Center for Biblical Theology and Eschatology

The New Diaspora

Strange Measures for Strange Times

by Alan Morrison

{N.B. I have used what is known as an "elenctic" device in this article in order to assist the teaching. This means that at certain points in the text, you will find inserted some typical objections which people might raise there, followed by my answers to them.}

Everything which I write comes from the heart.  Occasionally it comes from the heart with a special seal, a particular passion. This article is one of those seals and passions.  It is a subject very dear to my heart.  It concerns the way that the experience of "church", for so many today, has become a nightmare holocaust ghost train instead of a dream vision growth journey.  Readers should be warned that this is not a cold treatise on Ecclesiology.  Rather, it is a passionate exposition of the manner in which the reality for many has fallen short of the ideal.

It is a modern fact of life that many genuine, diligent, Bible-believing Christians do not attend a church. Not being with a church is not an ideal situation. But we live in strange times; and in strange times, one has to take strange measures. Many today have taken strange measures and ó wounded, abused and utterly disillusioned ó have left churches altogether. In fact, what has happened is that a New Diaspora has been born.  It is a global Diaspora pregnant with great potential for the Kingdom, if only there will be understanding and empathy, instead of rejection and browbeating.  

Diaspora is a Greek word which means "scattered throughout the world", dispersed like seeds riding on the wind. It was used by the Apostle Peter, for example, when he wrote to "the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia" (1 Pet.1:1). That Dispersion was a major factor in the history of the Early Church.  Scattered Jews who really believed in the Lord came to faith in Christ and thus paved the way for the spread of the Gospel beyond Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria to the ends of the earth.  In the Book of Acts, numerous other diasporas took place as a result of persecutions, and the Gospel was spread in Godís way rather than manís as believers were reluctantly hurled into new pastures.

Today, a new kind of "scattering" is taking place,  as many disenfranchised folks without a church, who have been persecuted and abused, both by the world and by the churches they attended, have fled to their Adullamís Caves across the globe. 

[Objection:  No believer should ever flee to a cave. He should be out there in the world spreading the Gospel, rather than indulging in selfish isolationism.

Answer: When I say that the people of the New Diaspora have "fled to their Adullamís Caves", I do not mean that they have permanently hidden themselves away and discontinued spreading the word.  Actually, nothing could be further from the truth.  There is a powerful desire to evangelise amongst the New Diaspora.  However, just as David needed to recuperate in his Adullamís Cave while fleeing from the abusive madness of Saul (1 Sam.22:1), so the people of the New Diaspora need time to recuperate from their wounds and discover Godís direction for their lives. In fact, the people who joined David in Adullamís cave ó in spite of being the kind of people that the squeaky-clean folks would look down on ó were to become Davidís crack troops for the work of the Lord (1 Sam.22:2; 1 Sam.23:5, etc.). In fact this whole period that David spent in Adullamís cave is very instructive for the New Diaspora. David saw it plainly as "recuperational" and temporary, "till I know what God will do for me" (1 Sam.22:3). Eventually, the prophet Gad came to David and told him that it was time to get out of that cave and back into Judah (1 Sam.22:5).  The New Diaspora is also highly responsive to divine direction.

The problem is that what people often disparagingly call "isolationism" is simply "recuperationism".  If your son or daughter had just come out of a really bad and abusive marriage, would you try and force them immediately into another one? And if they had been abused in one marriage after another, and felt that they didn't want to be married again, would you start thundering at them about the evils of spinsterhood or singledom? Of course not. So why do people ó in such a threatening manner ó force those who have been abused in a church relationship to start immediately attending another church? That is just so cultish, not to mention insensitive. Hurt people who do not go to church are not "isolationists", as they are often falsely accused, but "recuperationists". They need time to convalesce. It may take weeks or months, or it may even take years ó in some extreme instances, decades. Only a completely insensitive character would fail to recognise this.  There is a pastoral dimension here which seems to evade the understanding of far too many professing Christians.]

So today we have this abundant New Diaspora. What could have led to this phenomenon?

There is a common ideal about "church" which just does not match the reality. There seems to be a prevailing idea that "church" is the solution to everyoneís problems ó that all people have to do is to go to church and the sun will shine forever. Go to church and the Lord will bless you. Go to church and receive the Ďmeans of graceí. Go to church and your life will be transformed. Go to church and your needs will be fulfilled. Go to church and receive the teaching of the Lord. Go to church! Go to church! Go to church... etc., etc., ad nauseam.

Sadly, for a great many people, this has turned out to be anything but true. It has instead been a case of... Go to church and get screwed up. Go to church and get stabbed in the back. Go to church and get poisoned by lies. Go to church and massage a pastorís ego. Go to church and have your worst nightmare. For many it has been a case of... Go to church and be robbed of what little faith you already had. Go to church and wish youíd never been born.

