Ask Your Preacher
If we are rewarded in heaven for our life on Earth, meaning that others will have more in heaven than others, will there be jealousy? I feel like I would be jealous of others that were rewarded more than I in heaven. I feel silly saying that because I would be thankful just to be in heaven at all, but I would feel like God loved others more than me. Is it okay to feel like I would be jealous?
Dear Going Green,
It is true that the Bible talks about storing treasures up for yourself in heaven (Matt 6:19-21), but that doesn’t provide us with many details as to how those treasures work – the mechanics are a total mystery. One analogy that seems to help people is to think of it like two people gathering water from a well; no matter the size of the container, the container will be full. Storing up treasures in heaven has been described as “getting a bigger bucket”. As we said though, this is simply speculation, and we wouldn’t be too dogmatic on the issue.
As for your concern of jealousy in heaven, we don’t know the mechanics of how heaven will work, but we do know that there will be no sin there (1 Cor 15:54-57). Covetousness is a sin (Jas 4:2). In this life, we struggle to rejoice in the joys of our fellow Christians (Rom 12:15); sometimes it stings when we see others with more than us, but the time will come when we will shuck this mortal coil, and those fleshly temptations to covet will no longer plague us.
I attend a church of Christ congregation that has both liberal and conservative members. We have worked hard to accommodate one another for the sake of peace, and for the most part, we have no practices that are unscriptural. However, every second Sunday, a potluck is held in a kitchen/classroom adjacent to the auditorium. The more conservative members, I being one, do not participate because we cannot find anywhere in the Bible where God authorizes potlucks in the church building. Needless to say, this has caused some debate; therefore, the topic is avoided. Is there any Bible authority or example that allows potlucks? We are a small congregation and do not have elders. Sometimes, I worry that by not attending these potlucks, the more liberal members feel I'm being judgmental by not fellowshipping during these potlucks, but I've always been taught that we must have chapter and verse for anything we do. Also, several times, conservative visitors have happened to attend on "potluck Sunday" and have voiced their disapproval. It's difficult to conceal, and in fact, it is announced at the end of services that we are having a potluck – as if everyone hasn't already been distracted by the aroma of roast beef wafting into the auditorium during services. Please comment. The bottom line is: I want my life to be pleasing to God and do not want to make an unrighteous judgment. Thank you.
"Potluck Sunday" Avoider
Dear "Potluck Sunday" Avoider,
We agree that the Lord's church doesn't have authority to use the building for potlucks, social events, etc. You are right on this issue – there is simply no biblical precedent for the church functioning as a social organization. The work of the church is simple, and anything that doesn't fulfill that work shouldn't be done. We posted an answer to a question regarding the work of the church: read "The Purpose Driven Church" for more details on that subject. There was a time when the church needed to hold potlucks because people traveled such long distances by horseback or foot that it was impossible for people to stay for the full day of worship unless they had a meal between... if they went home for a meal, they might as well have stayed home. This was an appropriate use of potlucks because they were an expediency for worship. With today's modern transportation system and the availability of restaurants, that simply is not an issue anymore. Today, potlucks are for the purpose of socializing, not furthering the work of the church. If the work of the church is to socialize, we also ought to have gymnasiums, playgrounds, movie nights, etc. The fact that potlucks are a “tamer” social event than a movie night doesn't make them any less wrong.
Having said all of that, let's now address the issue of your dissenting voice amongst the congregation. Romans 14 is very clear on the subject of stronger and weaker brethren. When one brother believes he can do something (this would be the strong brother), and another believes he can't (the weak brother), how should those two interact with each other? In this circumstance, you are the weak brother. Weak doesn't mean you are wrong or frail; it means you cannot in good conscience participate in these social gatherings. Rom 14:1-4 says that the stronger brother should accept you without condescension or mocking because you are trying to do what you believe is right. Rom 14:13-17 takes it one step further and says that the brother who believes he has the freedom to do something should restrain himself if it is causing his brother to stumble. Your scenario is a good example of this. You believe (and with good reason) that this is an inappropriate use of the Lord's funds, and you do not desire to participate. The congregation should (at the bare minimum) accept your conscientious choice and leave it at that. It is our experience that the opposite is often true. Over time, many congregations as they move toward liberalism try and pressure or demean those with dissenting views. Satan has a way of destroying good relationships by getting more liberal-minded brethren to vigorously fight for their "rights" instead of showing a gentle demeanor with those who don't believe we have the freedom to act so liberally. Sadly, we have seen it time and time again.
