Ask Your Preacher
THE NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH
I attend two different churches on a regular basis. I'm not a member of either one and don't plan on joining anytime soon. It's not that I don't want to; I just don't see the point of joining since I am still an active-goer. Do I have to join a church? Or is it okay since I'm still getting the Word either way?
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.
I love church, and I love being part of God’s family, but I really dislike being a certain type of christian. I don't understand why there are so many different beliefs for one religion (like Catholic, Methodist, and so on); is it possible to just be a christian and not any thing specific? Is there a special church that's just christian?
No Party Affiliation
Dear No Party Affiliation,
All we should ever be is just christians… you are absolutely right for being frustrated. 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). 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). 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 firstname.lastname@example.org). It is frustrating, confusing, and exasperating to deal with denominationalism. Thanks be to God that there is a better option!
Where in the Bible does it say that the kingdom is the church? From my reading, the kingdom is still in the future when Christ comes back.
Looking For Citizenship
Dear Looking For Citizenship,
Jesus and John the Baptist said the kingdom was near (Matt 3:1-2, Matt 4:17). Jesus taught His disciples that the kingdom would come within their lifetime (Matt 16:28). Jesus also taught that His kingdom wouldn’t be a physical kingdom, but a spiritual one (Lk 17:20-21, Jhn 18:36). Jesus used the terms ‘church’ and ‘kingdom’ interchangeably (Matt 16:18-19). The Bible teaches that you enter them both through baptism (Jhn 3:3, Acts 2:41). The Bible teaches that God is calling people into the church (1 Cor 1:2), and He is calling people into the kingdom (1 Thess 2:12). Lastly, Paul says that the christians who are in the church are also in the kingdom (Col 1:13). The church is synonymous with the kingdom.
I was reading one of your previous answers, and I came across a couple of statements that confused me. Can you please tell me where the scripture is for the following statement: "The church is allowed to spend money on anything God commands the church to do"?
It seems that a previous argument you posted for this statement was summed up as: "Whatever is necessary to fulfill a command is automatically allowed".
I see several problems with the second statement as it relates to the first. Of course whatever is necessary is needed because it is just that… NECESSARY. On the other hand, what we view as necessary, may very well in fact not be. For example, if someone said, "Wash my car," should I build a car wash? We seem to equate the command to assemble with the necessity of a building; when in fact, it is not a NECESSITY. Which works require the use of money by necessity?
The examples we have of the early church using funds were for benevolence, benevolence to needy saints and needy preachers. The Corinthians were commanded to take up a collection on the first day of the week for the needy saints in Jerusalem (1 Cor. 16), and Paul received support as a preacher (2 Cor. 11:8).
I would appreciate your feedback.
Needs Vs. Wants
Dear Needs Vs. Wants,
A building isn’t necessary for a congregation to assemble, but it is necessary that the local church have somewhere to assemble (Heb 10:25)… that is the crux of the issue. We both agree that if something is necessary, it is allowed – that is basic logic. To use your example, if someone said, “Wash my car”, you wouldn’t be required to build a car wash… but you would be required to find some sort of system for washing that car. Any system is allowed, but not all systems would be wise. It wouldn’t be wrong for you to build a car wash, but it would be pretty foolish. Likewise, the church has the authority to do anything that is necessary to fulfill the work God has given it. Read “The Purpose Driven Church” for more details on what the church is authorized to do.
However, what we can do and what we should do are not the same things. As much as the church has the freedom to do whatever is necessary to fulfill its duties, we are also warned not to burden the church with tasks that weigh it down from its primary focuses (1 Tim 5:16). We are also told to be wise and faithful stewards (1 Cor 4:12). This principle is true in our individual lives, and it is also true for the local church. Having a church building isn’t wrong. After all, it is necessary that every congregation have a place to assemble, and the early church met in all sorts of different places. However, each congregation must assess whether owning a building is the wisest and most expedient use of the Lord’s funds.
My husband and I just started a church plant in September. Any advice for a new church planter’s wife?
Dear Mrs. Seed,
The only advice we can give is to hold very carefully to the Bible pattern, and the congregation will be blessed. The religious world is full of people that try and make churches grow by doing all sorts of things that have nothing to do with New Testament Christianity. If the congregation strives to use book, chapter, and verse for everything it does – it will be a success no matter how many members it has. You may find the article "Down With Denominationalism" useful, and we also have an article entitled "Finding A Church" that might interest you because it gives the perspective of what the Bible tells people to look for in a congregation.