Ask Your Preacher
THE NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH
Is the phrase "go to church" a biblical concept? Also, does a local church exist outside of an opening and a closing prayer? Thanks.
Dear Church Goer,
The phrase “go to church” isn’t wrong, but it is often misused. 1 Cor 11:18, 1 Cor 14:19, and other verses use the word ‘church’ to refer to when the church is assembled together. Therefore saying “go to church” simply means ‘going to the church assembly’. Having said that, many people have forgotten that the church is the people, not a building. Many people who say, “I’m going to church” are referring to the church’s building. As long as you understand that the church is the people, then you are fine in using the phrase.
As for your second question, since the local church is the people, they do exist outside of the worship services. The very fact that 1 Cor 14:23 refers to the church in Corinth “coming together” means that they are still the church when they aren’t together.
I am a minister that has been called to minister for about six years. Though I have been called, I have not always followed; I have recently accepted the position of youth pastor. I am expected to teach on purity and abstinence before marriage; how can I teach something that I myself did not preserve?
Dear Feeling Hypocritical,
If it is impossible to teach on something unless you have done it right yourself, nobody could say anything about morality because all have sinned (Rom 3:23). Paul preached on peace after killing Christians (Rom 12:18), and Peter preached on boldness after denying Christ (1 Pet 5:15-16). The truth is the truth regardless of how well we have personally followed it.
On a separate, but related note: a minister is different from a pastor – which one are you? If someone is going to be a pastor, he must meet the qualifications found in 1 Tim 3:1-7 and Tit 1:5-9. Another thing to consider is that the Bible never talks about ‘youth pastors’ and ‘senior pastors’. We would encourage you to read “Senior Citizen Pastor” because it sounds like you are caught up in a religious movement that doesn’t take God’s pattern for the church seriously, and if we don’t take God seriously, it doesn’t matter how much we clean up our lives.
I wanted to know if when you read I Timothy on the qualifications for a bishop, you read "...must be the husband of one wife" as excluding women from the office of a bishop. I always understood that particular verse to address having more than one wife since Israel had practiced that in their history. Also, the Scripture in I Corinthians as pertaining to women teaching was based on the Corinthian church at that time, etc. I would love to hear your expanded thoughts on this.
Dear Ladies’ Lib,
Pastors (Eph 4:11) – also known as elders or bishops (Tit 1:5-7) – are always men. The qualifications for pastors are given in 1 Tim 3:1-7 and Tit 1:5-9. As you said, one of those qualifications is that he must be “a husband of one wife” (1 Tim 3:2, Tit 1:6) – that clearly rules out females from becoming bishops. People have tried to say that these verses are just cultural or that they only pertained to those particular churches, but there is nothing in the Bible that says that. If we just take the Bible for what it says – elders must be men.
Everyone agrees that women can be servants in the church – the question isn’t whether women can serve; it is how they can serve. Phoebe was a servant of the church (Rom 16:1) and was praised for her service. Priscilla was also commended for her labor on behalf of the church (Rom 16:3). The Bible clearly shows women working in the church and in a very positive way. Women are seen serving in many capacities in the church, but they are never seen in positions of authority. Women are forbidden from having authority over men in the church… they are also forbidden from publicly teaching men (1 Tim 2:12). Women cannot be preachers or have positions within the church that allow them to have dominion (the word ‘dominion’ means ‘to have authority over’). Women are encouraged to teach other women (Tit 2:3-5) but to take a less authoritative role than men within the church and family. Paul explains the reason for this structure in 1 Tim 2:13. Adam was created first, and Eve was created as his helper. In both the family (Col 3:18-19) and the church (1 Cor 14:34), this principle is carried out. Eve was no less valuable than Adam, but she was designed for a different role.
My wife and I are members of a church of Christ, the kind that has a fellowship hall, youth minister (and stuff like that), but no instrumental music (or anything like that). My point is, my wife and I have become a little uncomfortable with this zeal and not being able to find the authority for these things. We went to a very conservative type of church of Christ, like your congregation (from what I gather from y'all’s answers). There is more to it than that but, my question is: what can we expect with a change from a "liberal" type of church of Christ to a "conservative" church of Christ?
Motivated To Move
Dear Motivated To Move,
Oftentimes, the worship service at liberal congregations doesn’t seem all that different from the worship service at conservative ones, but the principles behind why they each do what they do is vastly different.
The fundamental difference between the more conservative congregations and the more liberal ones is how closely they adhere to the Bible pattern. In a conservative congregation, you will see the focus of the church being upon preaching the truth to the lost, teaching the saved, and carrying for needy saints – that’s it. A conservative congregation believes that the church is sufficient to do God’s work, and they shouldn’t delegate that work out to another organization like a missionary society. Conservative congregations support preachers directly, and they send funds directly to care for other needy christians… just like the Bible pattern. This is why conservative congregations are sometimes referred to as ‘non-institutional’. They don’t believe any other institution should take the place of the church – not a missionary society, not a federation of congregations pooling their funds, not a group of preachers controlling the direction of multiple churches.
The other thing that you will see is that a conservative congregation believes that there is a difference between individual responsibilities and congregational responsibilities. Individuals have the responsibility to spend time together and socialize with other christians. Individuals have the responsibility to do good to all mankind and be involved in their community as helpers of the poor and friends to strangers (Gal 6:10). The church has the responsibility to be the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Tim 3:15). You won’t see the church using its resources (including its building) for purely social activities such as potlucks – it is our responsibility as individuals to show hospitality (Heb 13:2). You also won’t see the church getting caught up in secular charity activities like food pantries for the poor or community activism – it is our responsibility as individuals to effect change in our communities and help our neighbors. When we blur the lines between what the church should be doing and what individual christians should be doing, we get into all sorts of trouble. Conservative congregations do their best to keep those lines as distinct as the Bible does.
In short, a conservative congregation will always show you Bible authority for what it does. We speak where the Bible speaks and are silent where the Bible is silent (Rev 22:18-19).
We went to a church that believed if you were married more than once you couldn't be a deacon or preacher. This is because the Bible says you can only be the husband of one wife. Is this a correct interpretation?
Dear Counting Criteria,
The qualification you are referring to can be found in 1 Tim 3:12. The phrase ‘husband of one wife’ literally means a ‘one-woman man’ in the Greek. He must be devoted exclusively and faithfully to his one wife. A man who is widowed and then remarried could still be properly described as a ‘one-woman man’ because he was completely devoted to his first wife until her death, and now is fully devoted to his current wife.
The question a congregation has to wrestle with is if a divorced brother has shown the character trait of monogamous fidelity. Why did he get divorced? Was it for infidelity? Was he always faithful to her? Did she leave him, or did he leave her? How does he behave with his current wife? How long has he been married to his current wife? The answers to these questions will help assess whether he is a faithful ‘one-woman man’.
Divorce is a red flag that should make us pause before appointing a man as a qualified deacon, but depending on the circumstances surrounding the divorce, the man may still be qualified.