Bible Study, Mailbag

The Mailbag: Potpourri (Sentence diagram Bible study, Evangelism, Making teens attend church, Female pro-life speaker…)

Welcome to another “potpourri” edition of The Mailbag, where I give short(er) answers to several questions rather than a long answer to one question.

I like to take the opportunity in these potpourri editions to let new readers know about my comments/e-mail/messages policy. I’m not able to respond individually to most e-mails and messages, so here are some helpful hints for getting your questions answered more quickly. Remember, the search bar (at the very bottom of each page) can be a helpful tool!

Or maybe I answered your question already? Check out my article The Mailbag: Top 10 FAQs to see if your question has been answered and to get some helpful resources.


So it is by way of this email that I ask you to pray about my request to disciple me as a young woman in accordance to Titus 2.

You are so dear, and your e-mail was so sweet. I would love to say yes, but sadly, I cannot. Please see #10 in my article The Mailbag: Top 10 FAQs.


I would love your thoughts on the study of Scripture using the sentence diagram method. I have never tried it but it does look interesting. However I do not want to get into a mess of confusion.

If reading the phrase “the sentence diagram method” just gave you a fond or traumatic flashback to 7th grade English class, then you pretty much already know what it is. It’s taking a Bible verse and diagramming it – either grammatically (with all the little lines for adverbs and adjectives and conjunctions and whatnot), or conceptually (blocking it out according to concept and how those concepts connect.

If you’d like to see an example, click here. (FYI- This link does not mean I’m recommending this site. She endorses and/or has connections to several false teachers.)

If you’re a grammar nerd or language aficionado like I am, this is method is probably right up your alley, and if you need to employ it from time to time to better understand one of Paul’s numerous lengthy run-on sentences, then go for it!

My only counsel would be, don’t make this your only method of Bible study. For the most part, you need to be reading and studying the overall meaning, concepts, and application of larger passages of Scripture, not focusing on dissecting one verse every day. It’s kind of like cooking supper. You need to focus on fixing the whole meal every night rather than pouring all your focus into mincing that clove of garlic into perfectly symmetrical cubes.


I am convicted because I have not been faithful to be a witness for the Gospel. I get tongue tied even with family! I just want to be faithful like the Apostle Paul. My problem is getting started……I know the Good News and want to share. Can you help guide me? I was invited to church and heard the Word preached and the Holy Spirit convicted me of my guilt as a sinner. Can I just invite someone to church?

What a wonderful encouragement it is to encounter a sister with a zeal for sharing the gospel! If it makes you feel any better, a lot of us have the same experience when it comes to sharing the gospel. Let me see if I can offer a little help:

  • While we are all commanded to share the gospel with the lost, there are some people who are just really gifted at it. It comes as naturally to them as breathing, they never get flustered, and they make it look easy. I’m not one of those people, but I can point you to a couple of brothers who are: Ray Comfort and Todd Friel. Head on over to the Living Waters YouTube channel and watch a few thousand videos of Ray walking up to strangers and sharing the gospel. Subscribe to Wretched on your favorite podcast platform, and listen in to the “Witness Wednesday” episodes with Todd. These are the kinds of guys you should look to and be learning from when it comes to “cold call” evangelism.
  • Remember that walking up to a stranger and verbally sharing the gospel is not the only way you can evangelize:
    1. If you have unsaved children at home, they are your primary mission field. They’re just as lost and dead in their sins as any stranger on the street.
    2. Ditto for teaching children at your church. Pour the gospel into those kiddos every week.
    3. Tracts. Get a bunch and carry them around in your purse. Leave them behind at the store, the doctor’s office, the gym, wherever you go. Hand them to people personally when the opportunity arises. I highly recommend the Bezeugen Tract Club and tracts from Living Waters.
    4. If you’re on social media, share the gospel on your timeline. Write it out in your own words, share Scripture, or share links to gospel presentations. Here’s our gospel page at A Word Fitly Spoken. It has a text presentation of the gospel and a couple of videos if you’d like to share them.
    5. It is absolutely fine to invite someone to church (assuming you go to a doctrinally sound church) or any other Christian event where the gospel will be clearly and biblically presented. I would only quibble with people who call inviting someone to church “evangelism”. That’s not evangelism. Evangelism is when you actually share the gospel with someone (which every Christian should do when the opportunity presents itself). Inviting someone to church is inviting her to a place where she’ll be evangelized.
    6. Get creative! Give my articles 10 Ways to Share the Gospel During the Holidays and 10 Fun, Practically Effortless, and Free Ways to Do Missions and Evangelism a read and see if they give you any ideas.

