Ask Your Preacher
THE NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH
What scriptures can we look at to show us that pastors, elders, and bishops have all the same meanings and duties?
Dear Name Nomenclature,
Pastors, elders, and bishops are all referring to the same job in the church. We see this by looking at multiple passages that show that these titles are used interchangeably. Tit 1:5-7 uses the terms ‘elder’ and ‘bishop’ as synonyms. Acts 20:28 refers to bishops shepherding the local church (the word ‘pastor’ means ‘shepherd’). 1 Pet 5:1-3 also refers to elders as those who pastor/shepherd the church. When you see that these three terms (pastor, elder, and bishop) are all used interchangeably, it means they are synonyms.
Hi, I have a question about leaving our church. We have attended this church for almost four years. The whole time we have been at this church, there have been various problems caused by one person (the Pastor's daughter). She continuously acts in ways opposite of the Bible; she gossips about people to others in our church and then turns around and acts as if she loves the person. In the last four years, she has consistently changed for the worse. She dresses in ways that can make a brother stumble. During this time, her dad and mom (Pastor and Pastor's wife) have lowered their standards and changed their views on many things because of their daughter. My husband and I (and many others) have gone to the Pastor on several occasions concerning issues we have had with his daughter. All of these times, the blame has been turned around on the person coming to the Pastor. There seems to be a pull to this woman, almost like a spirit. It affects our children and women. We have tried to stick it out in this church, but it is really hindering our children and us. There are other issues as well, but this is the main issue. There has never been anything done openly to address this sin; wouldn't this be overdue? I really want to do what God wants, but this is really affecting our family and many other families in our church. The situation is hard to explain and hard for you to get the complete feel of if you’re not in it, so I hope I have explained it well enough. I am looking for Scripture and advice. Thank you.
When To Leave?
Dear When To Leave,
I have no doubt that we aren't clearly seeing the total picture from what you have described, but truthfully, we don't have to. It is always more important to care for your own spiritual health than to remain with a church (Php 2:12). In the end, your family's spiritual health must come first. This congregation is not helping you grow, and your souls are more important. One of the issues you are facing is simply the fact that the congregation is led by a single pastor – the Bible teaches that congregations should have multiple elders guiding the church. A multiplicity of pastors avoids situations like this where one man's blindness leads to strife and destruction. Read "Pastors" for specific verses on that issue.
For the sake of your family, you should 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 email@example.com and we would be happy to help you look.
What is the "pure offering" referred to in this Old Testament prophecy? Malachi 1:11 “‘For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same, My name shall be great among the Gentiles, and in every place, incense shall be offered unto My name, and a pure offering: for My name shall be great among the heathen,’ says the LORD of hosts."
Offering Up A Question
Dear Offering Up A Question,
The pure offering that the church will provide God with is in contrast to the polluted offerings that the Jewish nation was giving God. Mal 1:7-8 says that the Jews were offering blemished, lame, and sick animals to God – the exact opposite of what they were supposed to do (Ex 12:5). Israel worshipped God with the worst of what they had, instead of giving God the best of their lives and flocks.
In the church, the Lord’s people offer their lives as living sacrifices to God (Rom 12:1), and God’s people love Him with a whole heart. The church doesn’t just offer God their pure offerings at Jerusalem like the Jews did; the church gives God their offerings all across the globe (Jhn 4:20-23).
I just want to ask if it is wrong if I often go to church and have my daily Bible study at home? And can you recommend a church to us; we live here at Yokohama, Japan? Thank you.
We aren’t sure if it is a typo or not, but if you are asking if it is okay to go to church often and study your Bible at home… the answer is ‘Yes!’. However, since you are looking for a congregation in your area, we are guessing that were asking if it is okay to study at home and not attend services. The Bible commands christians to not forsake the assembly (Heb 10:24-25). Though in some parts of the world it is difficult to find a faithful group, most countries do have congregations that follow the Bible, and they are often closer than you think. God never intended for christians to function without a local church.
We found what looks like a faithful congregation in Tokyo that teaches and preaches the Bible (we have no personal experience with them though); Tokyo isn’t too far from your location. Here is a link to their website – Ochanomizu church of Christ. It is significantly harder to find English-speaking congregations in non-English speaking countries. There may be a congregation even closer – contact that group, and they will probably have more information than we can provide. If any of our faithful readers have more specific information on a congregation near Yokohama, please send it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, if the writer of this question will e-mail us with their contact information, we can pass along any additional details we get.
America has me worried. I think the government is corrupt and society is immoral. I'm seriously thinking about taking my family and making a community like the Muslims have in some US states. We'd have our own law and law enforcement. No one could come in who wasn't a christian. What should I be looking for to know when to leave?
Not In My House
Dear Not In My House,
Christianity has suffered through quite a bit more than America has ever dished out. As the book of Hebrews says, “You have not yet suffered to the point of bloodshed” (Heb 12:4). No one would dispute that America’s government is corrupt. The question is whether a christian should flee a society as soon as it is corrupt. Biblically speaking, that is not the pattern we see. Christians didn’t flee Jerusalem until christians began to be killed (Acts 8:1). Paul wouldn’t leave a city until they forcibly persecuted him or sought his life (Acts 9:24-25).
There will always be corrupt governments, but within those nations are citizens who need the Gospel as much as everyone else. Christians are supposed to be in the world… but not of this world (Php 2:15). The answers to our problems do not lay in this life. In this life, we shall always have troubles, but Christ has overcome the world (Jhn 16:33). Our hope is in eternal life where God’s law will be the only law and only christians will be allowed in (Tit 3:7). Until then, we must live within the governments of this world (Rom 13:1-2).