Church, Complementarianism, Worship

Six Questions for a Potential Church

church questions1

Have you ever had to look for a new church? Even with recommendations from godly friends, it can be hard to know which churches and pastors are doctrinally sound, and, of those doctrinally sound churches (because you certainly don’t want to go to one that isn’t doctrinally sound), which ones would be a good fit for your family.

There are lots of great articles out there with good, probing questions you should ask about the theology and doctrine of a church you’re considering. (I would recommend this one, this one, and this one. Also, make sure you understand these doctrinal issues and that the church you’re considering lines up with Scripture on these issues.) However, there are times when the answers to these types of questions don’t give you the whole picture of what is actually going on in a church on a day to day basis. In other words, sorry to say, a church can give you all the right answers on paper (or on their web site), but their practices don’t mirror those answers. Additionally, there are some non-doctrinal issues that are important to know about that questions about soteriology, baptism, biblical inerrancy, etc., won’t give you the answers to.

My husband and I are currently looking for a new church for our family. Since we are Southern Baptist and somewhat familiar with the handful of Southern Baptist churches we’re looking at, we already know the answers to the most important questions (the inspiration of Scripture, the divinity of Christ, the way of salvation, etc.) But I want to zoom in a little more on the finer points of belief and practices of these churches, so here are some questions I might ask the pastor of the church we would potentially join.

1. Which Christian authors have had the biggest impact on your life, beliefs, and ministry?

When I ask this question (and look over the pastor’s shoulder at the titles on his bookshelf), I’m listening for the names of authors and pastors, living or dead, that I know are committed to sound biblical doctrine. If I hear a name like Joyce Meyer, TD Jakes, Andy Stanley, Steven Furtick, Perry Noble, Rick Warren, Beth Moore, or any Word of Faith or New Apostolic Reformation personality, I’m going back to ask more probing doctrinal questions. If I hear multiple names like those, I’m outta there.

2. Are you/this church complementarian or egalitarian?

Now you may not be familiar with those terms but any Christian pastor should be. It is a current issue in evangelicalism, and it’s part of his job to stay abreast of such things. I’m not looking for a pastor to be an expert on this topic, but he should be familiar with the terms and have a working understanding of the issues at play as well as the applicable Scriptures, and he should embrace and practice complementarianism as the biblical position.

Because I have been given the right “on paper” answer to this question in the past only to find out later that the church’s practices didn’t match up with its profession, I will probably ask the follow up question: “In what positions of leadership are women currently serving? Do any of them hold authority over men or instruct men in the Scriptures?” If I hear that women are (or would be allowed to in the future) teaching co-ed adult Sunday School classes, giving instruction during the worship service, serving on committees in which they hold biblically inappropriate authority over men, etc., that’s problematic.

3. Can you give me some examples, from any time during your career as a pastor, of church discipline issues that have arisen and how you have handled them?

I’m looking for three things here. First, what does this pastor think constitutes a church discipline issue? If he thinks it’s necessary to discipline a female church member for wearing pants instead of a skirt, that’s an issue, because he’s disciplining someone who’s not sinning. If he doesn’t think it’s necessary to discipline church members who are unmarried yet cohabiting, that’s an issue because he’s not disciplining people who are sinning. Church discipline should only be exercised over unrepentant sinful behavior.

Second, is he afraid to exercise church discipline? Generally speaking, someone who has been a pastor for many years and has never handled a church discipline issue is either woefully ignorant of the biblical requirement of a pastor to rebuke those in sin, or he is afraid to rock the boat because he might get fired. Both of these are huge red flags.

Third, how does he exercise church discipline? Does he follow the steps outlined in Matthew 18 and other Scriptures with a heart to see the church member repent and be reconciled to Christ and the church body? Is he harsh and condemning? Is he firm enough in his resolve to carry all the way through to disfellowshipping a church member if necessary?

4. How much oversight do you (or an associate pastor or elder) have over the women’s ministry at this church?

With this question, I’m trying to find out how much the pastor knows about what’s actually going on inside the women’s ministry (if they have one) and how much responsibility he takes to make sure all teaching and activities are in line with Scripture. Does he research and approve all teaching materials before a women’s Bible study commences? Does a women’s ministry director have complete autonomy over all materials and activities? Are all of the women in leadership positions in the women’s ministry godly and spiritually mature? Would any of the women’s ministry leadership raise a stink if someone showed them from Scripture that a Bible teacher whose materials they use or a women’s ministry activity they enjoy is unbiblical?