Additional Resource:

Rock Your Role FAQs (#11)


Should I attempt to bribe/beg/force my teenage sons to go to church? My husband is no longer attending or leading the family spiritually. My sons and I do Bible study together, but they have no other church experiences.

Wow, this is such a difficult position for you to be in. I’m so sorry. I’ve taken a moment to pray for you and your family, and I would ask everyone reading this to pause briefly and do the same.

I would strongly encourage you to set up an appointment with your pastor to discuss this. Giving wise counsel to those he pastors is part of his job. You could also more thoroughly explain your situation to him and he could give you better informed counsel than I can.

Not knowing the dynamics of your situation, the best I can tell you is that I don’t see anything in Scripture that would say it’s a sin to offer your sons something they want or to excuse them from a certain chore or something like that in exchange for them attending church.

I’m not sure “beg” and “force” are words I’m comfortable with in the parent/child relationship. You are the parent. You are the one in authority and responsible to God for your children. When you tell them to do something, they should respectfully obey you. Period. “Begging” and “forcing” shouldn’t even be part of the equation.

That being said, I think it would be good and healthy for you to sit them down and have a serious, loving talk with them, explaining that, because you love them and want what’s best for them, you want to urge them to come to church with you. You can also explain how much their attendance would mean to you (just be careful not to guilt or manipulate them). And, since you’re teaching them the Bible, you might want to spend some time on Hebrews 10:24-25. But when you’ve had this talk with them, especially if they’re older teens and not Believers, you will probably need to leave the decision up to them. This is something it would be good to get your pastor’s guidance about.

Additional Resource:

Rock Your Role FAQs (#12)


If a woman were to speak at a church on the issue of abortion, would that fall into the category of a woman exercising authority over men?

No, the issue here would be whether or not she’s preaching to men or instructing them in the Scriptures, not whether or not she’s exercising authority over them. Someone giving an informational talk on a certain topic isn’t exercising authority over anyone, regardless of the venue, the sex of the speaker or the sex of the audience.

It’s a little difficult to answer this question due to the lack of details. Is this woman simply a member of the church who wishes to address the congregation, or is she a special guest speaker from a pro-life organization? Is her talk taking the place of the Sunday morning sermon? Is she going to be going at it from a “professional” angle (ex: stats on abortion, stories about moms who chose life, pro-life legislation), or is she going to get up and preach a sermon on Psalm 139?

It would be perfectly biblical for a special guest speaker to give a professional informational talk (not preaching/teaching the Bible) in any time slot other than when the sermon usually takes place (Tuesday night, during a special Sunday luncheon, etc.). (Because a- nothing should take the place of the preaching of God’s Word, and b- you don’t want her or anyone in attendance to be confused that she’s preaching the sermon.)

It would also be fine a woman who’s a member of the church and does sidewalk counseling or volunteers at a crisis pregnancy center or even a woman who has had an abortion (and repented of it) to speak about her experiences in a “personal testimony” sort of way.

But when it’s time for biblical instruction and admonition from the Scriptures about abortion, that’s the pastor’s job.

Additional Resource:

Rock Your Role FAQs (#7,14)


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.

Mailbag

The Mailbag: Potpourri (Bible study for the lost, good preachers, new Christian witnessing, Catholic statues, “The Chosen” update)

Welcome to another “potpourri” edition of The Mailbag, where I give short(er) answers to several questions rather than a long answer to one question. I also like to take the opportunity in these potpourri editions to let new readers know about my comments/e-mail/messages policy. I’m not able to respond individually to most e-mails and messages, so here are some helpful hints for getting your questions answered more quickly. Remember, the search bar (at the very bottom of each page) can be a helpful tool!

In these potpourri editions of The Mailbag, I’d also like to address the three questions I’m most commonly asked:

“Do you know anything about [Christian pastor/teacher/author] or his/her materials? Is he/she doctrinally sound?”

Try these links: 
Popular False Teachers /
 Recommended Bible Teachers / search bar
Is She a False Teacher? 7 Steps to Figuring It Out on Your Own
(Do keep bringing me names, though. If I get enough questions about a particular teacher, I’ll probably write an article on her.)

“Can you recommend a good women’s Bible study?”

No. Here’s why:
The Mailbag: Can you recommend a good Bible study for women/teens/kids?
The Mailbag: “We need to stop relying on canned studies,” doesn’t mean, “We need to rely on doctrinally sound canned studies.”.

“You shouldn’t be warning against [popular false teacher] for [X,Y,Z] reason!”

Answering the Opposition- Responses to the Most Frequently Raised Discernment Objections


My daughter who is not yet saved wants to do a Christian book study with a friend. I am just thrilled that she even has that desire. She is thinking about doing one of Lysa TerKeurst’s books who I know not to have solid theology (among other problems with her).  Could you suggest someone who would be a good option?

