Ask Your Preacher
THE NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH
I know you probably hear this a lot. In 1986, I know without a doubt, Jesus saved me. I had no fear of dying. I prayed to Jesus all night that night to just take me on home. I was that positive where I was going, no doubting, not even scared. But after about a year, I got out of church, got married, had children, then went back to church, got to witness my wife getting saved, and stayed in church. After that, not to give the devil any praise, I got to doubting my salvation so bad it got me out of church again, this time for about 20+ years. Now we are back in church, but I just don't seem to have the assurance about being saved like I did when I first got saved… or did I get saved at all? The devil still makes me doubt now and again, but I still keep going. I see a lot of people shouting in our church, but I don't feel the need to shout like that. It’s tough; I just want to feel what I felt when I first got saved, no doubting, no fear, full of confidence, knowing where I would go if something happened to me. My mind is just back and forth, back and forth. Our preacher says things like, “You feel in your heart before you do in your mind.” I don't know what that means. Thank you for your time. God bless.
Dear Unstable Soul,
It sounds like you are using your personal experiences and feelings as the judge of whether or not you are saved. This is a very common thing to do, but it isn’t the correct gauge of our salvation. Some people feel confident that they are saved when, in fact, they are lost (Matt 7:21-23). Others’ hearts condemn them while they are actually saved (1 Jn 3:19-21). It is our adherence to God’s Word that saves us (Rom 1:16), not how we feel about the issue. If you are doing what God says you must do to be saved, then you can have confidence regardless of how you feel (see “What Must I Do To Be Saved?” for further details).
This church you are attending is emphasizing feelings over faith. Faith is a concrete thing that is objective, not subjective. Faith comes from hearing God’s Word and then living by that Word (Rom 10:17). We can find true confidence when we can read from God’s Word and then see that our life matches it. This preacher is teaching the opposite. Time to find a church that gives you book, chapter, and verse to place your confidence in. We know of many congregations like this all around the country. We’d be happy to get you in touch with someone locally if you’d like. Our email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
I recently started going to a church which does a ‘Celebrate Recovery’. One of the rules the preacher has is that you don't date for a year. I understand this. We need to build our relationship with God. However, one individual started dating the preacher's daughter. The preacher approves. Yet, other members are still required not to date for a year even though the preacher allowed an exception for his daughter. How should I handle this? Should I find another church?
Dear Double Standard,
This preacher isn’t teaching people to follow the Bible; he is teaching them to follow him. The Bible strictly warns against adding to God’s Word (Rev 22:18-19), going beyond the Bible (1 Cor 4:6), and making our own rules (Mk 7:8, Col 2:8). This preacher is doing exactly that. The Bible never says anything about not dating for a year or that a preacher has a right to mandate that upon members of the Lord’s church. The reason this preacher made an exception for his daughter is because this preacher has set himself up as the authority. This church doesn’t belong to Jesus; it belongs to this man. Don’t walk; RUN away from this church. If you’d like help finding a Bible-guided church in your area, just let us know. Our email is email@example.com.
Can you provide me with some Scriptures to show that it is okay to have social events in the church building (i.e., game night, potlucks, graduation celebrations, wedding receptions, etc.)? I was taught that the building should not be used for such things, but recently, our preacher told me there are "tons of Scriptures" that show we not only can, but should, have these sorts of fellowship activities. Where are they?
Dear Proof Please,
We have no idea where those “tons of Scriptures” are because we’ve never seen them! The Bible specifically outlines three things that the church has a responsibility to do: care for needy Christians (Acts 4:34), preach to the lost, and teach the saved (Acts 15:35). Anything that a church does with its financial assets needs to fit into one of those three categories. A church’s building is part of a church’s finances (the same as your house is part of your finances), and it is important that whatever we use the church’s finances for be authorized by the Bible. 1 Tim 3:15 says that there is a certain way that the church must behave when we work together collectively. 1 Tim 5:16 takes it one step further and says that there are certain financial things the church shouldn’t be burdened with. Once our money goes into the church collection on Sunday (1 Cor 16:1-2), it becomes the Lord’s money – not ours. The church can spend its money on the church’s work… and that’s it.
