‘The End of Denominations’ or ‘My Experience with the Quakers’

My last post may be a prequel thought to this, so I’ll just leave it here: Fox and the Reformation.

And my general philosophy (/theology) on this school of thought is explained, somewhat, here: ‘Confessions of a Modern Puritan’ or ‘Turning the Hearts of the Children to their Fathers’

I just finished The Autobiography of George Fox (its long, but outstanding – many would be benefitted by reading just the first 50 pages or so (Fox’s actual narrative in this version starts on p 65)); this post is not some sort of book review, but I hope will be far superior to the general enlightenment of my readers.

I only recall one time having had an exposure to REAL ‘Quakers’.  It was a bit unfortunate, too, because I didn’t know that’s what they were.

I had gotten saved the summer after my freshman year of high school at a Christian music festival.  As tenaciously as I had thrown myself into wickedness, and rebellion against God in the time prior to my salvation, I had now thrown myself into serving the Lord.  I still, generally dressed like a stoner, had long hippie hair and (as pointed out by certain friends) still sometimes reverted to druggie humor in conversation.  But I also openly toted my bible around, and tried to be available to witness and minister to friends as often as the opportunity arose – I had basically become a sold-out, all-in ‘Jesus freak.’

I certainly could have done certain things better – but there I was; my early years set the stage for my devotional times and growth.  Because of demonic attachments I had attained it was necessary for me to spend at least 1 hour in the evening before bed in prayer and the word, and at least the same sum of time in the morning – and often periodically through the night I would awaken to spend time in the Presence.  That’s no boast of my dedication, or spirituality – again, for me it was necessary: so wrought upon with spiritual warfare was I, that I could not have stood were it not for my consistent times pressing into His Presence.

Anyway, as time went on and I continued in the word I became more sanctified in my habits, and continued to grow in the Lord.  I became, among other young Christians a sort of big brother.  About the course of my Junior (maybe Senior) year in high school, a friend of mine invited me to a church-meeting that his fellowship was having.  Looking back, I think I was someone he had grown to respect in the Lord, and he had invited me because he was interested in developing our fellowship with each other.

I agreed to go with this friend of mine, and so at the time appointed he picked me up at my house.  It seems like he was driving  large brown van – like a big van-pool type one, but with no windows in it.  He was dressed in a suit and tie – I was a BIT underdressed in a polyester shirt (I may have missed the Jesus people movement, but I was bit into polyester shirts with big lapels back when my metabolism was still in-tact) with my Camo Jacket over the top, and I think some cargo pants.

We started off for this church meeting and we went a long way… I mean, a REALLY long way.  We drove out of the suburb I grew up in, all the way through the closest city and out into the woods.  Now, here I was in a large communal van with an acquaintance of mine that I didn’t know ALL THAT well who was driving me deep into the woods – worse was that we were not really connecting on a fellowship level, though he was talking to me about God.  Trying not to be too shook up – I started asking him about certain points of theology so I could try to get a feel for just what kind of church group we were actually going to (now that I was in the van, and being driven there).

Then he was telling me, basically, that there was no real church government structure, and instead of ‘Pastors,’ or ‘Missionaries,’ they just called any ministers ‘Friends.’  Okay… this is where I started feeling more than a little concerned – that’s kinda weird, just sayin’.

I could tell that he wasn’t a Mormon, or Jehovah’s witness, but the whole ‘Friends’ thing was definitely cultish lingo as far as I was concerned – yet all the points of theology that I began asking him about he seemed to answer sensibly if not in complete accordance with what I believed.  Now, if he had told me at any point in the trip: ‘We’re Quakers.’  I would had had a sudden sense of relief, and a willingness to enjoy the experience of going one of their meetings.  As it was, however, in his mind there seemed to be no label for them, they were simply ‘Christians,’ and denominational labels had no real meaning to value.