 

I’m so glad your daughter seems to be gravitating toward wanting to read something biblical. If it were one of my children, I would be excited too. Thank you for protecting her from false doctrine.

But to answer your question, no. I’m afraid I can’t. I don’t recommend what I call “canned” Bible study books, DVDs, etc., on principle, even (maybe especially) for unsaved people. You can read more at the articles linked under “Can you recommend a good women’s Bible study?” above, but here’s the gist of my reasoning:

• Modern evangelicalism and Christian retailing has conditioned most Christians to believe that if they’re going to study the Bible, they have to use a pre-fab, packaged study instead of simply studying straight from the text of Scripture. There are a lot of super, doctrinally sound Christians who have no problem recommending these kinds of (solid) studies, and that’s great, but if I have to be the lone voice crying in the wilderness that we need to stop being dependent on Bible study books, I’m going to be that gal. And if I’m going to put my money where my mouth is, I can’t, in good conscience, recommend study books.

• The overwhelming majority of “canned” Bible studies, especially the ones written for women, contain false doctrine. Trying to find a “good” one is like trying to find three grains of salt in a bowl full of sugar. It’s much more efficient to recommend something we all know is completely trustworthy and inerrant – the Bible itself.

• God’s Word is sufficient for our every need. For thousands of years, people have gotten saved and sanctified simply by reading Scripture, and we need to get back to that.

• Most Christians (including me) who have done both book studies and studying straight from Scripture will tell you that studying straight from Scripture is far more rewarding. It creates a greater intimacy with God, the Holy Spirit illumines and applies Scripture to your life in the way you need it, and you learn so much more. It’s like the difference between watching someone else search for buried treasure, and searching for it, and finding it, yourself.

So here are a few options I’d recommend for your daughter instead of someone else’s book:

Look through some of the studies I’ve written at the Bible Studies tab in the blue menu bar at the top of this page to see if any of them would be of interest to her. My studies are designed to teach women how to study the Bible for themselves, so that once they get the hang of it, they won’t have to depend on anyone else’s materials any more, even mine.

At that same tab is a list of Bible reading plans. Your daughter probably isn’t ready for a “read through the Bible in a year” plan, but there are several links to much shorter plans – some as short as 1-3 weeks – that will take her through a topic or a book of the Bible.

Order her a gospel of John from Pocket Testament League, and encourage her to read about a chapter a day (or whatever she’s comfortable with). PTL actually uses the book of John as an evangelism tool. They have all sorts of unique designs and translations (I would recommend ESV), and a small, groovy looking little “booklet” might be less intimidating to her than the whole Bible. You can read more here.


Love your blog! I have read your list on ministries or preachers you write on and don’t recommend. I highly admire this. I would like to find ones that I could watch that you do recommend. Do you have a list of men preachers that would fall under this category with a thumbs up? Also any women’s Bible studies I could follow online as well.

Thank you so much for your kind words. I’m glad you’re finding the blog helpful.

If you’ve read the Popular False Teachers and Unbiblical Trends tab, you were soooooo close to finding what you were looking for! :0) Right next to that tab (in the blue menu bar at the top of this page) is a tab entitled Recommended Bible Teachers. You’ll find lots of great pastors and teachers there.

As I mentioned above, I highly recommend you study straight from the Bible itself. If you need a little help getting started, the (online) studies I’ve written will teach you how to do that. You can find them at the Bible Studies tab (also in the blue menu bar at the top of this page). Our current study is Ezekiel.


I’m recently saved, and I feel compelled to share the Gospel with a co-worker but I hesitate because of my past reputation at work. I worry that I will have no credibility. Yes, they’ve all seen the change in me but they’re waiting for it to ‘wear off’. Should I wait until I’m farther removed from my sin to share the gospel with him? Wait until they’re all satisfied that I’ve changed and am not going back to my old ways? Wait for someone else to step up and share with him? He has weighed heavily on my mind as of late and I want him to have the same living hope that I have experienced and to understand the importance of forgiveness. 

Great question! I’m so thrilled you want to share the gospel with someone!

You’ve explained in your e-mail to me that the nature of your relationship to this co-worker isn’t going to be problematic, but for any readers wondering about sharing the gospel with men, please see #11 here and always exercise wisdom and caution.

Take a moment to read the story of the woman at the well. She was zero minutes removed from her sin – in fact she may not have truly been a Believer yet – when she ran back to town urging her friends and neighbors, “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?”.

Or the blind man Jesus healed: “The man called Jesus made mud and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed and received my sight…One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.”

