A Berean is one who scrutinizes all viewpoints in light of
scripture and allows themselves to be scrutinized in like
manner. The term itself is derived from Acts 17:11 "Now the Bereans were of more noble character
than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with
great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see
if what Paul said was true."
But while the Bible
endorses such as "honorable", most churches today are
anti-Berean, in that they don't allow such scrutnizing.
Indeed I myself have recently been expelled from two churches
being a practicing Berean. Denomination churches are, of course,
by their nature anti-Berean. For by their nature they don't
allow any scrutinizing of their denominational opinions. They
interpret scripture in light of their theological forefathers,
like Wesley, in the case of Methodism, or John Calvin in the
case of Reformed churches. And, much like in Catholicism and
Orthodox Christianity, it is not allowed in their church to call
into question the opinions of their theological founders. All
such churches are inherently anti-Berean.
What about those churches that refer to themselves as
"Non-Denominational"? In reality most non-denominational
churches are actually denominational in disguise. Namely when
they mean by non-denominational is that they are not a
name-brand denomination. But in fact most are denominational in
themselves. That is their institutional leaders, be it a pastor
or board of elders, define for their institution a set of
viewpoints which are not subject to scrutiny. The Bible is only
allowed to be interpreted in light of their viewpoint rather
their their viewpoint being allowed to be scrutinized in light
Consider examples of "Statement of Faith" of such churches as
they post on their site. Typically they'll include standard
creeds and then add to them something unique to their sect. For
example I found one that stated, "We are neither Five-Point
Calvinists, nor are we Arminians".
Calvnist or Arminian Christian are not welcomed to be included
in the "We". Many churches in their statements of what
they call "Our Beliefs"
, also include the Charismatic
doctrine of the Baptism with the Holy Spirit restricted to
subset of believers, a sort of sectarianism within sectarianism.
Who is "We" in these statements of faith? If believers are
assembled together, they collectively are supposed to be the
"We". But in Sectarian Churchianity, the "We" is simply a
section, a division, a faction of Christians who chose not to
fellowship with those they even reckon legitimate Christians,
but who don't hold their particular sectarian opinions.
Furthermore, as I mentioned, such churches do not welcome
Bereans. For even if a Berean agrees with their particular
sectarian opinions, the fact that they've made such opinions the
basis for fellowship is what the Berean will not tolerate
without speaking out, and consequently getting thrown out of
such a church.
What's the Function of an Institutionalize
All who are believers in Christ are in one family. The
institutionalizing of local body of believers was supposed to be
for the purpose of facilitating the assembling of the family
into local communities for the purpose of the exercising of
their collective gifts to the edification of the body as a
But as the mustard seed grew into a tree, the birds came to
develop their own nest eggs in its branches. Sectarian leaders
arose who have been scattering the flock, as Paul predicted of
the Ephesian elders, "know that after I
leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare
the flock. Even from your own number men will arise
and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after
them." Acts 20:29,30 T
hese paid professionals
have restricted fellowship first by driving out anyone who
doesn't hold their sectarian opinion, and also by overly
restricting the participation of those they allow to attend.
There's generally very little fellowship in churches today.
People go to church, are told what to say, what to sing, then
are indoctrinated, not allowed to speak, gagged and tied to
their chairs, and then they go home, having experienced no more
fellowship than if they had listened to the service online,
though they may have had a nice nap.
This is much in contrast to what the Bible teaches about the
"Whenever you come together,
each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a
revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done
for edification. If anyone speaks in a tongue, let there be
two or at the most three, each in turn, and let one
interpret. But if there is no interpreter, let him keep
silent in church, and let him speak to himself and to God.
Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge.
But if anything is revealed to another who sits by, let the
first keep silent. For you can all prophesy one by one, that
all may learn and all may be encouraged." 1Cor
Fellowship involves participation. Not simply attendance, but
rather the exercising of one's spiritual gifts to the
edification of the body.
