Ask Your Preacher
THE NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH
If a church has money, as in a treasury, but the church is the people… if a congregation experienced 100% turnover in members, whose money is it? Suppose a small group of twelve members had a treasury of $30,000 and owned a building. If two families moved, but a new family moved into town about the same time, could they just inherit the church's treasury as their own? How can a treasury of money be stored for generations and generations where the same members weren't there who gave to it in the first place? It seems like we have created an idea that the local church is an organization in and of itself apart from the people that define it. We then give money to the organization, like giving to the Rotary club, and it doesn't matter who the people are; the "club" still possesses the money. Is this the biblical example?
Dear Membership Required,
The local church is greater than the individuals that comprise it. The local church is made up of the christians that meet in that particular location (like the saints that met in Corinth – 1 Cor 1:2 or the saints that met in Thessalonica – Php 1:1). When a christian leaves that local area and attends elsewhere, they cease to be a member of that local congregation. Over time, almost every congregation sees a complete (or near complete) turnover of its membership. Christians have, and always will, be moving away because of jobs, life changes, retirement, etc.
This isn’t a problem because the church’s treasury doesn’t belong to the members – when new members come in, they don’t inherit anything because it belongs to the Lord, not us. When churches take up a collection on the first day of the week (1 Cor 16:1-2), it is money that is collected from the christians and dedicated to the Lord’s work.
You mentioned that the church of Christ is not a denominational church. Each congregation is supposed to use the Scriptures alone to be a guide. What if members of the congregation disagree with a particular doctrine or practice? How are disagreements resolved when both parties use Scripture interpretation to support a point? In Acts 15, there was a council set up to resolve a disagreement regarding circumcision. The decision was binding on the universal church. Do church of Christ congregations hold councils in compliance with the Acts 15 model?
Make A Decision
Dear Make A Decision,
Acts 15 is a good pattern to follow when a congregation has questions or disagreements about a particular doctrine. The only difference would be that the council in Acts 15 affected the entire universal church because the apostles were there, and the apostles had authority over all the church. A local congregation is commended to their elders and to God – each group is autonomous (Acts 14:23), so any decision a congregation makes would affect them alone. No congregation has the right to impose their decisions on another local church.
In Acts 15, we see how we are supposed to find Bible answers when discussing doctrinal issues. When we take Bible verses and combine them together to understand larger principles, we are doing exactly what God intends for us to do (Ps 119:160). In Acts 15, we see that the apostles did that very thing. When the issue came up regarding the circumcision of Gentiles, the apostles listened to the evidence (Acts 15:12), studied the Old Testament Scriptures (Acts 15:15-18), and came to a conclusion (Acts 15:19). They looked for commands, approved examples, and then came to a necessary conclusion from the data. That is exactly what every congregation should do.
Is the church of Christ a denominational church?
Doing My Research
Dear Doing My Research,
The church of Christ is definitely not a denominational church. Each congregation is led and guided autonomously by the Scriptures. Whatever the Scriptures say, that is what we do (Col 3:17). Denominationalism is wrong – read our article “Down With Denominationalism” for details on how the Lord’s church is being attacked by the religious confusion of the denominational world.
I don't belong to a church. I grew up in church but stopped going, but I still seek God every day; I always look for Him. And sometimes I dream, and He's in my dreams, guiding me, telling me He's taking care of me from this day forward. And in my most recent dream, He let me into heaven, but I never really saw His face. Is He talking to me?
Dear Hearing Voices,
If we want to know God’s desire for our life, we must use the Bible to get our instructions. Faith comes from the Word (Rom 10:17), and the Bible contains all the information we need for life and godliness (2 Pet 1:3). If we want to understand what God wants for us, we can find the truth in the sum of His Word (Ps 119:160). Prophecies and visions are no longer given to people directly (1 Cor 13:8). Instead, God speaks to us through the teachings of His Son (Heb 1:1). It is normal for our emotions and desires to send us conflicting messages; that is exactly why God tells us to not trust ourselves (Pr 3:5).
Now let’s address the issue of not belonging to a church. The Bible teaches that we shouldn’t forsake the assembly (Heb 10:24-25). God designed the church so that each individual would be strengthened by the power of the whole (Eph 4:16). God never wanted christians to try and serve Him without the support of a local church; that is why He commanded the church to assemble. It is impossible to do God’s work without being a part of a local church. If you would like help finding a faithful congregation in your area, e-mail us at email@example.com or read “Finding A Church” for biblical parameters for finding a congregation.
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.