Honey, that’s you. You’re just one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread. You don’t have to be perfect and you don’t have to have all the answers, because you’re not the one who’s going to save this guy. Jesus is. He is perfect. He has all the answers. It’s OK to tell your co-worker that you’re new at all this and still learning…but tell Him about Jesus.

Tell him how Jesus washed all your sins away. Tell him how Jesus set you free and gave you peace. Tell him you want him to have the same living hope that you have experienced and to understand the importance of forgiveness. Tell him.


I just read your article about Nativity scenes, and I agree with you. This article makes me wonder, however: I’m curious about your take on the statues and various sacraments that are typical in a Catholic church. Do you think there is a line that has been crossed with such things, or do you think it depends on how an individual approaches and uses these items?

This is a super question – I really like the way you’re thinking this through!

Yes, a line has been crossed in Catholicism, but it’s much more foundational than most Christians realize. There’s no way to gently and, at the same time, clearly say this for those who may not be aware, so I’ll just say it: Catholicism is not Christianity. Even though it utilizes the Bible and Christian terminology, much like Mormonism, It is a different religion at its very core.

There are many reasons for this, and idol (statues) worship, as you’ve touched on, is only one of them. Positioning Mary as co-redemptrix with Christ is blasphemy. Purgatory blatantly contradicts both Christ’s sufficient atonement for sin and outright rejects Scripture’s teaching on God’s judgment after death. Re-crucifying Christ in the Mass along with transubstatiation is an abomination. Praying to (or in or through or with or whatever conjunction they want to use) dead people (the “saints” and Mary) is patently unbiblical. Infused righteousness rejects the biblical teaching of imputed righteousness. The teaching that one must be baptized into the Catholic “church” in order to be saved is anti-gospel.The Pope is not infallible as proved by all of the above and more. And don’t get me started on the Catholic “church’s” scores of brutal murders and imprisonments of Bible believing, Bible preaching, Bible translating, and Bible owning Christians during the Protestant Reformation. I could go on and on.*

But possibly the most egregious heresy Catholicism teaches is that anyone who believes this…

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:8-9

…is anathema – excommunicated from Catholicism and therefore damned to an eternity in Hell. This is just one of the many anathemas from the Council of Trent, which convened in 1545 to codify Catholic doctrine and repudiate Protestantism:

If any one saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified; in such wise as to mean, that nothing else is required to co-operate in order to the obtaining the grace of Justification, and that it is not in any way necessary, that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will; let him be anathema.

According to Catholicism’s own doctrines, anyone who believes what the Bible says about being saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, and not by these plus accompanying works, is damned. If that’s not “another gospel,” I don’t know what is.

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. Galatians 1:6-9

So, to answer your question a little more directly, there is no right or “biblical” way for a Catholic to use statues, relics, sacraments, or any other accoutrements of Catholicism because the entire system is corrupt, anti-biblical, and is not Christianity.

Here are a few more resources that may be helpful if you’d like to read more:

Catholic Questions at Got Questions

Roman Catholicism at CARM

List of excommunicable offences from the Council of Trent at Wikipedia (I know, I know, it’s Wikipedia, but as of the date I’m posting this, it’s a pretty decent article.)

*Invariably, when I (or any other Protestant for that matter) address a well established doctrine or practice of Catholicism and how/why it isn’t biblical, a Catholic will argue: “That’s not what we really believe!”. If you’re a Catholic and you’re about to make a comment along those lines, here’s my response: That’s what your own “church” teaches, so it IS what Catholics are supposed to believe. If you don’t believe your own “church’s” doctrine, why are you still a Catholic?

Thank you so much for your ministry. I am truly blessed by it. In regards to The Chosen, I was listening to Todd Friel on Wretched and he said something very interesting about the producer. I have attached the link.

Thank you so much for bringing this to my attention. For those who might be unfamiliar, The Chosen is a made for streaming “TV show” drama on the life and ministry of Jesus, produced by Dallas Jenkins. It premiered earlier this year, the week before Easter. At that time, I wrote a review of the series, which you can read here if you like. I have added the following update to that article:

Update (7/12/20): Thank you to a kind reader who brought to my attention a recent interview of Dallas on a Mormon YouTube channel. Dallas seems to believe that Mormonism and Catholicism are both Christianity. You can listen to the short version (with Todd Friel’s commentary) here (starting at 45:00) or the entire interview here. You may also wish to compare (fairly, objectively, and discerningly) Dallas’ comments in the interview with his comments (below) at the end of this article. It is one thing to use the products and services of a non-Christian company. It is another matter to personally believe, as a Christian, that false religions are Christianity and that adherents of those religions are brothers and sisters in Christ. If these revelations of Dallas’ beliefs prevent you from watching The Chosen, that is certainly understandable, and I would encourage you not to sin against your conscience by watching it. However, these revelations do not somehow magically change the actual content of the episodes, nor my evaluation of said content. In other words, I biblically evaluated what I saw in the episodes, so the remainder of this review stands.


