When Jesus sat weary at Jacob’s well, a woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus asked for a drink. The woman recognized Jesus as a Jew, and following the exchange about five husbands, the woman perceived that Jesus was a prophet. She said, ‘"Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you [a Jew] say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship’" (John 4:20). Her inferred accusation against Jewish prophets was the same one that can be made against most Christian denominations: your denomination claims that genuine worship requires that I be baptized in your water, or in the case of the woman, you claim genuine worship can only be performed in your temple. Jesus’ reply leaps the question of location, and lands on an ignored precept: ‘"Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.…But the hour is coming and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him’" (John 4:21, 23). True worship is not a matter of what the body does, but what the mind does as it rules over the body.
True worship of the Father isn’t a matter of geographical location, but a matter of exercising the Spirit. It isn’t conditioned upon being in a building, or in a temple, or in a synagogue. All that is necessary is having the Holy Spirit, for without the Spirit of God, a person is actually hostile to God (Rom 8:7).
The law by which circumcised Israel was made a holy nation (the Sinai covenant -- Exod 19:5-6) was abolished (Eph 2:15), but Israel remains the holy nation of God (1 Pet 2:9 -- compare with Revelation chapter 12, where the woman is Israel). The physical precedes the spiritual in all things, and the visible reveals the invisible. Whereas the primary focus of circumcised Israel’s worship of YHWH was the temple in Jerusalem (i.e., was a visible, physical location), the focus of spiritual Israel’s worship of the Father is invisible love and spiritual truth. Physical Jerusalem has geographical coordinates. It can be located on a map, in a nation, and on a mountain. Spiritual Jerusalem, however, is a city of disciples, each a temple of the Father. This holy city is walled by living stones in which are written the laws of God. And it is here at the walls of this spiritual city where disciples in The Philadelphia Churchwork to deliver the endtime good news about patient endurance.
Brotherly love, as practiced by Attalus II, for whom the Asia Minor City of Philadelphia was named, involved winning a kingdom for his elder brother, Eumenes II, king of Lydia. He won this kingdom with the sword, but Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world. If it were, His servants would have fought with swords to prevent Him from being taken by the Pharisees (John 18:36). His kingdom is spiritual. It is of the mind -- it is the entirety of humanity’s mental topography. And it was won when Jesus defeated Satan.
But Jesus will not, as Lord of lords and King of kings, reign over the kingdom He won until the kingdom of the world becomes the kingdom of the Most High and of His Christ halfway through seven years of tribulation. These seven years will have Israel living sin-free, or liberated from bondage to sin; these seven years are represented by the seven days of Unleavened Bread, with leaven being a representation of sin.
Because Jesus’ reign over the mental topography of humanity doesn’t begin until the Holy Spirit is poured out upon all flesh, thereby changing even the nature of beasts so that a lamb will lie down with a lion without becoming prey, disciples of Jesus have the opportunity to help win the kingdom Jesus has already won. In love for His younger siblings, Jesus has made provisions for born-from-above disciples to fight for Him in the spiritual realm. Their help is only possible because He has already won that kingdom, but their help will assist in bringing additional sons of God to glory.
Christ Jesus will not reign over a federation of rebels, human or angelic. Seeds of latent rebellion planted in human beings will have the opportunity to sprout during the seven years of tribulation. If these seeds grow and are not rooted out by the person in whom they have sprouted, the person along with his or her rebellion will go into the lake of fire. The work of the saints will be to warn about the danger of rebellion, to help their elder brother weed rebellion from the mindsets of all human beings, to deliver a message about patient endurance, that all who endure to the end shall be saved (Matt 24:13-14). When this message about patient endurance is delivered by saints to all of humanity, the end of the age will come. Christ Jesus has given an assignment to His younger siblings – both He and the Father are watching to see who will actually do the work assigned.
The holy nation Israel will be liberated from bondage to sin immediately before Israel’s birth pains begin. For Israel, the Tribulation will be seven years of living without sin. And the fellowships of the spiritual church in Philadelphia are to proclaim the good news that all who endure to the end shall be saved. This is the work assigned to these saints. The work of local congregations is to prepare saints for ministry, to prepare saints to proclaim the endtime gospel about patient endurance. And to this end, The Philadelphia Church offers the following information about beginning a congregation of the spiritual Philadelphia Church:
No person should stand between a disciple and the Father. No organization has authority to take the Holy Spirit away from a disciple. No disciple needs the permission of another disciple to do the work of an evangelist, or of a pastor, or of a deacon. Christ judges each disciple, and Christ knows whether a disciple has been sent by God to do a special work. So the disciple who prophesies without being sent is a false prophet; the one who teaches without being sent is a false minister. Thus, before a disciple teaches or prophesies, the person needs to be sure that he or she has been sent – and if genuinely sent, there is in Christ "neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one" (Gal 3:26-28). The Philadelphia Church does not prohibit any son of God from speaking. A person who is a son of God, through faith, has all the authority the person needs to teach the mysteries of God to those who need a guide as did the eunuch Philip baptized.
