A Voice in the
Wilderness

site navigation

free newsletter

February 20, 2007

Return to: Q/A's
Q/A Topics:
Fellowship vs Outreach?

READER QUESTIONS: (edited)
My husband and I (after years of not attending any church) have found a church we have been attending for [awhile]. We have different bible studies, and one in particlular, what the church calls a "Cord of Three" bible study. Men with men, women with women. We meet once a week, have a certain book of the bible to study, one chapter a week. We have a list of 3 questions to answer, 3 answers per question, and write a prayer about each chapter studied. Some of the groups have had more than 3 people. My women's study has 6. My husband's also has 6. We've been in these groups for approximately 18 months. We have become very open to discuss any personal problems, and we all love to meet.

However, the problem is this. This past Sunday, our preacher announced he did not want more than 3 people involved in this study. He only wants 3 because it would be more intimate and there would be a stronger relationship with only 3. He takes this from the bible, "A cord of three is not easily broken". Our groups are very upset. We have become very close, and we don't want to be broken up. The pastor's reason is this, for each one to go out on there own and start a new study with others. We are to commit to this for 1 year, where does the intimacey come in? And after 1 year start another, and another and another. My husband and I are...not really what you would call "outgoing people". I would like your input on this problem. We are both very upset over this. Is it wrong for us to be frustrated over this new "rule"?

VW ANSWER:
This is just 'personal', but I have a problem when pastors 'command' their congregations that "you -must- do this, or that".

But as for your specific dilemma, I can see two sides to this issue. (there may be more than 'two', but 'two' seem obvious at this point) And I believe 'both' are important for any given congregation. If 'one' is implemented, I don't think it's healthy to abandon it for the 'other'.

On one hand Believers -do- need 'fellowship', which it sounds like is what you've been doing up until now. And certainly, Ec4:12 applies to such a thing. Not the "three" part, but the 'plurality' of Believers that "exhort one another" (Heb3:13) If that plurality is '3' or '6' or '10'? For intimate fellowship you would not want each little group to become too big. My 'common sense' suggests to me that the '6' you have been doing might be as big as each group might want to be, for the purposes for which you meet. The 3-6 'range' would -seem- about right. (just common sense speaking, here. Nothing that I can think of in Scripture to suggest any specific chiselled-in-stone specification.) Surely, Jesus had the special three, Peter, Jacob and John. But there were also the Twelve. As well as the "seventy others" (Lk10:1) Not to mention the entourage that travelled with them. (Lk8:1-3)

But I can also see/understand what your pastor is seeking to do, for 'outreach' and 'growth'. But if this is done, it shouldn't necessarily mean that those 'fellowship' groups should be disbanded. Perhaps the small fellowship groups meet to exhort each other -for- their new 'ministry' of expanding out to the 'new' groups? But those core groups would continue to meet for mutual encouragement.

Instead of one meeting per week, now there would be two.... one for fellowship, the other for outreach. And perhaps it would be the case that NOT EVERYBODY from the basic (3-6) core groups would be involved in the outreach groups? Not everybody is gifted with the same gifts. (1Co12, Eph4:11-12)

On the other hand, we see the early church "scattered" when Saul started persecuting in earnest, and they did so "preaching the Word". (Ac8:1-4) By definition, "scatter" breaks apart the coziness that becomes 'comfortable'. And when the early church scattered, it resulted in furtherance of the Great Commission.

So... there is merit to 'both' sides. Personally, your husband and you must agree together 'how' you will interact with these things.

Another thing that somewhat bothers me about many churches, is when they split up couples. I can see the benefit of doing so, in order that women can speak with each other (Tit2:3-5), and not come into danger of "usurping" authority over the men. (1Tim2:12) But if "two" have become "one flesh", should they not also have fellowships where they do so 'together'? Paul speaks of "do not deprive one another" (1Co7:5) for a specific topic. But he also says "come together again so that Satan does not tempt you..." If each individual of the couple are always out "with the girls" or "with the boys", as noble as fellowship and Bible study is, it makes regular "separation" between them. That is not healthy either. Paul also exhorts the wives to "ask their own husbands at home" (1Co14:35)

So, perhaps this last item makes for "#3"? ...as compared to the original -two- 'sides'..? Aren't there times, that younger 'couples' would benefit from the mentoring of older couples....-AS- "couples"? One of the biggest scourges today is couples not staying together and building healthy marriages; the divorce rate and everything that goes with it. They probably need more help than singles do...? Healthy marriages will then produce healthier 'single' children, who in turn grow up into 'healthy' adults. (Pr22:6)

[Top]


Following Christ or the local church?

