Ask Me Anything is an opportunity for you to submit questions that are related or unrelated to things I’ve written, and for me to take a shot at answer them. This week’s questions deal with worship services, whether family members should attend the same church, whether a husband and wife should be accountability partners, and quite a bit more.
I have a quick question regarding something that grabbed my interest in your “Hack your Worship Service” article. You mentioned that at your church the announcements are framed as a commission and used to serve the purpose of calling the church to live as God’s people. As someone who has struggled to see how announcements can fit within a church service without seeming totally out of place, could you please elaborate on how your church does this?
This is something we first attempted a couple of years ago and have implemented with varying degrees of success. Like you, we found the announcements often feel out of place within a service. When done at the beginning, they miss the 30 percent of people who show up late (You know who you are!); when done in the middle they disrupt the deliberate flow of the service which is meant to focus hearts on Christ, not mens’ retreats or church picnics; when done at the end, they are often jarring when set between a final song and a benediction. Also, saying “Here are some announcements” is everyone’s cue to tune out. I don’t blame them—announcements are boring.
Our solution was to reframe announcements as a commission, to see them as an opportunity to call people to gospel living. “We have worshipped together; you have heard the Word of God; now here are some ways to live out what we have learned and experienced…” Thus we would attempt to tie upcoming events into the way they live the Christian life. “We learned today that God calls us to bear one another burdens. Here are ways you can do that this week.” “God taught us through his Word that the one who has been forgiven much loves much. Here are some opportunities to express that love in the weeks ahead.”
We had to guard against this becoming wooden on the one hand and trite on the other. We had to put effort into tying future events into the greater life of the church. But we found that when this worked well, it flowed nicely within the wider service. The challenge has been sticking to it rather than lazily slipping back into a simple and sometimes drab list of announcements.
Is it sinful or unwise or is it okay for a husband and wife to go to different churches? Also with children wishing to follow their friends to a different church, is there a biblical mandate that kids should worship in the same church as their parents?
I cannot speak to every situation, of course, but in general, I would say it is either unwise or sinful. Let’s first consider a couple of possible exceptions: If a wife or child becomes convicted that the family attends a heretical church, they will want to move to a gospel-preaching church. And well they should. Also, there comes an age where a child is free to make his or her own choices, and one of those choices will be which church to attend. Parents should not demand that their independent adult children continue to attend church with them.
But in most cases, it is only fitting that families worship together. The reason families tend to split up across various churches is that they follow preferences—one to the church with great music, another to the church with a great preacher, another to the church with a great youth program. They select a church that fits their preferences and reject churches that fit the preferences of their spouse, parents, or children.
As the head of his home, the father should lead his family in this way—to take responsibility for finding a church that teaches what is true and leading the family to worship there each week. He and his family will need to weigh and discuss the various factors, then choose a church in which the whole family can worship, serve, and grow together.
I read an article on another site about about how a husband and wife should be accountability partners, and wanted to get your thoughts on that idea. My husband is opposed to telling me any of the sins that he has committed against me. Are we to confess everything to one another, or are there certain areas of sin that we don’t have to confess to our spouse?
The Bible tells Christians to confess our sins to one another, but it does not say that we are to confess every sin to one another. Neither does it command a husband to confess every sin to his wife or vice versa. Thus, we are not operating under clear, biblical commands here, but instead attempting to understand a wise course. Is it wise for a Christian husband to confess sexual sin and temptation to another believer? Is it wise for him to confess it to his wife? Likewise, is it wise for a Christian wife to confess all sexual sin to her husband?
To the question of whether Christians should generally confess their sin, even sexual sin, to another person, I would answer yes. I believe this is wise. The person who is sorely tempted in any way will enlist an ally by confessing that sin to a fellow believer in Christ. The man intrigued by pornography will express humility by confessing that sin to a brother and then also enlist that person’s prayer and accountability. The woman intrigued by dirty novels or television will, likewise, find herself humbled as she confesses that sin and find herself challenged by a concerned friend.
Should this friend or accountability partner be a spouse? That may vary a lot from couple to couple but, in general, I would consider this unwise. I consider it wise for a husband or wife to have general knowledge of the spouse’s sexual sin, but not necessarily specific and ongoing knowledge. Sexual sin so strikes at the heart of a spouse that it may be too big a burden for a wife to hear every time her struggling husband has been tempted to look at pornography or for a husband to hear of every time his wife’s eyes have wandered. With that said, I believe major transgressions should and must be confessed.
Speaking personally, I have friends to whom I will speak if I ever encounter such waves of temptation. My wife trusts these men and knows their love for our family. In this way she is confident that if there is information she ought to know, they will tell her (or insist that I tell her). At the same time, she has friends who know her well and I am confident in their love for her and for our family. We are both content with this arrangement, but acknowledge it will look different from couple to couple.
The leadership of our Presbyterian church is under pressure to ordain women to the eldership. Would you consider this to be a resigning issue?
I am uncertain whether you are referring to resigning from the eldership or resigning from the membership of that church, so I will answer both.