If a person’s spiritual identity is governed by physical gender, the person is too immature to speak, or to shepherd a flock in the spiritual city of Philadelphia.
A son of God is neither male nor female, but as the angels are in relationship to physical sexuality. What is spiritual has no fellowship with what is physical, the reason the Apostle Paul found that the law of his mind was opposed to the law that reigned in his flesh (Rom 7:14-25). Disciples who worship the Father in spirit and truth will find that they have no spiritual fellowship with disciples that remain physically minded, nor with disciples that practice lawlessness. Therefore, as with the opposition between the law of Paul’s mind and the law residing in his flesh, conflict will arise when disciples who truly worship in spirit and truth remain in fellowships that do not. This conflict, however, has a more accessible solution than physically cutting off an offending hand, or plucking out an offending eye – the solution is to spiritually separate oneself from the offending fellowships that will remain parts of the Body of Christ until He performs spiritual surgery.
If a disciple leads other disciples as a shepherd does a flock, the disciple does the work of a pastor. When the flock recognizes the work that has been done, the one doing the work will be ordained by the flock. Thus, the ordained ministry isn’t composed of young men educated at a particular college, then assigned to fellowships as ministerial assistants, or pastors, or preaching elders. Rather, the ordained ministry consists of disciples who have been recognized by fellowships for doing the work of shepherding disciples. And if a disciple enters a fellowship and disagrees with how it is operated physically, this disciple should start another fellowship without causing rancor in the one he or she entered. There is no love in rancor, in strife, in "stealing" disciples, in gossip or slander or bad attitudes. People, unfortunately, retain carnal foibles that sometimes cause even drawn disciples to part company, as in the case of Paul and John Mark. Most of the time, spiritual growth calluses raw spots, and these disciples will learn to appreciate the other. Sometimes, though, separation and distance are required for growth to occur, again, as in the case of Paul and John Mark. So to begin a fellowship (a church) two disciples are needed. Since most churches within the greater Philadelphia Church will begin without experienced leadership, starting small and starting today is more important than buildings or numbers or the size of the parking lot.
Buildings tend to require maintenance, and a beginning fellowship can become bogged down supporting a building rather than taking to the world the good news that all who endure to the end will be saved. So before proceeding farther, let us remove one issue that can seem a barrier to beginning a church. The initial location for the meetings of a fellowship is, logically, a member’s home. The drawback to meeting in a home is the lack of formality: Sabbath services should differ from weekday fellowship. And the solution to a lack of formality is as individual as the people assembling together, a statement that offers no solution, for truly nothing works in all situations and everything works in some situations.
The Sabbath is not really the appropriate time to discuss business or baseball when worshiping the Father in spirit and in truth. It is consecrated time for physical rest. However, outside of time, both Christ and the Father work, so the Sabbath is an appropriate time for spiritual work without physical distractions or demands. Certainly, spiritual instruction of others is appropriate spiritual work – the Sabbath rest should not become an occasion to take a mental vacation, thereby mentally vegetating by ignoring God. The Sabbath commandment is really the least of the commandments, but by being least, it becomes the test commandment. If disciples will keep this least-important commandment, disciples will also keep the commandments that are recognized as more important. But if disciples will not keep what is least important, disciples cannot be trusted with the weightier matters of the law of love.
The tendency among spiritual fellowships that have left Babylon and returned to living within the laws of God is to make an idol of the Sabbath. This was done by physical Israelites after the administration of Nehemiah. This has also been done by spiritual Israelites who are numbered among the remnant of Israel that left spiritual Babylon to rebuild the temple…when keeping the Sabbath begins to feel like a straight-jacket rather than a blessing, disciples need to reexamine their Sabbath practices, with the understanding that the Sabbath is not the problem. When spiritual Israelites are initially released from Babylonian captivity, they tend to place more importance upon keeping the Sabbath than on the weightier matters of the law. They need to be commended for their enthusiasm, and they need to retain that enthusiasm in their ministry, but they need to be cautioned about using the Sabbath as a corral in which other spiritual Israelites are penned. When liberated from mental bondage to sin, all of Israel will know to keep the Sabbath. Until then, only those disciples who have been allowed to leave Babylon to do a work in spiritual Jerusalem will keep the Sabbath commandment.
