Church

All Word and No Play: The Importance of Fun and Fellowship in the Doctrinally Sound Church

Originally published November 10, 2017

The mingled aromas of cakes and cookies, chips and dips and pasta salads, wafted from the kitchen into the living room and wove its way through the the quiet din of treble voices and joyful laughter sharing stories and recipes and tales of the work week.

Sunday School ladies were in the house.

I had invited them over for a time of fellowship and a brief discussion to gauge their interest in a women’s Bible study class I’d been hoping to start. Would any of them want to attend a weekly women’s Bible study? Which day of the week would be best? Morning or evening? Which book of the Bible or biblical topic would they like to study? My questions were met with a few polite and perfunctory answers until one of the ladies bravely ventured, “You know, we have good, solid preaching at our church, and we get great Bible study every week in our Sunday School class, but we never get to just sit around and visit and get to know each other better like we’re doing tonight. I think we need that more than another Bible study class.”

If I still had a hoop and could remember how to make a French knot, I’d embroider that on a pillow. Or maybe a pew cushion. She was right.

In recent years we’ve been privy to numerous churches who seem to be on mission to transform themselves into Six Flags Over Jesus. Pastors who deliver stand up comedy routines instead of preaching the Word. Helicopters dropping Easter eggs for the annual hunt. Disney-designed fire truck baptistries, video games, and bubble machines in the children’s department. Car, sports tickets, and vacation pacakge giveaways. Over the top Christmas variety shows. The evangeltainment force is strong on the high places.

But while churches need to be careful not to fall into the ditch of foolish fluff and worldliness, neither should doctrinally sound churches jump into the ditch on the other side of the road of turning every single church get together into a Bible study, worship service, or outreach project.

Some of you ladies are gasping in holy horror. (Don’t try to deny it. I can hear you.)

Please don’t hear what I’m not saying. Please. I am by no stretch of the imagination suggesting that churches should turn into amusement parks like the ones cited above. I’m not saying we shouldn’t hold copious numbers of worship services and Bible studies and outreach projects. We absolutely should. Preaching, teaching, discipleship, and evangelism should be the main focus of the church.

What I’m saying is that – in the hustle and bustle of studying and serving – we need to make sure we’re also leaving space for brothers and sisters in Christ to simply spend unprogrammed time together. Growing to know one another more intimately. Sharing our little everyday joys and sorrows. Laughing together. Deeply loving one another. Blowing off steam and having a little fun.

Those things don’t happen while we’re listening to a sermon, paying attention to a Sunday School lesson, or busily working on an outreach task. But they’re a vital part of growing in Christ together. As a family.

One of the many reasons local church membership isn’t optional for Christians is that it places us in the required environment for practicing the “one anothers” found throughout the New Testament. But how can we “through love serve one another” if we don’t know a sister well enough to know how best to serve her? How can we “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” if we never take the time to sit down with each other and find out what those burdens are?

If your church has solid biblical preaching, doctrinally sound Sunday School or Bible study classes, members who joyfully serve the Body when opportunities are presented, and who share the gospel with the lost, it’s OK to have the occasional event that doesn’t revolve around those activities, and instead provides the opportunity for simple fellowship between brothers and sisters in Christ. A church picnic. A men’s breakfast. A ladies’ night out. A potluck dinner on the grounds. A coffee klatch. A Christmas party.

And it’s not necessary to turn any of these events into a Bible study.

Why? Because when Christians get together, the talk invariably and organically turns to things of a spiritual nature.

I gave a lot of thought to what the lady from my Sunday School class said at our fellowship that evening. And instead of planning a weekly Bible study, I started planning the occasional ladies’ night out – a simple dessert fellowship at my house, or dinner at a restaurant. Every time we get together, we inevitably end up talking about spiritual matters. Once, we spontaneously gathered around and prayed for a sister who had shared some things she was struggling with. Another time, we brought up some Scriptures to encourage one of the ladies who was walking through a particular issue with her child. We’ve discussed and recommended good godly books (and warned against some poor ones) to each other. We’ve laughed a lot, and sometimes cried, but mostly, grown…together.

