Ask Your Preacher
We are a small congregation with no deacons or elders. Recently, several issues have been raised in the men’s meetings:
Issue #1: Different men are assigned to the Lord's table each Sunday, ages seventeen and up. One of the men who regularly serves on the table obtained approval to use his two young sons (ages seven and nine) to help pass the plates. They do not participate with the men at the table, only stand at the end of the rows and hand the plate from row to row. They take this duty very seriously and do a very good job. Yet, some members feel that no one should be helping serve on the Lord's table unless they have been baptized.
Issue #2: The offering has always been returned to the front table after collection (although the Lord's Supper plates are taken to the back room) and, after services, is counted by two of whoever served on the table that week, which changes weekly, and therein lies the problem. Several members are upset about the lack of confidentiality (at times, children and other family members have observed while their fathers count the offering), and, in fact, one family has withheld their offering as a result. The decision was made to take the offering plate to a side room to count which does not completely resolve the problem of confidentiality since any two of fifteen different people are counting the money each Sunday.
Issue #3 involves allowing men whose regular attendance is lacking, or were baptized less than a year ago, to deliver Sunday evening sermons. More than a few members are uncomfortable with this, mostly because of the lack of Bible knowledge and potentially false impressions left with visitors.
Issue #4: Allowing AA meetings to be held in the building (although made available to them at no cost).
I appreciate your Bible answers and words of wisdom.
Counting My Concerns
Dear Counting My Concerns,
Your first three concerns are all issues of wisdom – there is no hard and fast line of right and wrong; the congregation must decide what they think is best and wisest because God gives us freedom in these areas.
There is nothing wrong with those young boys helping pass the plates. This isn’t any different than when people sitting in the pews help pass the plate from one person to another. The same goes with counting the collection; the Bible never says we need to guarantee people’s anonymity in giving. In fact, there were times when Paul openly bragged about how much a congregation was prepared to give (2 Cor 8:1-2, 2 Cor 9:2). As for men preaching, the Bible never gives a specific maturity level needed for a man to preach a lesson. Wisdom would dictate that the younger in the faith someone is, the more cautious we should be, but once again, that isn’t a prohibition, just a concern. In the end, with all of these issues, God tells us to do that which makes for peace and edification (Rom 14:19). If an expediency stops being helpful, it is no longer expedient. Typically, an eldership would handle such matters because they are qualified to watch over the souls of the congregation and delicate matters like this (Heb 13:17), and the fact that your congregation doesn’t have elders yet is a big part of what is making these issues so painful. These are exactly the kinds of growing pains that congregations go through until they are able to appoint elders. The only thing you can do is try and strive for unity and submission to one another in these sorts of situations (Eph 5:21, Eph 4:3).
Your fourth concern is a different matter; a congregation has no authority to use its assets (and the church building is part of its assets) to support things other than the Lord’s work. As positive an influence as Alcoholics Anonymous can be, it isn’t the church, and it isn’t the church’s work, therefore, the church shouldn’t be using the Lord’s funds to support it. Read “Purpose Driven Church” for further details on the church’s purpose and responsibilities.
Leviticus 19:28 said, “Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD.” Why don't I hear too many churches preaching against putting tattoos on your body?
The Old Testament strictly forbade tattoos (Lev 19:28). God was so adamant about it because cutting your flesh and tattooing were common practices of pagan cultures (1 Kgs 18:26-28). Tattooing was a religious practice closely tied to Baal and other idols.
In the New Testament, we are given no specific command against tattoos. It is valuable, however, to see that for a very long time tattoos have had a negative connotation. As a christian, there are many things that we can do but should think carefully about beforehand. Just because I can do something, doesn’t mean it is a good idea (1 Cor 10:23). Tattoos are permanent, and the decision to get one shouldn’t be taken lightly.
In American culture, tattoos can give a negative impression – especially if the tattoo is large or in a highly visible area. Some things to consider:
- Tattoos are a deterrent for some employers. Are you willing to get passed over in a job application?
- People will automatically form judgments about you based upon their first impression of a tattoo. Are you comfortable with being thought of as ‘the weird tatted-up guy’?
- You must also consider what effects it will have long-term. Will you still want Tweety Bird on your shoulder when you are in the nursing home?
