What is a church? This is a question that many believers and churchgoers have wondered about down through the ages, especially over the last 2000 years since Jesus ascended and the church was born out of the Upper Room experience at the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2. And so far, the church has had some good come from her; she has given believers who confess and believe that Jesus is Lord a place to fellowship and worship with other fellow believers. She has provided first house churches, then physical buildings and location addresses, and continues to be the place where many meet the Lord through the preaching of the gospel for the first time. The Church of Jesus Christ has been used by the Lord to do marvelous things for the gospel.
And yet, in my 30 years of living in traditional church, I have become saddened at what many building churches have become. Though many join in with associations, they do little with them throughout the year and one would rarely even know they fellowship with an association unless one asked someone familiar with the matter. Apart from that, the church has become a place where, as I’ve heard it said, “Star Wars” dominates (and I’m not referring to the famous series, either!): everybody wants to be a star, and serving the Lord has become less about a desire and hard work than popularity. As long as a person is popular, he or she can bypass having the qualifications of ministry. The person can even be a teacher despite the questionable nature of his or her teaching because, after all, the person is a “family man” or “family woman.” The Lord equipped the disciples to preach and teach His Word, but we’re less concerned about that today than we are about whether or not someone likes the Pastor’s personality.
When it comes to women, women have been marginalized in church history, despite Paul’s advocacy of them, and many traditional churches view women as good for only a few things: children’s ministry, children’s church, women’s ministry, a women’s Bible Study, or even “nursery duty.” Women have been prevented from serving in the Office of Deacon, which Paul himself gave instructions concerning (see 1 Timothy 3:11-13), and those that are called “deaconesses” are only given the label because their husbands are ordained. In other words, “deaconesses,” as some would say, are in ministry as “the wife of a deacon,” not as ordained leaders of the church who should have ministry work to do. Talking to women and children and correcting them about “wearing short skirts” or “dressing promiscuously” doesn’t qualify, either.
This is the mess that the Church of God has become. The Lord has charged me with a task to start a ministry that will purge the Church of its popular, political, social agenda that is more concerned with money, prestige, and bigger buildings than preaching and teaching the Word of God and winning dying souls to the Kingdom of God. I can say that I definitely did not see myself planting an Internet Church some 15 years ago when I preached my first trial sermon, but the Lord has given me the vision and the name of this Internet Church: The Essential Church.
In light of the Lord’s leading, I pledge to you, the believers of the Body of Christ, no matter where you are, that I will be a humble servant, not a dictator, not someone seeking fame, not a person who cares more about what my dress attire is than seeing to the work of the ministry. The Essential Church, as such, will do all it can to get back to the essentials of what the Church is. She is more than a location, more than a physical “building”; according to Peter, she is a spiritual house, being built up to the praises of God:
4 Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, 5 you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture, “Behold, I lay in Zion A chief cornerstone, elect, precious, And he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.” 7 Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, “The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone,” 8 and “A stone of stumbling And a rock of offense.” They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed. 9 But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy. (1 Peter 2:4-10)
Join us as The Essential Church seeks to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ by preaching, teaching, counseling, and witnessing on the World Wide Web. May our flock go forth into the world as beacons of light for Jesus, and may our Church be known worldwide, both on the World Wide Web and outside of it, that our light would so shine before men that they would see our good works and give glory to the Father who is in heaven (Matthew 5:16).
Pastor D. M. Richardson,
The Essential Church
World Wide Web