Ask Your Preacher
THE NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH
Is it possible to be a Catholic… but not too much? Are there certain "degrees" of being religious? What do you think of the phrases "I'm a Catholic in my own way" or "I'm a Catholic, but I don't exaggerate"?
You can be a deeply devoted, strict Catholic or a mild Catholic… but we recommend neither. Catholicism places the pope as the head of the church; Christianity places Christ as the head of the church (Eph 5:23). All Catholic practices exist because the papal hierarchy believes them to be right; sometimes those beliefs agree with the Bible, but many times they don’t. Catholicism tells priests to not marry, and it forbids certain foods – practices specifically condemned by Paul as false teaching (1 Tim 4:1-3). Catholics are taught to call their religious leaders ‘Father’, but the Bible says that is wrong (Matt 23:9). Catholic practices like infant baptism (and the teaching that children are born sinful), Vatican councils, cardinal vs. venial sins, etc. have no foundation in the Bible. We derive our authority from the Bible, and that is where faith starts (Rom 10:17).
You want to be a Christian – someone who gets all of their practices and beliefs from the Bible and nowhere else. Sticking to the Bible is the only way you can have confidence in your salvation. After all, salvation is from God – we don’t get to decide which way we want to be saved. If you would like help finding a congregation in your area that uses only the Bible as their guide, we would be happy to help you find one. Simply e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We have no men in our small congregation qualified to be elders. Yet, one of the men appears to have taken on that role to the point of reprimanding other men and women for choosing to not attend every Bible class offered. It's causing problems because some are feeling pressured into coming to the classes rather than being there because they want to be (I am one of them). I don't like attending any class because I feel like I have to. But to avoid causing this man (who has a lot of influence on other members) to think I'm getting weak, I'm now going to all of the classes and church-related events with a really bad attitude. I've had to stop being in charge of the bulletin each week – which I loved doing and grew so much from the experience – for lack of time. What should I do?
Got A Beef
Dear Got A Beef,
If this man is not an elder, he only has as much authority as the congregation of believers allows him to have. In other words, if you listen to him, he has power, but if you don’t, he doesn’t. As you said, your purpose in attending all the classes is out of fear of what this man and others think. 1 Cor 4:3-4 says that we need to learn to not care so much what others think of us – it is the Lord who judges, not man.
It was Jesus’ enemies who feared what others thought of them (Lk 20:19), but our Lord spoke without fear of others’ judgment (Matt 22:16). Php 2:12 tells us to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling – that is the fear of God, not man. You need to decide what is the right thing to do, and then let people’s opinions fall where they may.
Are there any scriptures that instruct us on fellowshipping with other Christians (i.e. where to fellowship, what to do when we fellowship)? I've been meeting with a group of Christians here and there, and it seems all we do is eat, talk about random things, and go home. I have yet to see a Bible opened at one of the fellowships; we don’t even speak about God and His Word. If someone walked in on our fellowship, they would think we're just a bunch of friends sitting around and having a good ol’ time. I want to bring this up before the group. Any suggestions?
A Different Kind Of Hungry
Dear A Different Kind Of Hungry,
The Bible talks a lot about fellowship but not in the way we often use the word today. The word ‘fellowship’ means ‘the share which one has in anything, participation’. In short, the word fellowship doesn’t have anything to do with social gatherings; it is about partnership and sharing in a common goal. The Greek word for fellowship is sometimes translated ‘communion’ (2 Cor 13:14) or ‘contribution’ (Rom 15:26) because when we share in a common work or contribute to a common work, we are in fellowship.
The church must be in fellowship with one another constantly. We must work together for a common purpose at all times. However, that doesn’t have anything to do with whether or not you socialize… in the case of Php 1:3-5, Paul said he had fellowship with the Philippian church because they financially supported him even though he was in a distant land.
Now that we know what fellowship is and isn’t, let’s talk about this group getting together. There isn’t anything wrong with Christians just spending time together for fun and social enjoyment. However, if you are getting together for the purpose of studying and spiritual growth, it sounds like this group isn’t meeting those goals.
I am a newly-ordained minister. I want to have a church, but I’m not sure how to build my congregation. I live the Lord our God with all my heart, and I really have a desire to help people come to know Christ. How do I build up my church and encourage others to come?
The only advice we can give is to hold very carefully to the Bible pattern, and the congregation will be blessed. It shouldn’t be your church, and you shouldn’t try and build your congregation – the only church that matters is Christ’s church. The churches that are pleasing to God are the ones that belong to Him. 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.
What is the role of a brother in Christ with regard to a sister in Christ who is not his wife, daughter, sister, mother, or any other female family member? I'm a sister in Christ. I don't want to be husbanded or fathered. I just want a brother and a friend, not someone who is trying to manage my life like he does a wife or one of his children. Shouldn't there be a difference?
Dear Not Yours,
The Bible teaches that men in the church should treat women in the church like sisters and mothers (depending on their age). Paul clearly says this in 1 Tim 5:2. It isn’t the job of a Christian man to manage the lives of all Christian women – frankly, we’ve got enough work just taking care of ourselves!
We aren’t entirely sure what your complete question is, but it is possible for men and women in the church to have friendships, as long as they are careful to avoid anything inappropriate (1 Thess 5:2). Both genders in the church are to seek healthy relationships with all Christians… whether male, female, young, or old.
The only people within a congregation who would have a responsibility to “manage” you would be the elders, who are given the task of watching over the saints (1 Pet 5:2).