People talk about what they’re most passionate about. And Christians are most passionate about the things of God. We need to be sure we’re trusting and believing that, not fearing that if we don’t have a devotion at our dinner, or have our coffee in one hand while doing a missions project with the other, that church members will suddenly abandon Christ and start dancing around the Asherah pole. And we need to know God well enough to know that He is not somehow displeased when His people simply interact with each other over whatever comes to mind without a biblical outline and three commentaries on the table.

Also unbiblical and, thus, spiritually unhealthy, is the mindset that if we’re not meeting for organized preaching, teaching, or ministering, we have no reason for meeting at all. Not true. When I hear from women who attend doctrinally sound churches with that attitude, what I most commonly hear from them is that they’re lonely. They have no one they can call, or talk to, or pray with when they have a problem to sort out or joyful news to share because they don’t feel close enough to anybody in their church. That’s a crying shame. No healthy Christian in a doctrinally sound church should regularly feel isolated and lonely.

Good preaching, teaching, and outreach are imperative for every church. But so are the heart to heart relationships between Believers in the Body. So do the studying, listen to the preaching, and work your fingers to the bone serving, but don’t leave out fun and fellowship. All Word and no play makes for an unbalanced, unhealthy church.

Christian women, Church, Complementarianism, Ministry

Throwback Thursday ~ Let Me Count the Ways: 75 Ways Women Can Biblically Minister to Others

Originally published September 1, 2017

I recently heard someone remark that, among complementarian Christians, there’s a lot of emphasis on the things women can’t do, biblically, when it comes to ministry, but not much has been written about how women can serve in ministry without violating Scripture.

There are some valid reasons for that.

First, the false teaching of egalitarianism (women can hold any position in ministry that men can hold) is running rampant through the church, even infecting traditionally conservative churches and denominations. It is imperative that Christian men and women who have a biblical understanding of the role of women in the church continue to teach loudly, boldly, and relentlessly against this doctrinal error.

Next, there are so many ways women can serve the body of Christ without violating Scripture that it would be impossible to list all of them. The prohibitions placed on women in ministry are comparatively infinitesimal and, therefore, faster and simpler to dispense with. In other words, it’s quicker and easier to say, “Women can serve in literally any scriptural position or function of ministry in the Body as long as they’re not instructing men in the Scriptures or holding authority over them,” than it is to list every particular ministry women can participate in without transgressing God’s word.

But sometimes our brains get stuck and we need some specific, real world examples to oil the gears and get our own thought processes moving. Especially when we hit that mental roadblock of “Ministry equals only preaching, teaching, and leadership positions. Period.” That’s not all ministry is. In fact, it’s only a tiny part of ministry. God uniquely gifts His people in a variety of ways for a variety of services. And Scripture is very clear that all members of the Body are essential regardless of the role God has called us to. Jesus was the best preacher, teacher, and leader of all eternity, and yet the pinnacle of His ministry was not a sermon, a Bible lesson, or position of leadership. The most important act of ministry Jesus ever performed was to humble Himself and to give His life for sinners. Let’s make sure we think about ministry the way Jesus thought about ministry:

…whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:43b-45

Keeping that in mind, here are just a few of the ways women can freely serve God, their churches, and their neighbors without violating Scripture:

1. Pray for your church, your pastor and staff, your teachers and elders

2.  Teach a women’s Bible study or Sunday School class. (Remember, teaching isn’t the only avenue of ministry, but it is one of them.)