A fellowship doesn’t have large needs in its infancy. The Philadelphia Church has bylaws that can be adapted to satisfy a legal need for them when one exists, bylaws that leave each fellowship with full autonomy. Moneys collected locally should be spent locally, which will require someone to be a treasurer who keeps open books. And the fellowship needs a sense of purpose: a disciple is called out-of-season for a specific reason. Today, The Philadelphia Church is the reality of Israel and his sons (the seventy) going to Egypt, where a harvest awaits them. Famine grips the promised land, where the many splinters of the formally most visible administration of the Church of God scratch out a meager handful of wheat stems from among the thorns and thistles of idolatry.
As with any organization that starts very small and grows, the problems will be solved only after the issue or situation becomes a problem. Problems and solutions should be shared within the community of fellowships, and one problem is incorporation. In the United States (other nations will differ), there is no need to incorporate, regardless of what your local accountant advises you. A corporation is an entity created by the state. A fellowship is created by God drawing disciples out from the state (i.e., the world). Usually tax-exempt status is granted to any fellowship with by-laws appropriate to receiving such status. If tax-exempt status is refused and if a fellowship’s physical assets become great enough that such status is of importance, then pay taxes, understanding that this world is presently ruled by Satan as the spiritual king of Babylon. Plus, corporations require attorneys to legally represent them, since the corporation is a created entity. Private churches or fellowships can be represented by a member if one is named. And the importance of this representational difference will become apparent when keeping the Sabbath forms the visible shadow of the spiritual and physical (i.e., mind and hand) mark of the beast.
Four barriers to starting a fellowship have now been dispatched: (1) ordination comes following fulfilling the office to which one will be ordained; (2) meeting locations can be anywhere size appropriate; (3) tithing is required, but moneys are to be collected and spent locally; and (4) private churches in the United States enjoy the same legal protection as incorporated churches have, without being artificially created. Now, what prevents two disciples of like-mind from being a fellowship in which they worship the Father in spirit and in truth?
Beginning a congregation that has no historically established practices requires an extreme amount of patience, and the proper use of authority by an agreed upon leader. When founding members come from differing religious traditions, singing differing hymns, with differing expectations for how long services should be, and whether an offering should be taken, and if fellowship authority should be congregational or theocratic, not enough communication can possibly occur between members.
Now, the primary negative: a congregation cannot be non-denominational and get any work done. A non-denominational fellowship is a pleasant place to enjoy potlucks, but because there is no true unity and no abiding sense of purpose and no particular vision, all that really gets accomplished is the filling of bellies. But in this era, no one has been called merely to receive personal salvation, or to enjoy potlucks. Every person has been called to do a work, to do a particular job, to deliver a message. Salvation comes as a gift with being drawn -- and it can be lost if the person doesn’t do the work for which the person has been called, as evidenced by the servants that buried their talent and pound (compare Matt 13:11–12 with Matt 25:29–30).
The work of ministry is to prepare others for ministry. It is not, however, to choke spiritual infants on the meat of doctrine when milk is required. The larger administrations of the Church of God handle the problem of choking babes by not inviting new disciples to services until these disciples become thoroughly familiar with the basic tenants of the administrations’ beliefs. But the position of The Philadelphia Church is that this practice of restricting attendance cannot be well supported from Scripture, especially in light of the requirements for fellowship established by the Jerusalem Conference (Acts 15). Thus, the ministry of The Philadelphia Church has established the practice of welcoming all who wish to fellowship, with the stern admonishment that the ministry in training are to fear offending babes.
The endtime Church in Philadelphia has no central leadership or authority, but is unified through doctrinal belief as a series of associated but autonomous fellowships. All fellowships that hold similar beliefs are automatically members of the association. So this ministry represents one voice in the denomination that is the spiritual Church in Philadelphia. And the organization of this denomination precludes it from ever having anything other than little strength. Nevertheless, this denomination of the greater Church of God will eventually represent a tithe of spiritual Israel. Those who hold its doctrines constitute the living stones that form the walls of spiritual Jerusalem, a city without geographical coordinates.
