Ask Your Preacher
THE NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH
What scriptures can we look at to show us that pastors, elders, and bishops have all the same meanings and duties?
Dear Name Nomenclature,
Pastors, elders, and bishops are all referring to the same job in the church. We see this by looking at multiple passages that show that these titles are used interchangeably. Tit 1:5-7 uses the terms ‘elder’ and ‘bishop’ as synonyms. Acts 20:28 refers to bishops shepherding the local church (the word ‘pastor’ means ‘shepherd’). 1 Pet 5:1-3 also refers to elders as those who pastor/shepherd the church. When you see that these three terms (pastor, elder, and bishop) are all used interchangeably, it means they are synonyms.
Hi, I have a question about leaving our church. We have attended this church for almost four years. The whole time we have been at this church, there have been various problems caused by one person (the Pastor's daughter). She continuously acts in ways opposite of the Bible; she gossips about people to others in our church and then turns around and acts as if she loves the person. In the last four years, she has consistently changed for the worse. She dresses in ways that can make a brother stumble. During this time, her dad and mom (Pastor and Pastor's wife) have lowered their standards and changed their views on many things because of their daughter. My husband and I (and many others) have gone to the Pastor on several occasions concerning issues we have had with his daughter. All of these times, the blame has been turned around on the person coming to the Pastor. There seems to be a pull to this woman, almost like a spirit. It affects our children and women. We have tried to stick it out in this church, but it is really hindering our children and us. There are other issues as well, but this is the main issue. There has never been anything done openly to address this sin; wouldn't this be overdue? I really want to do what God wants, but this is really affecting our family and many other families in our church. The situation is hard to explain and hard for you to get the complete feel of if you’re not in it, so I hope I have explained it well enough. I am looking for Scripture and advice. Thank you.
When To Leave?
Dear When To Leave,
I have no doubt that we aren't clearly seeing the total picture from what you have described, but truthfully, we don't have to. It is always more important to care for your own spiritual health than to remain with a church (Php 2:12). In the end, your family's spiritual health must come first. This congregation is not helping you grow, and your souls are more important. One of the issues you are facing is simply the fact that the congregation is led by a single pastor – the Bible teaches that congregations should have multiple elders guiding the church. A multiplicity of pastors avoids situations like this where one man's blindness leads to strife and destruction. Read "Pastors" for specific verses on that issue.
For the sake of your family, you should look for a church that is trying to follow the New Testament pattern as closely as possible. A congregation doesn’t need to be full of perfect people, but they need to be trying to faithfully follow God’s Word and not their own ideologies. The following are a few markers of what you should find in every church that is faithful to Christ’s Word:
- Their name should be Biblical. Church of Christ (Rom 16:16), the church (Acts 14:27), church of God (1 Cor 1:2), the Way (Acts 24:14) – all of these are Biblical names given to a local congregation. Having the right name on the front of the building doesn’t mean they are the right church, but if they can’t even get their name from the Bible, they probably aren’t worth wasting your time on.
- Their doctrine should be a copy of the New Testament (Acts 2:42). Any creeds, ‘statements of faith’, articles of belief, manuals, or handbooks are from man and not from God. You want a congregation that uses the Bible to decide their practices.
- They are autonomous. Every congregation of the New Testament had independence. Only local elders were over them (1 Pet 5:1-2, Acts 14:23).They were bound to follow Christ as their only head (Eph 5:23). No boards or committees, no headquarters in some other state, no popes or potentates – what you are looking for is a local body of believers which is accountable to Christ and His Word.
- The church’s work should be simple. The church of the first century wasn’t involved in every community and political arena. Their work was focused on three things – caring for needy christians (Acts 4:34), preaching to the lost, and teaching the saved (Acts 15:35). Find a congregation who is committed to being about Christ’s work.
- They should be open to examination. Any congregation that is serving Christ should be willing to explain why they do what they do. They should be willing to be examined because they are constantly examining themselves (2 Cor 13:5). There is nothing wrong with asking a congregation where their practices can be found in the New Testament.Ask questions and expect Bible answers for them.
These five things are by no means all of the characteristics of Christ’s church, but this should help narrow down your options significantly. Most people accept mediocrity from their church; don’t do that. It is unfair to expect the people of a congregation to be perfect… you will never find perfect humans. However, you should demand intellectual honesty and Biblical faithfulness from any congregation you want to be a member of. If you would like additional help as you look for a faithful congregation in your area, please email us at email@example.com and we would be happy to help you look.