Bible classes, worship services, etc. all easily fit into the work of the church… but what about a social gathering? The problem is that socializing is never shown to be part of the church’s work. It certainly is important for individual Christians to spend time with one another… but that is a command to individuals – not the church. Individuals have a lot more freedom in what they do than the church does. Social gatherings in the church’s building simply don’t fit the Bible pattern of the church’s work. We don’t want to condemn the attitude of these folks – we’d like to think their intentions are pure, but zeal isn’t the same as Bible accuracy (Rom 10:2). We have looked and looked, but we cannot find Bible authority for the church’s building, which is part of the church’s assets, to be used for a purely social gathering.
When the church collectively decides to use the building for a primarily social gathering, there is a problem. As Paul said, “Don’t you have houses to eat and drink in?” (1 Cor 11:22). Paul lambasted the church in Corinth for making the church’s work a social event. When the church loses focus on what it is here for, it loses focus on Who it is here for.
My question is on the faith of my own church. We have a playgroup which has taken everything over. They have a youth group with children who do not attend, some atheist, but they use church money. We’ve lost members, so church is no longer in the sanctuary but in the fellowship hall. We had to go to a part-time minister; the ones taking over are homosexual, so all we hear about is about how they should be accepted, taking focus off of God and onto them; they do not accept my daughter and are rude to her, and she is at the age of great temptations. We haven't attended for three Sundays. Do you have any advice? We have left and come back three times already. Thank you.
Dear Fed Up,
The local congregation’s work has always been very simple:
- Teach the saved.
- Preach to the lost.
- When necessary, care for needy christians.
This congregation isn’t doing those things, and is instead doing all sorts of things that are opposed to Scriptures!
The clearest verse on the subject of the church’s purpose is in the book of Ephesians. Eph 4:12-16 points out that the church was designed, so that the saints would be ‘perfected’, for the ‘work of the ministry’, and for the ‘edifying (building up) of the body of Christ’.
The church of the New Testament is supposed to help prepare christians to be better christians by filling their minds with God’s Word. We see many examples of the church being busy with this kind of teaching and learning (Acts 2:42, Col 3:16). This is how christians are perfected (Col 1:28).
The church is also to be busy about the ‘work of ministry’ – preaching to the lost. Christ said He came to save sinners (1 Tim 1:15). One of His last commands to His apostles was to preach to the lost (Matt 28:18-20). Every congregation must be actively attempting to teach the Word of God to those who don’t understand it.
After preaching to the lost and teaching the saved, the only other work that we see an example of is caring for needy christians. Paul told Timothy there was a time to help out poor widowed christians (1 Tim 5:9-10). We also see the church in Jerusalem doing this (Acts 4:34-35)
The church is supposed to be the pillar and support of the truth (1 Tim 3:15). These church isn’t. You need to leave. We would be happy to point you in the direction of a local congregation that puts the Bible as their guide and focus on worshipping God in spirit and in truth (Jhn 4:24). If we can help, just e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll try and get you in contact with a faithful group near you.
Is it okay for a congregation to not have elders? What if there aren't any qualified men in the group?
Not Old Enough
Dear Not Old Enough,
It is definitely God’s desire for congregations to appoint elders and deacons, but if a congregation doesn’t yet have elders, that doesn’t necessarily mean they are unfaithful. In Tit 1:5, Paul instructed Titus to appoint elders in the congregations in Crete, but it is also worth noting that there were already congregations in Crete! The congregations needed elders, but they were already faithful. When Paul and Barnabas preached together, they didn’t appoint elders in the churches of Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch until they were on the return trip (Acts 14:21-23). That means that each of those cities were originally without elders. A congregation that refuses to put elders in place is fighting against God’s will, but many congregations are too young or too new to have qualified men who meet the requirements for elders found in 1 Tim 3:1-7 and Tit 1:5-9. The question is whether a congregation is working toward an eldership or whether they are disregarding the command.