If I was an elder at a church that decided to ordain women to the eldership, I would feel compelled to resign from leadership. I have to grant that I hold to an elder-led, congregational perspective in which there is a different relationship of elders to their church than in a Presbyterian model. Still, I would consider women in ministry to be a second-level issue according to Al Mohler’s helpful theological triage—the kind of issue that determines whether or not two Christians can share local church fellowship. Because I have strong complementarian convictions, I could not remain in leadership at an egalitarian church. By conviction, I would have to teach something other than the congregation’s official doctrine, and that would be destructive to both myself and the church.
If I was a member at that church rather than an elder, I would probably resign my membership and pursue local church fellowship in a different congregation. I say “probably” because if this was the only church it was possible to attend, or still the best church in the area, I would likely remain there. Egalitarianism is not heresy (a first-level issue), so I would not feel morally bound to leave if there were no other options.
I am currently serving as the treasurer of a church and know with confidentiality who is giving to support the ministry of the church and who is not. What would you say to leaders or how would you encourage them to be faithful in their giving if they are giving nothing or giving very little? Is it okay that people who do not give to the church remain in leadership of the church?
No, it’s not okay. Leaders have no right to ask the members of a church to do what they themselves will not do. Elders are to be worthy of imitation and to set an example of every kind of godliness. Among the qualifications Paul lays out for an elder is that he must not be a lover of money. The positive side of this qualification is generosity, so that an elder must lead the way in generosity. He must be aware that the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil and that too many people are in Christian leadership for various kinds of worldly gain, including financial (1 Timothy 6:10). A way to prove that he is freed from the love of money is to give away a significant amount of it!
Now, there may be circumstances to consider. Perhaps he is very poor and has nothing to give. Perhaps he gives with cash so his giving is hidden. Perhaps he has committed to give to other churches or ministries in place of his local church (a practice I’d consider unwise).
If I found myself in your position, I would probably approach one of the elders to have the discussion in confidence and without naming names. I would simply express my concern and ask what I should do. Based on your knowledge of who gives what, you would know who already gives generously. Approach that person rather than one who gives nothing.
Our church covenant includes these words: “I engage to … contribute cheerfully and regularly of my income as God has graciously prospered me for the support of this church, the relief of the poor, and the spread of the gospel throughout all nations.” I would not only be disobeying God but also violating my church covenant if I refused to give. For that reason, we as elders occasionally discuss our giving, saying whether we are in fact giving to the church and, without disclosing amounts, telling whether we are doing so with joy, freedom, and generosity.
I have been considering using Slack for the elders and deacons at church, assuming I can convince everyone to adopt its usage. I am wondering how you utilize the tool when you need to communicate with someone who is not using Slack, and especially someone who will only use email?
I’ve put a lot of time into studying how technology functions within human society (and, therefore, within the church). When it comes to implementing Slack or any other new communications technology, I offer this warning: You are mostly likely to cut out the older folk when moving to new technology. A young elder in his thirties will, in all likelihood, gladly adopt Slack and thrive in using it. An elder in his seventies may not even own a smartphone or use a computer. By migrating to this platform you may be cutting him out of the loop.
To draw a comparison, many churches have migrated from paper-based church directories to app-based ones. These make lots of sense in a smartphone world and can nicely trim printing costs while allowing immediate additions and updates. Yet they tend to cut out the elderly people who either don’t have the appropriate technology or who aren’t comfortable using it.
So as you consider migrating, do ensure that you can migrate the entire eldership and that they are all equipped and willing to use it. As for answering your question, that really isn’t Slack’s strength. It is generally an all-or-nothing approach that does best replacing email rather than supplementing it. There are workarounds using Zapier, IFTTT, or other similar tools, but most of them aren’t all that good. You are best going all-in or staying all-out.
How do you catalogue your digital library? My physical library is on shelves, arranged by author and topic, and I have easy access to them. On top of that, I use the app BookBuddy+ to digitally catalogue them. That is not so for my digital library. Occasionally I will scroll through my Kindle Library and be surprised of books I’ve gotten in the past years. Do you have a way to catalogue your digital books (Kindle, Logos, iBooks, etc.) in one place?
I do not catalog my digital library. The vast majority of my reference works and commentaries are in Logos, and it offers many ways to search my library for specific books, authors, topics, or words. The rest of my books are in Kindle which has quite rudimentary search capabilities. At some point I will likely need to migrate to a cataloging system to better access that growing library, but to this point I’ve always been able to find them through memory or search.
As Christians, do we wait on the Lord to see where he leads or do we begin to take action and find his will as we go?
Yes, we do both. We need to seek God’s will through his Word, through earnest prayer, and through speaking to believers who have better knowledge of the Bible and greater experience of life. If God forbids it, we must not pursue it and if God commands it, we must immediately pursue it. If it is neither commanded nor forbidden, we should consider what would be the wisest course. Would it be very wise to move forward? Would it be a good use of our skills, our talents, or our time? Or would it be unwise? If neither course seems particularly wise or unwise, we can simply ask what we want to do, and then move forward confidently. I’ve written about this more in a little series on God’s Will For Your Life.