Sister to Sister: Another Chance (part 3)

Womens-bible-studySo my good husband took Jerry in a little room and gave him a bottle of water and just chatted (…well, Jerry chatted…for a very long time), while we were about the living water in the next room. With open Bibles in both languages, we studied. Since Maria’s background in Mexico was first in Catholicism and then in a popular denomination, Maria was concerned that she had not found a church that aligned with the Bible as she understood its teachings. So we painstakingly examined what the New Testament says about the church. What would that church look like today?

We started with the names that are given to that church. We saw that the church is called the body in Ephesians 1:22, 23. It’s called the “church of Christ” (meaning the church belonging to Christ) in Romans 16:16 and the “church of God” In I Corinthians 1:2 and other places. It’s called the “church of the firstborn” (Hebrews 12:23), and it’s simply called “the church” in many places. Maria agreed that it just would not be right for human beings to put their own names or even names they would personally assign on the body for which Jesus died, because it’s HIs bride (Ephesians 5: 23). He gets to pick the name.  After all, how would you feel about your husband if he was okay with you wearing someone else’s name?

We spent a while on how and when the church was established in Acts 2. Maria realized quickly that, if your church has a founding date other than Pentecost of 33 AD, it is not the church of the New Testament.

We talked about the founder of the church, Jesus of Nazareth, and how that any church that claims another founder would not truly be the church of the Bible. Maria said that, sadly, “her” church back in Mexico did have another founder and another beginning date. The more we talked, the more she wanted to find the church of the New Testament.

The next thing we talked about was organization. We went to I Timothy 3 and Titus 2 and Maria read for herself. She discovered that there were some very simple and easy-to-understand qualifications that must be met by a plurality of leaders in congregations. Here’s where she solidified her already haunting doubts that a papacy, a board of directors or a national or international council for a church could ever be what God intended. She came to fully realize that, in searching for the church, she must find a group of people who were autonomous…independent from hierarchy…a group which follows the Word as its only creed and its local elders as they feed the flock (Acts 20:28) and rule in matters of judgment.

And we talked about worship. We really talked about worship. We went all the way back to the times of Adam and Eve and talked about how that God IS concerned with the details of worship. We saw how that the whole Cain and Abel incident was precipitated by a lack of faith. That lack of faith resulted in worship that was not according to God’s command (Hebrews 11:4; Romans 10:17). We went to Leviticus ten and noticed the wrath of God poured out on Nadab and Abihu as the new priesthood system began with their presumption that they could offer a non-prescribed fire in their worship. Maria was all over this. It does matter to God that we follow directions for worship! She was thoughtful as we talked about worship and how that it’s never been intended to be an activity that pleases the worshippers. The audience of worship is God and He gets to decide what is acceptable in worship. It dawned on Maria…maybe for the first time…that, just because someone is worshipping does NOT mean that God is pleased with that worship. In fact, much of the book of first Corinthians was written to instruct about proper worship. It matters. She was getting it.

So we noticed how New Testament Christians worshipped. They sang together…simple, a cappella  music (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16). We noticed how that we know, both from scripture and from history, that instrumentation in worship was not a “thing”—never even introduced in worship—till hundreds of years after the church began. We even noticed how leaders in denominations, which are today fully instrumental, were appalled when the organ was first introduced (http://www.bible.ca/ef/topical-historical-quotes-about-music-in-worship.htm) We talked about the prayers of the early church in worship and their weekly observance of the feast commemorating the death of Jesus. We talked about the teaching that happened when they came together. Maria was turning pages in her Spanish Bible. I was hoping Glenn could “visit’ with Jeff for just one more hour because the most important part of our discussion was just about to happen…

Sister to Sister: Figuring Out Godliness–Part 3

Do You Trust Him?

aster_cafev1_600x300I went to lunch recently with a couple of friends from a denomination who wanted to talk about women and ministry. It seems they had a close girlfriend who was an extremely talented speaker. “She’s got this amazing ability to convince and convict non-believers. She’s a better preacher than any man we know” they said. “Don’t you think God expects her to use her talents to speak to people about him? “

The answer is “yes.” Of course there are settings in which all of the talents God has given me can and should be used to His glory. But just because I’ve been blessed with a talent, doesn’t mean there are no divinely imposed restrictions regarding the use of that talent. My husband is a great guitarist, but he does not play the guitar in worship. My daughter is a great cook, but she doesn’t prepare her famous macaroni and cheese for the communion table. I like public speaking. Is that a talent I can use in worship to God?