3. Teach a children’s Sunday School or Bible class.

4. Play an instrument in your church’s music ministry.

5. Sing in the choir or on the praise team.

6. Direct a children’s choir.

7. Run the Power Point for song lyrics during the worship service

8. Learn how to run your sanctuary’s sound system and board

9. Help set up and put away chairs for services or classes

10. Be the hero who gets to church early and has the coffee ready when people arrive

11. Serve as a greeter

12. Serve on the security or parking lot duty team

13. Serve in the nursery

14. Volunteer to help out in the church office

15. Serve as a chaperone for a youth trip, fellowship, or other activity

16. Open your home to traveling pastors or missionaries who need a place to stay

17. Volunteer your home for the next church fellowship

18. Organize a potluck dinner for your church or Sunday School class

19. Take some treats up to the church office during the week to encourage the staff

20. Serve in Vacation Bible School

21. Offer to help your pastor vet new Bible study and Sunday School curricula for doctrinal soundness

22. Go on and/or help organize a short term mission trip

23. Organize meals for a new mom or a church member who’s ill

24. Help clean the church kitchen after an activity or event

25. Visit hospitalized church members

26. Visit church members who are shut-ins or in nursing homes

27. Pick up someone who needs a ride to and from church

28. Nursing home residents often have no way to attend church. Organize a way for your church to take church to the nursing home.

29. Many people have difficulty attending church because they’re caretakers for an ill or disabled loved one. Set up a rotation of church members to be sitters so the caretaker can come to church.

30. Mow the church’s grass

31. Serve on a committee

32. Volunteer your IT expertise for the church’s computer system

33. Open your home to a college student who needs a place to live

34. Open your home to a woman in a crisis pregnancy who has nowhere else to go

35. Teach cooking, homemaking, or parenting skills to the younger women of your church.

36. Start an after school tutoring program at your church where kids get help with their homework and hear the gospel.

37. Volunteer at a Christian crisis pregnancy center

38. Organize and serve at a church work day (cleaning, painting, facility maintenance)

39. Donate money, gift cards, gas cards, or hotel vouchers to your church’s benevolence fund

40. Get trained in disaster relief and serve the physical and spiritual needs of those impacted by natural disasters

41. Serve in your church’s food pantry

42. Serve in your church’s clothes closet

43. Help organize fundraisers for missions, youth camp, disaster relief, church needs, etc.

44. If your church decorates the grounds for Christmas or other special events, lend a hand

45. Start a backyard Bible club (Bible lesson, game/activity, snack) at a park, apartment complex, school, or other gathering place near your church

46. Start a women’s prayer group with sisters at church

47. Organize a “mechanic ministry” – church members who can fix and maintain the cars of your church’s widows and single moms

48. Organize a “honey-do ministry” – same idea but for repair jobs around the house

49. Disciple a younger woman one on one

50. Invite new church members over for dinner

51. Be your Sunday School class’ secretary or fellowship organizer

52. Take food baskets to church members who are in need

53. Do baptistry duty (help those being baptized with robes, towels, etc.)

54. Set up a sewing or craft ministry, making items for the elderly, disabled, newborns, the homeless, or missions. This idea is one of my favorites (don’t forget to include the gospel, verbally or in print, with your ministry project items).

55. If your church is in a high traffic area, stand out front on hot days and hand out bottled water and tracts to passers by (be safety conscious). You can also put a sticker or label on the bottle with your church’s info or a web site that gives a gospel presentation.

56. Sit and talk – but mostly listen – to the elderly people in your church. You’ll minister to them, and they’ll minister to you.

57. Serve on your church’s wedding, funeral, or special event team

58. Volunteer to care for small children of wedding or funeral attendees in your church’s nursery during the event

59. Work in your church library, or set one up

60. Organize a Parents’ Night Out so church members with young children can have a couples’ night without the expense of a babysitter

61. Babysit your pastor’s children so he and his wife can have a date night

62. Clergy appreciation month is October. Organize gifts or other demonstrations of appreciation for your pastor, minister of music, associate pastor, youth director, etc. (Make sure none of your ministers are inadvertently overlooked.)

63. Teach an ESL (English as a Second Language) class to minister to church members and others who are learning English.

64. Write letters and e-mails of encouragement to the missionaries your church supports (send care packages too!)

65. Send texts of encouragement to your Sunday School class members

66. Start a birthday card ministry. Pray for each church member as you send out his or her card. In a year, you will have prayed individually for every member of your church.

67. If you’re a health care professional, volunteer to provide basic health or dental screenings to church members in need.

68. Minister to battered women at your local shelter by listening, sharing the gospel, and caring for their material needs.