Yes! "Go to church and wish youíd never been born". Shocking, isnít it? Now if you think that is too strong, I can tell you that for many it is a total understatement! For them, churches seem more like the slumly environs of hell than the sublime suburbs of heaven. When they go to church, they see a nest of hornets rather than Abrahamís bosom. Theyíve been stabbed in the back so many times that they will say to you (as one once said to me): "When you sing that hymn, just make sure you sit in the back pew". Now you may not like it that so many people will say that today, but youíre going to have to live with it anyway. Because it is true. You cannot pretend that reality is something other than what it is, no matter how uncomfortable it may be and no matter how much you may want to do so.

"When you sing that hymn, just make sure you sit in the back pew!"

I have come to the conclusion that many people idealise "church" to such an idolatrous extent that they fail to see the vast curtain of darkness which has invaded it (which is why they get so indignant with me for saying these things). Or they shrug it all off with the feeble excuse that weíre all sinners (as if that should excuse the ubiquitous rank evil committed by so many who are supposedly indwelt by the Holy Spirit). Or they DO see the darkness but they would rather sweep it under the carpet (which is why they have to shut me up at all costs). But the only way youíll close my mouth is by killing me. I guess you can always spread around a pile of lies about me; but youíd be wasting your time because itís been done already, over and over again! Theyíve tried just about every lie that there is in the book, and out of it!

In February this year, someone wrote to me from the UK and said: "Do you know there are rumours within conservative evangelical churches in England that you joined a cult!" Amazing! Alan Morrison in a cult! That would be as ludicrous as claiming that Tony Blair is Margaret Thatcherís "Toy-Boy", or that Al Gore joined the Ku Klux Klan! But I guess if they want to blackball you theyíll say anything, even if it is something so unlikely that it should really make the rumour-mongers look stupid. But the crazy thing is that it is NOT the rumour-mongers who appear stupid. They will be believed by the vast majority of people in their churches. And these are the "conservative" churches that people want to force the New Diaspora to sign up to! I can now see why the journalist, H.L. Mencken, said that no one had ever lost a nickel by underestimating the intelligence of the public, and why the circus guy, P.T. Barnum, said that there was one sucker born every minute!

Incidentally, it isnít baby Christians who are spreading such rumours. It is so-called mature Christians, elders and pastors of supposedly orthodox conservative churches who foment these things. I fail to see how any genuine believer could engage in that kind of activity. But I know why they do so. It is because they are afraid of people like us. They are afraid of us because we can see through them, because we ask too many questions, expose too many follies, discover too many lies, reveal too many contradictions, and there is no room for such people inside the rigidly authoritarian, dictatorial, Spirit-quenching (and spirit-quenching) churches of today, where the liberty which is in the Gospel of Christ becomes miraculously transformed into a burden for oneís back and then a big stick to break it. In order to get by in so many churches today, you have to roll over and show them your belly. Then you will be regarded as being "in fellowship" and a "member in good standing". What possible motivation could there be for the sensitive, thinking Christian to go within a million miles of such churches? Is it any wonder that a New Diaspora has been born?

[Objection: Your problem is that you are filled with rage and malice. Such bitterness is unfitting for a Christian teacher. You need to repent.

Answer: My friend, you are confusing rage with passion. You are assuming that I am caustic, angry and bitter when I write about these things. But nothing could be further from the truth. I am not angry or heated at all. I don't get angry. Anger is a waste of time. You may not like my tone. How about Jude's tone in Jude 12-13? How about the Lord Jesus' tone in Matt.23:13-30? Christians, it seems, are not allowed to be passionate about anything! I am passionate. Period. Real people like that sort of thing. Unreal people don't. You wouldn't believe the number of hurting people on the Diakrisis e-mail list who have suffered at the hands of pharisees, autocrats and insensitive ignoramuses! I become passionate about that sort of thing. Always have. Always will. I repeat: I am not at all enraged -- just passionate. If you cannot discern the difference between the two, then you need to wake up to the pain of others. It is no coincidence that the very word "passionate" comes from the Latin word for "suffering". Passionate people can identify with suffering and its sufferers. On that basis, I cannot avoid wanting to help the underdog, or to champion the cause of the downtrodden, or to shine a light for the blinded, or to provide an arm for the cripple. Such is passion.]

There are some who say that if people donít go to church, even for one Sunday, then they will not "receive the means of grace". Presumably when they say "means of grace", they mean "those institutions which God has ordained to be the ordinary channels of grace, i.e., of the supernatural influences of the Holy Spirit, to the souls of men" (Charles Hodge). Well no doubt God has ordained that through genuine Christian fellowship, the reading and preaching of Godís Word and participation in the Lordís Supper, much grace-upon-grace can be bestowed. But I believe that the deadly formalistic "churchianity" which passes itself off as "fellowship" in so many churches today is very far removed from what was originally ordained by God to provide solace and growth for His people.

