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Guests Question, Bob Answers about...


"I am wondering if you are trying to say churches are not of God. In your history you said that dedicated members of churches need Jesus... I confess, I do need more of Jesus; and if this is what you mean then I agree."

Focus on Jesus instead of religion. That's the point. Jesus wants an intimate personal relationship with each one of us. The church is God's family, and we need each other. That's the way the Lord designed us. But we have let Satan build sectarian walls to divide us. Jesus is breaking down those walls one heart at a time. He is cleaning us up in preparation for His return.

"All the different views of Christianity have confused me to the point where I can hardly think straight. I am frozen in fear thinking that any direction I move will result in error and hell. I feel like every church is wrong, but I don't know what's right! What about church in the home? Any suggestions?"

My suggestion: Focus on Jesus! Not church. Not doctrines. Make sure you have made a total commitment to Jesus. You can trust Him with all your heart, mind, spirit and body. Having done that, ask Jesus for His direction in your life, and listen for His response. You will recognize it when it comes. You may not hear a voice. The Lord works in various ways. He may just provide an open door and give you a strong desire to enter it. And if it is of Him, you will have peace about it.

"The message behind the cartoon entitled 'Unless You Become as Little Children...' left me rather confused. What is your interpretation of the toon?"

The mother in this cartoon represents those who routinely go through their religious rituals without allowing their emotions to be stirred by the story of Jesus' loving sacrifice on their behalf. Jesus wants a personal relationship with each of us. If we have that, the price He paid for our redemption will touch our hearts as it did the cartoon child's. The title for this episode should remind us of what Jesus said in Matthew 18:3. "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." In this cartoon example, we want to be like the little child, not like the mother.

"As you have cited, Matthew 20:25-28 would seem to support the idea of Christians not ruling over or having authority over other Christians. However, in 1 Timothy 5:17 we read: 'Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor...' This verse would seem to argue that ideally elders should be considered authoritative in the church."

It might help put things in proper perspective if we look at what the Bible says about the marriage relationship in contrast to the common concept of authority in the church today. A husband is head of his wife and family like Jesus is head of the church. Yet, the husband is called to be a servant-leader/protector/provider for his family, not a dictator. No where does the Bible say that elders (or pastors) are the head of the church, or even a local congregation. Jesus is the head! So, if husbands are heads of their families and they lead by serving, how did we get the idea that elders (who are not head of the church) are sovereign rulers?

We got that idea from verses like the one you quoted. Since the translators of the KJV were given guidelines by King James (the head of the Church of England at the time) to use words that would accommodate and perpetuate their religious organization and traditions, it is helpful in some cases to check the original language to learn what the writer had in mind. Ekklesia is an example of a word that was not translated properly. The word means "the called out" (i.e., Jesus called us out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9)), but the word "church" (which infers an "institution" or "organization" with membership and officers) was used instead. "Church" has also come to mean a "building" or "worship services," depending on the way it is used in a sentence, while the inspired writers were referring to the family of God, the community of believers.

Likewise, the word "rule" is a misleading translation of the Greek word proistemi in 1 Timothy 5:17, which means "'to stand before', hence, to lead, attend to (indicating care and diligence)" according to W. E. Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words. The King James translators also used the word "rule" in Hebrews 13:7, 17, and 24. But the Greek word hegeomai used there also means "to lead."

Peter stressed in 1 Peter 5:1-4 that leadership does not mean authoritarian power (lording it over), but being examples for the flock to follow.

Frank Viola has written an excellent book on leadership, authority, and accountability entitled "Who Is Your Covering?" You can read part of the book online and then order the complete book for an in-depth study of this subject.

"Are these simply 'funny Christian' cartoons, or is it religious satire aimed at poking fun of some of the things that go on in Churches?"

We're not poking fun at anything. What you see in Theophilus is based on real life experiences. Like real life, some of it is humorous, but some of it is far from funny.

"It seems to me that these cartoons are criticizing churches and sending a message to people that they do not need to have a church or a pastor. Everyone needs a good church to belong to!"

A couple of years ago, an evangelist told me, "Everyone needs to feel like they 'belong.' Therefore, belonging to a church (organization) is good."