READER COMMENTS:
I have been reflecting on church of late. As I meditate on what Christ wants of me and how all this works with the Church, I have found myself perplexed.

VW: Let's separate out a 'list' from this e-mail. These are issues that many deal with, or 'should' be addressing for themselves:

  • How does one separate Jesus from the (local) Church?
  • Is God's will always through the local church?
  • goals always seemed to be: what is best for the (local) Church
  • for many the local church can often become an idol
  • one's success, joy, family life gauged by the church
  • following what the church says to do, instead of what Jesus says
  • Status of being "right with God" based on being a "good church member"
  • Pastors institute programs to help people serve (do they know why?)
  • Please the pastor, or be "right with God"?
  • Church 'love' reciprocal based on "doing what they want" of you
  • To be "right with God", must -perform- X, Y or Z
VW ANSWERS:
You're not alone. -MANY- people are caught in this trap....and I suspect that it's a carry-over from paganism, from Babylon to Rome. Interesting that your note came now, as there was a mailing just a few minutes ago from one of the places I subscribe to...the man is very much of a [B]aptist...and today's mailing was about church "membership". Their prime Scriptural claim to such teaching is Ac2:41...where it says the new Believers "were added", they claim those words "were added" means "membership". But I don't see how the text says that. People got saved, thus there were -more- Believers. "added" means "more", not "list". Yes? -smile-

And if the Church of Jesus Christ is the 'local' assembly, then how did the poor early Believers manage as persecution "scattered" them? (Ac8:1)

Even though Scripture speaks of groups of believers meeting "in their house" (Rom16:5) as they also met "from house to house" (Ac2:46), these same people with 'baptist' leanings teach that a gathering of Believers is not a legitimate "church" unless they have appointed/elected 'officials'.

Even though the earliest anabaptists, centuries ago, existed in contradistinction to the papacy of Rome, they nevertheless seem to maintain a popish style of "clergy vs laity" relationship, where the pastor is elevated, and the rest are commoners. How many baptist pastors haven't I heard, through the years, speak of dispensing God's Word -down- to "their level"....as though the laity are somehow 'less' than they are.

    [VW: No, not slamming at 'baptists' specifically. It's just an entity I know well, because during my earlier life, if there wasn't an EFC, I spent a -lot- of time in baptist churches of a handfull of different flavors (GARBC, NAB, General Conference, Bible, Independent, etc), attending, ministering...sometimes as a 'member', sometimes not. And of Bible Believers, likely "baptist" is the largest percentage denominationally speaking; and their doctrinal statements are typically, generically, the most sound of any...or, I should say, they 'were'. I haven't been around them for about 14 years, and things change. :VW]
And so, by the time the catholics, lutherans and baptists get finished brainwashing the "laity".... people assume that it is Scriptural. They interpret "double honor" as a status position, rather than a healthy respect and submission, and also the matter of financial support. (1Tim5:17, 3, Mk7:10-13, 1Co9:14, etc)

So...I'm glad to hear that you are 'discovering' these things for your own life. I would encourage you not to beat yourself up too much....as this is a common problem where 'tradition' has been in effect for so many years. It took me awhile to figure it out, too. When I was "coming out" (Rev18:4), the hardest thing to resolve in my conscience was the matter of the 'schedule' when the doors were open at the building... even though what was going on inside the building was apostasy. There's a certain sense of (perceived) 'piety' in GOING TO the building. That, too, comes from Babylon. It is that which is "seen by men", and if you don't -do- it 'when' and 'where' they do it, they judge you.

This might even apply to something like: how one -prays-. If one doesn't pray in KJ-eze, do people gasp? Or perhaps you sense that you are now getting a cold shoulder from them? Is your 'prayer' not as "spiritual"? If you stop using the KJV and take up something like the LITV or VW-edition, do you feel a sense of the unspoken looking over the shoulder lest somebody might see you reading something other than KJV? Are you being "seen by men" or your "Father who is in secret"? (Mt6:5-6) Praying in KJ-eze is no more "spiritual" than to do so in Australian, mate; English, ol'chap; Canadian, eh; American, dude; or Japanese, neh.

However...isn't it a good (beneficial) thing for a pastor to devise some 'programs' of things for people to do? If they are Godly things, and of benefit to each other, and towards evangelism. The way society has become, not much of anybody is free-thinking anymore...they all follow a pied-piper of some sort. Sheep tend to follow...thus, for a pastor to give something for the sheep to follow...if in the will of God...should be a good thing. But indeed....in doing those things, the sheep need to be exhorted, and to remember, that the Good Shepherd is not their pastor, but Jesus Christ.

"Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen." (Heb13:20-21)

[Top]


Return to: Q/A's