It is at this point that many would chime in with a stern quotation from the Letter to the Hebrews chapter 10, verse 25. But when the Hebrew Christians received those words "not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together", it was not meant as a rigid command for them to "go to church, or else!" The context was apostasy (Heb.10:23, 26-31). It was referring to those who had not merely failed to attend church but who were abandoning the faith altogether because of the persecution it brought on them. (Incidentally, I donít see too much persecution of the kind of churches which spread lies and rumours. It is the people about whom they lie and rumour-monger who are the real persecuted Christians). How often I have seen Heb.10:25 hurled in peopleís faces if they even fail to go to church for one single Sunday!

Merely to apply Heb.10:25 to trooping along to "church services" on a Sunday represents a completely inadequate vision of Christian fellowship. Christianity is not supposed to be a cult; yet to see the way that people treat Sunday church meetings as the be-all-and-end-all of spiritual life, you would think that it was the most pernicious cult of all ó especially when there is nothing in those services to enhance oneís Christian life and growth.

Interestingly, the vast problem of exiles in the Protestant scene today has come about because of a lack of any "Apostolic" style of leadership and authority being exercised. Today, anyone can set themselves up as a "church" and then abuse multitudes of people in the cult they have created.  It is all very messy. If there were still genuine Apostles today of Paulís and Peterís stature and authority (which there aren't), I think things would be very different. It would be interesting to see how they would respond to the New Diaspora.  Somehow I cannot imagine them heartlessly and unimaginatively hurling Heb.10:25 in peopleís faces.

Many arrive at churches already in a bad state because of their previous lifestyle, relationship hassles, etc., and the last thing they need is maltreatment from professing Christians when they thought they had finally found the suburbs of heaven. I do not believe that Scripture heartlessly harangues such folks to remain in that kind of scenario. Our Lord is more compassionate than that -- although to listen to some of those bearing His name as "Christ-ians" you would be forgiven for thinking otherwise. To apply Scripture in such a heartless, robotic way appears to me to be very legalistic. It would seem that there is a kind of "macho-man" style of scoffing at people who have been so hurt that they have had to part company with a church. To regard such people as "wimps" (as I have heard some say) and then revile them for not being obedient to Scripture is not only insensitive but it is also entirely contrary to the spirit of our common faith. The primary purpose of the work of Christ is not to make people robotically, callously, heartlessly and legalistically obedient to the letter of Scripture. Instead, the primary purpose of the work of Christ in His people is to increase their love for God and for their neighbours -- and especially for those who are of the household of faith. Faith is only proven to be true saving faith when it works through love (Gal.5:6; James 2:14-26). I would say that such love is what is distinctly lacking in the hearts of those who have reviled the New Diaspora so vehemently.

I am aware that some people hop around churches and leave them for little or no reason. But that is not what we are dealing with here. I am not at all discouraging souls from being part of a REAL assembly; those who say that I am are creating a "straw man" (a common dishonest tactic in the cut-and-thrust of the Christian scene today). All I am seeking to do is to minister to hurt souls in the situation in which they are now. That is where the Lord Jesus met people, and that is where I meet them too. The fact that I have suffered a little in churches enables me to empathise with them (and also enables them to trust me -- broken trust being the sore spot with many of them). Someone has to minister to those who have been alienated by churches today. Some have said to me that I should focus on building Christís church rather than concentrating so much on internet articles. I believe that in my own way I already AM helping to build Christís church by what I am doing on the internet. You may not like that or agree with it, but itís just coming from a different angle to what many are used to. I deal practically with reality rather than hypothetically with ideals.

The situation that we have today with this New Diaspora is completely different to anything that existed in the infant church as handled in the New Testament writings. However, in the third century, when the majority of churches were badly infected by Gnosticism -- and then later on when the majority were badly infected by Arianism -- the number of true believers had to leave those churches and set up alternatives, or even exist in horrible isolation. There is little published about this from that period, but it must have been difficult for many. Well just look at Athanasius (d. AD 373). He was exiled and treated like a pariah by the false church. His anti-Arianism must have left him a lonely and isolated man -- although he was eventually vindicated.

We know what the ideal is, as expressed in Scripture. But that is not always possible. That is all that I am saying. And where it is not possible for reasons outside of human control, this does not make vile sinners of those who cannot fulfil the ideal. Culpability is based on the intent of the heart rather than the unavoidable inevitability of circumstances. Any lawyer will tell you this. That is the Lordís standard. He will judge the hearts of men rather than their outward show of works. The people about whom I have been speaking, who do not or cannot attend a church, love the Lord and His people dearly and want nothing more than to be in REAL fellowship with other likeminded people. Their hearts are in the right place -- especially when judged next to the billions who do "attend" churches but who are mere hypocrites making a show.

[Objection: Are you saying that people should not attend church? You may use the saying "churchianity" to define those who attend church, but the Bible says that we should attend church. It has nothing to say about "churchianity".

