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THE NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH
I am having a difficult time with a situation at my church. It seems that there is so much honor for the pastor, but none for his wife. There are many of the members who don't care for the pastor's wife, and it is evident around the church. I feel that I should not participate in any of the activities they have because of the situation. Is there any Scripture that can help me with this?
Dear Sticky Situation,
Have you considered that the problem is rooted in the fact that having only one pastor is outside of the Bible pattern? Pastors (also known as elders and bishops – Tit 1:5-7, Php 1:1) are the overseers of the church and should never be left to serve by themselves. The Bible never gives examples of lone pastors; there is always a plurality (Acts 14:23). 1 Tim 3:1-7 and Tit 1:5-9 give the qualities a man must have in order to serve as a pastor. We recommend you read “Elders” to see more scriptures on the topic. We often have people write into the site with problems similar to yours. We have found that the common thread is that when a man serves as a pastor and has that kind of authority without the checks and balances of other pastors – inevitably, there are problems. Sometimes he becomes power hungry, sometimes he becomes lazy, sometimes he simply becomes indifferent, sometimes he receives too much honor… no matter what, the root cause is the same. We would recommend your church adopt the Bible pattern of multiple pastors to lead the flock. The closer we adhere to the Bible’s model for the church, the fewer problems we have.
I have always heard, and still do, that a congregation cannot have one elder. I cannot seem to find any Scripture to support this. Thanks again for your help.
Count Me In
Dear Count Me In,
The more accurate way to deal with this issue is to make your statement in the positive – a congregation must have a plurality of elders. In everything that a congregation does, it needs to find biblical authority. Acts 14:23 says that they appointed elders in every church. Acts 15:2-6 points out that the church in Jerusalem had multiple elders. In Acts 20:17, Paul called for the elders of the church that met in Ephesus. Jas 5:14 recommends that the sick call for the elders of the church to pray for them. Also, Peter exhorts the elders of each congregation to tend the flock amongst them (1 Pet 5:1-3). There is not a single example of a lone elder in the New Testament. Every congregation was led by a multiplicity of pastors. The final kicker on the issue is that Paul specifically commanded that elders (plural) be appointed in every congregation (Tit 1:5). If we let the Bible be our guide, we have no precedent for a single elder congregation.
If christians of all different denominations are bound for heaven if they accept Jesus, why is there so much division? If there aren't different levels to heaven and varied eternal rewards based on your denominational allegiance, then why the need for so much variation?
Too Many Choices
Dear Too Many Choices,
The denominational world is confusing… exactly the opposite of God’s church (1 Cor 14:33). The term ‘denomination’ comes from the idea that a church believes that it is a subgroup of a larger religious body. Lutherans worship and teach differently than Episcopalians, Catholics, Presbyterians, etc., but they all believe themselves to be christians – this is wrong. Jesus said that there is only one path to heaven (Matt 7:14). The apostle Paul said that there is only one church (Eph 4:3-6). Denominationalism teaches that how you act and worship are matters of opinion, but Jesus said that how you act and worship are matters of truth (Jhn 4:24) and the Bible condemns the division we see in the religious world today (1 Cor 1:13). The only way to avoid denominationalism is to find a congregation that simply teaches what the Bible says – no creeds, no opinions, no personal agendas. If we truly love Christ, we will follow His commandments (1 Jn 5:2).
Everything a church does (worship, membership, how they teach to be saved, how they spend their money, even their name) needs to have Bible verses backing them up (1 Tim 3:15). A church needs to be able to explain the reasons for why they do what they do (1 Pet 3:15).
Our congregation here in Monroe goes by the name ‘Monroe Valley church of Christ’ because ‘church of Christ’ is a Biblical name for a congregation (Rom 16:16). We worship by singing (Col 3:16), studying the Bible (1 Tim 4:13), praying (2 Thess 3:1), taking communion (only on Sundays – Acts 20:7), and taking up a collection (also only on Sundays – 1 Cor 16:1-2). We teach that you must hear God’s Word (Rom 10:17), believe God’s Word (Jhn 3:16), repent of your sins (Mk 6:12), confess Jesus as your Savior (Lk 12:8), and be baptized to be saved (Acts 2:38, 1 Pet 3:21). We do all these things because they are practices found in the Bible. As you said, you don’t want to go to a church that offers their own thoughts – you want God’s thoughts.
There are other congregations like ours scattered across the country and the world. Most of them use the name ‘church of Christ’, but then again, many churches that use that name aren’t faithful. A Bible name for a church isn’t enough to make it faithful. We have helped others, like yourself, looking for New Testament Christianity find faithful congregations in their area by contacting other preachers and christians that we know. We’d be happy to do the same for you. If you feel comfortable, just let us know what general area you live in, and we will try and get you in touch with a congregation that lives like your Bible reads (our e-mail is email@example.com). It is frustrating, confusing, and exasperating to deal with denominationalism. Thanks be to God that there is a better option!
When was the first appointed elder in the Bible?
Age Before Beauty
Dear Age Before Beauty,
Elders have the oversight of local congregations, and in order to be an elder, a man must meet the qualifications outlined in 1 Tim 3:1-7 and Tit 1:5-9. The first recorded elders are mentioned in Acts 11:39-40, and they were elders in the Jerusalem church.
With no religious upbringing, I was baptized in 2008 according to Matthew 28:19 at a conservative evangelical church. I moved and attended an apostolic church. I was told I had to be re-baptized in Jesus' name because I was not saved. And then the whole tongues thing. I made the decision to leave because I could not embrace their doctrine of Oneness, Jesus' name only, speaking in tongues… forget all the holiness issues. How do you suppose the Lord looks upon me for leaving? Should I have stayed to be a light of truth? Thank you.
Fleet Of Foot
Dear Fleet Of Foot,
You can only do so much to help others, but in the end, it is more important that you seek the truth and be part of a faithful congregation than it is that you stay and try and be the lone voice for a church that isn’t interested in changing. Your own salvation comes first (Php 2:12). Furthermore, it isn’t like the congregation showed an interest in studying or changing. In such cases, God tells us not to “cast your pearls before swine” (Matt 7:6).
As far as the doctrinal issues, you may find the articles “Just Gibberish” and “Gifts That Stop Giving” useful for future reference, but you are right to not embrace the doctrines you mentioned. Christianity is meant to be simple. If we take what the Bible says and follow its pattern, we will have the truth. All the religious division is wrong and completely unnecessary. Read “Down With Denominationalism” for an in-depth look at how denominationalism has strayed from the Bible. All we have to do is follow the Bible like an instruction manual, and we will be fine. We congratulate you on your stand for the truth, and we would be happy to help you get in touch with a congregation that has your same love for truth. We know of many simple, honest, Bible-patterned congregations; e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org if we can be of service.