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Dr. J. Rodman Williams

Theology Q&A

By Dr. J. Rodman Williams

Dr. J. Rodman Williams answers theological questions, exclusively on

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13. Church and Ministry

Category Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 QA Index





We go to a fundamental community church. It is Baptist based. Sermons are very biblical, but there is much control. The folk are expected to stay much within the dotted line -- no raising of hands or audible "amens," even when a rare praise song mentions an expression of praise. We are finished in one hour. Prayers from the pulpit are read, but sound reverent enough. I need advice. I have increasing hunger for a Holy Spirit manifestation. Am I having a critical spirit?

I do not sense in what you say a critical spirit but a hungry spirit: in your own words an "increasing hunger for a Holy Spirit manifestation." A church may basically be doing everything right but be lacking in life and vitality without the Holy Spirit's presence and power. Pray continually for this and talk with your pastor and church leaders about your felt need. Do this in a loving, non-judgmental way. The Lord will surely bless a Bible-based and Spirit-filled congregation!

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I belong to a Pentecostal (Assembly of God) Church and over the past few months have discovered that my current Pastor is obtaining about 95% of his messages from the Internet (namely, Mostly these messages are delivered verbatim and without personal illustrations. Previously I was accustomed to my Pastor praying to the Spirit for the messages, and they seemed more timely and alive. Plus the Spirit was really "thick." How should I now feel with these "dry," non-anointed messages?

Dry, non-anointed messages do not belong in the pulpit! Go to your pastor and tell him that the congregation deserves more than that. Even a poorly worded sermon that comes from the heart is far better.

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If I teach my children to believe in God and live a Christian life, is it wrong not to attend church?

It is admirable that you give Christian teaching to your children, but this should not exclude participation in the life of a local church. A good church fellowship will broaden and deepen your home life and teaching.

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Did women ever serve as pastors/elders in the New Testament church?

There is no record of women so serving.

For a delineation and summary of the twelve-fold activities of women serving in the New Testament church, see my Renewal Theology, 3: "Ministry of Women," pages 210-216.

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I have a lot of good friends that are in the House Church movement that I am really having a tough time with. To me it is almost cult-like, and I wish to be able to learn more about the early church and their house meetings. Can you help me?

1 Corinthians 16:19, Romans 16:3-5, Colossians 4:15, and Philemon 1:2 are good New Testament examples of the house church. I am not sure about the present "House Church" movement. So long as they do not claim the "House Church" as the only church, they surely have substantial biblical background and may be recovering valid insights for our time.

For a description of the house church in the New Testament, see my Renewal Theology, 3: pages 38-40.

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Is it scriptural for a woman today to be an apostle? I need to know before getting involved with one. Thanks.

There are no scriptural examples of women apostles. Christ's original twelve apostles were all men and so were others like Paul and Barnabas. If a woman assumes the title of "apostle" today, it is without scriptural warrant.

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On what is the church Jesus built and is still building?

Jesus said to Simon Peter: "Thou art Peter, and upon this rock, I will build My church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matthew 16:18). Peter had just declared to Jesus, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God" (verse 16). On that confession about Jesus, not on Peter himself, the church was to be built. It is a mistake to view Peter as the foundation of the church. The church is built and continues to be built on the basis of faith that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.

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I believe in Jesus but don't have a church such as Baptist, Catholic,or Methodist. How do I go about finding a church?

I suggest that you pray for guidance. Since you believe in Jesus, He will surely help your choice. Then take time to visit various churches where you find a people that love Jesus and seek to do His will. It should be a church that challenges you to build on your faith and grow in Christian maturity.

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What is meant the "replacement theory"?

The replacement theory deals with the relationship between Israel and the Church. It affirms that the Church has replaced Israel as the people of God; therefore, all the promises to Israel are obsolete and instead find their true fulfillment in the Church. My reply: The Church is the spiritual people of God uniting both Jew and Gentile. This is not to eliminate Israel from having a special place in God's purposes.

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What is meant by the term "five-fold ministry"?

The five-fold ministry refers to apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers (Ephesians 4:11) given by Christ for the equipping of the saints for serving and building up the body of Christ. A well equipped church will function fully in all these ministries.

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In the 16th chapter of Matthew, Jesus asks Peter who He is. After Peter's response that He is the Christ, Jesus says "Upon this rock I will build mychurch." Is the rock Jesus is referring to Peter, or is it the faith of knowing Jesus is the Christ?

The rock on which the church is built was not Peter himself but his confession that Jesus is "the Christ, the Son of the living God." The genuine church continues to be built on that confession. If so, the very gates of hell "will not prevail" against it.

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  Is the church age over? Is the Holy Spirit not in the churches anymore? I heard this on the radio.

The church age is not over. It will continue as long as there are people who believe in Christ, fellowship with one another, and carry the gospel to the ends of the earth. In fact, nothing can destroy the church. In Jesus' own words, "I will build My church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matthew 16:18). There surely are churches in which little life is present. But there are also countless numbers of churches that are alive with activity of the Holy Spirit. So be not defeatist; but be assured of victory!

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  Can deacons preach?

Deacons can certainly preach if called by God. Two of the most outstanding preachers in the New Testament were Stephen and Philip, both deacons. See Acts 6 for the names of several early deacons and Acts 6 through 8 for the record of Stephen and Philip's preaching. See Renewal Theology, 3:207-210, for more on deacons.

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  Why do some churches stress the importance of membership? I tithe and practice living God's way, but I don't understand the reason for membership.

Since all Christians are spiritually members of the body of Christ-"members of one another" (Romans 12:5)-this should normally express itself by physical membership in some local body. Why would you want to hold back? See Renewal Theology, 3: pages 61-71.

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  What would be considered the seven churches, as mentioned in Revelation, today?

Do the seven churches in Revelation, chapters 2 and 3, pertain to the future or has this already been fulfilled? If they pertain to the future, what would be considered the seven churches today?

The seven churches in Revelation 2-3 were specific churches in Asia Minor at that time. However, the letters are quite relevant for our own time also. Seven is a composite figure that refers to the totality of churches at any period in history.

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  Why worship on Sunday and not Saturday which is the Sabbath?

Jesus rose from the dead on the day after the Sabbath (see, e.g., Mark 16:1-2-"When the Sabbath was over…very early on the first day of the week"). The first day, namely Sunday, was the Day of Resurrection, and soon became the special day of worship. For example, see Acts 20, verse 7-"On the first day of the week when we gathered together"; 1 Corinthians 16:2-"On the first day of every week." The first day soon came to be known as "the Lord's Day" (see Revelation 1:10-"I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day." Thus the first day of the week may properly be called the Christian Sabbath.

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