Church, Complementarianism, Worship

Throwback Thursday ~ Six Questions for a Potential Church

Originally published March 27, 2015

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?


For more resources on finding a new church, or what to look for in a church, click the Searching for a new church? tab in the blue menu bar at the top of this page.

Podcast Appearances

Interview with Doreen Virtue on Beth Moore

It was such a pleasure to once again appear on my friend Doreen Virtue’s videocast. We had a warm time of fellowship around the Word discussing Beth Moore, false doctrine, the sufficiency of Scripture, the role of women in the church, and more.

I encourage you to check out Doreen’s website, and follow her on social media. Doreen is most active on Instagram, but you can also catch her on Facebook. Be sure to subscribe to Doreen’s YouTube channel so you won’t miss any of her videos. I also highly recommend Doreen’s book, Deceived No More.

Articles / resources mentioned or touched on in the videocast:

Basic Training: The Bible Is Sufficient

Living Proof You Should Follow Beth (No) Moore

Rock Your Role: Jill in the Pulpit

The Mailbag: Counter Arguments to Egalitarianism

Rock Your Role: Oh No She Di-int! Priscilla Didn’t Preach, Deborah Didn’t Dominate, and Esther Wasn’t an Egalitarian

Rock Your Role FAQs

A Word Fitly Spoken Podcast

The Mailbag (This isn’t a newsletter, but a weekly {Mondays} blog article.)

Popular False Teachers & Unbiblical Trends

Recommended Bible Teachers

Bible Studies

Speaking Engagements


Got a podcast of your own or have a podcasting friend who needs a guest? Need a speaker for a women’s conference or church event? Click the Speaking Engagements tab in the blue menu bar at the top of this page, drop me an e-mail, and let’s chat!

Christian women, False Doctrine

Throwback Thursday ~ 8 Unbiblical Notions Christian Women Need to Be Set Free From

Originally published June 2, 2017

Your recent article on prayer really helped me. I was always taught that prayer was a two-way conversation. For years, I would talk to God and wait for Him to talk back to me, but He never did. I thought it was because there was unknown sin in my life, or that I didn’t have enough faith, or that God just wasn’t interested in me. It’s so freeing to know the truth.

Comments like this from readers are always bittersweet for me. It makes me practically giddy to hear from Christian women who have been set free from false doctrines they’ve been taught, but it also grieves me deeply to reflect on the years they spent thinking they were somehow deficient as Christians or doubting God’s love for them simply because they were taught, and believed, unbiblical notions and ideas.

Let’s see if we can dispel a few of those today:

1. Prayer is this big, complicated, mystical thing.
Nope. Prayer is simply talking to God about whatever is on your heart. What’s made prayer complicated is the unbiblical teachings that have grown up around it such as praying in “tongues,” listening prayer, contemplative prayer, sozo prayer, soaking prayer, etc.

8 Things You Need to Know about Prayer

2. “Women’s Ministry” equals fluff and silliness.
There’s nothing wrong with having a little fun from time to time. Hey, we all need to blow off steam, right? But if cookie exchanges and teas and painting parties and dress up parties and sleepovers and makeup parties and fashion shows and movie nights are all your women’s ministry does, it’s unhealthy. And it’s not really a ministry, either. If something is a “ministry” it should exist to point people to Christ and disciple them once they get to Him. Your women’s ministry should include ministry of the Word, discipleship, Titus 2-type mentoring, evangelism, comfort ministry (to the ill, shut-ins, new moms, new members, etc.), serving the church, encouragement, supporting your pastor and elders, and so on.

Mary and Martha and Jesus and Women’s Ministry
How to Survive a Wimpy Women’s Ministry

3. Women’s Bible study- great balls of fire, don’t get me started.
♦ A Bible verse (or half a Bible verse) plus an inspiring story from the author’s or someone else’s life is not Bible study. Bible study is picking up your Bible and studying it.

Bible Study
Bible Studies

♦ If you’re hosting a women’s Bible study, you do not have to use books and DVDs written by someone else. In fact, I would recommend against doing so. Get someone who is able to teach – yes, it could even be a man – and study a book of the Bible from beginning to end.

You’re Not as Dumb as You Think You Are: Five Reasons to Put Down that Devotional and Pick Up the Actual Bible

McBible Study and the Famine of God’s Word

Can you recommend a good Bible study for women/teens/kids?

