gospel is served by humbling ourselves, making ourselves least, coming along side a brother in love, compassion, charity, for encouragement and admonishment. Men are not to rule one over another nor to assert themselves as the “head” over another.
Fundamentally, I think the difference between being IN or OUT of the religious institution of men is as simple as the difference between pledging our head to men or to Christ. You can not pledge your head to men and be effective for Christ.
To pray with any covering other than Christ, is to dishonor Christ, our head. He is the Way, the Truth, the Life and NO MAN comes to the Father, except through Christ.
Why then would any man pray to the Father, while yet submitting to the covering of man?