Ask Your Preacher
THE NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH
Some teach that there is only one church. Is this true? And if so, which church is the TRUE church... according to the Scriptures?
The Truth And Nothing But The Truth
Dear The Truth And Nothing But The Truth,
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) and there is only one true church (Eph 4:4-6). 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). The only way to find the one true church and 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. If you want to be the Lord’s church, you just stick with what the Lord says.
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!
Where we worship, there are a great number of people in need of healthcare. It seems every time the announcements are made, we mention several who have missed because they are sick or in the hospital. Where does the burden of responsibility lie for a church meeting the needs of its sick? Considering the purpose of the church includes assembling, where do we stop in our efforts to help people assemble?
Dear Support Staff,
Technically, it isn’t the job of the church to make sure people get to church services; it is the church’s job to make sure services happen. That distinction can be seen in Heb 10:24-25 because individuals were rebuked for forsaking the assembly. It is the individual’s responsibility to make it to services, not the church’s job to drag them there.
Having said that, we shouldn’t be cold-hearted toward people’s needs. If there is a way for others to “do good to the household of faith” (Gal 6:10) by providing rides, that is more than appropriate and a great example of christian hospitality (1 Pet 4:9). But once again, we are talking about individuals helping other individuals.
The church is told to assemble on the first day of the week as a minimum (Acts 20:7, 1 Cor 16:1-2). That is the sum total of God’s command for the collective local body – it is very generic. Within that generic command, a congregation can decide where, when, etc. based upon what is expedient and useful. The specifics are left up to the local church to decide using wisdom (Pr 4:7). The church has to factor in the needs of every member (ailing and healthy) when deciding when to meet. It isn’t about meeting the needs of one particular group of people; it is about trying to balance everyone’s needs. That looks different in each congregation because each congregation is made out of a unique collection of people.
How can you tell if a church’s teachings are false? What must I look for? Thank you for your time and help.
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:
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org and we would be happy to help you look.
Where is the command, example, or necessary inference for a church owning property?
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.
What are the duties of deaconesses that serve in the church?
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.