69. Instead of Toys for Tots, organize a “Bibles for Tots” drive for Christmas. Give young readers Bibles to children at local schools, the mall, or a community event as a Christmas gift from your church.

70. Research and write a book about the history of your church.

71. Help set up for the Lord’s Supper

72. Do laundry duty. Take home towels and robes after baptisms, table cloths after church dinners, costumes after the choir’s musical, etc., launder them, fold them and return them to the church.

73. Go to the grocery store and run other errands for church members unable to do these things for themselves.

74. Run your church’s web site or admin your church’s social media accounts

75. Organize an abortion clinic sidewalk ministry team from your church

As I said, there are so many ways women can biblically participate in ministering to others that there’s no way to even think of all the possibilities. But I’d love to add more ideas to this list.

That’s where you come in!

What are some ways you, women at your church, or women you know at other churches minister to others without teaching or preaching to men and without holding authority over men in the gathered body of Believers? Leave a comment and let’s see how many more ways women can minister biblically!

Uncategorized

The Word on Wednesdays

 

As you read this, I’m winging my way across the country to speak at a conference, so our next regular weekly Bible study won’t start until after I return home and get my household back in order (I’m thinking probably mid-April-ish, but don’t quote me on that.). :0) I have a study in mind, but will keep thinking and praying about it for a few more weeks.

So anyway, for the next few Wednesdays, you’ve got some options:

📖 You can finish up Imperishable Beauty or any of my other studies you’re currently working on.

📖 You can choose a book(s) of the Bible to work through on your own.

📖 You can choose one of my studies to work through at the Bible Studies tab at the top of this page. (I would choose one of the shorter ones, like Colossians or Ruth rather than one of the longer ones if you’re only trying to fill the space between now and the beginning of our next study.)

📖 You can follow along with the sampling of “re-run” lessons I’ll be posting here on the blog each week.

Here’s today’s “re-run”:

sunday school

Sunday School: Chronological Study Lessons

During 2014, I led my ladies’ Sunday School class in a chronological read-through of the entire Bible. Each week I taught a lesson from that week’s reading and posted it here on the blog.

If you’re using the chronological one year Bible reading plan this year, here’s the lesson that roughly corresponds with this week’s reading. (And even if you’re not, I hope you’ll enjoy this lesson anyway.)

Through the Bible in 2014 ~ Week 13 ~ Mar. 23-29
Joshua 1-24
Rahab: From Floozy to Faithfulrahab-scarlet-thread

By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient,
because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.
Hebrews 11:31


Background- Joshua 1
Joshua 1 sets the stage for the story of Rahab and the spies. Moses had recently died, and God “promoted” Joshua to take his place. It was finally time for the Israelites to enter and take possession of the Promised Land. As God “installed” Joshua into his new position, He reminded him… Continue reading.

Sanctification

Frightened by Freedom

We ladies need to be really careful about viewing issues through the lens of our past experiences, and basing our beliefs, and teaching of others, around that experience, rather than on Scripture.

For example, you may have come out of an abusive marriage (and praise God that He rescued you out of that!) but that does not mean all marriages are abusive, nor that Christian women in relatively healthy marriages should not follow the Bible’s instruction to submit to our husbands.

Perhaps God saved you out of alcoholism (again, praise God!). You may have had some really terrible experiences related to alcohol and want nothing more to do with it, and that’s fine, but your experience does not change the fact that the Bible does not teach a zero tolerance policy of alcohol (only of drunkennes) for all people.

Our experiences tend to shape how we view the world, and even Scripture, sometimes. When we’ve been through a traumatic experience, our initial reaction is often to put as much distance between ourselves and that experience as possible – even to the extent of trying to eradicate that issue in the lives of those around us (“Women should never submit to their husbands!” “No one should ever drink alcohol!”) – because it makes us feel safer.

But as we dive into God’s word, worship, prayer, and the fellowship of the saints, He begins to heal those wounds from the past, and we stop feeling threatened by freedom. We begin to see that our safety is found in Christ, not in building walls out of laws around ourselves.