Since he seemed to be doing alright on the points of theology I threw at him, but I was becoming pretty sure he was taking me to a cult meeting, I went back to my own Pentecostal leanings, and started asking him about his understanding of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit – heavily emphasizing tongues.

Finally we got to the meeting place DEEP in the woods.  There was no church building, but a series of large tents – all this was set up on someone’s private property *GULP*.  There was one large tent for the men with bunks inside – I thought: ‘There’s kind of no privacy for married couples, and families,’ so I asked about that, turns out we were in the tent for the men and boys, there was another tent for the ladies – OH NO! THEY HAD COMMUNAL LIVING!  Now I was to the point of wondering if the meeting was going to involve black hoods, chanting, and goats!

Now, I am going to point out at this juncture that if at any point my friend (no Quaker pun intended) had told me that he was a ‘Quaker,’ and that this was a body of ‘Quakers,’ I would have probably been set completely at ease.  I mean, we all grew up with breakfast cereal, and what puts you more at ease than the Quaker oats dude?

Image result for quaker oats

Am I right?!

But here’s the thing – no one at any point used the term ‘Quaker,’ in fact, I had no idea what sort of group it was that I went to for many years after.  Only later did I discover that the Quakers never intended to own any title, but amongst themselves were referred to as the ‘Society of Friends.’  Then (years later) putting two and two together, I came to the realization that my friend had taken me to a Quaker meeting.

That was too bad, because although I saw no major flaws in the general theology of the group through what I saw (though my friend failed my ‘tongues’ litmus test pretty miserably (which really only indicates my own factionalism of the time)), I was convinced through exterior elements that the group had cultic tendencies.  Unfortunately my bias at the intro ruined the experience, alienated me from my friend, and lost for me the opportunity of fellowshipping with some (doubtless) wonderful Christians.  Looking back, the service was decent as well (though I too much time looking for the exit and being critical to appreciate much of it); seems like there was a simple gospel presentation with opportunity for people to publically acknowledge a new degree of commitment to serving Christ.

Unknown to me at the time, their methods of service outdated the cults who had since come into existence – their original tent meetings setting the pace for the early American (mainly Methodist) camp meetings, and later the Pentecostal tent revivals.

In fact the Quakers avoid labels because they are the original Non-denominational Christians.  In my previous post, I spoke about George Fox (the prophet who initially was the main founder of the Society of Friends) and his place in the reformation.  Fox’s ministry started in the early to middle 1600s – about 80 to 100 years after the Lutheran reformation in Germany, which indirectly split Christendom into myriads of denominations, and church groups.

One thing I realized as I read Fox’s journal is that the Quaker movement was the spiritual end of denominations.  Fox never intended to form a new ‘church,’ to the contrary he initiated the COMPLETION of the protestant reformation.  The main perspective, or ‘creed’ of the Quakers (if it could be called that) is the priesthood of all believers.  Every Christian has Christ inside them… or they’re not really a Christian.  If every Christian has Christ inside them, then Christ is their True pastor, priest, prophet, leader.  The main emphasis of the Quakers was the New Covenant wherein God would write His word upon our hearts (Heb 8:10-12; 10:16 &17).

In this, every Christian is the temple of God (1 Cor. 3:16&17; 6:19; 2 Cor. 6:16 etc.) – thus to call a building ‘temple’ or ‘church’ is detestable if not outright blasphemy for the church is God’s people in whom He abides – and every Christian is a priest of God (1 Peter 2:9; Rev 5:10) under the order of Melchizedek (that is Jesus, the high priest).  In fact, George Fox went so far as to point out (and this is where he lost most of his denominational listeners) that since the Law of Moses, and the Levitical priesthood had passed away, that the LAW of tithing had passed away with these.  Instead of ‘tithing’ to some organization, the Quakers give to support the needs of other Christians (who are priests), and to the poor – for this they initially received much great persecution from denominations of every sort.