Answer: Actually, if I may be boldly controversial here, I believe that it is NOT Godís will for a believer merely to "attend church". Anyone can "attend church", i.e. turn up at a building in a suit and tie each Sunday, sing the hymns, close his or her eyes in the prayer, sit through a sermon (if theyíre fortunate enough to get one!), shake hands with a pastor on the way out, etc. The people of the New Diaspora could no doubt do that just to silence their critics (and their critics would be satisified with that!). But to do so as one merely going through the motions is "churchianity". It is NOT Godís will for a person just to do that. The Pharisees and Sadducees did that. Very diligently. They "attended" the temple. They busied themselves with the things of God. But it never was enough just to "attend temple". Millions of the children of Israel "attended the tabernacle" or temple, but their hearts were not really there. That is "tabernaclianity", "templianity", just as merely to "attend church" today is "churchianity".

You say that the Bible says nothing about "churchianity". But I believe it does, in many different places. And it warns us against it vigorously. Mere church attendance is "churchianity", heartless outward action, which the Bible speaks a great deal about, and which the Lord Jesus referred to many times in relation to the hypocrites of his own day. How about: "For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart..." (Psa.51:16-17)? That was not the Lord despising honest service to Himself, but he was castigating hypocritical "temple attendance". Anyone can simply turn up at the temple (or church). But having a broken spirit and a contrite heart is a different ballgame altogether. The people of the New Diaspora have infinitely more deeply broken spirits and contrite hearts than the billions of people who merely robotically "attend church" each Sunday. Again, the Lord was speaking of "churchianity" when He wrote: "The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord" (Pro.15:8). You can attend the tabernacle, the temple or the church as often as you like, but if your heart remains unchanged, such attendance is meaningless. The Lord was speaking of "churchianity" when He wrote: "For I desire mercy and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings" (Hos.6:6). The Lord Jesus was speaking of "churchianity" when He said: "If you had known what this means, ĎI desire mercy and not sacrifice,í you would not have condemned the guiltless" (Matt.12:7). And I think that those who condemn the New Diaspora so vigorously do not know the meaning of the Scripture in which the Lord says: "I desire mercy not sacrifice". Is it not the case that forcing dreadfully hurt people merely to "attend church" displays a distinct lack of mercy? This is what I mean when I say that it is not Godís will for people merely to "attend church".  Fellowship -- true fellowship -- is infinitely more than that.  However, it IS Godís will that His people should come together at appointed times and engage in corporate worship and prayer, if such a thing is possible. But that is not synonymous with mere "church attendance". Do you see what I am saying here? I am not "anti-church" per se, as some readers would no doubt like to make out in a rather over-reactionary manner. But I do believe that there is a massive unsung problem of widespread abuse and manipulation in churches which is simply being swept under the carpet by people who are unduly frightened that any publicity about it will put people off going anywhere near a church. However, I think it would be far more attractive for people to become part of churches if the churches themselves engaged in some heavy-duty housecleaning. So do not revile the New Diaspora with theological clichťs or lash them with copious quotes from Book 4 of Calvinís Institutes! Instead, get creative about how you can enable people to feel trusting towards your church! All I am trying to do is speak into this messy situation and help to bring something good out of it. The Lord will be my judge, and no doubt already is.]

I have known a great many who have been badly hurt in a church ó and often not just in one church but many churches ó serially abused. When they turn to others for help and guidance, they are so often threatened with Heb.10:25 as if it was the final word on church fellowship, and as if church attendance was the only goal of the Christian life. As part of that threat, the emotionally blackmailing screws are tightened as one is told that when a single coal falls from the fire it loses its glow; or one is told that there can be no such thing as a "Lone Ranger" or "Free Electron" in the body of Christ; or one is told that God has no place for "Mavericks" and "Individualists".

Yet, the startlingly interesting thing is that these people only began to "glow" again AFTER they had stopped going to church! They only began to regain their "electron"-ic zip when they TORE THEMSELVES AWAY from the churches which had so maligned them and so damaged their spiritual integrity. They only began to realise how much God really cares for them when they REMOVED THEMSELVES (or in some cases were forcibly removed!) from the churches which had tried so hard to crush every last ounce of their God-given incisive minds and individuality.

[Objection: There is already far too much "individualism" in churches today. In fact, it is the scourge of churches. This is what has led to the problems you are addressing. You are encouraging that unhealthy development.

Answer: It seems that you are confusing individualism with individuality.  A common accusation in churches to anyone who thinks imaginatively is that they are an individualist. You say that the scourge of the church is "individualism", and that I am aiding and abetted this scourge by propping up the "individualists" with what I say.  But you need to understand the important difference between "individualism" and "individuality".  The first one puts itís own ego above all other considerations, whereas the second simply exercises his or her God-given abilities and discernment. Our individuality comes from our Creator. If that then becomes "individualism", then we are making an idol out of ourselves. There is nothing whatsoever wrong with being an individual. We were created as individuals. Any organisation which seeks to quash that individuality has become a cult. Sadly, many churches, in their bid to cure the disease of individualism, wind up crushing the uniqueness and individuality of many of those in their fellowships. We must not confuse egocentric individualism with healthy, natural God-given individuality.]