Don’t trade the prison of your terrible experience for the prison of unbiblical laws and rules. True freedom is found in trusting Christ and His word.

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
Galatians 5:1

Mailbag

The Mailbag: MLM-ing Essential Oils at Church

Originally published March 26, 2018

 

Our church has recently had a visitor come who is now promoting essential oils to the women who are flocking to a class she is having in one of their homes. This makes me very uncomfortable as it appears (to me) that she has visited to increase her MLM [multi-level marketing] customer base while touting medicinal cures via essential oils. Do you have any research on this?

Sounds like a multi-level mess! There are several different issues going on here, so let’s dig in…

Cold-calling at church
Um, no. I mean… OK, I’m just going to go there. Have you no shame? Have you no home training? I don’t care how much of a go-getter saleswoman you are, there are some lines you just don’t cross. And I can’t believe I’m actually having to explain to grown up, adult people that you don’t go church hopping to make sales and recruit people to work for you. What’s next, showing up at funerals to sell Avon? Pampered Chef demonstrations at wedding receptions?

Church is the place where a local body of Believers gathers to worship the almighty God of the universe. How dare anyone sully the Bride of Christ it by making it something as low and common as a networking site for her business! If you are visiting a church, you should be doing so to worship, not for any other reason. Jesus made that really clear.

Depending on how blatant, intrusive, and disruptive the visitor’s behavior at your church is, someone – preferably one of the women in the class that the visitor is close to, but if not, possibly an elder or the pastor – may need to pull her aside and firmly, yet lovingly, explain that she is welcome to come to church to worship, but not to hustle.

Multi-Level Members
The reader who sent in the question asked about someone who’s visiting her church, but I want to take a moment to speak to you ladies who are MLM-ing your own church.

Your fellow church members might be uncomfortable telling you this, so I’m going to do so on their behalf: Some of you are going too far and being too pushy with your businesses. And you’re putting your brothers and sisters in the no-win situation of either having to acquiesce to the pressure you’re putting on them or hurt your feelings by telling you no.

It’s certainly fine to tell people at church what your job is when they ask, but leave the ball in their court:

“What do you do?”

“I’m an independent sales consultant for Fancy Widgets.”

“Oh? That sounds great!”

“Yeah, it’s an awesome company. I love it! If you’d ever be interested in working with us or adding to your widget collection, just let me know. Want some coffee?”

And don’t bring it up again. She knows you’re her Fancy Widgets connection. If she wants something, she’ll find you.

If you leave it at that and you end up having a few people at church who want to order from you, it’s certainly OK to discreetly take orders from them or bring their products to them at church after services are over. It’s fine for people to approach you about your business, but don’t repeatedly ask people at church to host parties, invite people from church to parties others are hosting for you, attempt to recruit people, or push products. That’s a distraction from worship and fellowship, it gets on people’s nerves, and it will eventually end up alienating your church family.

Scientifically proven?
I don’t have much experience with essential oils, but it’s my understanding that some essential oils can help alleviate the symptoms of some ailments in some people. In other words, peppermint oil may work wonders on your migraine, but do nothing for mine. As long as the limits of the powers of the essential oils are made clear along with the potential benefits, there’s no problem. If the visitor is making snake oil-type promises that the essential oils don’t deliver on, that’s lying and she needs to be confronted about it. If it gets to that point, you need to let your pastor or elders know what’s going on in case she doesn’t stop and one of them ends up having to deal with her.

Essential Oils and New Age Spirituality
Some (not all) essential oils companies claim that their oils will bring about spiritual benefits in addition to (or instead of) physiological benefits. While it’s fine to say that a little lavender oil in your bath will help relax you, saying that it will balance your chakras or yin your yang or bring you inner peace and confidence or whatever is crossing the line into unbiblical (usually New Age) spirituality. No Christian should have anything to do with buying or selling such essential oils. If there’s someone in your church who’s promoting a company like that at church, that’s a church discipline issue, because she’s introducing false doctrine into the church.

Marcia Montenegro over at Christian Answers for the New Age has published numerous posts on the problems with New Age spirituality and essential oils, as has Sola Sisters.


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.