"Speaking the truth in love, we will in
all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is,
Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by
every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in
love, as each part does its work." Eph 4:15,16
But since the inception of Sectarian Churchianity, "the church"
has been treated as if it was only the institutional leadership,
and not the family of believers who assembly locally. For
example Sectarian leadership will take a phrase like "tell it to the
) and restrict the phrase to
themselves as leaders.
Illegitimate Institutional Leadership
Historical precedence has show a correlation between religious
leadership and megalomania. Who were Jesus' worst enemies? The
religious leaders of his day. And why? Because of their pride.
Such has largely been the case throughout history. Today many a
church leadership reckons his realm of authority to be much
broader that is his ACTUAL LEGITIMATE realm of authority.
Therefore they restrict fellowship to those who hold his
sectarian opinions and restricts what actually constitutes
"fellowship" largely to attending his lectures and paying him a
fee. Whatever he says is not to be scrutinized and whatever his
edicts, they are to be obeyed. I don't see that as being what
Jesus had in mind concerning leadership. That's not only lording
it over the flock, but feeding on the flock and scattering it.
(What animal does that?)
Biblical leadership sets the example for others to follow.
Many an institutional leader had told me that Jesus is not an
example to follow! Even though the Bible says he he is. They
say Paul is not the example to follow, even though the Bible
says he is. The reason they do this is to follow the
precedents set by Jesus and Paul will result in conflicts with
the religious elite overstepping their legitimate realm of
The Pastor who wants the fellowship to be all about him,
would not want himself viewed as an example to follow because
that would result in other megalomanics arising in his church
threatening to usurp his authority. But the Pastor or other
such church leader who follows Christ's example would set
himself up as an example to imitate. Ask yourself - if
everyone in the church behaved just as the leadership does,
what would your church look like? Is the leadership elitist or
are they like Jesus?
What is a Berean to do?
All believers should have the right to fellowship with their
family, body of Christ, wherever it is. It seems to me that
trumps any illegitimate restrictions institutional leadership
places upon the local family of believers. Consequently
believers need not require permission from local institutional
leadership to meet with their family.
But the question arises as to whether these sectarian
institutions are to be treated as legitimate entities of
themselves, like secular or civil organizations. If a group of
believers form a partisan political organization, would that
organization be a "church"? No. The church is not an
institution its the assembling of believers on the basis of
their common faith in Christ which constitutes a church. These
sectarian organizations today referred to as "churches" have
legitimacy in a civil sense. Their leadership has legitimacy
in a civil sense with regards to what goes on in their
sectarian institution. They have charge over their facilities
If a Berean attends such an organization for the purpose of
fellowship, such a person will soon be driven out of that
organization. Not much choice there. The choice is either to
attend and get driven out, or chose not to attend in the first
place. Bereans can try to find a non-sectarian church, but
such are rare in my experience. Or form his own group. After
all the Bible gives no indication as to how many believers are
to assembly before it's reckoned a "church" - except what
Jesus said, "Where two or three are
gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of
them." Mt 18:20 (Maybe that's the magic
number!) Furthermore there's no indication in the Bible that
organizations today referred to as "para-churches", such as
campus ministries and such, are not of themselves legitimate
assembly of believers. Today Bereans have to think outside the
box and inside the Bible when thinking about fellowship.
Bereans Follow Jesus' Example
The hostility that practicing Bereans experience in churches
comes primarily from leadership, corrupted by its pride of
position, the megalomaniac effect seemingly typical among the
religious elite throughout history. And as such the way Bereans
are typically dealt with is to invoke the accusation of
rebelliousness. In calling into question the opinions and
viewpoints of the religious elite we are accused of rebelling
against institutional authority. It's the same thing Jesus ran
into, and what got Him crucified. Indeed it seemed He
intentionally provoked the religious elite of His day to that
end, calling to question their opinions in light of scripture.
As such it seems part of what it means to follow Jesus is to be
a practicing Berean, the expected end being that you will suffer
persecution by the religious elite just like Jesus did.