Let’s look at the passage from I Timothy 2 again:

Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection.
But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.
For Adam was first formed, then Eve.
And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression (I Tim. 2:11-14).

In a context that is addressing worship issues, women are commanded to be silent. They are commanded not to have authority over or dominate a man in worship. Before we address the reasons given in the passage, let’s look at a parallel scripture:

Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says.
And if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is shameful for women to speak in church (I Cor.14:34,35)

The devil has often used the tool of feminism in our society to make God’s people ashamed to adhere to clear teachings of the New Testament about the role of women in worship. After all, this is the 21st century. Women are astronauts, engineers, CEOs and presidential candidates. Can we really continue promoting this antiquated notion that women are to be silent in our worship assemblies?

Romans 12: 2 tells us “…do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…”.  Sometimes when we think of worldliness, we think of immorality. We think of drinking, gambling, reckless affluence, and illicit sex. But being conformed to the world is simply allowing the culture around us to influence us to disobey God.  The teachings about a woman’s role in worship are some of the plainest teachings in the New Testament.  We need help to misunderstand them.  The fact that they are not politically correct in our culture does not change them.

Frequently, I will have someone ask “Couldn’t this teaching have been for Paul’s culture only? Does it necessarily apply to women today?”  In our text, it is almost as if the Holy Spirit anticipated this question. Notice he proceeds to give the reason for the command: “For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.”

Notice that the reason, (what happened in the Garden of Eden), has to do with people far removed from Paul’s culture. In I Peter 3; 4, 5, Peter reiterates the submission principle, in this case speaking about submission of a woman to her husband. Notice the woman who modeled submission for the first century Christian women was Sarah. But Sarah lived a couple of millenniums before the first century.   She was definitely not part of Peter’s culture.  See, the teaching about submission in the church and in the home is not a culture-limited teaching. It began in the Garden and continues to apply in God’s new covenant.  It applies throughout all eras of time and across all cultures.

While I can see many reasons for God’s imposed limitations for women in worship, it’s important to remember that whether or not a command makes sense to me is irrelevant to its importance or the consequences of disobeying it. As a matter of fact, if I choose to obey only the commands that make sense to me, then I am not really trusting God. I’m not really doing what God says because he says it. I’m doing what I think is best. While our faith is a reasonable, logic based faith, it goes a step beyond logic. Faith says “I will obey when it makes sense to me and even when it doesn’t, because I trust that God knows what’s best for my life.”

But remember. The answer to the question about whether I should use my teaching talents in the kingdom was “yes.” So if I cannot teach in worship, then how can I use this talent?

I know a young lady who started a community Bible study for ladies in her hometown. She obtained permission to use a town hall and soon had about 50 women in attendance, half of whom were not members of the Lord’s church. I dare say she was reaching more non-Christians with the gospel than her husband who was the local preacher. But was she in any way having authority over men? No.

I know a teenager who started a weekly devotional for girls via email. Her weekly emails strengthened and blessed the lives of dozens of girls each week. Was she using her teaching talents for the kingdom? Oh, yes. But she was not violating the passage.

My daughter and I often have the chance to speak for ladies groups:  ladies’ days, teen girls’ days, ladies classes at lectureships, girls’ sessions at youth rallies, mother-daughter banquets, youth camps and retreats. All of these are wonderful times of fellowship and learning for all involved, especially us. But in none of these cases are we violating the passage.

It has been my experience and observation that those of us who are concerned about being Titus 2 women (as noted above), evangelizing the lost, and caring for the needy  have far more to do in the kingdom than we can possibly accomplish in this lifetime, without clamoring for positions of leadership that God reserved for men. It has also been my observation that when women step into positions of leadership in worship, important jobs best done by women (the care of their children, hospitality, the guiding of the house) are neglected. But let me say it again: It doesn’t really matter if I can see the wisdom in the prohibition. God said it. Faith is doing what God says to do. Period.

