Mailbag

The Mailbag: Help! There’s a pushy lady at my church!

 

There is a lady in my church who has become very involved in a certain form of parachurch Christian ministry. She is extremely gung ho about it and pressures church members to participate. She has also organized a conference, bringing in speakers from the national level of the ministry. The elders/pastors approved it, but there is some disagreement about bringing in outside speakers, charging attenders so much for tickets, and the fact that it is mainly drawing people from outside our church who are already involved in this ministry, not necessarily discipling our own church members, yet our church members bear the work of the conferences.

We, her friends, have watched her continue to insistently push this ministry agenda. She freely admits to being pushy and asks us to keep her accountable, but she continues to push and becomes frustrated when challenged. I have met with her one on one and discussed this, and she now avoids me. I guess my question is, is it right/OK for me to now keep my distance from her? Is it OK for a woman to push a ministry agenda in the church?

Every once in a while a situation arises at church that leaves you feeling like, “Church is great…except for the people.” I’ve felt that way many times over the years, and I’m certain many people have felt that way about me. Personality conflicts at church can be difficult to deal with, but they’re a great “homework assignment” from God that – if we approach them biblically – can help grow us and the other person in Christlikeness. Let’s take a look at some of the aspects of this reader’s situation.

Doctrinal clarity on the ministry:
I think the first question on the minds of many of those reading this article is going to be, “What kind of parachurch ministry is this?”. Because, if it’s a ministry that centers around false doctrine or is led by false teachers, that’s your answer right there.

I edited out references to the particular ministry the woman is involved in a) to protect my reader’s anonymity and b) because the reader assures me the issue isn’t the ministry itself, it’s the agenda pushing. I’m very familiar with this specific parachurch ministry. It’s doctrinally sound. The situation would be similar to someone getting very involved in pro-life ministry, for example.

Doctrinal clarity on the behavior:
From what the reader has described in her e-mails, the woman’s behavior, while annoying and possibly concerning, does not sound like it has reached the level of actual sin. The parachurch ministry is doctrinally sound, and she thinks it would be beneficial to her church. She has received approval from church leadership. It doesn’t sound like she’s being deceptive in any way or doing anything the Bible clearly prohibits; she’s just very excited about this ministry and wants others to be as excited and on board as she is. That’s not sin, it’s just off-putting to others who aren’t interested. We need to be clear on the biblical fact that just because somebody does something that aggravates us doesn’t necessarily mean it’s sin. And if it’s not sin, it shouldn’t be treated as though it were. (I’m not saying the reader is doing that, just a general concept all of us should be mindful of.)

Church leadership:
If this woman is bringing in conferences, speakers, and other events that utilize the church facility, she’s not doing it without the approval of the pastor and/or someone in leadership. What that means is, as much as other church members may not like it, the buck stops with the pastor/elders, and they have given their approval to the activities thus far. If they are having a problem with this woman being pushy with them, it is their responsibility as pastors and elders to sit down with her and put a stop to that. If the pastor/elders are aware of, and have a problem with ticket prices, church members doing all the work, and the other problems you mentioned, it is their job to address that. I understand your concerns, dear reader, and having dealt with people like this before, I certainly empathize, but if you insert yourself between this woman and the elders – regarding her pushiness with them or issues it’s their responsibility to address – you run the risk of becoming pushy yourself and stepping in where you don’t belong.

If you think the pastor and elders are unaware of pertinent information regarding this situation, talk to your husband about it, and pray together for wisdom as to if and how you, he, or both of you should approach them with the information, remembering that, as a godly wife, you need to respect and defer to your husband’s decision. If the pastor and elders receive the information and continue to approve the parachurch ministry conferences and activities, then your disagreement is with the pastor and elders, not the woman pushing the agenda.

