Ask Your Preacher
THE NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH
My wife and I are members of a church of Christ, the kind that has a fellowship hall, youth minister (and stuff like that), but no instrumental music (or anything like that). My point is, my wife and I have become a little uncomfortable with this zeal and not being able to find the authority for these things. We went to a very conservative type of church of Christ, like your congregation (from what I gather from y'all’s answers). There is more to it than that but, my question is: what can we expect with a change from a "liberal" type of church of Christ to a "conservative" church of Christ?
Motivated To Move
Dear Motivated To Move,
Oftentimes, the worship service at liberal congregations doesn’t seem all that different from the worship service at conservative ones, but the principles behind why they each do what they do is vastly different.
The fundamental difference between the more conservative congregations and the more liberal ones is how closely they adhere to the Bible pattern. In a conservative congregation, you will see the focus of the church being upon preaching the truth to the lost, teaching the saved, and carrying for needy saints – that’s it. A conservative congregation believes that the church is sufficient to do God’s work, and they shouldn’t delegate that work out to another organization like a missionary society. Conservative congregations support preachers directly, and they send funds directly to care for other needy christians… just like the Bible pattern. This is why conservative congregations are sometimes referred to as ‘non-institutional’. They don’t believe any other institution should take the place of the church – not a missionary society, not a federation of congregations pooling their funds, not a group of preachers controlling the direction of multiple churches.
The other thing that you will see is that a conservative congregation believes that there is a difference between individual responsibilities and congregational responsibilities. Individuals have the responsibility to spend time together and socialize with other christians. Individuals have the responsibility to do good to all mankind and be involved in their community as helpers of the poor and friends to strangers (Gal 6:10). The church has the responsibility to be the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Tim 3:15). You won’t see the church using its resources (including its building) for purely social activities such as potlucks – it is our responsibility as individuals to show hospitality (Heb 13:2). You also won’t see the church getting caught up in secular charity activities like food pantries for the poor or community activism – it is our responsibility as individuals to effect change in our communities and help our neighbors. When we blur the lines between what the church should be doing and what individual christians should be doing, we get into all sorts of trouble. Conservative congregations do their best to keep those lines as distinct as the Bible does.
In short, a conservative congregation will always show you Bible authority for what it does. We speak where the Bible speaks and are silent where the Bible is silent (Rev 22:18-19).
We went to a church that believed if you were married more than once you couldn't be a deacon or preacher. This is because the Bible says you can only be the husband of one wife. Is this a correct interpretation?
Dear Counting Criteria,
The qualification you are referring to can be found in 1 Tim 3:12. The phrase ‘husband of one wife’ literally means a ‘one-woman man’ in the Greek. He must be devoted exclusively and faithfully to his one wife. A man who is widowed and then remarried could still be properly described as a ‘one-woman man’ because he was completely devoted to his first wife until her death, and now is fully devoted to his current wife.
The question a congregation has to wrestle with is if a divorced brother has shown the character trait of monogamous fidelity. Why did he get divorced? Was it for infidelity? Was he always faithful to her? Did she leave him, or did he leave her? How does he behave with his current wife? How long has he been married to his current wife? The answers to these questions will help assess whether he is a faithful ‘one-woman man’.
Divorce is a red flag that should make us pause before appointing a man as a qualified deacon, but depending on the circumstances surrounding the divorce, the man may still be qualified.
Your answers about tithing have been very biblical and correct. Thank you. And I already know your thoughts on our responsibilities as stewards of those funds... so what do you think about a huge treasury? If we are to be using these funds to do God’s will, then how can we justify, as His church, “storing up for ourselves on earth”? I mean, if we are to give of our means and know that God will take care of us… then why does His church need to try and keep bulk money in the account?
Not A Hoarder
Dear Not A Hoarder,
A congregation’s leadership would have the same reason for saving money as an individual would – savings is part of stewardship. If someone lives their life without a “rainy day” fund, we consider them unwise. Congregations have regular expenses and unexpected expenses – the problem with unexpected expenses is that you don’t expect them! God says that we must be wise stewards in all that we do (Lk 12:42-43, Matt 25:23). It is possible for a congregation to hoard money – this is wrong. It is also possible for a congregation to spend their money unwisely and not prepare for future expenses – this also is wrong. As in all issues of wisdom, there is a balance. You are right that churches should be using the funds they collect to do God’s will – that isn’t in question. The question is simply how and when to use those funds. That is trickier and requires wise elders to properly manage each individual church’s finances (1 Tim 3:5).
I am happy to write to you. I am wanting to know how you conduct your worship on Sundays.
God bless you.
Looking For Order
Dear Looking For Order,
The Bible gives us examples and commands for five different elements to the public worship.
- Teaching/Preaching (1 Cor 4:17)
- Singing (Eph 5:19)
- Prayer (Acts 12:5)
- Taking A Collection – Sunday only (1 Cor 16:1-2)
- Lord’s Supper – Sunday only (Acts 20:7)
Of these five elements, two of them are specifically allowed only on Sundays. The others can be done any time the brethren get together. The congregation here in Monroe, WA is a simple New Testament congregation, and our worship is just what you find in the Bible.
What are the dangers of church hopping?
Dear Bunny Steps,
Being a member of a congregation is about more than just hearing God’s Word; it is about being a committed, active participant in supporting and encouraging God’s people. There are no examples of christians in the Bible who weren’t members of a local church. Even the apostle Paul, with all of his traveling, was a member of the church in Antioch (Acts 11:25-26). God tells us that part of the purpose of the church assembly is to stimulate and encourage one another to love and good works (Heb 10:24-25). Is it enough to just stay at home and watch sermons on television or listen to ones you have downloaded from the internet? If the only purpose of church attendance is to hear the Word, then those would be acceptable alternatives to going to church. We are supposed to get together each Sunday and partake of the Lord’s Supper (Acts 20:7, 1 Cor 11:20), and God intended for christians to be a part of a local congregation with elders and deacons to help shepherd them (1 Pet 5:2). God knows what is best for us, and it is in our best interest to assemble with other christians in a local church. We are all different, and our differences help to strengthen us, protect us, and better serve Christ (Eph 4:14-16). If all you do is “church hop”, then you don’t have the blessings of the local eldership, interwoven lives with other local saints, and participating fully in the growth of the church’s work. Church membership isn’t just about what you get; it is about what you are able to give.