Many of the souls in the New Diaspora first got worked over in a charismatic church with a heavy shepherding style of eldership and lots of phoney, threatening, controlling "words of knowledge" and "prophecies". Then they discover a local Evanjellycal church, which serves up cold tripe one Sunday, the blandest, lukewarm liquid the next, and alienates the newcomers by sneering at their sensitivity to truth and falsehood and disdaining their powers of discernment. Then, in their search for "sound doctrine" they go to a heavy-duty Reformed church, only to find that they are unacceptable because of their clothes or their unformed theology and even bullied by the unsympathetic, legalistically-inclined, formalistic leadership. From there, battered and bruised, they stray into some mainstream denominational church where they are not only misunderstood but also subtly fed more of the poison which had already damaged them in the chaotic charismatic church, plus a dash of liberalism into the bargain. After that, bleeding, bruised and sutured from head to toe, they realise that there is nowhere else to go; so they reluctantly tolerate their isolation and get Heb.10:25 thrown in their face every five minutes. But at least they are FREE!  FREE to learn at their own pace.  FREE to enjoy fellowship with those whom they know will be of value to them.  FREE to discover things which they could never have discovered before in the fettered, tendentious, hothouse, controlling environments they previously inhabited.  FREE to be themselves instead of putting on a front to become the men-pleasers that are so valued in todayís church scene.  FREE to worship, love and be loved as their Lord intended.

[Objection: This is a disgraceful way to speak about Godís church. I am appalled that you should have such a low view of the body which the Lord Himself is building.

Answer: Please do not confuse the visible church with the Body of Christ. None of what I am writing is directed at the Body of Christ. How could it be? I am speaking about abusive and demeaning social institutions which people call churches. Even though so many get defensive about their church, it is now my belief that the apostasy is far deeper than most people realise. I now believe that the majority of pastors and church members in this world are not real Christians at all but impostors. In fact, I believe that the true people of God is as it always has been, as inspirationally defined by the Apostle Paul ó "a remnant according to the election of grace" (Rom.11:5).  I know very well that churches, assemblies, still have to be formed in a Scriptural manner as a basis for the public preaching of the Gospel and as a fertile garden in which Christians can safely grow (because, as William Perkins said, the two great works of a church are the bringing in of the sheep and then keeping them from the wolves).  But I also believe that not enough has been done to keep the wolves out -- and they have virtually taken over on a global basis.  That is not the Body of Christ but the false church, which will one day greet the Antichrist with applause.]

Why do you think that it is so common for the same people to be treated badly in church after church?  It is because a certain kind of person gets screwed over in churches.  That kind of person is usually intelligent, questioning, discerning, non-conformist, non-pigeonholeable, non-gullible.  Actually, it is usually the most interesting people who get screwed up by churches.  Frankly, I would dearly love to gather together all those people and form a very interesting church!  But they are scattered all over the globe (and the rumour-mongers and liars would only say that I had started a cult!).  THIS is the New Diaspora.

The fat unpersecuted cats of todayís "Christendom" positively loathe the New Diaspora (mainly because they canít milk them for their money!). Rigidly legalistic "Christians" despise the New Diaspora (because they are jealous of their liberty). Bishops, Archbishops and Popes vigorously condemn the New Diaspora (because they are a threat to their usurped authority). "Christians" who nitpickingly put human confessions of faith above the authority of the Bible hate the New Diaspora (because their manmade tramlines may be uprooted by them).  Above all, the New Diaspora is despised because it is iconoclastic, Scripture-searching and unwilling to be deceived.

[Objection: I challenge you show me ONE instance where any apostolic writer said that they were "going it alone" because of some Ďbad behaviourí in a church. Can you also show me anywhere in the New Testament where a Christian is not a part of a local fellowship of believers? You will not be able to do it!

Answer: What I really want to deal with, in answer to that first question, is the use of the term "going it alone" to refer to believers who are part of this "New Diaspora".  We have already exposed the fact that there is a vast unsung scandal of abuse in churches today and that, as a result, there is a vast quantity of hurt people who have given up -- at least temporarily -- on churches.  This term, "going it alone", is plainly a disparaging remark designed to make out that these people of the New Diaspora are autonomous-minded and self-centred who want to have nothing to do with the people of God and have no desire to be answerable to the Lord for their actions. This is a Straw Man, of course, and has no basis in reality. But many have learned that mud sticks. They have also learned that the dirtier it is, the better it sticks.