5. Does the music ministry at this church follow a minister of music model or a concert model?

There’s nothing wrong with Christian concerts per se, but my husband and I feel strongly (notice, I did not say “the Bible says”) that the worship service is not the place for one. We believe that a minister of music, preferably one who is ordained to the ministry, should lead and take responsibility for the church’s worship in a pastoral role. He should be trained in the Scriptures, preferably at seminary, in order to rightly handle and apply them to the music portion of the worship service and other music programs. He should also be trained in music theory and conducting so that he is able to lead in the practical aspects of music.

By contrast, we do not believe that making the music portion of the service like a concert, in which a band gets up and plays in a dark room with a laser light show and a smoke machine and the congregation can sing along if they want to, if they happen to know the songs, and if they are able to follow the ad libbing of the lead singer, is conducive to worship. We believe this tends to make the worship band into entertainers and the congregation into spectators, whereas the minister of music model fosters an atmosphere of “we’re all pulling together to do the work of worship as a unified body.”

This is not about contemporary music versus hymns, it is about one worship model versus another. It is our conviction (again, not a biblical mandate, but our strongly held conviction) after more than two decades in music ministry ourselves, that the minister of music model – regardless of the genre of worship music used – is the one most conducive to strong, biblical congregational worship. So this is something we’re going to want to know about, even though it is not necessarily a doctrinal issue.

6. Do you preach topically or expositorily or both?

Topical preaching is when the pastor selects a topic to preach on (parenting, money, etc.) and uses biblical passages that apply to that topic to form his sermon. Pastors who preach expositorily usually preach through a book of the Bible from beginning to end before moving on to the next book.

Both are valid forms of preaching as long as God’s word is rightly handled and applied. However, it has been my experience that pastors who preach exclusively topically have more of a tendency to lift Bible verses out of their context in order to make them fit the topic they’re preaching. This is usually not as much of an issue for pastors who preach expositorily because they are simply preaching the Word, verse by verse, in its context.

Additionally, expository preaching gives church members a better understanding of Scripture and how it fits together, and exposes them more thoroughly to a wider range of biblical truth than exclusively topical preaching does. Therefore, I am looking for a pastor whose preaching style leans mostly towards expository, but who isn’t afraid to preach topically if he believes the church needs instruction on a certain topic.

 

So, those are some of the questions I’m thinking about asking. What questions would you ask when considering a new church?

Politics, Prayer, Throwback Thursday

Throwback Thursday ~ Not Gonna Bow: 5 Reasons Prayer in School Isn’t the Magic Bullet Christians Think It Is

Originally published August 29, 2014Prayer In School

“We need to put prayer back in school!” It’s a well worn mantra that many Christians have been shouting from pulpits, in PTA meetings, and now on social media since the early 1960s when it was outlawed. No, we don’t need to put prayer back in public schools, and I think if Christians who think that the United States would revert to some idyllic 1950’s utopia by reinstituting classroom prayer would give it five minutes of serious thought, they would run as far as they could from the idea of prayer in public schools.

Now, just so there are no misunderstandings, when I say “prayer in public schools,” I’m not talking about things like a child saying the blessing over his own lunch, or a group of kids who want to pray together during free time, or an after school club that wants to include prayer. Those are all voluntary, private things that should, by all means, be allowed. When I say “prayer in public schools,” I’m talking about a teacher or a student or someone over the loudspeaker leading the entire class in prayer during class time. And we definitely do not want that. Why?

1. What’s good for the Christian goose is good for the Muslim/Mormon/Atheist gander.
There is no way in the current cultural climate –none whatsoever- that any court in this land will reinstitute Christian prayer, and only Christian prayer, in the classroom. And even if some well meaning judge did manange to do so, his decision would be overturned faster than you could say “amen.” You want prayer in the public school classroom? You might get Christian prayer, but you’re also going to get Muslim prayer, Mormon prayer, atheist prayer, Hindu prayer, Satanist prayer, and any other sect that comes along and wants to do prayer in the classroom. Do you really want your six year old faced with the choice of participating in a Satanic prayer or trying to get permission to abstain? Neither do I.

2. Why is it so important that we have prayer in schools?
Assuming you don’t work at a church or ministry, does your workplace gather all the employees at the beginning of the day and start with prayer? No? Has that been deeply detrimental to you personally or to your workplace? No? Then why is it so important that schools have prayer?

3. Post hoc ergo propter hoc.
This nifty little Latin phrase means “after this, therefore, because of this.” It refers to the faulty reasoning people sometimes use by assuming that because two events occurred near the same time or seem to be related, one of them must have caused the other.