As I thought about this later, I heard Jesus say, "You belong to Me. Isn't that enough?"

"Wouldn't there be chaos without some sort of organization? I agree that denominations foster division, but without them, would we even assemble?"

Jesus' disciples assembled in the first century and most of the second century without organizations and denominations. And there are many fellowships gathering together today on a regular basis without that arrangement.

"How can we assemble together without someone in charge?"

You're right. Someone should be in charge. It should be Jesus. Afterall, it is His church.

As we learn to trust Jesus as the functional head of His church (not just the nominal head), His Spirit will direct us. The clergy system quenches the sovereign exercise of the Holy Spirit.

Why is this a difficult concept for us to understand? In his book, Rethinking the Wineskin: The Practice of the New Testament Church, Frank Viola offers an explanation: "In the eyes of those who see the world through institutional glasses, unless a church meets in the 'right' place (a building), has the 'proper' leadership (an ordained pastor or priest), and bears the 'correct' name (one that indicates a 'covering'), it is not recognized as an authentic church. Instead, it is dubbed with innovative terms like 'para-church,' which subtly suggests something less than an authentic church. So in the minds of those who have not yet grown weary of running on the program-driven treadmill of institutional 'churchianity,' that which is abnormal is considered normal while that which is normal is regarded as abnormal. This is the unhappy result of not basing our faith and practice upon God's Word."

"I can sure identify with Sketch. I am being forced out of a "One True Church" because I asked the wrong questions. I have been treated much like Sketch.

In past months the issues of whole life worship (Romans 12:1) and Elder power have gotten me in disfavor, just as it has Sketch. I have also received abuse for mentioning (while teaching an adult Bible class) that I didn't see anything in Acts 20:7 which indicated that they met the week before or that they would meet the week after. I have also mentioned that since the tongues in Acts 2 were understood by everyone and the tongues in 1 Corinthians 14 were understood by no one, they might be different.

The parallels between Sketch and what has been happening to me the last several weeks has been startling. It may be the Lord is using your talents to send me a message. I sure would like to know what Sketch does and where he goes. I wish I didn't have to wait for each week to roll around to get another installment. If you have any advice for a former 'One True Church' member I would sure like to hear it."

Yes, the Lord is sending you a message. The timing is no accident. God is in control, and you have a very special place in His heart. He's reaching out to you right now. Reach out to Him! Thank Him. Praise Him. Jesus wants an intimate personal relationship with you.

His plan for you may be different from His plan for Sketch. Relax. Focus on Jesus and see what He has for you. He is preparing you for something. Release those rejections. Jesus will heal your wounds (and your broken heart) and then use you and your scars to minister to His other hurting people.

"In 'The Two Faces of Religion' Sketch mentions a book by this title... is this a real book? If it happens to be, could you send me the author's name so I could see if I can get a copy? It sounds very interesting!"

The book Sketch mentions is a real book: "The Two Faces of Religion: A Psychiatrist's View," by N. S. Xavier. It is available on Sketch's Bookshelf.

"I was thinking a lot about Theophilus lately as our local church has to move buildings, and the pastor was thinking of trying to purchase some enormous edifice costing 1.25 million. Seeing as we have a very small church and WV is a rather low income state, I thought this rather unwise.

"People have come to me with the concern that if they have to bear the burden of this expensive, huge building, how will they be able to help the poor in their neighborhoods, help unemployed family members, etc.?

"I immediately thought of Theophilus and his determination to help those in need, as the church board wrangled over the endless bills associated with property ownership. Because the building cost so much, the board was not able to help people in dire and serious need.

"I also thought of 'A Living Sacrifice' where Theophilus helped people in need, but was castigated by Rev. Fairasee for failing to faithfully attend services. I have been wondering, where in the New Testament did the early disciples even have 'services' anyway? It seems to me they just got together, encouraged each other, prayed, sought God, and often shared meals.

"Perhaps I am wrong, but I am growing colder and colder to the idea that churches should even have buildings...

"Knowing someone is out there that sees the same things helped me be bolder in telling my fellow parishioners that we should focus our finances on helping those in genuine need, not in purchasing grandiose architecture."

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