Therefore, instructions for beginning do not come from having considerable experience, but from the application of common sense and seeing what does not work. The assumption is that disciples wish to start a fellowship of the spiritual Church in Philadelphia after becoming convinced of the correctness of the theological teachings of this ministry. Most likely, the congregation will consist of either two or three newly gathered together in the name of Christ, or will begin by an existing minister bringing a portion of his or her congregation into the association that forms the Church in Philadelphia. In the latter case, this ministry offers only one suggestion: incorporation as a 501(c)3 organization will come back to bite the congregation. Under present American jurisprudence, a free church operates with most of the privileges and none of the restrictions that apply to tax-exempt corporations. So hesitate before filing incorporation documents. Thoroughly explore the matter, remembering that most accountants have never encountered a free church. And this ministry, when contacted directly, will detail its reasoning about the matter.
Where two or three are gathered together in the name of Christ for the first time, every aspect of services will have to be negotiated. The model most commonly used was borrowed almost directly from Seventh-Day Baptist administrations. Services begin with Opening Prayer, a Bible Study of approximately 40 minutes, which is followed by Opening Hymns, Congregational Prayer Requests and Praise Reports, Prayer, a Sermon of undetermined length, and Closing Hymns and Prayer. But there is no biblical necessity for services to be held in this manner. The Church of God model of Opening Hymns, followed by Opening Prayer, a Sermonette, Announcements, the longer Sermon, Closing Hymns and Prayer would equally satisfy doing everything decently and in order. Likewise, the low-church hymns of congregational fellowships praise God (where the lyrics are appropriate) equally well as do the high church hymns. These matters are personal preferences, and as long as services are consistently organized, God will be worshiped with reverence.
To start a congregation, a person doesn’t have to be a dynamic speaker, or prophet of God, or wealthy, or an outstanding scholar, or teacher, or spiritual leader. The person must be a servant. Starting a congregation is a commitment to serving and discipling individuals who will eventually become additions to the congregation. This ministry finds no Scriptural retirement provisions from this commitment. Rather, the logic behind "enduring to the end" will cause the person[s] who started the congregation to continue serving until Christ returns, or the person’s end comes.
The congregation will reflect the personality of those who serve it. The elders of the congregation will reveal themselves by their service, as will those who fill the various offices in the congregation. A newly formed congregation need not worry about the trappings of "establishment," but should have only as much organization as necessary to effectuate the preparing of disciples for the work of preaching the gospel. A business manager becomes necessary when there is sufficient congregational business to warrant the position. Until then, both the title and the person will get in the way of discipling converts.
To start a congregation, two or more will have come together in the name of Christ (Matt 18:19–20). Nothing more than an opening prayer is needed. Elaborate plans will, most likely, be abandoned, so there is little sense in making them -- when Christ is involved in disciples’ lives, things seem to have a way of just working out, albeit not without problems. But the problems are always manageable. And the problems direct energies to those things that need to be addressed. For example, a meeting place might be a person’s home, or an empty storefront in a strip mall that’s available for token rent. The possibilities are nearly limitless. But someone will either have to volunteer space, or knock on doors until temporary facilities are located. The problem of where to meet will cause someone to step forward to solve the problem, thereby producing spiritual fruit in that person’s life.
What newly formed congregations don’t need is debt. Rather, they need faith that Christ will provide. And they need getting out and doing for themselves. Working together bonds individuals who would not normally associate with one another.
Because those who read this page will likely be starting a congregation for doctrinal reasons, this ministry warns against minimizing the importance of music in worship services.
Since, this ministry is directed to the lost sheep of the spiritual house of Israel, the assumption is that those individuals beginning congregations will, must likely, have been in existing congregations. Therefore, apply what worked in the former congregation, reject what didn’t, don’t sing lies, and don’t fear using the linguistic icon "Philadelphia" in the name of the new fellowship.
Because of copyright laws, this ministry here clearly asserts that the corporate entity identified as the "Philadelphia Church of God" (PCG) holds doctrines contrary to the theological understandings of this ministry. While open doctrinal debate would be carnally welcomed in any forum, such debate would not well serve the work of taking the endtime gospel that all who endure to the end will be saved to the world. Therefore, the spiritual Church in Philadelphia [a linguistic icon phrase not subject to copyright] should not be confused with the PCG. The corporate entity known as PCG is of another spiritual fellowship. Thus, this ministry does not hesitate to identify itself with the Church in Philadelphia as that spiritual fellowship is called in the Book of Revelation. Nor does this ministry hesitate to use the name Philadelphia.
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