Time and time again, I have heard Christians bemoan the moral state of this country and wail, “It all started when they took prayer out of schools!”

Post hoc ergo poppycock.

If the moral state of this country was so perfect before 1962, then how in the world did prayer ever get taken out of schools in the first place? No, things started going downhill in this country long before prayer was removed from schools. It was as a result of that moral decay that prayer was taken out of schools.

Saying that the removal of prayer from public schools created the mess our country is in today would be like someone sixty years from now saying, “When the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage nationwide, that’s when things started going bad for America.”

Because things are just so morally peachy right now.

4. It isn’t biblical.
It is not the job of a secular governmental institutition or employee to monitor or lead our children in prayer, and no one could make the case from God’s word that it is. Scripture tells us that leading in prayer is the job of Christian parents and the church.

Neither would it be biblical for the sake of unsaved children in your child’s class that you’re hoping will somehow get saved by someone leading a prayer every morning. That’s not how people get saved. If you’re concerned about lost children, teach your child how to share the gospel. Befriend the children’s parents and share the gospel with the parents yourself. It’s free, it can be done immediately, without waiting for court decisions (that won’t be coming anyway) and it’s biblical.

5. It’s hypocritical.
It is often Christians who exclaim the loudest, and rightly so, that the government should back off and stop trying to control, regulate, and meddle in every square inch of our lives. Yet with regard to prayer in schools, Christians talk out of the other side of their mouths and practically beg the government to insinuate itself into an issue it has no business touching. (Not to mention that the government does such a bang up job of handling things like this.)

Will those very Christians complain if the government reinstitutes prayer and then tries to regulate it just like they do everything else? And what about depending on the government for a handout of prayer when we are the ones who should be doing the work of teaching prayer and sharing the gospel? Isn’t that a sort of prayer “welfare” system?
Putting prayer back in public schools would be a nightmare of false religions and government regulations.

We don’t need prayer in schools. We need prayer in homes and in churches. We need people sharing the gospel with their friends, fellow students, neighbors, and co-workers. We need Christians to be the salt and light Jesus called us to be in the world we actually live in rather than pining away for an imaginary ideal that will never come to fruition.

Wednesday's Word

Wednesday’s Word ~ Leviticus 26

Leviticus

 Leviticus 26

“You shall not make idols for yourselves or erect an image or pillar, and you shall not set up a figured stone in your land to bow down to it, for I am the Lord your God. You shall keep my Sabbaths and reverence my sanctuary: I am the Lord.

“If you walk in my statutes and observe my commandments and do them, then I will give you your rains in their season, and the land shall yield its increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit. Your threshing shall last to the time of the grape harvest, and the grape harvest shall last to the time for sowing. And you shall eat your bread to the full and dwell in your land securely. I will give peace in the land, and you shall lie down, and none shall make you afraid. And I will remove harmful beasts from the land, and the sword shall not go through your land. You shall chase your enemies, and they shall fall before you by the sword. Five of you shall chase a hundred, and a hundred of you shall chase ten thousand, and your enemies shall fall before you by the sword. I will turn to you and make you fruitful and multiply you and will confirm my covenant with you. 10 You shall eat old store long kept, and you shall clear out the old to make way for the new. 11 I will make my dwelling among you, and my soul shall not abhor you. 12 And I will walk among you and will be your God, and you shall be my people. 13 I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that you should not be their slaves. And I have broken the bars of your yoke and made you walk erect.

14 “But if you will not listen to me and will not do all these commandments, 15 if you spurn my statutes, and if your soul abhors my rules, so that you will not do all my commandments, but break my covenant, 16 then I will do this to you: I will visit you with panic, with wasting disease and fever that consume the eyes and make the heart ache. And you shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it. 17 I will set my face against you, and you shall be struck down before your enemies. Those who hate you shall rule over you, and you shall flee when none pursues you. 18 And if in spite of this you will not listen to me, then I will discipline you again sevenfold for your sins, 19 and I will break the pride of your power, and I will make your heavens like iron and your earth like bronze. 20 And your strength shall be spent in vain, for your land shall not yield its increase, and the trees of the land shall not yield their fruit.

21 “Then if you walk contrary to me and will not listen to me, I will continue striking you, sevenfold for your sins. 22 And I will let loose the wild beasts against you, which shall bereave you of your children and destroy your livestock and make you few in number, so that your roads shall be deserted.