Fox saw that the church setup of even the protestant denominations mirrored the Roman Catholic, and Anglican setup, which was this: a body of Christians gathered weekly at a building, which they called the church.  They tithed their earnings so that a resident minister could live, and preach to them in said ‘church’ building.  Rather than following the organizational setup of ‘priests’ handed down to them from the Catholic clergy – which every denomination did (and still does, frankly) continue in, the style of their meetings was staged after Paul’s instructions for Christian meetings as laid out in 1 Cor. 12-14, wherein the Christians gather together (anywhere suitable, for no building is a church, the church is the assembled Christians) and wait upon the Lord.  One who is led of the Holy Spirit to speak, speaks, or to sing a hymn, sings an hymn.  This they took from 1 Cor. 14:26 ‘…when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation.  Let all things be done unto edifying.

In reality, the Quakers never meant to be a denomination, or a separate society at all – which is why rather than elevating priests in giving titles, all ministers are simply called ‘Friends.’  Though the Quakers never intended to be a denomination or faction from the beginning, they were set in the midst of a Christian nation – there were Anglicans, Presbyterians, Baptists, etc., etc. – yet they were distinctly different from all of these in many simple ways.  The people had to call them something, they first called them Quakers because the Spirit of power that was upon George Fox made his legal opponents to quake in the fear of the Lord – and the name stuck because the group as a whole was so spiritual; they would prophesy, and sometimes shake under the power of the Holy Spirit.

Yet to those observing the spiritual work of God in the earth the Quaker movement was a prophetic shift in the reformation.  It occurred well before it could widely be received, and even today the quote: ‘non-denominational’ system follows the same pattern of clergy that was handed down to it from earlier movements.  Instead of ‘priest’ current protestants simply call their clergy ‘pastors.’  Even amidst the ‘New Apostolic Reformation’ (NAR), so called, what I see is merely biblical labels being placed upon the same clerical system (instead of ‘priest,’ or ‘pastor’ we call one ‘evangelist,’ or ‘prophet’; instead of ‘Bishop’ is used the term ‘Apostle,’ etc.)

The flip can be a danger, too – in abandoning all concept of vocational clergy, it could be easy for the True church of God to neglect to appreciate the ministry of True Apostles, and Prophets as commissioned specifically to those roles by Jesus Christ in Spirit, and in Truth.  For my part, I believe Fox was one.

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7 thoughts on “‘The End of Denominations’ or ‘My Experience with the Quakers’

  1. Interesting. I have concluded that any system we set up to worship God can be successful if the people who lead are free of selfish ambition and willing to lay down their lives so others can grow. The church with all its warts and pimples has been a force for good in the earth and I would not want to live in a world without one. Communism based on atheist ideals failed.

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    • Lol, yes – I certainly hope that I did not seem to be endorsing communism with this post. Yet I do agree with the theology that the law of tithe has passed, I still agree with the concept of tithing as a principal; yet this based on the law of the Spirit of life in Christ (Rom 8:2 (i.e. we should give generously as led by the Spirit, not under compulsion – I do believe that many times believers may be led to give to some needy person, or a different ministry but feel compelled to the law of tithing, and therefore give off being led of the Spirit in this area – which manner of thing always follows legalism). I have seen some groups who go off into the ‘community of goods’ as a theological system, and as church governance (I believe too far in that direction is error, and am neither advocating that – though if it is how a body has agreed to live together I neither see anything greatly wrong in it, aside from the fact that it (like all earthly organizations) is temporal; this type of system worked in Acts because those leading it were apostles, indeed, and knew by the Spirit how to distribute the funds; it should be noted that the system was broken up, and did not last indefinitely (nor can any system, for His kingdom is not of this world)).

      I always like to learn from different Christian groups, as there is a large school of thought; even ideas that I don’t necessarily agree with initially may have been inspired by the Holy Spirit. ‘Prove all things; hold fast to that which is good.’

      I have come to the conclusion that organizations are necessary, and good, but when we view an organization, or a single ministry as ‘THE church’ we are in error.