Thursday Night: Tradition in Worship; Are We Too Bound?

DiggingDeepSpecialBoundIt’s quite the topic for discussion as many churches in America today are struggling with just how far to go in worship to appeal to the informal and entertainment-focused culture in which we live. Various churches that have long been settled into formal and predictable worship are frequently solving the dilemma by splitting their assemblies into two well-defined groups each Sunday. One service remains rather formal…some might say “stoic”…while the other service (generally a little later in the day) is characterized by a laid-back casual atmosphere and usually by a full slate of entertainment, accompanied by a full band.

But lots of folks in the younger generation are rejecting organized religion altogether, insisting that true worship to God is not characterized by meeting with a certain group of people at all, but is rather being immersed in the culture…blending in with sinful man, so that the love of Christ introduces people subtly to the love of God and brings them, not necessarily to a new lifestyle, but rather embraces them where they are and allows them to “reflect Christ” in whatever lifestyle they may be found. This kind of “evangelism” is better done in a bar than a church building and better expressed in feeding the homeless than in having Bible studies with them. Thus, rather than bringing people to the church, we “grow” the church from the people. It’s often called the “emerging church”.

So which is it? Is it either? What are we, as God’s people, to do in this culture of tolerance of all lifestyles and worship styles. Does God care about the details of worship or is He only interested in the zeal and sincerity of the believer? Does the Bible speak to this and, if so, is the Word relevant in our practical styles of worship today?

These are some of the questions we will attempt to answer this Thursday night, May 16th at 7 p.m. CST/8 p.m. EST. There are some who believe the exploration of this topic is very important for all of us. Others think it’s only important to delve into the details of scriptural authority if you are personally convicted by conscience that it matters. I hope you can join us this Thursday. I hope you will bring your comments, questions and insights. It will be an interesting discussion. I do not have all the answers, but I do believe God ultimately does. Let’s be humble before Him. Let’s be honest before Him. And let’s study together. I’m praying about this. I hope you will, too.

A Digging Deep Special

Part 2 BoundTradition In Worship: Are We Too Bound?

Listen Now!

Part 1

Part 2

Direct Link on Talkshoe – Digging Deep in God’s Word http://www.talkshoe.com/tc/112808

*This podcast is for women, by women. Also available on iTunes.

Q and A: Kids and the Nursery

babypewHi there– I was wondering if you had written any, or could direct me to, any interesting articles on nursery use during worship. Thank you!

You could ask 100 ladies this question and get answers that are all over the map. Since you asked me, though, let me give you my strong opinions about church nurseries:

  1. Since we don’t find the word or concept in the scriptures, a nursery room in a church building (“church building” being a term that’s also absent from scripture), then a nursery has to be an expedient and not a necessary element of a faithful church. Thus, if the existence of a nursery impedes, rather than enriches faithful worship in a local body, then it should not exist.
  2. Sometimes infants and toddlers impede faithful worship during the time in which parents are training them and it’s a great thing to have a place where parents can go and teach practical worship lessons along with  appropriately punishing when children are purposely disobeying during worship.
  3. I believe it is a mistake that breeds very negative consequences when a nursery or cry room is turned into an alternative to sitting still and being quiet,…i.e. a fun place to go and play while worship is in progress.
  4. I believe a child who is misbehaving in worship and knows he is misbehaving in worship should get a spanking every single time a trip to the nursery is made. ( I know there will be a lot of disagreement here, but I’m pretty settled in my heart about this one.) I’ve seen many children who push the limits of crying, laughing, whining and wiggling in worship, only to stop it all and smile as the parents get up and grab the diaper bag. They have accomplished their purpose of getting to leave the place where they have to be quiet and go to the place where the fun and toys are waiting. This is not good training for worship.
  5. I believe it is sinful for nursery attendants to visit and talk about random topics while they are watching the infants. They should be a part of the worship in every way possible. The sound system should be turned up in the nursery and they should be singing and praying and listening. What a very difficult thing it is for a young nursing mother to enter the nursery with her hungry newborn only to realize there’s a conversation going on there about the baby shower being planned for next Sunday night and the recipes that are being made. (There were times when I simply dreaded taking my babies out for a feeding because I would have to be the only one singing and praying in the nursery. That’s awkward when all your friends are having a pow-wow or a play date!)
  6. I believe parental training for worship is FAR preferable to baby sitting services. I know churches with complete child care forms to fill out for worship times. These forms include family discipline policies, allergies, etc….I believe children who are old enough to be left with others for playtime are old enough to be learning a lot from the worship service. Children can be impressed with what a baptism looks like, learn the tunes and some of the words to hymns, learn reverence during prayer time and start figuring out how to contribute before they are a year old. Why would we want them to miss this young time of immersion in the sights and sounds of worship that will become building blocks to faithful adult worship? I’m so glad our children had this infant training.
  7. I believe a toddler should have to sit just as still and be just as quiet in the nursery as he would if he were in the auditorium. If my toddler had to be carried out, he knew that was a very bad thing. He expected a spanking and then he knew he had to sit very still until he could re-enter the auditorium with the very least disturbance possible.
  8. Nurseries, to be most expedient, should provide a very quiet and private place for nursing mothers. But members should not mind if tiny babies are nursed beneath blankets on the back row of the assembly, either. This is a very natural and modest way to be inclusive in our worship. I cannot imagine God objecting to this.
  9. Members should also be very understanding and patient with mothers and fathers who are doing their best to train their children to be reverent during worship. Bringing our babies into the assembly of worship is sometimes difficult and sacrificial. Older members should encourage and help out when help is welcomed.
  10. We should avoid having groups of Christians separated from the assembly and the worship process for the purpose of childcare. Worship, in scripture, is both a requirement and a privilege. We should want to be offering our best to God at all cost. The parent’s nursery, where a parent can go, for a few moments, discipline or feed while listening through technology, and return is a pretty efficient way to avoid taking adults out of worship while, at the same time, keeping our children in the worship arena for training as much of the time as possible. In congregations in which the elders choose to have attended nurseries for infants, those who are caring for the babies should be worshiping, too. With today’s technology, there is no reason we would have it any other way!

Go to Church? On Christmas?

Every seven years, Christmas and New Years Day fall on a Sunday, and 2011 is one of those years. Since most families have special plans and traditions on these days, going to church may create some scheduling conflicts. Some families may even decide to skip church altogether, thinking, “Since it’s Christmas, we’ll stay home on Sunday, just this once.”

Of course, it is a good thing for families to be together, especially during the holiday season. Most families do not spend enough time together as it is. Nonetheless, our service to God must be a priority. Can a Christian justify giving God a Sunday “rain check” so he or she can have more family time on Christmas Day? I believe the Lord’s Day must take precedence, even on Christmas. Jesus said to “seek first the kingdom of God” (Matt. 6:33, emp. added), which means that serving God – including worshiping Him on Sunday – must come “first,” even if it means having to adjust our holiday plans.

Christmas should be about spending time with our families and enjoying the blessings of our loved ones. The Lord has been good to bless us with our families and the people we love, and there are countless reasons why we should be thankful to Him. I submit that Sundays are the best Christmas Days because we have the opportunity to be with both our earthly families and our spiritual family, worshiping the Name that is above all other names.

It was the practice of the early church to meet on the “first day of the week” (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:1-2). Jesus was raised on the first day of the week (Lk. 24:1, 7), and His church was established on the first day of the week (Lev. 23:15-17, Acts 2:1). Sundays, even Christmas Sundays, belong to the Lord. Therefore, on every first day of the week, we must make it a priority to be with our spiritual family and worship our Heavenly Father. When we decide to skip worship services because it becomes an ‘inconvenience,’ we’ve lost the ‘big picture’ of the Christian life. May we all understand and appreciate the importance of what God established and make Him the priority in life.

I wish everyone a Merry Christmas as we enjoy our time with our families; giving thanks to God every Sunday for the immeasurable blessings that we have both in Him and in one another.