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.

Uncategorized

Blog Orientation for New Readers and Old Friends

I try to run this article every so often to orient new followers (and old friends who haven’t yet explored all the nooks and crannies of the blog) to the various features and information available here. I hope you’ll find these resources helpful.

Welcome Tab If you haven’t had a chance to read the Welcome & FAQs- Start Here tab in the blue menu bar at the top of this page, it’s a good way to get acclimated to the blog quickly. You’ll learn some fast facts about me, my comment and e-mail policies, and more.

Comments, E-mails, Social Media Messages If you’ve sent me an e-mail, submitted a comment on one of my articles, or sent me a private message on social media and I haven’t responded to the message or published the comment, this is why: E-mail, Messages, and Blog Comments Policy (Plus additional helpful information) (A little note to those who have submitted a church for inclusion on my “Reader Recommended Churches” list in the past few weeks: Thank you so much for your patience. I promise I haven’t been ignoring you, I’ve just been swamped lately, and it does take a bit of time for me to vet them. You’re at the top of my “to do” list.)

The search bar is your friend. If you want to know my take on something or whether I’ve written on a particular person or topic, the search bar is the best place to start and much faster than e-mailing or messaging me. The search bar is located at the very bottom of every blog page. 

The tabs at the top are your friends, too. The tabs in the blue menu bar at the top of the blog are designed to provide quick information to many of the questions I’m most frequently asked.

“What do you think of Teacher X?” Probably the largest volume of questions I get is readers wanting to know my take on particular teachers and ministries. I would love to be able to respond immediately to each one, but it takes a tremendous amount of time to research these folks. Because I know you need answers right away, and because every Christian should know how to research teachers for herself (you should never just blindly take anyone’s word {including mine} that someone is a false teacher), if you can’t find the information you’re looking for on a certain teacher at the Popular False Teachers & Unbiblical Trends tab at the top of this page or by using the search bar, I’ve written this article to help you research teachers for yourself: Is She a False Teacher? 7 Steps to Figuring it Out on Your Own.

“Discernment is for doody-heads!” I understand it’s not easy to be told that a pastor/teacher/author you’ve grown to love is a false teacher. I’ve been in that position myself. But Christians are people of the Book. That means we measure everything by Scripture, not by our personal preferences, feelings, or opinions. I’ve written numerous articles on teachers and ministries which can be found under the Popular False Teachers & Unbiblical Trends tab (and, just a few of the many awesome teachers out there are under the Recommended Bible Teachers tab). I don’t warn against false teachers because I’m a hater. I do it because it’s Scriptural and because I love the Christian women who are being victimized – often without even knowing it – by false teachers. I tend to hear the same objections to my discernment articles over and over and over again. Answering the Opposition- Responses to the Most Frequently Raised Discernment Objections answers, from Scripture, the objections people raise to my discernment articles. (I don’t answer e-mails or publish comments that are answered by this article.)

Church Ladies Complementarianism can be difficult to navigate in a feminist world and an increasingly feminist church. You might find my Rock Your Role article series helpful, since it deals with the Scriptures governing women’s roles in the church. I keep Rock Your Role FAQs updated, so long time readers might be interested in giving that one a re-read.

Searching for a new church? It can be really hard to find a doctrinally sound church these days, and I’d like to do everything I can to help. Check out the Searching for a new church? tab in the blue menu bar at the top of this page. You’ll find tons of resources on what to look for in a good church, several church search engines, and churches recommended by readers.

Podcast Need something to listen to? Amy Spreeman and I have a weekly podcast called A Word Fitly SpokenClick the Podcast tab in the blue menu bar at the top of this page to check it out.

Conferences/Events Want to see if I’ll be speaking at an event near you? Check out the Calendar of Events at my Speaking Engagements tab in the blue menu bar at the top of this page for more information.

Speaking Engagements/Podcasts I’d love to come speak at your Christian women’s conference, to the ladies of your church, or on your Christian podcast. Check out my Speaking Engagements tab in the blue menu bar at the top of this page for more information. I’ve got lots of open slots on my 2022 calendar, so check it out and drop me an e-mail.

Financial Support I don’t receive any income or compensation from blogging. But if you or your family have been blessed by my work and you’d like to be a blessing to me and my family in return on an ongoing, occasional, or one time basis, please click here.

Podcast Appearances

No Trash, Just Truth Podcast Guest Appearance

I recently had the pleasure of chatting with Rose Spiller and Christine Paxon of Proverbs 9:10 Ministries on their delightfully named No Trash, Just Truth podcast – “taking out the trash of false teaching and replacing it with biblical truth”.

Listen in (or watch and listen above) as we chat about the Old Testament, Andy Stanley, Bible study, evangelism, a balanced view of the role of women, and more!

Check out the Proverbs 9:10 website, and find all their social media links so you can give them a follow. Also, be sure to subscribe to the Proverbs 9:10 YouTube channel so you’ll never miss an episode of No Trash, Just Truth, or add it to your queue on your favorite podcast platform.

Articles / resources mentioned or touched on in the episode:

A Word Fitly Spoken Podcast

Searhing for a new church? (always in the blue menu bar at the top of the blog)

Andy Stanley

6 Reasons You Need to Stay Hitched to the Old Testament

Ezekiel Bible Study

The Sermon on the Mount Bible Study

Sisters Are Part of the Family of God, Too!


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!

Podcast Appearances

Sharing the Journey Podcast Guest Appearance

Last week I had a wonderful time interviewing with Melissa Morris on the very first episode of her Sharing the Journey podcast. Listen in (and watch!) as we chat about biblical womanhood, Beth Moore, discernment, and how women can and should serve the local church.