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.

Mailbag

The Mailbag: Potpourri (Paul’s gospel, National repentance, Pastor search committee, Pastor’s wife teaching men)

Welcome to another “potpourri” edition of The Mailbag, where I give short(er) answers to several questions rather than a long answer to one question. I also like to take the opportunity in these potpourri editions to let new readers know about my comments/e-mail/messages policy. I’m not able to respond individually to most e-mails and messages, so here are some helpful hints for getting your questions answered more quickly. Remember, the search bar (at the very bottom of each page) can be a helpful tool!

In these potpourri editions of The Mailbag, I’d also like to address the three questions I’m most commonly asked:

“Do you know anything about [Christian pastor/teacher/author] or his/her materials? Is he/she doctrinally sound?”

Try these links: 
Popular False Teachers /
 Recommended Bible Teachers / search bar
Is She a False Teacher? 7 Steps to Figuring It Out on Your Own
(Do keep bringing me names, though. If I get enough questions about a particular teacher, I’ll probably write an article on her.)

“Can you recommend a good women’s Bible study?”

No. Here’s why:
The Mailbag: Can you recommend a good Bible study for women/teens/kids?
The Mailbag: “We need to stop relying on canned studies,” doesn’t mean, “We need to rely on doctrinally sound canned studies.”.

“You shouldn’t be warning against [popular false teacher] for [X,Y,Z] reason!”

Answering the Opposition- Responses to the Most Frequently Raised Discernment Objections


Didn’t the risen Christ give Paul the Gospel of salvation by grace through faith? Paul called it “my gospel”? Is the Great Commission the same as Paul’s gospel? Thanks!

Not exactly, but it’s great that you’re noticing those little details as you study God’s Word!

“Paul’s” gospel…

Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, 2 Timothy 2:8

…is the biblical gospel of salvation that Paul preached – the good news of what Christ did to save sinners through His death, burial, and resurrection – and the call to repentance and belief.

The Great Commission…

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20

…is the church’s (and individual Christians’) “marching orders” to share that gospel with sinners and disciple them to maturity in Christ. It is God’s main purpose for the church.

So, in a nutshell, the gospel is what Christ did. The Great Commission is what we’re supposed to do with the gospel.


I got into quite the discussion with people today who feel that prayers of repentance for our national sins are not only unnecessary, but an affront to them because THEY did nothing wrong. I cited Daniel who prayed prayers of repentance for his nation, though he led a righteous life. They got all confused with Old Testament sacrificial law and that Christ was the ultimate sacrifice so we only need repent of our OWN sins. Could you address this, please?

Well…depending on exactly what they were saying, they may have been at least partly right. We can certainly pray that God will lead individuals in our nation to repent of whatever sins they may have committed, but we cannot repent on behalf of another person or of a nation. God does not hold us responsible for the sins of others, and we cannot repent for the sins of others. (see Ezekiel 18).

If you’re referring to Daniel’s prayer in Daniel 9, if you’ll read very carefully, you’ll notice he is confessing the sin of his people, lamenting over the sin of his people, and asking God to pour out His mercy on his people despite their sin, but he is not repenting on their behalf.

It is impossible to repent for someone else’s (let alone a whole nation’s) sin because repenting is more than:

  • confessing that sin has occurred,
  • admitting that someone is guilty for having committed that sin,
  • feeling sorrowful over sin,
  • asking forgiveness for sin, or
  • asking God to be merciful toward the sinner.

Repentance means to turn away from your sin, to forsake it, to stop doing it because you want to obey God instead. Although I’m sure he wished he could have, Daniel could not turn away from someone else’s (the nation of Israel’s) sin. And, he specifically says in verse 13: “we have not entreated the favor of the Lord our God, turning from our iniquities”.

Another thing to remember is that Daniel is interceding for God’s covenant people. They belonged to Him. They had agreed to follow Him. America is not in a covenant relationship with God. For a Christian today, interceding for the church and praying that God would lead Christians to repentance would be more analogous to what Daniel was doing.


We lost our pastor almost a year ago and are struggling to find a new one. Do you have any suggestions of where we could send the information about our church and the position in hopes of finding a suitable candidate?

I would suggest sending your information to:

The Master’s Seminary’s Pastor Search page

Founders Ministries Minister Search page

Expositors Seminary

I hope you’ll find a wonderful, godly pastor very soon!

