Ask Your Preacher
THE NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH
When members leave the church, is it required for those members to inform the church that they are leaving?
Dear Still Here,
The Bible never specifically says that people need to inform a congregation when they leave and begin attending another congregation, but it does say that the elders of the congregation have a responsibility to watch over the souls of the saints in their local church (Heb 13:17, 1 Pet 5:2). Since the elders are accountable to God for these folks, it is useful to them if folks kindly let them know when they are moving.
If a man has been christian for many years and starts to miss services for many months, should he be called on to say a pray when he comes to services for the first time and has not asked to be back in fellowship with the local church? How should the elders approach him on this matter?
Perplexed From The Pew
Dear Perplexed From The Pew,
The elders should approach him with wisdom – and not approaching him might be the wise thing to do as well. The Bible tells us to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves (Matt 10:16). When someone is struggling in their attendance, the elders, as watchers of the flock (Heb 13:17), have a responsibility to help them. (Having said that, all christians have a responsibility to pull alongside those who are struggling – it is just that the elders have an increased responsibility). How the elders deal with that person is completely a matter of wisdom, and it will vary from situation to situation. For all you know, the elders already approached this man and have dealt with him privately – that certainly would be a biblical approach (Matt 18:15-17). The best thing to do is to either talk to this man yourself if you are worried about him, or if you are simply worried about the image of the church… talk to the elders.
Is it wrong to go to another church for Bible class if you are not getting anything out of your own Bible class? The Bible class that I attend is very uplifting and encouraging. I retain more and get a better understanding, and my husband enjoys it.
Feeling Kinda Guilty
Dear Feeling Kinda Guilty,
There is nothing wrong with attending another congregation for Bible class as long as you are making sure to test what they are saying against the Bible (1 Jn 4:1) and making sure that wherever you attend is faithful to God's Word. You might read our post, “Finding A Church”, on how to find a church using Bible principles. That article might help you weigh the pros and cons of these two congregations.
I have been attending a United Methodist church for about two years now and really enjoyed the teaching of the Bible from my clergy; recently, he told me the Bishop was transferring him to another church, one that in distance would prevent me from attending. I feel I have lost a good teacher, one that had and could capture all my attention and others’ when we would hear his words on the teachings of the Bible. Why would a church replace a man that meant so much to the people he ministered to? I have tried to listen to the new appointed minister, but somehow, it’s just not giving the blessings of the Word of God that were there for me with my last clergy. I am a bit disappointed, and we are now looking for new church… again.
Dear Left Behind,
The reason the United Methodist church did this was because they haven’t been following the Bible – they’ve been following their own traditions. Your frustrating situation is a great example of what has gone wrong with the religious world. God never intended for congregations to take orders from some regional archbishop or governing council. The Bible pattern for local churches is much simpler – and it avoids the sort of congregational disruption you experienced.
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. If a congregation was happy with their preacher, he stayed. If they were unhappy, they stopped supporting him. Simple as that.
What you are looking for is a local body of believers who are accountable to Christ and His Word, not some district office or United Methodist jurisdiction. Congregations like this exist all over America and the world. If you’d like, we’d be happy to get you in touch with a congregation that plays by God’s rules, not their own. E-mail us at email@example.com if we can be of service.
I was recently reading Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, specifically the chapters involving the first few hundred years of Christian history. I attend a local autonomous congregation whose structure seems entirely different than the hierarchical structure of the church described in the book. They use terms like the bishop’s “see” which, when I looked up the definition, is the official seat of a bishop. The bishop's seat is the earliest symbol of a bishop's authority. During periods of Roman persecution, they list bishops of Rome and other cities and mention their successors. They also describe bishops as being “appointed” and “governing the church”. The book states that a man named Ignatius was appointed to the bishopric of Antioch next after Peter in succession. (The same term “bishopric” in Acts 1:20 KJV describes the office of Judas). The book also alludes to a hierarchy amongst the clergy (bishops, presbyters and deacons). In over a dozen historical examples of Roman persecution, it is the bishop of Rome (singular) that seems to be targeted for execution. All of this hierarchical structure pre-dated Constantine and future state involvement in the Christian Church by up to hundreds of years. Our local congregation just has a few elders, who say they are equals, and take turns leading worship and preaching a message. Why such a difference in church structure?
Dear History Student,
The reason you see the difference is because Foxe’s Book of Martyrs covers all those who called themselves christians while the Bible specifically only follows the pattern for the church laid down by God. Paul warned that the church would quickly be attacked by false teachers (2 Pet 2:1), and as early as the end of the first century, we see the seven churches of Asia being exhorted and rebuked by Jesus to hold to the truth in Revelation 2 and 3. Paul told the church at Ephesus that wolves would arise from amongst their eldership to try and devour the church (Acts 20:28-31). Your congregation is right to stick to the Bible pattern – after all, the Bible is the book that we are saved by (Rom 1:16).