Ask Your Preacher
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.
Where I meet with fellow christians, I have observed the following pattern: fifteen to twenty minutes prior to the start of class, members will be gathering, talking, and socializing. During the fifteen-minute break, there is more gathering, talking, and socializing. After the sermon, for minutes to an hour (or more), there is once again more gathering, talking, and socializing. Comparing the use of the building:
- 1 - 1.5 hours socializing
- 1.5 hours worship
Should this be concerning? How can we be more consistent?
There is nothing wrong with the pattern you have described – it perfectly matches what you would expect from a healthy, vibrant, and loving family of saints. God tells us that when we assemble to worship that all things should be done decently and in order (1 Cor 14:40). That means that we need to plan a time to meet and be diligent to organize services in a way that is cohesive, beneficial, and above all, biblically accurate. Your congregation’s leadership has decided that in order to do those things to the best of their ability, it takes one and a half hours.
Whenever you create a routine, there will be people that show up early to be on time (a sign of commitment) and people who stay after to take advantage of the time with others (a sign of devotion to others). What you have described is a sign that not only are people committed to attending, they are committed enough to show up fifteen to twenty minutes early, show up for both classes and services, and remain afterwards to spend time with others because the people matter so much to them. This is exactly the sort of attitude you would expect of those who are faithfully committed to the Lord and His people (Heb 10:24-25).
When dogs and cats die, do they go to heaven?
Dear Empty Collar,
Animals have the “breath of life” just like humans do (Gen 2:7, Gen 6:17). This “breath of life” is also sometimes referred to as the “spirit” of a man or animal (Gen 7:22). Animals have spirits, and humans have spirits, but humans were also made in the image of God (Gen 1:26). Our spirit is eternal and will go up to be with the Father, and animal spirits are temporary and will return to the dust of the earth (Eccl 3:21). God made our spirit of a different caliber than He made those of the animals. Dogs and cats don’t go to heaven, but we can feel confident that God has decided wisely on this issue like all others. We may not always understand His reasons, but He always makes good decisions.
I need some advice, please. In our congregation, we begin midweek Bible class by taking prayer requests; after which, a prayer is offered by one of the men. I am becoming increasingly uncomfortable with some of the prayers that are being requested and offered. Some of the members request prayers for family and friends who are unbelievers and experiencing issues such as surgeries, pregnancy complications, injuries, illness, financial difficulties, etc. One member has asked several times that her mom, who has shown no interest whatsoever in coming to church, might find a job and for her sister whose baby was born premature to be able to deal with the stress and worry. However, this is the second baby her sister has born out of wedlock with two different men. She frequents the local bars and continues live with her boyfriend who fathered this most recent baby. My question is: should we be offering prayers for unbelievers other than that they repent and turn from their sins? I am really uncomfortable about the prayers being offered that ask God to heal, comfort, and "be with" these family members and friends who continue to live in sin. Praying for the health of a baby or child is one thing, but praying for grown adults who give no indication they are interested in repenting and getting the sin out of their life...? Privately, I pray that the trials these people are having will cause them to draw closer to God and change their lives. But how do I handle this situation where public prayer is being offered? Do I pray – or pretend to pray – with the group when I feel like we are praying for something displeasing to God? As a single woman, I don't know how to go about expressing my concerns without coming off as being critical or unsubmissive to the men's leadership. One complication is that several of the members requesting these prayers are young adults and recent converts. However, some, including the men offering prayers, have been in the church for years and appear to be okay with it all. Am I way off base, and if I'm not, how do I handle this? Please help.
Keeping My Head Down
Dear Keeping My Head Down,
Your concerns are valid, and praying for unbelievers is also valid. The verses that will answer your concerns are 1 Tim 2:1-4. Those four verses lay out God’s attitude toward praying for unbelievers. First and foremost, we are told to pray for all men (1 Tim 2:1). That is a very clear verse on the subject. It is appropriate, necessary, and godly to pray for all human beings. 1 Tim 2:2 says that we are even to pray for politicians! It may be a little tongue-in-cheek to say, but most folks don’t think much of the lifestyles and attitudes of politicians, and yet, we are told to pray for their well-being and success. God is so adamant that prayers ought to be offered on behalf of all men that 1 Tim 2:3 specifically says, “This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior”. So take comfort, praying for unbelievers is the right thing to do, and you can comfortably join in the congregational prayers offered on their behalf.
Now, we also said that your concerns are valid – that is where 1 Tim 2:4 comes in. 1 Tim 2:4 points out that the ultimate goal is to save souls. If everyone is blessed with creature comforts, but their souls are lost in the end – it was a waste (Matt 16:26). Sometimes people need catastrophes to bring them closer to God, and sometimes people convert because they knew the church was praying for them, and that prayer was answered. So how do we know who and what to pray for?! One option is to only pray for the people that we feel are “worthy”… but that sure puts us in the position of being judge and jury, doesn’t it (Jas 4:10-12)? The other option is to pray for all and always remember to have the attitude of “Lord willing”. Jas 4:13-15 says that whatever we do, we should pray that the Lord’s will would come first. It is good to pray for all people, but we should also always have the attitude that God’s will should supersede our own desires. If at some point the congregation isn’t showing that attitude of humility in the congregational prayers, you will have a problem, but if we always remember that the goal is to save souls and the Lord knows best, it is a wonderful thing to pray for all men.
How was Satan created? Did God create him? If so, why?
Origin Of Species
Dear Origin Of Species,
The Bible never specifically tells us when or how Satan was created, so anything we tell you is merely a best guess. Here is how the logic goes:
- God created everything, both visible and invisible, earthly and heavenly (Col 1:16).
- If God created everything, He must have created Satan.
- Everything God made was originally good, and God wouldn't create something bad (Gen 1:31).
- Satan must have originally been created good.
- We know that, at some point, there were some angels that sinned and rebelled against God (2 Pet 2:4).
- Maybe Satan was one of those angels (this is where the information gets sketchy).
In short, we don't know much... but that is many Bible scholars’ best guess.