Now, although this might not be possible for your particular church, I would like to throw something out there for the consideration of any pastor or church member who might be reading this. The most biblical model of leadership for the local church is that it be led by a plurality of elders.¹ For that primary reason, I would encourage every church that doesn’t already have this leadership structure in place to look into it and give strong, prayerful consideration to transitioning into leadership by a plurality of elders.

However, secondarily, there are practical benefits to your church being led by a plurality of elders, and avoiding being “pastorless” is a huge one. My own church recently welcomed a new pastor after being without one for two full years. That two years was a struggle. The interim pastor was a stranger to us and we were strangers to him. He did not know the ins and outs of life at our church or the strengths and weaknesses of our church. As affable as our interim pastor was, it was always in the back of everyone’s mind that he was temporary. This was not our pastor and everyone knew it. And then there were some other issues that arose during his tenure that awaited the new pastor’s arrival.

When a church is led by a plurality of elders, many of these issues can be avoided or lessened. When a lead teaching elder dies, moves, or steps down for whatever reason, there is, ideally, already another elder available to step in and take over. This elder already knows the church and the people and they know him. There’s no need to assemble and train a pastor search committee, launch a nationwide search, wait on resumes to arrive, interview candidates, present them to the church for a vote, and then hire a stranger about whom you know virtually nothing except what’s on his resume and whatever he says in his interview. The transition from elder to elder is smoother and immediate with little upheaval and relational trauma to the church body.

Just something to think about.

¹I’m not saying that churches which aren’t elder-led are apostate or intrinsically sinful, I’m just saying that if you want to get as close to the biblical model as possible, go with a plurality of elders.

I am a relatively new (about one year old –  but growing in discernment!) Christian, and I attend a small Baptist church of about 15 people in the remote area in which I live. The pastor’s wife leads both men and women in a “Bible” study group using popular (biblically questionable at best, such as Max Lucado) books instead of reading Scripture. I choose not to attend these studies, but because the church is so small, my absence is obvious and noticed. People comment that they have not seen me at “Bible” study. 

Everything else that happens in the church, the sermons, worship, prayer, are all on point biblically, thus far. My pastor is a godly man as far as I can tell, so my only issue to date is these co-ed, led by a woman, “not-Bible” studies. Should I take my concerns to my pastor? I’m already on a bit of shaky ground with the pastor’s wife. I’m reluctant to upset the apple cart any more. However, if the right thing to do is to address it and deal with potential consequences (shunning, whatever) then I want to do the right thing by my Lord and Savior. How would you guide me in this situation?

I know this is a really difficult situation to be in and I’m sorry it’s making you uncomfortable at church. Yes, when we see sin in the camp, we must speak up, so you should begin preparing to address this situation. Normally, I encourage women to go to the person most directly in charge of the issue first, which in this case would be the pastor’s wife, but I’m guessing that if you’re on “shaky ground” with her it’s because you’ve already tried to address this with her. The next step is to go to the pastor.

I would encourage you to spend a little time studying through the book of Esther, realizing that she was in a somewhat similar situation to yours: God revealed to her an ungodly situation that would harm His people, and she – at great personal risk – had to go to the man in charge and implore him to right the situation, not knowing how he would respond. It could be that God has specifically placed you in this church “for such a time as this”.

Notice that Esther asked that her people be gathered to pray for her. If you have any like-minded friends or loved ones who will pray with you as you prepare your heart to talk to your pastor, that would be beneficial. I have already prayed for you, and I am asking everyone reading this to stop and take a moment to pray for you as well.

If the pastor tells you you’re wrong or doesn’t rectify the situation, and there’s another, better church you could join, even if it’s not as convenient as this one, prayerfully consider moving your membership there. If, as you said, everything else at your current church really is doctrinally sound, and you have no other options for a doctrinally sound church to attend that’s within achievable driving distance of your house, my counsel to you would be to stay at this church, continue not to attend the “not-Bible” study, and fervently pray for God to change the hearts of your pastor and his wife.

If you stay and people continue to say, “We missed you at ‘Bible’ study!” all you have to say is, “Thank you!” or “It’s nice to be missed,” or something like that. I can’t speak for everyone, but when I say, “I missed you at _____,” to someone, it’s not a demand to know why she wasn’t there, it’s to let her know that I love her and missed fellowshipping with her. Hopefully, that’s all your fellow church members mean by saying that. If a nosy Nelly asks why you weren’t there, keep in mind that you’re not required to give her that information just because she asked. You can say something like, “I have a conflict and can’t attend,” which is truthful (you have a biblical conflict and can’t, in good conscience, attend), yet gives no one the opportunity to say that you were gossiping or trying to stir up division in the church. If she continues to pry, look her dead in the eye and keep repeating, “I have a conflict and can’t attend” until she comes to her senses and realizes it’s none of her business why you weren’t there.