- Are you ready to explain to your three-year-old why you have song lyrics on your bicep? Are you okay with your children wanting tattoos themselves?
- Many tattoos change their shape, size, and even location with weight loss and gain. Are you ready for that “cute” bellybutton butterfly to become a condor when you get pregnant?
- Many tattoos are of things that exude evil. Snakes, skulls, demonic signs, bad words, etc. are to be avoided at all costs.
We must always consider our influence and how it will affect others. This is not a right or wrong issue, but simply one of wisdom. God tells us to be wise and seek wisdom in our decisions (Pr 8:33). Whatever decision an individual makes, I recommend seeking outside counsel before getting something as permanent as a tattoo (Pr 11:14). It is not wrong for a christian to get a tattoo, but it certainly isn’t a decision to make lightly.
If God is love, and God is a jealous God, but love can never be jealous, then what is God???
Doing The Math
Dear Doing The Math,
When the Bible talks about God being a jealous God (Ex 34:14), it is saying that God is jealous in the sense that He does not accept us worshipping false gods. This is very similar to the type of jealousy a wife might show for her husband. A loving wife is jealous for her husband – she won't accept him having affections for any other woman.
However, when the Bible says that "love is not jealous" (1 Cor 13:4), it is dealing with envy and coveting. A loving person doesn't get upset when good things happen to others; they rejoice with them (Rom 12:15). In this sense, God is not jealous. God never gets upset when good things happen to His children. In fact, He is the source of all blessings (Jas 1:17).
I don’t get it. So much of the Bible makes no sense to me. For example, the Flood… the Bible said God flooded the world but saved Noah and Noah's family only. The Bible says the reason this was done was because God saw too much wickedness in the world. But I just can’t imagine every child or baby living then in the world being wicked, but the Bible says God killed them all. But in another verse, I remember hearing it said children and babies are not accountable until, like, a certain age… maybe puberty? So all those kids and babies that were drowned in the flood were innocent, yet killed anyway. It makes no sense at all to me.
Too Tragic For Thought
Dear Too Tragic For Thought,
The Flood was a blessing to Noah and his family because they were saved from the sinful influences of that ever-violent generation (1 Pet 3:20)… but it was also a blessing to those innocent children. You are right; all children are born sinless, and they aren’t accountable for sin until they are old enough to be responsible for their own behavior. All children go to heaven. Read “What About The Children?” for further details on the fate of the young.
It is important to realize that when God ends a life, it is not the same as when another human snuffs a life out. God knows that when a child dies, it isn’t the end of their life but the beginning of a new one. When God ends a life, He also has a new life to offer them. All the innocent children that died in the Flood had no chance to grow up faithfully and turn to God because the generation was so wicked that there was no hope for their future. God redeemed those children from such a horrific fate, and He started the world anew with righteous Noah and his family.
I was baptized when I was eighteen, and I remember why I was doing it, but it was also out of fear that if I died without being baptized that I would die and go to hell. However, when I answered ‘yes’ to "Do you believe that Jesus is the Son of God and came down and died for the remission of your sins?", I remember being hesitant. I'm twenty-two now, and looking back, I can't remember if I truly believed that, and I'm worried that I won't go to heaven if I died. I believe it firmly now, but do you think I should be re-baptized just to make sure?
Dear Double Take,
The word ‘baptism’ simply means ‘immersion’ – it is the reason for your immersion that makes baptism a soul-saving act. When we understand that baptism saves us from our sins (1 Pet. 3:21) and are baptized by the authority of Christ (Acts 2:38) and believe in His Name (Mk. 16:16), then that baptism saves us. Many people are baptized without understanding these things… in which case, they just get wet. You will have to evaluate for yourself whether or not you understood what you were doing when you were baptized (Php 2:12). If you did, there is no need for re-baptism. If not or if you aren’t sure, re-baptism is a logical and conscientious decision.
If the only reason you are seeking to be re-baptized is that you think you did it out of fear the first time – there is nothing wrong with fear motivating our initial obedience to God. Almost all people start that way, and God says it is appropriate (Pr 1:7). However, if you still feel that nagging doubt, you wouldn’t be the first person to decide that the faithful thing to do is to remove all questions and go back to the water.