♦ One reason I recommend against using “canned” women’s Bible studies is that the vast majority of them (95% in my estimation- not an exaggeration) teach false doctrine. When you walk into LifeWay the first thing you’ll see is the best sellers shelf, and the majority of those books are written by false teachers such as Beth Moore, Priscilla Shirer, Christine Caine, Lysa TerKeurst, Sarah Young, and others.

Popular False Teachers

♦ If you do decide to occasionally do a book study, you do not have to use one written by a woman. In fact, if you want a book that’s doctrinally sound, you have a much better chance of finding one written by a man than by a woman, sad to say.

A Few Good Men: 10 Doctrinally Sound Male Teachers
A Few MORE Good Men: 10 Doctrinally Sound Male Teachers
A Few Good Men, Again!: 10 Doctrinally Sound Male Teachers

4. Faithful church attendance isn’t that important.
If you think you don’t need church or that you can skip it whenever something more fun comes along, your thinking isn’t biblical. God thinks it’s important enough for His people to gather regularly for worship that He emphasizes it throughout the entirety of Scripture- Old and New Testament. Get your heiney in the pew every week, honey, and find a place to serve.

7 Reasons Church is Not Optional and Non-Negotiable for Christians

5. I am woman, hear me roar.
♦ Beth Moore and many other female teachers who rebel against Scripture by preaching to and teaching men in the church say that they are doing so “under their husband’s and/or pastor’s authority”. Neither your husband nor your pastor has the OK from God to allow you, or any other woman, to teach men in the church. God says women aren’t to teach or hold authority over men in the church, and when God says no, no one has the authority to say yes. Furthermore, there isn’t a single passage of Scripture that allows any man to give any woman this type of “under my authority” dispensation to teach men. To say that it’s permissible for a woman to teach men “under her husband’s/pastor’s authority” is just as biblically absurd as saying it’s OK for a woman to lie, commit adultery, gossip, or steal “under her husband’s/pastor’s authority.” Sapphira sinned under her husband’s authority and look what happened to her.

Fencing Off the Forbidden Fruit Tree
Jill in the Pulpit

Ten Things You Should Know About 1 Timothy 2:11-15 and the Relationship Between Men and Women in the Local Church at CBMW

Egalitarians are often so vehement in their insistence that women should teach men and hold authority over men in the church, that they are essentially saying that the only way a woman’s service or leadership in the church can have any value is if it’s exercised over men. I’ve heard many of them turn up their noses at the idea of teaching women and children and other forms of service (that don’t involve teaching or authority over men), in a haughty “we’re better than that” kind of way.

No way.

Have you seen the garbage women and children are being taught in the church under the guise of “Sunday School” or “Bible study”? Women’s and children’s classes at your church are in desperate need of women who are doctrinally sound and able to teach. What about the need to visit church members who are in the hospital or shut-ins? How about record-keeping, working in the sound booth, welcoming visitors, serving on committees, mowing the church’s lawn, participating in outreach activities, fixing a meal, chaperoning youth activities, hosting a visiting pastor or missionary? There’s a ton of important and valuable work for women to do in the church. We don’t have time to worry about teaching and holding authority over men. Let the men worry about that.

Servanthood
Let Me Count the Ways: 75 Ways Women Can Biblically Minister to Others

6. My feelings and opinions reign supreme.
Uh uh. Not if you’re a Christian, they don’t. That’s how lost people operate. If you’re a Christian, you’re not entitled run your life or make decisions by any opinion other than that of your Master. What He says – in His written word – goes. Period. Regardless of how you feel about it or whether or not you agree with it. That means if a “Bible” teacher you really like is teaching things that conflict with Scripture, you dump her. You love Mr. Wonderful and want to marry him, but he’s not saved? Nope. You’re a woman who’s certain God has called her to preach? No way. Your husband has said no about something, but you want to do it anyway? Forget it.

The Bible is our Authority
Bad Fruit, Diseased Trees, and the Authority of God’s Word

7. If something or someone claims to be a Christian, it is.
I suppose at some point in Christian history, there might have been a time when, if someone handed you a “Christian book,” it was a pretty safe bet it was doctrinally sound. Or if someone said she was a Christian, you could be fairly certain she was truly born again.

Not so much these days.