Here are some resources I hope will help you:

Rock Your Role: Jill in the Pulpit

The Mailbag: How should I approach my church leaders about a false teacher they’re introducing?

Searching for a new 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.

Mailbag

The Mailbag: Potpourri (Quickievangelism, the CRCNA, JMac on the mark of the beast…)

Welcome to another “potpourri” edition of The Mailbag, where I give short(er) answers to several questions rather than a long answer to one question. I also like to take the opportunity in these potpourri editions to let new readers know about my comments/e-mail/messages policy. I’m not able to respond individually to most e-mails and messages, so here are some helpful hints for getting your questions answered more quickly. Remember, the search bar can be a helpful tool!

In these potpourri editions of The Mailbag, I’d also like to address the three questions I’m most commonly asked:

“Do you know anything about [Christian pastor/teacher/author] or his/her materials? Is he/she doctrinally sound?”

Try these links: 
Popular False Teachers /
 Recommended Bible Teachers / search bar
Is She a False Teacher? 7 Steps to Figuring It Out on Your Own
(Do keep bringing me names, though. If I get enough questions about a particular teacher, I’ll probably write an article on her.)

“Can you recommend a good women’s Bible study?”

No. Here’s why:
The Mailbag: Can you recommend a good Bible study for women/teens/kids?
The Mailbag: “We need to stop relying on canned studies,” doesn’t mean, “We need to rely on doctrinally sound canned studies.”.

“You shouldn’t be warning against [popular false teacher] for [X,Y,Z] reason!”

Answering the Opposition- Responses to the Most Frequently Raised Discernment Objections


Yesterday at the store I had a hard time with witnessing to someone. I’m pretty sure it’s because I was only there for a total of 3 minutes. My question is, how do I witness to someone in such a short time?

It brings me so much joy to hear that you are out there sharing the gospel!

I would recommend using tracts. That way if your time with the person gets cut short, you can give them the gospel “to go”.

I use Bezeugen Tract Club tracts. If you join their “tract club”, they will send you 30 free tracts a month. They are the size of a business card, so they’re really convenient to carry in your purse.

Living Waters also has a great selection of tracts. And, while they’re not exactly tracts, Wretched has some very good online evangelism resources and is currently offering a free evangelistic booklet (you pay only shipping/handling) for giveaways at outreach events.

Keep up the great work of sharing the good news of the gospel!


Is the Christian Reformed Church a church that teaches sound doctrine?

It’s always good to do our due diligence when considering a new church or denomination, so this is a super question.

The Christian Reformed Church in North America is a rather small denomination (230,000 people in membership) that I’m not very familiar with, so I went poking around their website.

There are a lot of things that look very encouraging, doctrinally about the CRCNA. They affirm the Apostles’, Nicene, and Athanasian Creeds as well as the Belgic Confession, the Heidelberg Catechism, and the Canons of Dort. The plan of salvation presented on the website is biblical. In fact, most of what I read at the CRCNA website seemed solid.

However, a few red flags jumped out at me as I explored the site:

🚩 The heavy emphasis on “justice”. There’s something about “justice” on nearly every page of the site. Certainly Christians should uphold biblical justice, but many churches and denominations today have bought into the secular social justice movement, which is decidedly unbiblical, as it promotes feminism, normalization of sexual perversion, and unbiblical methods of addressing issues like racism, immigration, poverty, etc. It appears that the CRCNA at least leans in the direction of the social justice movement.

🚩 The role of women in the church. The CRCNA’s position reads: 

All congregations in the Christian Reformed Church in North America may allow women to serve in the office of minister, elder, deacon, or commissioned pastor. The CRC recognizes that there are two different perspectives and convictions on this issue, both of which honor the Scriptures as the infallible Word of God…

This is unbiblical, not to mention self-contradictory. Either Scripture allows women to serve in these capacities or it does not. (And it clearly does not.) Both positions cannot be true at the same time. If a church adopts the unbiblical position, it is not “honoring the Scriptures as the infallible Word of God.”

🚩 Some of the CRCNA’s position statements have a “squishy”, progressive, or blatantly unbiblical tilt rather than an unflagging commitment to Scripture. For example:

Creation care (environmentalism): “We are compelled to address human-induced climate change as an ethical, social justice, and religious issue…”

Ecumenicity (unity with other churches): “[The CRCNA] also wishes to engage churches of other traditions such as…the Roman Catholic Church, and Orthodox churches.” (Catholicism and the major Orthodox traditions hold many unbiblical views including an unbiblical soteriology. Scripture forbids Christians from unifying with such organizations.)