Body parts:
You’ve asked if it’s OK for a woman to push a ministry agenda in the church. No, it’s not. It’s not OK for men to do so either. First Corinthians 12 compares church members to the various parts of the body. While “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,'” neither can the hand say to the eye, ear, nose, foot, mouth, etc., “You have to be a hand, just like me.”

It is absolutely fine to be excited about a ministry or a project at church and to invite and encourage people to participate in it, but crossing the line from inviting and encouraging to pressuring and badgering is not appropriate, biblical, or loving. It puts your brothers and sisters in the awkward position of either having to knuckle under and do something they don’t really want to do in order not to hurt your feelings, or having to say no and run the risk of hurting your feelings. It ends up making the decision to serve in a particular ministry all about you, the pushy person, rather than about whether or not God wants that person in that ministry at this time. And not only should we not be basing our decisions about whether or not to serve on pleasing man rather than on pleasing God, it is unloving and unkind to back a brother or sister into a corner, forcing them into a no-win situation. If you love your brothers and sisters in Christ, you’ll want them to serve because they’re convinced God wants them to serve, not because you want them to serve.

Woman to woman:
As far as your personal relationship with this woman goes, it sounds like you have tried to reach out to her and help her, which is commendable. We all have weaknesses, and it sounds like this lady’s weakness might be lack of self-awareness and social skills. Sometimes, no matter how gently and lovingly we approach someone about a personal issue, she will get defensive or avoidant. Maybe she just needs some time to settle down. People rarely stay at fever pitch about something forever.

Is it OK for you to keep your distance from her? Well, I don’t think you need to proactively pursue spending time with her, but I also don’t think you should avoid any of your normal church activities that would bring you into contact with her. And, of course, you should be kind and loving to her when you see her in passing. If she continues to press you about the ministry whenever she sees you, there’s nothing wrong with politely changing the subject or excusing yourself. And if she wants to know what’s going on, just kindly and lovingly be honest with her. For example: “Jane, I’m so glad you’ve found a ministry you’re excited about and enjoy, but it’s just not my cup of tea. Maybe we could talk about other things when we get together?”

Sanctification:
As I said in the beginning of this article, personality conflicts in the church aren’t easy to deal with, but if we submit to God and His Word in the situation, they can be very sanctifying.

When I have to deal with a Christian I find difficult it helps me to remember a few things. First, this is a sister in Christ, made in the image of God. God knit her together in her mother’s womb, breathed the breath of life into her, and bled and died on a cross for her sins just like He did for me. We are all sinners, and we all have various personality issues that sometimes rub others the wrong way. Second, for every one person I run into that bugs me, there are probably a dozen who are bugged by me. I’m not any better than the person I’m dealing with just because I don’t bug people the same way she does. I also try to keep in mind that Jesus had to deal with a lot of difficult people during His earthly ministry. And, while I frequently fail, I do my best to follow His example of how to treat people.

The people we’re in membership with at our local church are our family. Every family has a crazy grandma or a know it all uncle or a cousin who constantly drops the ball. But we don’t just give up on family because they annoy us. Pray – daily and fervently – for those crazy, annoying, frustrating, challenging brothers and sisters at your church. Pray that God will help you love them the way they need to be loved. Consider setting aside some time to just sit and listen to them pour out their hearts. Many people act out simply because they feel invisible, lonely, and unheard. Be patient with them. Be kind. Do something unexpectedly generous and loving for them. Exercise forbearance. Find a way to help. Scripture after Scripture shows us it’s God’s will for us to love the unlovely, just like we want others to love us when we’re unlovely. This is one of the reasons why we’re in the church.


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Church

12 Songs for Reformation Day

Reformation Day, October 31, is the annual observance of the anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. Celebrate the day with these songs showcasing each of the Five Solas of the Reformation, or use them as a guide for your Reformation Sunday worship set. (I’ve also compiled the videos below into a YouTube playlist entitled Reformation Day.) Soli Deo Gloria!

Sola Scriptura

Scripture alone – not church traditions, the teachings of man, or extra-biblical revelation – is what we base our beliefs and worship practices on.