"Going it alone" is but one epithet of many. Other examples of the insulting sayings which are levelled at the people of the New Diaspora are "Lone Rangers", "Free Electrons", "Mavericks", "Individualists", and "Isolationists". They are terms of abuse designed to back up the claim that a person who does not attend a church must, ipso facto, be guilty of rampant egocentricity and rank disobedience to Godís Word. However, giving something a label may be a convenient way of tarring that person in the eyes of the world, but it does not necessarily encapsulate what that person is truly all about in terms of their standing before God. And it is our standing before God which counts for infinitely more than how we may appear in the eyes of the world.

I can assure you absolutely that the people of the New Diaspora are not at all "going it alone". In fact, they are in touch and in tune with the Spirit of God on a far more profound level than many of their accusers! No true believer truly "goes it alone". If a person has prayed his or her heart out to the Lord to show them the next step on their pathway and then He has clearly and irrefutably led them to a place where there is no church (as yet), but where they can and have become a beacon for those in their neighbourhood or environment or sphere of work, leading to God-alone-knows-what-wonderful-thing-next, only a hardened Pharisee would argue against that.

How easily we make negative judgements about others when we have no real understanding about their inward wrestlings or about what has taken place between them and their Lord. It is no coincidence that one of the original Phariseesí major beefs against the Lord Jesus Christ was that He was a "Lone Ranger", "Free Electron", "Maverick", "Individualist", etc. (e.g. Mt.21:23). Religious people cannot stand those who are spiritual, and they make it their business to fetter such folks with false authority and place them under stifling burdens. Religious people do not like the light which burns in the eyes of the spiritual. That is why they killed the Lord Jesus Christ. And they will kill Him again and again when they see the spiritual light which shines in the eyes of His disciples.

It may be convenient to label the New Diaspora with such a disparaging epithet as "going it alone"; but it is completely irrelevant because they are not at all "going it alone". No true believer ever could. They are answerable directly to the Lord, and they know it. They may find themselves temporarily isolated in the worldís terms, having been abused and hurt. They may find themselves temporarily lonesome, having reluctantly had to separate from a corrupt situation. But they are never alone, and they are assured of that (Mt.28:20). As they seek their direction in prayer, the Lord will work in their lives and reveal it to them. The only difficulty will be the casual, disapproving, sightseeing, critical onlookers who will fail to comprehend and empathise, and instead cajole and criticise.

The objector asks the question: "Can you show me one instance from the New Testament where a Christian is not a part of a local fellowship of believers?" Some people seem to believe that the grace of God and His actions in this world can ONLY happen through the official workings of the visible church machinery. But this is simply not true. Christ dispenses His grace and works to build His church in a myriad more ways than our puny brains can ever take in. How limited and limiting we are in our vision for the Gospel !  Take, for example, the Gadarene demoniac (Mark 5:1-20). Once he had been converted, he begged the Lord Jesus that he might be with Him (Mk.5:18). But Jesus did not permit him and instead told him to go back to the Decapolis region. Now, here was this brand new vulnerable convert all alone in Decapolis with no church to go to.  Imagine the Phariseesí reaction.  Think of the accusations which might have come his way: "Lone Ranger", "Free Electron", "Maverick", "Individualist". Was this man "going it alone"? Not at all. He was simply following the pathway which the Lord had clearly shown him and opened up for him. He was doing the Lordís work. There was great wisdom in it which the religious people could never have understood or forseen; because a little later on, the Lord Jesus went on a successful mission to Decapolis for which this "Lone Ranger" had presumably done the preparatory groundwork (Mk.7:31-37).  The Lordís ways are not our ways.

Then there is the Ethiopian Eunuch (Acts 8:26-40). He was sitting in his chariot reading Isaiah 53 on his way back from worshipping in Jerusalem when, suddenly, Philip is miraculously transported there to interpret the Scripture and open the man to the truth about the death of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is soundly converted and baptised.  Equally as suddenly, Philip is transported away and "the eunuch saw him no more", and he was left to return to his home in Ethiopia and become a light for the work of the Gospel there.  At that time, there will have been no local church.  Was this man "going it alone"? Not at all. He was simply following the pathway which the Lord had clearly shown him. In time to come, an assembly of believers may well have been more formally set up.  But until then, he was working as what the critical religious folks would call a "Lone Ranger", but who the Lord would call "My chosen servant".

By far the most instructive biblical example of one of the "Lone Rangers", "Free Electrons", "Mavericks" or "Individualists", who is "going it alone" and who has come under the undue lashing of critics was the man about whom the Apostle John complained to the Lord Jesus with the words "he does not follow us" (Mark 9:38). The complete Scripture says:

"Now John answered Him, saying, ĎTeacher, we saw someone who does not follow us casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow us.í But Jesus said, ĎDo not forbid him, for no one who works a miracle in My name can soon afterward speak evil of Me. For he who is not against us is on our side. For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink in My name, because you belong to Christ, assuredly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his rewardí" (Mark 9:38-41).