You cannot take at face value that someone who says she’s a Christian is using the Bible’s definition of Christianity and has been genuinely regenerated. You cannot trust that just because something is sold at LifeWay or another Christian retailer that it’s doctrinally sound. You can’t assume that just because someone is a “Christian” celebrity, writes “Bible” studies, speaks at “Christian” conferences, and has a large following, that she’s handling God’s word correctly (or at all) and teaching you biblical truth. There’s just too much false doctrine running rampant in evangelicalism and too many people who believe and teach it.

Don’t be a weak and naïve Christian woman. Jesus Himself said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of Heaven…” There are many people who draw near to God with their lips, but their hearts are far from Him. It is God’s will for you to be a good Berean and to test everything according to Scripture. We will know the truly Christian from the false by their fruits, not their platitudes.

8. Sugar and spice and everything nice- that’s what Christian girls are made of.
That’s not a Bible verse, but rather and unspoken rule among most Christian women. Somewhere we’ve gotten the idea that Christian unity or love means “being nice” to people. We’re always smilingly sweet and never say anything that might hurt someone’s feelings or could rock the boat at church.

Are we to be kind? Yes. Are we to do our best not to hurt others? Of course. Should we be making waves over every little thing that rubs us the wrong way? Absolutely not.

But neither is it loving to see a Mack truck bearing down on an oblivious sister in Christ and refrain from yanking her out of harm’s way because it might dislocate her shoulder. It is not unity to see Satan deceiving a friend through sin or false doctrine and not plead with her to turn to Christ and His word because she might think we’re rude. And that’s the situation we often find ourselves in at church or with Christian friends.

Was Jesus – our perfect example of love – being unloving, unkind, hateful, or divisive when He rebuked the Pharisees, cleared the temple, or said, “Get behind Me, Satan!” to Peter?

Love for the brethren isn’t “being nice.” It’s caring so much about a fellow saint that we want what’s best for her in Christ. Sometimes that requires being firm, confrontational, or demonstrating “tough love.” People’s eternities and spiritual health are at stake. How loving is it to stand aside and let a sister waltz into Hell or struggle for years on end in her walk with the Lord because she’s living in sin or believing false doctrine? “Being nice” isn’t a fruit of the Spirit. It’s time we stop being nice and start being biblical.

I Can’t Sit Down, Shut Up, and Play Nice
Discernment: What’s Love Got to Do with It?

Do you believe any of these unbiblical notions? If so, set them aside, repent, and believe and practice what Scripture says. Any time we believe something that’s in conflict with God’s word, it’s a hindrance to the abundant life and growth in Christ that He wants to bless us with.

False doctrine enslaves. It places a yoke of confusion, anxiety, and “try harder” on the shoulders of those who embrace it. Christ did not set us free from sin so that we might turn right around and become captives to a new, pseudo-Christian type of sin: false teaching. It is for freedom and a healthy spiritual life that Christ has set us free.

Favorite Finds

Favorite Finds: August 25, 2020

 

Here are a few of my favorite online finds…

 

“As “true” Christian women, we consecrate ourselves to fulfill his calling and purposes for our lives. By his grace and in humble dependence on his power,” we can pursue that which is pleasing to the Lord in these 15 Ways to Honor Christ as Women by Susan Hunt.

 

“At first blush, these two texts seem to settle the matter in favor of the complementarian position. After all, this is the sense adopted in the vast majority of English translations. How could they all be wrong? Clearly Paul does not intend for women to be teaching/preaching within the church, right?” An excellent apologetic on this aspect of complementarianism in Why it is important not to conflate prophecy and teaching in discussions about women preaching  by Denny Burk.

 

“God’s design of the worship of his Church transcends pandemics and culture. This season shall pass and local churches will once again assemble together, embrace one another in Christian love, and celebrate the body and blood of King Jesus through the Lord’s Supper as we long for him to return and make all things new.” Some insightful observations and exhortations in  Josh Buice’s thought-provoking article There Is No Such Thing as Virtual Lord’s Supper.

 

“Abuse does not call for the abandonment of God’s good design, but the restoration of it through the power of the Gospel. The answer for every form of abuse is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” Tom Buck handily addresses the issue of abuse eroding biblical headship and submission in this article for Founders Ministries: Complementarianism is Not the Problem.

 

Four pianists, eight hymns (do you recognize all of them?): enjoy!

 


The resources listed above are not to be understood as a blanket endorsement for the websites on which they appear, or of everything the author or subject of the resource says or does. I do not endorse any person, website, or resource that conflicts with Scripture or the theology outlined in the Statement of Faith and Welcome tabs at the top of this page.