We also talked a bit about the women’s conference I’ll be speaking at this fall at Melissa’s church. It’s going to be on the topic of biblical womanhood, and we hope you can make it. Here’s the info (from my Speaking Engagements tab):

October 22-23- Women’s Conference,
Pop-Up Church in Faber, Virginia.
(This conference will be open to women in the surrounding
areas, but you must contact the church directly for details.)

You can subscribe to Pop-Up Church’s YouTube channel to catch future episodes of Sharing the Journey. And be sure to check out the Sharing the Journey website, too.

Articles / resources mentioned or touched on in the interview:

A Word Fitly Spoken Podcast

Bye-Bye Beth: What Beth Moore’s Split with the SBC Means

Living Proof You Should Follow Beth (no) Moore (includes AWFS podcast episode links)

Is She a False Teacher? 7 Steps to Figuring it Out on Your Own

Has Beth Moore only recently drifted, or has she always been false? by Elizabeth Prata (My apologies to Elizabeth for mangling the title of her article during the interview!)

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

Putting on the “You Can!” of Complementarianism

Unforbidden Fruits: 3 Ways Women MUST Lead and Teach the Church


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, Ministry

Throwback Thursday ~ Mary and Martha and Jesus and Women’s Ministry

Originally published March 11, 2016

mary martha jesus womens ministry

You remember the story. Jesus comes to Mary and Martha’s house. Martha’s Pinteresting up the place while Mary sits at Jesus’ feet to listen to Him teach. Martha gripes to Jesus that Mary should help her and Jesus says no because it’s better for her to listen to Him than fold napkins into the shape of swans or whatever. Moral of the story- Martha needs to relax and not let other things distract her from Jesus.

That’s a good, true, and important takeaway from this passage, and one that we would all do well to heed.

But did you ever stop to think that Mary and Martha aren’t the main characters in this story? Jesus is. Jesus is the main character in every Bible story, so our primary focus should always be on Him: what He said and did and was like.

What was Jesus teaching that day at Mary and Martha’s house? The passage doesn’t tell us the topic He was speaking about, but we are privy to a very important lesson He imparted through the scenario with Mary and Martha. A lesson about the way God loves and values women.

Remember how women were generally regarded at that time? They didn’t have much more value than livestock, furniture, or a man’s other possessions. They were considered intellectually inferior, they weren’t formally educated, and their legal and social standing were often tenuous at best. They could not go beyond the Court of the Women at the temple for worship. There was even a traditional prayer Jewish men recited in which they thanked God for not making them a woman, a Gentile, or a slave. Women were low man on the totem pole, so to speak.

And that’s where we find Martha. She wasn’t doing anything wrong that day. In fact, in her culture, she was doing everything right. If anything, Mary would have been the one viewed as being in the wrong because the teaching was for the men, and it was the women’s job to bustle around taking care of all the hospitality duties. Martha knew this. Mary knew this. Jesus knew this. Everyone else present knew this. Martha must have wondered why someone hadn’t yet shooed Mary out of the living room and into the kitchen. So her statement to Jesus in verse 40, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me,” was probably not just, “I need another pair of hands,” but also a bit of, “Mary is forgetting her place. This isn’t what proper women do.”

Oh yes it is.

Whatever else He might have been lecturing about that day, that was one of the lessons Jesus taught Mary, Martha, the rest of their guests, and Christendom at large.

Women aren’t second class citizens in the Kingdom of God. We are precious and valuable to Him. He has important, worthwhile work for us to do – His way – in the body of Christ. And He wants us trained in His word in order to carry out that work.

How did Jesus teach that lesson?

First, He allowed Mary to stay and receive His teaching (39). (We see this echoed in God’s instruction to the church in 1 Timothy 2:11: “LET a woman learn…”) It hadn’t slipped Jesus’ mind that she was sitting there. He could have told her to leave, but He had no intention of doing so. Jesus wanted Mary there. He wanted to teach her and to have her learn God’s word from Him.

Next, when someone tried to take Mary away from hearing and being trained in God’s word, Jesus – God Himself – answered with a resounding NO. This “will not be taken away from her,” Jesus said. Mary, and Martha too (41), could arrange centerpieces or turn a cookie into a work of art any time or never. But this, the teaching of God’s word, was urgent. Vital. Jesus didn’t want either of them to miss it by focusing on the trivial things they thought they should be pursuing.

And He doesn’t want us to miss it either, ladies.

Jesus pulled women out of the craft room and into the study. Is the women’s ministry at your church trying to pull them back?

Is the women’s events page on your church’s web site filled exclusively with painting parties, fashion shows, ladies’ teas, and scrapbook sessions?

Does your women’s ministry do canned “Bible” studies authored by women who offer nothing but personal stories, experiences, and false doctrine?

Are the Marys in your church who want to sit at the feet of Jesus and hear His word rightly handled and taught being scolded by the Marthas for not staying in their place and embracing the banality the women’s ministry is doling out?

Is this all women are good for in the church- fluff and false doctrine? Jesus didn’t think so.

Let’s have our women’s ministries train women in the full scope of biblical womanhood. Let’s be serious students of God’s word by picking it up and studying it like mature women. Let’s get equipped to teach and disciple other women who are babes in Christ. Let’s share the gospel with the lost. Let’s learn how to train our own children in the Scriptures and be the ones to raise the bar for what the kids at our church are being taught. Let’s roll up our sleeves and get our hands dirty ministering to those who are ill, in prison, lonely, poor, elderly, considering abortion, experiencing crisis; who have wayward children, problems in their marriages, a parent with Alzheimer’s, or have lost a loved one.

Women are worth more and capable of more than the bill of goods they’re being sold by “Christian” retailers suggests. More than cutesy crafts and fairy tales masquerading as biblical teaching. Let’s put the “ministry” – ministry of the Word and ministry to others – back in “women’s ministry.”