      (see also post: https://pnuematicrain.wordpress.com/2017/02/22/the-seven-rivers-of-god-a-parable/)

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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      • I did not get the sense you were endorsing communism, which is humanity’s effort to create equality. It never works. The only place we will find equality is in God. It is difficult to keep the organization in its proper place, often it becomes more important than the people leaders sacrifice to keep the organization alive.

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      • Agreed; the early reformers realized that the model of the Catholic church had become merely an earthly theocracy, claiming to be the hands and feet of Christ in the world – they could see through the error in the organization of Rome. Unfortunately, in most cases this merely led to the formation of many smaller organizations splintered off from that first.

        This is a major reason I have been impressed with George Fox – the movement of Quakers he started was initially not intended to be an organization at all; further he believed True Christians to be above denominations, and therefore was unhindered in ministering to every branch and sect of Christianity (albeit, he corrected their errors, many of which were deeply laid, and adamantly taught by the denominations which led many of the priests to view him as a wolf). At one point in his autobiography he made this very interesting point about his movement; the Quakers were being widely arrested, and subject to beatings and public humiliation in the medaevil judgment system. In defending them, Fox pried the Anglican leader why they had been excommunicated; the man’s response was that the Quakers did not attend the services, or submit to the Anglican authority. Fox then asked the man if it did not seem unjust that the Church of England would take no note of the society as their own – to seek fellowship with, or even write letters to their ‘strayed’ sons in the faith, and that rather than seeking fellowship or reconciliation to leap to charging them with blasphemy in the secular court? No response was provided for the question.

        It is difficult to discern the appropriate begining, ending, and reach of any church organization. Any earthly organization quickly becomes an oligarchy, and that’s not to say that that is entirely wrong: Paul taught Timothy that it was appropriate to have organizational leadership in place – and surely it is necessary for the appropriate order of services and community. Where I think that we have an issue as a culture is in the mentality of people to view weekly Sunday services as church. The format doesn’t really work for an inclusive, all-contributing service as Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 14, where each one is encouraged to minister through the Spirit. Rather in the style of open meetings which we ussually have, there is sort of a pyramid of authority, and that authority – rather than facilitating ministry – is also soley responsible for ministering. Any ministry that is done is performed by one in the organizational authority. This also isn’t entirely bad, there should be facilitators who have discernment, and the willingness step up and protect the flock, and anyone who has been in ministry for any length of time can readily tell you that not everyone who wants to ‘minister’ or contribute something is moving in the Spirit. There are, doubtless, appropriate methods for the right times and places – in terms of really doing church the way the bible prescribes, I think it is ussually better to have smaller, more personal sized groups.

        I think the main issue though, overall, is differentiating between positions in an organization (Bishop, deacon, elder (being just a few biblically defined titles of church organization positions), and God commissioned ministers – I don’t think these are clearly deliniated in any church organization that I have ever been involved with. People generally assume that because someone is a pastor in an organization that he/she was ordained of God for that [organiational] position – which is not the case for His kingdom is not of this world. It actually works opposite of that: the commissioned ministers ought to be the ones setting up organizations (and ussually at the begining of a church movement, or denomination, they typically are; its when the second, third, forth generation comes along and is instated in an organizational office but was not set there by God that is a problem (and this certainly happens)).

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    • Yup; in fact it was a term used for groups (probably Morovians) prior to George Fox’s movement who would tremble under the power of the Holy Spirit. According to Fox’s own biographical account, it initially was pinned on him because he commanded a judge to quake in fear of the Lord; it was said to have stuck with Fox because the power upon him DID cause many his opponents to quake. That it would then be transferred to his ‘following’ was a logical result.

      As you mention, the Methodists as well – who were scornfully called such because they were not Calvinists – the thought was that they believed their ‘Methods’ rather than God’s election could save them. John Wesley spun it differently when he accepted the usage of the term to himself under the concept that there is, indeed, a Way – or ‘Method’ to attain salvation through repentance and faith in Christ.

      Liked by 1 person

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