Ever since I started these long-form articles, I’ve had some challenging situations and questions that have come up. I’ve been working on these articles for a while now, but the situations have so percolated that I just had to make an actual post about it. This one is on elders. You can read my other long one on deacons.
Today, people sometimes confuse the office of deacon and elder. At other times, they make a distinction between the pastor from the elders. In the early church, after the apostles’ time, elders were church officers second to bishops. During the apostles’ time, elders were crucial. Paul made the elders’ appointment a core aspect of his team’s work after the gospel had born fruit and resulted in a local assembly.
We need to dig deep but mind you, I can’t cover it all. Books exist that do a much better and thorough job. This is just me, working through some things and assuming some things (some of which I’ve already covered in other posts) to see where I land.
Hey, remember when I wrote that mad long article about the local church? I casually mentioned that the right church holds to scripturally correcting its members. I never really explained what I meant by that, so people had questions. Questions like “what does it mean that a church corrects its members?” Or “what does church discipline look like?” Or how does church discipline work? And, does church discipline work at all? I even got “who is allowed to carry out church discipline and why?” Good questions all but, I’ll take a step back to work through the rationale with another crazy long article. Audio to come soon.
Breaking news: church isn’t about you. Sorry, it just isn’t. But this always comes up. I’ll chat with someone and they’ll say, “I’m done with organized religion”. Church is evil. Or boring. Or corrupt. Or outdated. They’ve been doing church from home for years and they’re doing great. That church over there did them wrong and they’re never going back to any church. They’re doing church their way. They’re better off alone without the church. Just different ways of saying church is ultimately all about you.
As of late, this has only gotten hinkier (yeah that’s a word). I’ve heard people rehash all this but with new accessories like video conferencing. Since they’re able to “do church online”, they’ll never go back to the way it was before. As if to justify the benefits, they’ll happily claim that now they attend more services than ever so they’re just going to keep doing it.
But hold up: what exactly are they doing? I have a feeling that people think because they get their worship-on for thirty minutes and top it off with some Ravi Zacharias (or whoever), they’re doing church. Some think that if they get some bread and juice involved, makes it even better—even if they’re doing this while watching a screen which may-or-may-not be recorded.
I’ve heard of people baptizing their kids in bathtubs with no one but mom dad and little sis around, of people setting up pulpits and preaching to their wife, and of others just hopping from service to service when there’s a lag in the signal.
In all of it, I think that people are just showing a basic misunderstanding of what the church is and why “just doing church at home” isn’t really a thing.
Wait, come back!
I’m not being a graceless legalist. I’m trying to help you grow. You listen, you learn, and hopefully, you change in light of that new information. Or maybe I’ll appeal to your sense of pride: fix my mistakes. I’m not judging you as a person, I’m pointing out that your practice is faulty and if I’m wrong point out how I’m at fault. Listen, if you came into my house and saw me pounding a screw into a wooden beam with a hammer or rolling out some bread with a fork, I’m hoping you’d say something. In that same sort of way, I’m telling you that if you think you’re doing church, you’re using the wrong tools.
This is not a litmus test for christian beliefs. What I’m about to say isn’t a test for whether someone is Christian or not. Nor is this a way for a person to test how many beliefs they must have to keep their salvation. This isn’t a math equation for figuring out if you’re in-or-out of the faith. This is an illustration that has all the weak spots of word pictures, but that I use to underscore the idea of what is central to historical Christianity and what might be more debatable.
The church today is known by her division. She’s gotten a
reputation. Maybe social media makes it seem worse than it is, but that doesn’t
That said, this doesn’t mean that all divisions are wrong. Paul,
noting the divisions in ancient Corinth (1 Cor 11:18) pointed out that through
divisions they would identify their true working Christians (1 Cor 11:19). Indeed,
in Romans 16:17, Paul both warns about division and then encourages it in the
So, what should the church do? In seeking to be known by her
love (John 13:35) should the church pursue unity at all costs? When, if ever,
is it right to divide?