O Word of God, Incarnate

The B-I-B-L-E

Sola Fide

We are not saved by good works, by by faith alone.

On Faith Alone I Stand

Let Us Plead for Faith Alone – Sola Fide

Sola Gratia

We are saved by God’s grace alone, not by any merit or righteousness of our own.

Grace Alone

Grace Greater Than Our Sin

Solus Christus

There is salvation in no other name but that of Christ alone.

In Christ Alone

The Church’s One Foundation

Soli Deo Gloria

To God alone be the glory for our salvation!

Soli Deo Gloria

Glorious is Thy Name

🌷🌷🌷🌷🌷

Reformation Hymn

A Mighty Fortress is Our God

What’s your favorite Reformation Day song?


I have not exhaustively vetted these musicians and songwriters. please make sure to examine against Scripture any of them you choose to follow and make sure they are doctrinally sound.
Mailbag

Throwback Thursday ~ The Mailbag: Give Me Church Ladies, or I Die?

In honor of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation coming up next Tuesday, an homage to my favorite Reformer:

Originally published May 2, 2016

mailbag

 

What does the tag line at the top of your blog, “Give me church ladies, or I die” mean?

JohnKnox150
Photo courtesy of ReformationHistory.org

The tag line on my blog, “Give me church ladies, or I die” is sort of an homage to John Knox, the key figure in the Scottish Reformation, who famously prayed, “Give me Scotland, or I die.” Knox had a passion for his people to know Christ, read the Bible for themselves, and for false doctrine to be eradicated from the church.

I admire John Knox, and share those same desires for my people (“church ladies”- Christian women and women who, unfortunately, have been deceived into thinking they’re Christians):

  • I have a passion for women to know and grow in Christ.
  • I want Christian women to break free of the “women’s ‘Bible’ study system” which keeps them enslaved to false teachers who spoon feed them false doctrine, and study the Bible for themselves.
  • I, too, want to see false doctrine eradicated from our churches and for sound doctrine to prevail.

Additionally, I am also Reformed, and my ancestry is Scottish, so I thought it was a fitting tag line for my blog.

John Knox was a fascinating man. Read more about him with these great resources:

Give Me Scotland or I Die by Burk Parsons

John Knox: Scottish Reformer at Christian Classics Ethereal Library

John Knox: Reformation Becomes a Reality at Reformation History

The Mighty Weakness of John Knox by Douglas Bond and Steven J. Lawson


If you have a question about: a well known Christian author/leader, a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Mark Bible Study

Mark: Lesson 24

Previous Lessons: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23

Mark 16

When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back—it was very large.And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

[Some of the earliest manuscripts do not include 16:9–20.]

[[Now when he rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons. 10 She went and told those who had been with him, as they mourned and wept. 11 But when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they would not believe it.

12 After these things he appeared in another form to two of them, as they were walking into the country.13 And they went back and told the rest, but they did not believe them.

14 Afterward he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at table, and he rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen.15 And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues;18 they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

19 So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. 20 And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by accompanying signs.]]


The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.


Questions to Consider

1. Jesus was crucified and buried on a Friday afternoon. What day did the women go to the tomb to anoint His body? (2) Why did they wait until Sunday instead of going on Friday evening or Saturday? (1) How does verse 1 say the women obtained the spices? Would they have been able to purchase them or do the work of anointing Jesus’ body on the Sabbath? What was the purpose of anointing a dead body with spices?

2. Read verses 1-5, focusing on the women’s actions and conversation. Do their words and behavior indicate that they expected Jesus to be dead or alive? Why would they not have expected His resurrection since He prophesied it multiple times?

3. Why was there a stone sealing the entrance to Jesus’ tomb? (3-4) Compare what Pilate and the chief priests believed about Jesus’ resurrection, and their subsequent actions, with what the women believed about Jesus’ resurrection, and their subsequent actions. How did the unbelief of the two groups differ?

