Ask Your Preacher

Ask Your Preacher

THE NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH

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Higher Education

Saturday, April 26, 2014
We've been described by several in our group as a "blue collar” church.  We have many adults in attendance who don't read well.

Can a church teach reading, English, history, philosophy, Greek, or anything else necessary to understand deeper Bible concepts?

Sincerely,
Well-Read

Dear Well-Read,

Every command that you find in the Bible has specific and general qualities to it.  For example, when God told Noah to build the ark, He told Noah to use a specific kind of wood (gopher wood – Gen 6:14) and build the ark to specific dimensions (Gen 6:15-16), but He left the details of how to cut, fasten, and construct the ark up to Noah.  It would have been wrong for Noah to use oak or birch, and it would have been wrong for Noah to change the dimensions of the ark, but aside from that, Noah had freedom to use his own wisdom in the engineering of the ark.  The things that God was specific on, Noah had to be specific on to… but the things God was general about, Noah had freedom to decide for himself.

Now that brings us to your question.  The church has the authority to do whatever is necessary to teach and preach the Word (Acts 15:35) – the specific quality of that command is that the church must forward people’s understanding of God’s Word.  However, as any good teacher knows, you have to start teaching your students from where they are.  The church shouldn’t become a secular academic institution, but if providing someone with a better understanding of world history, Bible times and culture, language, etc. helps to further their grasp of Bible concepts, it is perfectly permissible.  God left the command to teach and preach as a general command for a reason; the specifics of teaching are left up to the Bible teachers.

 

Congregation Investigation

Wednesday, April 23, 2014
How can you tell if a church’s teachings are false?  What must I look for?  Thank you for your time and help.

Sincerely,
On The Alert

Dear On The Alert,

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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 askyourpreacher@mvchurchofchrist.org and we would be happy to help you look.

Back Up The Bus

Monday, April 14, 2014
At my congregation, we have at least ten members that either ride the bus or are picked up en route to the building by other members.  Can/should the church collectively provide transportation for them?  Thanks for your help on this question.

Sincerely,
Ticket To Ride

Dear Ticket To Ride,

The church has the authority to do anything that it believes is necessary to fulfill the work God has given it.  Part of the work of the church is to teach the saved and preach to the lost.  Read “The Purpose Driven Church” for more details on what the church is authorized to do.  Just like a congregation has the authority to purchase a building to make it easy for brethren to get together and worship, it has the authority to deal with other issues that come up regarding the church assembling.  If a congregation had a legitimate need to transport members to the church building, it could pay for that out of its funds.

However, can and should are not the same things.  We are also warned not to burden the church when we can take care of things as individuals (1 Tim 5:16).  The tendency of today’s society is to place the burden on the church first and then for individuals to only deal with the leftover responsibilities.  However, this is flipped from the biblical order and it robs individual christians of opportunities to do good and grow.

A congregation could begin providing transportation if it was appropriate and needed, but it also sounds like your congregation is already comfortably handling the issue by having faithful people step up to the plate and shoulder the responsibility – what an example of brethren letting their light shine (Gal 6:10)!

 

Location TBD

Sunday, April 06, 2014
Where is the command, example, or necessary inference for a church owning property?

Sincerely,
Book, Chapter, Verse

Dear Book, Chapter, Verse,

Every command that you find in the Bible has specific and general qualities to it.  For example, when God told Noah to build the ark, He told Noah to use a specific kind of wood (gopher wood – Gen 6:14) and build the ark to specific dimensions (Gen 6:15-16), but He left the details of how to cut, fasten, and construct the ark up to Noah.  It would have been wrong for Noah to use oak or birch, and it would have been wrong for Noah to change the dimensions of the ark, but aside from that, Noah had freedom to use his own wisdom in the engineering of the ark.  The things that God was specific on, Noah had to be specific on to… but the things God was general about, Noah had freedom to decide for himself.

Another way of saying this is that anything required to fulfill a command is inherent within the command.  This means that if I ask someone to fill my car with gasoline, by default, I have given them permission to drive my car and take it to a gas station of their choosing.  Why?  Because driving my car and going to a gas station are necessary to fulfill that command, and I didn’t tell them which gas station I wanted, so I’ve left that to their discretion.

Both of these examples lead us back to your question.  The command that gives a congregation the authority to own property can be found in Heb 10:24-25 and 1 Cor 14:26.  In both those verses, the church is commanded to assemble.  We are told that we must assemble, or we will be displeasing to God… but we aren’t told where to assemble; that detail is left to our discretion.  We could meet in homes (if we had ones that were big enough), we could meet in a park (if it were legal and weather permitting), or we could buy some property and a building to use.  All of those options would be permissible, and each congregation has the freedom to decide where they wish to assemble because God has commanded us to meet regularly, but He left the details to us.

Deaconess

Saturday, April 05, 2014
What are the duties of deaconesses that serve in the church?

Sincerely,
Lady In Waiting

Dear Lady In Waiting,

There is no official position within the church of ‘deaconess’.  The only time the word ‘deaconess’ is used is in Rom 16:1… and that is only in a couple of translations.  Most translations simply translate the word ‘servant’ because that is what it means.  A ‘deacon’ is a ‘servant’.  The word is used numerous times throughout the New Testament and shouldn’t be viewed as a special position unless the text specifically declares it as such.  For example, 1 Tim 3:8-13 discusses a type of servant (deacon) that has specific qualifications and authorities within the church.  The context of that passage shows us that it is a specific type of servant/deacon.  In Rom 16:1, we don’t have that sort of distinction.  Phoebe is simply a christian that served others with what talents and strengths she had; it wasn’t an office within the church.

 

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