Homosexuality: “Homosexuality [is] a condition of personal identity in which a person is sexually oriented toward persons of the same sex…for which the person may bear only a minimal responsibility…The church should do everything in its power to help persons with same-sex orientation and give them support toward healing and wholeness.” (Homosexuality is not a “condition of personal identity” any more than adultery or thievery is. It is a sin that the person is just as responsible for as the adulterer or thief is for his sin. We would not speak in terms of “support toward healing and wholeness” for an adulterer or a thief, we would speak in terms of repentance and mortification of sin, just as we should speak when someone’s sin of choice is homosexuality.)

Pentecostalism (charismaticism, sign gifts, etc.): “Acknowledge the gift of prophecy today…Think of prayer as a dialogue, not a monologue, and be attentive to what God is saying as you pray…be willing to engage in scripturally sound deliverance ministry against demonic powers…”

If you are considering attending or joining one of the CRCNA churches which does not allow women to serve in unbiblical roles, I would recommend setting up an appointment with the pastor to carefully and seriously discuss these issues at length, along with any other questions you may have. If you have the option of joining with a non-CRCNA church that has a more solidly biblical stance on these issues than your local CRCNA church, I would encourage you to go with the non-CRCNA church.


John MacArthur has said, that it’s possible to take the mark of the beast and still be saved? I notice that you endorse him, do you believe this is correct? 

I think a lot of people have stretched what Dr. MacArthur said wildly out of context and out of proportion. So the first issue here is to make sure you have a clear understanding of what he actually said and meant from Dr. MacArthur himself, not from random bloggers or people on YouTube. You can read Dr. MacArthur’s position statement on this issue (written by spokesman Phil Johnson) here.

As for my opinion on Dr. MacArthur’s position, I think it’s biblical and well-reasoned, but this particular issue – as with most detail-oriented eschatological issues – is not something I feel compelled to expend much time and energy on. When Christ returns, events will unfold as laid out in Scripture. Until then, we have a limited understanding of what will transpire and the order in which things will transpire, and much of what constitutes eschatology today is educated guessing. I think it is much more fruitful to spend our time evangelizing the lost and discipling the saved so that the church will be spiritually ready for the return of Christ. Whatever may happen in the days surrounding His return, we know that none of His sheep will be lost.


Since my last “potpourri” edition of The Mailbag, I’ve heard back from two of the readers whose questions I addressed, and I wanted to share their responses with you:

From the discouraged husband I asked you to pray for:

I am extremely encouraged by the people who are stepping forward and praying for me…Thank you for your encouragement and prayers. They reach into the darkest places and are invaluable.

From the lady needing help with her nursing home ministry:

Thank you Michelle for answering, I’ve been thinking of finding a church. I have to be truthful, it wasn’t the answer I was hoping for, but it is the answer I think I needed.


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.

Movies

Movie Tuesday Double Feature: Hearing His Voice ~and~ New Life In Christ

Note:
I apologize, but I need to temporarily suspend “Project Breakdown“.
This project will be completed at a later date.


It’s a Movie Tuesday double feature! Get out the Kleenex and get ready for a heaping helping of encouragement. These movies will do something most others can’t: introduce you to some brothers and sisters in Christ whom you’ll meet in Heaven. So get comfy and gather the family around for a night of joy!

“Imagine how dark it would be to live out of reach of the Gospel and any of the hope that it brings; to only know Satan’s rule and fear of the spirits, an endless and terrifying cycle of appeasement. Imagine if murder, self-harm, and deception were a part of everyday life.

Hearing His Voice documents the story of what happened when a people group just like this encountered God’s Word for the first time. They were forgotten by the world in the jungles of Asia-Pacific until 20 years ago when a Christian pilot spotted them in the foliage below.

Watch Hearing His Voice to stand in awe of the power of God’s Word as it transforms a desperate people into a joyful community. The hero of this story is not the pilot, or the missionaries, or even a specific evangelism strategy… it is God alone and his precious, everlasting Word.”

Hearing His Voice is a production of Access Truth“We develop training resources for making the truth of the Bible accessible across cultures.”

This year, 2019, marks John MacArthur’s fiftieth year in ministry at Grace Community Church. On February 10, GCC celebrated his many years of faithful service. And as a little homage here at the blog, I thought you’d enjoy this movie featuring Dr. MacArthur, Jubilant Sykes, and members of GCC. All the way from 1979, here’s New Life in Christ.