4. Even though Jesus had prophesied his resurrection many times, the women didn’t have much of a frame of reference for someone rising from the dead. How does God sending the angel to explain things to them (5-7) instead of scolding them for their failure to grasp the situation demonstrate His mercy and understanding of their human frailty? What was their emotional reaction (8) to all these events? In light of the recent events of the crucifixion, and the actions of people such as Pilate and the Jewish leaders, explain why the women might have reacted (8) the way they did.

5. Imagine the book of Mark ends with verse 8. Who and what is the focus of the last chapter of Mark’s gospel? Why is Jesus’ resurrection crucial to the Christian faith, and to you personally as a Christian?

6. What does the notation between verses 8 and 9 mean? Read the following note on verses 9-20 from the MacArthur Study Bible¹

What evidence does Dr. MacArthur cite that Mark may not have written verses 9-20 and that it may have been added later? Does this in any way mean that the Bible is unreliable or inerrant? What are some precautions Dr. MacArthur suggests we should take with 9-20, and how should we handle this text comparatively?

7. Compare verses 9-20 with Matthew 28, Luke 24, and John 20, and any cross references (on 9-20) your Bible lists. Is there anything in verses 9-20 that isn’t mentioned elsewhere in Scripture? Is it “safe” to believe everything in 9-20 that matches up with other Scripture?

8. What has been the most important thing you’ve learned from our study of the book of Mark?


¹John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible, English Standard Version, (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010), p.1464-1465

Homework

Read the following resources on the ending of Mark:

The Fitting Ending to Mark’s Gospel by John MacArthur

The Ending of Mark by Robert Stein

Should Mark 16:9-20 be in the Bible? at Got Questions?


Suggested Memory Verse

And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him.
Mark 16:6

Mailbag

The Mailbag: Should churches use praise teams?

 

I question the use of praise teams. I have noticed the singers chosen are always very attractive as well as being very talented. I also notice they seem to be performers instead of leaders of worship. It seems the majority of churches that use praise teams are in the process of transitioning into the emergent church movement. I would appreciate your thoughts.

Okie dokie, let’s start off with some definitions and caveats. In the interest of full disclosure, my husband is a minister of music. We have usually served at smaller traditional churches (100-120ish in attendance on Sundays), some with only choirs, some with only praise teams, and some with both. I have always sung in those choirs and praise teams.

If you’re not familiar with praise teams, a praise team is a group of about four to eight singers – usually headed up by a worship leader or minister of music – that stand toward the front of the stage and do what choirs used to do: lead (by example) the congregation in singing. Some churches (usually the more traditional ones) use a choir and praise team. Some (the more contemporary ones, or small traditional churches that can’t support a full choir) use only a praise team. In more contemporary churches, the praise team, worship leader, guitar, drums and other instruments are often lumped together as a single entity – the worship “band”.

When pastors, elders, ministers of music, and others in church leadership are trying to decide what should or should not be included in the worship service, the first place they need to go is the Bible. If the practice in question is either specifically commanded or prohibited by Scripture, it’s quick and easy to make a decision. We do the things required by Scripture (such as baptism and the Lord’s Supper) and we don’t do the things prohibited by Scripture (such as women preaching or the worship of other gods). (If your church isn’t doing the “do’s” or is doing the “don’ts,” it isn’t a church. You need to find a real church – a biblical one – pronto.)

Your pastor and other leaders should also examine their motives for wanting to implement (or do away with) a particular practice. In the case of starting a praise team: Are we doing this because we want to look cool and attractional to the outside world? Is it a wiser stewardship of our music budget to switch to a small praise team instead of a large choir? How will a praise team make our worship service more God-glorifying? Not only should the practice itself line up with Scripture, but the leaders’ motives for implementing the practice should line up with Scripture.