What is the "pure offering" referred to in this Old Testament prophecy? Malachi 1:11 “‘For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same, My name shall be great among the Gentiles, and in every place, incense shall be offered unto My name, and a pure offering: for My name shall be great among the heathen,’ says the LORD of hosts."
Offering Up A Question
Dear Offering Up A Question,
The pure offering that the church will provide God with is in contrast to the polluted offerings that the Jewish nation was giving God. Mal 1:7-8 says that the Jews were offering blemished, lame, and sick animals to God – the exact opposite of what they were supposed to do (Ex 12:5). Israel worshipped God with the worst of what they had, instead of giving God the best of their lives and flocks.
In the church, the Lord’s people offer their lives as living sacrifices to God (Rom 12:1), and God’s people love Him with a whole heart. The church doesn’t just offer God their pure offerings at Jerusalem like the Jews did; the church gives God their offerings all across the globe (Jhn 4:20-23).
It seems like you say that at least 75% of all churches in America are guilty of not being biblically-based churches and not taking the Bible seriously enough simply because they have youth pastors or senior pastors, right? In which case, they would be a bad church to go to even if the Word of God were being preached and the church was prospering because they were applying biblical standards to their ministry and making it the church's mission to teach others how to go out and spread the gospel. I am not trying to argue with you; I am just trying to take what you say and apply it to most churches in the U.S. I believe you’re right that the Bible never mentions these terms (youth and senior pastors) in the Bible and that they are man-made terms, but what would you then call your minister to the youth if there was one in your church?
Too Many Technicalities
Dear Too Many Technicalities,
If a congregation isn't doing what the Bible says (i.e. they aren't following God's standards for church leadership), they aren't preaching the whole counsel of God, and just because a church is prospering doesn't mean that it is doing what God wants. Prosperity and faithfulness aren't the same, and the number of people in the pews isn't necessarily an indication that you are doing what God wants.
Part of the confusion here is that you are using the words 'pastor' and 'minister' interchangeably. Those are two different jobs. If someone is going to be a pastor, he must meet the qualifications found in 1 Tim 3:1-7 and Tit 1:5-9… do these two men (the youth pastor and senior pastor) do that?
On the other hand, a minister is anyone that preaches the gospel. Pastors make decisions for local congregations, but ministers just preach and teach; they have no authority to make congregational decisions. A minister doesn't have to meet the qualifications of a pastor. A pastor is an elder, an older man, but Timothy was a minister (1 Tim 4:6), and he was a young man (1 Tim 4:12).
Another thing to consider is that ‘youth pastor’ means that ‘one that leads the youth’, but ‘senior pastor’ rarely means ‘one that leads the seniors’. A senior pastor is typically a man that has been given more authority than other pastors in the church – once again, something we never see in the Bible. When congregations don't pay careful attention to how their leadership should be run, they are bound to make other major mistakes in other important areas.
You guys say you are not "denominational", but isn't church of Christ just the main branch of the "Restoration Movement" which started in the early 1800s in the United States? From what I understand, the Restoration Movement has since split. The three main branches are the "church of Christ," the "United Church of Christ," and the Disciples of Christ.
Just Another Church
Dear Just Another Church,
Historically speaking, the Restoration Movement is a bunch of different churches that adhere to similar doctrines… biblically speaking, the movement to restore New Testament Christianity is a principle, not a denomination. The Monroe Valley church of Christ isn’t affiliated with any other congregation; we aren’t associated with a grouping of churches or national religious body. Our congregation is completely independent of all others – our responsibility is to the Lord and none other, just like the first-century churches (Acts 14:23).
In the darkest days of the nation of Israel, a young king named Josiah rose to power. The nation had reached such a state of wickedness that the temple was near ruins and in complete disrepair. Josiah made a decision to have the temple repaired (2 Kgs 22:3-5). In the process of repairing the temple, the workers found a copy of the Bible (2 Kgs 22:8). The Old Testament Law was brought to Josiah, and he read it for the very first time (2 Kgs 22:10). Josiah was mortified when he heard the words of the law; never before had he realized how wicked the nation was and how deeply entrenched in sin Israel had become (2 Kgs 22:11-13). Josiah decided then and there to simply return to doing what the Bible said. Josiah let the Bible be his guide in restoring the nation of Israel to what God intended it to be (2 Chr 34:30-31). That is the ideal of the Restoration Movement. Regardless of what man says, the church in Monroe is not a part of a denomination or some earthly hierarchy. We appeal to the New Testament as our guide and daily attempt to restore biblical Christianity in our little corner of the world. If other congregations around the globe take this same attitude, that doesn’t make us a denomination; that makes us brethren all serving the one true head, Jesus Christ (Eph 5:23).