Here is a man who was not one of the called and appointed Apostles, yet he was going about doing the Lordís work (cf. Mark 6:7).  To John, this man was "going it alone", and he forbade him to carry on with that work for the Lord.  What is interesting here is the context of this conversation. The disciples had just been arguing about who was the greatest of them (Mk.9:33-34). Jesus then used this opportunity to show that true spiritual greatness lies in servanthood rather than rank or social status (Mk.9:35). He then took a small child in His arms and used him as an illustration of the lowliest of His disciples and demonstrated that to show kindness to such a one is the equivalent of doing so to the Lord Jesus Himself. At this point, John is said to "answer" the Lord Jesus with his account of how the disciples had forbidden a man to cast out demons solely because "he does not follow us".  It is as if John is trying to assert Apostolic authority here after Jesus has specifically put them down for their delusions of grandeur.

Furthermore, there is a grand irony in the fact that this seemingly "uncalled" man who "does not follow us" was actually successful in his work for the Lord in the very area of work in which the disciples had been abject failures (compare Mark 9:38 with vv.17-18)! Was there some jealousy on Johnís part here? Here is this guy, apparently "going it alone", but with a successful ministry, working for the Lord Jesus Christ and under His protection too. John says: "We forbade him" (v.38) because he is a "Lone Ranger", a "Free Electron", a "Maverick", an "Individualist", who is "going it alone". But the Lord Jesus said: "Do not forbid him" (v.39). "He may look like all those things to you, but do not forbid him because what you donít understand is that He is Mine and He is working for Me in ways that you cannot discern right now".

Especially instructive are the words of the puritan, Matthew Henry (1662-1714), in his commentary on this portion of Scripture. I quote them in full here because Henry is well-respected as a balanced commentator and the words are so startlingly relevant to the situation in which so many of the New Diaspora find themselves. Concerning this man who "does not follow us" but who is doing the work of Christ, Henry writes:

<<<"Some think that he was a disciple of John [the Baptist], who made use of the name of the Messiah, not as having come, but as near at hand, not knowing that Jesus was he. It would rather seem that he made use of the name of Jesus, believing him to be the Christ, as the other disciples did. And why should he not receive that power from Christ, whose Spirit, like the wind, blows where it listeth, without such an outward call as the apostles had? And perhaps there were many more such. Christís grace is not tied to the visible church. It was strange that one who cast out devils in the name of Christ, did not join himself to the apostles, and follow Christ with them, but should continue to act in separation from them. I know of nothing that could hinder him from following them, unless it was because he was loth to leave all to follow them; and if so, that was a bad principle. The thing did not look good, and therefore the disciples forbade him to make use of Christís name as they did, unless he would follow him as they did. This was like the motion Joshua made concerning Eldad and Medad, who prophesied in the camp, and did not go up with the rest to the door of the tabernacle: ĎMy lord Moses, forbid them (Num. 11:28); restrain them, silence them, for it is a schismí. Thus apt are we to imagine that they who do not follow him with us do not follow Christ at all, and that they who do not do just as we do can do nothing well. But the Lord knows them that are his, however they are dispersed; and this instance gives us a needful caution to take heed lest we be carried ó by an excess of zeal for the unity of the church, and for that which we are sure is right and good ó to oppose that which yet may tend to the enlargement of the church, and the advancement of its true interests another way">>> (Matthew Henryís Commentary on the Whole Bible, comment on Mark 9:38)

Matthew Henry uses some remarkably challenging phrases in his exposition here. Just look at these four quotations:

1) "Why should he not receive that power from Christ, whose Spirit, like the wind, blows where it listeth, without such an outward call as the apostles had?"

There are those today who think that a person can do the work of the Lord ONLY if they have actually been formally "called and sent" by a church.  But the Holy Spirit will not be tied down to our narrow-minded conception of mission and Gospel witness.

2) "Christís grace is not tied to the visible church".

It is tied to the Body of Christ, which is not to be confused with the visible church. If there is any grace in the visible church it is derivative of the Body of Christ. And that saving grace will therefore be dispensed in ways far beyond our wildest imagination.  Wherever members of the Body of Christ go, the grace of Christ will go with them -- nay, before them!  The grace of Christ can even work in a heart of darkness in the darkest of corners, if He so wishes to do so.  We should not attempt to limit it with manmade rules and regulations.  This is not to say that rules and regulations are bad; but if they actually work against the movement of the Holy Spirit, then they are ill-conceived.

3) "The Lord knows them that are his, however they are dispersed".

The Lordís people are dispersed in many more ways than the narrow lines on which we would wish to fix them. The New Diaspora (dispersion) is a way that the Lord has driven people out of dead, unwholesome churches into their communities, workplaces and alternative spheres of activity.  Their dispersion, as being through the providence and under the sovereignty of God, can only work out for a higher, noble purpose.