In short, you are seeing things clearly, and you are right to be concerned. May God bless you as you stand by your Bible-based convictions.
To follow up on your response about calling men ‘father’ (the post entitled “Parental Paradox”), are you saying it is all right to refer to men as ‘father’ as long as you are not putting them above God? Including, not only a biological parent but even a person of spiritual fatherhood? Some folks in my Lutheran congregation refer to our pastor as ‘father’ or ‘reverend’ or even ‘brother’ but never revere him above God as you pointed out in your post.
Dear Taking Titles,
In order to understand why it is wrong for religious leaders to take the name of ‘father’, we need to put that statement in context. Jesus said to not call anyone ‘father’ (Matt 23:9) at the same time as He condemned the scribes and Pharisees for loving the praise and honor of men (Matt 23:4-6). When ‘father, ‘rabbi’, and ‘master’ are given as titles of prestige and honor, this is exactly what Jesus was condemning. The titles you mentioned are often used in exactly the same manner – ‘reverend’ especially. The word ‘reverend’ is never even found in the Bible. The only one who deserves our reverence is God (Heb 12:28). Anytime that religious leaders take on titles like these, it is a sign that they are seeking to distinguish themselves from other christians. This is the exact opposite of what the apostles did (Acts 10:25-26).
Can a church or congregation be decorated with statues of goblins and gargoyles?
Dear Architectural Interest,
Your question brings up a common misconception in today’s society. When we look at how the Bible uses the word ‘church’, it never refers to a building – it always refers to a group of believers. In fact, the word ‘church’ comes from a Greek word which literally translated means ‘the called out’. The church is the group of people that have heeded Jesus’ call to repent and be baptized (Matt 28:19-20).
It is the misidentification of the church as a building that has led to increasingly ornate and filigreed places of worship. Goblins, gargoyles, stained glasses, crystal, mahogany woodwork, and a thousand other extravagances have been placed within buildings because people have been taught that the structure is what is important… it isn’t. The people are what matter – christians are the house of God (1 Tim 3:15). The church, assembled christians, can meet anywhere they want. They can meet in a park, a warehouse, a home, a rented building, or a purchased church building. It doesn’t matter what the location is; wherever two or more christians are gathered together, God is there (Matt 18:20).
In regards to a brother or sister in Christ who is struggling with sin, what needs to happen? If the brother or sister has come before the congregation and confessed their sins, what is the responsibility then of the congregation? When the struggling brother/sister misses services, seems to slip into deeper sin, or does not make improvements, what needs to happen? How much outreach needs to occur from the congregation… from the elders? And inversely, if the brother or sister improves, does anything need to happen? I have studied this but was wondering if my findings were correct, so I would appreciate your point of view on it.
Hoping To Help
Dear Hoping To Help,
There are as many answers to your question as there are people in the church. The Bible lays out general guidelines for dealing with erring brethren, but it then leaves quite a bit of freedom to apply wisdom to each individual circumstance. If someone is actively, rebelliously living in sin, they need to be confronted. The confrontation should begin on an individual level and only escalate to the whole church if the person doesn’t repent (Matt 18:15-17). If the whole church confronts someone with their sin, and they are still unwilling to change… they should be withdrawn from (1 Cor 5:1-2, 1 Cor 5:13). This should be done in order to protect the church and to, hopefully, jar the wayward brother back to his senses. Discipline should always be done with love and compassion (2 Thess 3:14-15).
However, if at any point the person asks for forgiveness – the process reverses and stops. There is no such thing as someone who is “so far gone” that they can’t be accepted back with loving arms if they confess and repent (Matt 18:21-22, 1 Jn 1:9).
As far as how much we should reach out to people, who should do it, how long we should do it, etc., all of those will vary with individual circumstances. The short answer is that a congregation should do whatever it can to prayerfully bring back a lost brother or sister (Jude 1:20-23).