As church members, when we take a look at what’s going on in the worship service at our church, we also need to make the Bible our first stop. First we need to examine whether or not the practice in question is biblical. If the practice in question is biblical (or at least isn’t unbiblical), we need to look at another passage of Scripture:

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.
Hebrews 13:17

I think a lot of Christians forget this principle of authority in the church. Church isn’t Burger King where you can “have it your way” and you get to gripe all over the place when you don’t like something. If your pastor and other leadership are godly, biblically trustworthy men and they implement something that’s in line with scriptural principles, but rubs your personal tastes and preferences the wrong way, trust them, support them, submit to them, and give it a chance without complaining.

There’s nothing in the Bible that either prohibits or commands praise teams, so if your church leadership implements one, and their reasons line up with Scripture, that’s not ungodly or sinful in and of itself. It’s a decision each individual pastor has to prayerfully make as he seeks to do what is best, wisest, and most godly for his particular church.

That being said, let’s take a look at some of your more specific concerns:

“I have noticed the singers chosen are always very attractive…”
This may be the case in your church or churches you have watched on TV, but I can assure you it’s not the case in every church that uses a praise team. My own church “beta tested” a praise team in our traditional (choir and hymns) service several months ago. Because most of the people who attend that service (including the choir from which the praise team was chosen) are older, the praise team was of the middle aged to senior citizen demographic. I didn’t think any of them were unattractive because they’re my church family and I love them, but they weren’t 18 year old supermodels either. And I’ve seen plenty of other praise teams made up of people who are average looking, older, overweight, disabled, etc.

“…as well as being very talented.”
Maybe I’m misunderstanding what you mean here, but I’m not seeing the problem, either biblically or logically, with people who are talented in a certain area serving the church in that area. If you were going to put together a rotation of people to cook the fellowship meal prior to your midweek service, would you recruit the people in your church who are known to be good cooks or the ones whose casseroles everyone avoids at the monthly potluck? Do you ask people who can’t balance their own checkbooks to serve on the finance committee? If you’re putting together a music team, you want people who are talented and skilled in music, not the ones who are tone deaf, have no rhythm, and can’t read music. There’s biblical precedent for using people with certain talents to serve in certain capacities in God’s house.

“I also notice they seem to be performers instead of leaders of worship.”
I appreciate your use of the phrase “seem to be.” It’s extremely subjective and unfair to make a judgment call on whether a person is “worshiping” or “performing” based solely on his appearance, facial expression, and singing style during his time on the stage. The minister of music needs to be pastoring the praise team (this is why we need to have pastoral ministers of music instead of lay “worship leaders”) toward spiritual maturity in selecting, rehearsing, and ministering to them. He needs to ensure that the people on his team are genuinely regenerated Believers who exemplify humility and the desire to serve Christ and His church, not people who see singing on the praise team as merely a stepping stone to an appearance on The Voice.

“It seems the majority of churches that use praise teams are in the process of transitioning into the emergent church movement.”
That has not been my experience, but I don’t doubt that that’s true for some churches that use praise teams. But praise teams are not the linchpin on which churches turn to apostasy. There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of perfectly doctrinally sound churches that use praise teams and have no intention of going emergent. And, there are doctrinally unsound “churches” heading toward becoming emergent that also happen to use praise teams. It’s the doctrine and theology of the church, and its view of and fidelity to Scripture, that causes a church to either strive toward being a biblical church or becoming apostate, not whether or not it uses a praise team.

In summary, there is nothing patently unbiblical about praise teams themselves. The fact that some doctrinally unsound churches use them should no more preclude doctrinally sound churches from using them than doctrinally unsound churches having small groups should preclude doctrinally sound churches from having small groups. Personality, spiritual, and doctrinal issues affecting a praise team should be dealt with biblically in the same way these issues are dealt with in other groups in the church. Whether or not to have a praise team is an issue the pastor of each church must study Scripture and pray about and decide for himself. It’s not something we can biblically make a blanket statement for or against.


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.