4) "Take heed lest we be carried... to oppose that which yet may tend to the enlargement of the church, and the advancement of its true interests another way".

The enlargement, advancement and feeding of the church -- the Body of Christ -- can take place in ways other than those we may want to prescribe, or even other than what we have understood from Scripture. God's creativity is boundless.  How careful we should be not to tread on Godís toes with our error-spotting opposition to anything which doesnít fit our narrow preconceptions. "Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!"

Yes, I grant you that this is a control-freakís nightmare, but the church as the Body and Bride of Christ is not the place for control-freaks! However, the visible church today has become so full of control-freaks, so full of heretics, so full of tares, so full of false teachers, so full of Pharisees, so full of liberals, so full of impostors and deceivers, so full of unctuous ear-ticklers, so full of the restricters of Godís sovereignty, so full of the restrainers of God's Spirit, that many have reluctantly abandoned it until something better can be formed or until they themselves, with the Lordís help, can form it.

So many seem to imagine that a thing cannot possibly be Godís will, or be Scriptural, or be in obedience to God, unless it is done in exactly the way that they think it should be done, or in exactly the way that it has always been done by them and people like them. But praise the Lord that He does not work down our tramlines! This is NOT to give carte blanche to anyone who wants to act in an entirely whimsical, superficial and arbitrary manner and hop around churches or to leave a church for no reason at all. I know that is how this piece on the New Diaspora will be received by some. But it simply is not true. The people of the New Diaspora could easily join one of the corrupt churches near where they live, but it would prove nothing. It may satisfy some people who want everything to look neat from the outside; but it would not be a truly spiritual solution.

Having to spend time out of a church is not the ideal situation. But if one can find good food and fellowship in new and interesting places, it is infinitely better than being systematically stifled or dripfeedingly destroyed by social institutions masquerading as spiritual homes. The people of the New Diaspora would love to be part of a real, loving, teaching, vibrant fellowship; but they have no desire to join a social club, or a lunatic asylum, or a mausoleum, or a penitentiary, which is the only neighbourhood choice for so many today.

[Question:  Are you saying that we should do away with churches altogether and have no such thing as pastors, elders, deacons etc.?

AnswerWell I'm surprised you haven't got the message yet.  Of course that is not what I am saying.  I have written articles extolling the importance of the offices of the church, such as pastor-teachers/elders and deacons (you can find one of these articles on the "Articles & Analysis" page of this website, entitled "Rulership & Service").  The problem is that is if someone says anything remotely derogatory about churches, those who want to defend them go right off the deep end with a knee-jerk and try to portray the people of the New Diaspora as anti-authority and anti- any kind of office in churches.  But this is simply not true.  A great many people have been totally alienated from churches because of the wielding of a false authority involving a kind of despotic rule which goes way beyond the jurisdiction of the shepherd as he is portrayed in Scripture.  Far too many office-bearers see the holding of office in a church as a form of power and control instead of nurture and protection.  A great many Christians have never witnessed a true shepherd in action.  Their only experience has been a Genghis Khan or Machiavelli.  Small wonder that they should not want to darken the doorstep of a church again.  We are going to have to work very hard if we want to make our churches attractive enough to these people -- i.e. enough like the suburbs of heaven -- to encourage them to come back and take their place as fearless participants.]

So let it be loudly said that the people of the New Diaspora are not "going it alone". They are working passionately for the Lord, in the best way possible at this strange point in history. When the present false church has shown its true colours and been judged accordingly, the Lord will use the New Diaspora in His own way and in His own time, just as He used the first century Diaspora to which Peter wrote, and just as He has always done from the beginning of His creation.  

I love the New Diaspora. Do you want to know why? It is because I believe that something marvellous will eventually materialise from it.  In fact, I have every faith that the people of the New Diaspora will be the heart of the churches of tomorrow.  I believe that as the end draws near and backs really begin to be rammed against walls and the detritus of this passing world really begins to hit the fan, the Lord will abandon the deadly formalistic, drably evanjellycal, crazily chaotic, powerfully poisonous "churches" and will bring something extraordinary out of the New Diaspora to offer a final challenge to the crumbling Babylonian Establishment of this world in a way which the lackey, compromised, obsequious, self-centred churches could never do today.  

I just hope I live long enough to see all of that happen. And I hope you do too!

© Alan Morrison, Diakrisis International, 2002

Pastor Alan Morrison is a Baptist minister who established Diakrisis International originally in 1990 to acquaint believers with the importance of Christian apologetics, to provide written commentary and public speaking on a wide range of topical, doctrinal and pastoral issues, and to hold out a hand of rescue to those who suffer psychological and spiritual manipulation in the religious scene. Rev. Morrison has, since the publication of this on his website in 2002, shut the web site down to engage in a church planting project in France.

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