23 “And if by this discipline you are not turned to me but walk contrary to me, 24 then I also will walk contrary to you, and I myself will strike you sevenfold for your sins. 25 And I will bring a sword upon you, that shall execute vengeance for the covenant. And if you gather within your cities, I will send pestilence among you, and you shall be delivered into the hand of the enemy. 26 When I break your supply of bread, ten women shall bake your bread in a single oven and shall dole out your bread again by weight, and you shall eat and not be satisfied.

27 “But if in spite of this you will not listen to me, but walk contrary to me, 28 then I will walk contrary to you in fury, and I myself will discipline you sevenfold for your sins. 29 You shall eat the flesh of your sons, and you shall eat the flesh of your daughters. 30 And I will destroy your high places and cut down your incense altars and cast your dead bodies upon the dead bodies of your idols, and my soul will abhor you. 31 And I will lay your cities waste and will make your sanctuaries desolate, and I will not smell your pleasing aromas. 32 And I myself will devastate the land, so that your enemies who settle in it shall be appalled at it. 33 And I will scatter you among the nations, and I will unsheathe the sword after you, and your land shall be a desolation, and your cities shall be a waste.

34 “Then the land shall enjoy its Sabbaths as long as it lies desolate, while you are in your enemies’ land; then the land shall rest, and enjoy its Sabbaths. 35 As long as it lies desolate it shall have rest, the rest that it did not have on your Sabbaths when you were dwelling in it. 36 And as for those of you who are left, I will send faintness into their hearts in the lands of their enemies. The sound of a driven leaf shall put them to flight, and they shall flee as one flees from the sword, and they shall fall when none pursues. 37 They shall stumble over one another, as if to escape a sword, though none pursues. And you shall have no power to stand before your enemies. 38 And you shall perish among the nations, and the land of your enemies shall eat you up. 39 And those of you who are left shall rot away in your enemies’ lands because of their iniquity, and also because of the iniquities of their fathers they shall rot away like them.

40 “But if they confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their fathers in their treachery that theycommitted against me, and also in walking contrary to me, 41 so that I walked contrary to them and brought them into the land of their enemies—if then their uncircumcised heart is humbled and they make amends for their iniquity, 42 then I will remember my covenant with Jacob, and I will remember my covenant with Isaac and my covenant with Abraham, and I will remember the land. 43 But the land shall be abandoned by them and enjoy its Sabbaths while it lies desolate without them, and they shall make amends for their iniquity, because they spurned my rules and their soul abhorred my statutes.44 Yet for all that, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not spurn them, neither will I abhor them so as to destroy them utterly and break my covenant with them, for I am the Lord their God.45 But I will for their sake remember the covenant with their forefathers, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations, that I might be their God: I am the Lord.”

46 These are the statutes and rules and laws that the Lord made between himself and the people of Israel through Moses on Mount Sinai.


The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.


 

Questions to Consider:

1. Who is speaking, and who is being spoken to in this passage? (v. 46)

2. What does God require of Israel in verse 3, and what does He promise them in verses 4-12?

3. What does verse 14 say Israel might do that would bring about the consequences mentioned in verses 15-39? What are those consequences?

4. What is this type of agreement between God and His people called (42, 44,45)?

5. Does God promise us today these same types of blessings for obedience and punishments for disobedience?

Guest Posts, Sanctification

The Redemption of Boredom ~ at Borrowed Light

MikeLeake.net
MikeLeake.net

Have you ever noticed how many boring moments there are in life?…And if God can redeem our boring moments for His purposes, maybe we could start looking for ways to redeem them for His glory as well.

Pastor and blogger, Mike Leake, was kind enough to publish a guest post I wrote for today on his blog, Borrowed Light. Head on over and check out The Redemption of Boredom.

How can you capture those boring moments in life
and harness them for the furthering of God’s Kingdom?

Blog Swap

Who’s Up for a Blog Swap?

blog-swap

Hey, blogger-type people- if you’ve been around for a while, you’ll recall that I had a feature last fall called “Blog Swap.” I’m ready to get back in the saddle with it, so I’m on the hunt for bloggers who are interested in swapping guest posts.

I’m especially interested in content that’s a little different from my normal fare such as recipes, crafts, DIY, home schooling, singles, book/movie reviews, men’s interest, photo blogging, nutrition, exercise, etc., but content that’s similar to mine is welcome as well. Also, I’d love to hear from some of our male bloggers out there. Here are the blog swaps I’ve done so far so you can get an idea of how it works (check the comments section of each post for the link to see how the blogger I swapped with handled the swap on her end).

If you think you might be interested, click here to find out more, and drop me an e-mail at MichelleLesley1@yahoo.com.

Looking forward to swapping with you!