Ask Your Preacher
THE NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH
1 Corinthians 14:34-35: I do not understand what this means.
Paul says that women are to keep silent in the church assembly … it is the public teaching done in the church assembly that is being dealt with in 1 Cor 14:34-35. Women are not supposed to serve as public teachers in the worship service because men have the responsibility to lead the church in public teaching. Elders (Tit 1:5-6), deacons (1 Tim 3:12), and preachers (2 Tim 2:2) are all required to be men. 1 Tim 2:12 specifically prohibits Christian women from teaching Christian men in a congregational forum.
However, just because women don’t lead in the public assembly, that doesn’t mean they just take up pew space! The Bible is chock-full of examples of active and vibrant godly women. Lydia was a Christian who took Paul and gave him lodging, food, and financial support (Acts 16:14-15). Priscilla and Aquila were a married couple that taught the gospel to Apollos (Acts 18:24-26). That same Apollos went on to become a mighty preacher… something that would have never happened without Priscilla. John Mark’s mother opened her home for a prayer meeting that saved Peter’s life (Acts 12:11-12). Older women are supposed to be teachers and train the younger women to be faithful wives and mothers (Tit 2:3-5). Younger women have the immensely important task of raising godly children… the next generation of Christians (Tit 2:4). Women have children’s classes to teach, women’s classes to teach, hospitality to provide, others to encourage, and evangelism to do. On top of all those very important and pivotal duties within the church, during the worship services, women have the task of singing and praising God (just like the men – Col 3:16) and joining in the public prayer… just because one man leads the prayer doesn’t mean we aren’t all praying together. When the church assembles, we all are worshipping God, edifying each other, and studying His Word (Heb 10:24-25).
Do church buildings help or hinder our evangelistic effectiveness?
Dear In Escrow,
Both. Having a church building is an issue of wisdom – sometimes renting, meeting in a home, park, etc. is a better option. Other times, owning a church building is the most effective way for a congregation to fulfill the command to assemble (Heb 10:24-25) and further their responsibility to be the pillar and ground of the truth in the community (1 Tim 3:15). A church building can also just be a weight holding a congregation back from being effective. It is a wisdom issue that must be assessed by each congregation individually. Read “Keeping The Lights On” for a detailed explanation of the purpose of having a church building.
We have been without a preacher for sometime now. One preacher who recently tried out at our church has gained the interest of our elders, but I have some concerns about his ability to lead. He has six grown children, and only one is a faithful Christian. The church he was at previously is losing members. He is very knowledgeable about the Bible, but is that the only requirement? I have voiced my concerns with the elders, but they say it's their duty to shepherd, and as long as he preaches the truth, I shouldn't be concerned. What should I do?
You’ve already done what you ought to do. You had concerns about this man, and they sound like legitimate concerns, and you voiced them. Choosing a preacher is both a doctrinal issue and a wisdom issue. It sounds like the man is faithful and preaches the truth – that is the doctrinal element (2 Tim 4:1-5). The wisdom part comes down to the other things that make up a preacher – personality, preaching style, experience, etc.
The elders of a congregation are specifically appointed to handle issues of wisdom. They need to know how to manage people and assess these sorts of nuanced circumstances (1 Tim 3:4-5). You did the right thing by giving them your thoughts on this matter, but now you need to trust their judgment – after all, that’s what they are there for (Heb 13:17).
How do I know if I am attending the "right" church?
Dear Purposefully Picky,
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.
Is it mandatory to attend church to be saved?
The Bible teaches that we shouldn’t forsake the assembly (Heb 10:24-25). God designed the church so that each individual would be strengthened by the power of the whole (Eph 4:16). God never wanted christians to try and serve Him without the support of a local church; that is why He commanded the church to assemble. It is impossible to do God’s work without being a part of a local church. If you would like help finding a faithful congregation in your area, e-mail us at email@example.com.