Asher Witmer

rediscovering Jesus

20 Questions I Have about Church introducing a study on church: it's purpose, how it should function, and the relationships therein

Do you understand the purpose of the church? Or do you just kind of go with what others have told you?

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My Dad was a pastor, so I heard him talk about church a lot and learned much about it from him. I’ve been to Bible school and studied what it means to be a Christian and the church’s role in the Christian faith. I have also taken note as I study scripture and see what God has to say about church and its ministry. But to be honest with you, even in that it is incredibly easy to read the Bible through the lens of what I’ve been taught.

Questions I Have about Church

The older I get, the more questions I have about church. Questions such as,

  1. What is the point of “the church”? No, really. Not just the trite answers we can all quote because we needed it for a test. But why did God institute the church?
  2. How should the church function?
  3. Should there be structure to the church?
  4. What should the church be structured around?
  5. Should the church have standards?
  6. How should church standards be enforced?
  7. What should church leadership look like?
  8. What is the role of laypeople in the church?
  9. When is someone considered apart of the bride of Christ?
  10. Should that be what we use for local church membership requirements?
  11. Speaking of the local church, what is the point of it?
  12. Where do denominations come from?
  13. Is it right to structure ministry around anything other than building up a local body of disciples?
  14. How should differing local churches relate with each other? Should they?
  15. Do we need to be members of a specific local church?
  16. If so, what scripture passages support that?
  17. Do mega churches help or hinder the purpose of the church?
  18. Should we bring unbelievers into church?
  19. How should leaders respond to members within the local church who directly move away from the values of the church?
  20. When is a local church considered dead and should simply close its doors?

A Study on Church

These twenty questions just scratch the surface of what I still wrestle with concerning church. That’s why I am embarking on a Biblical study of the church and its purpose, how it should function, and the relationships therein. I’ve never done an in-depth study of church, so I’d like to take some time and study what exactly the Bible has to say about church. Over the next year, I plan to dedicate one to two posts a month for addressing this study.

To help me get started, though, I’d like to hear what your questions are. What about church confuses you? What excites you and makes you feel passionate? What down-right frustrates you? If you don’t mind, just leave a comment below with your questions and I’ll use that to help give direction to my study and deal with them in my posts over the next year.

You in?

Share your comments here.

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About Asher Witmer

I am a son of God, husband, father, and difference maker. I love helping people sort through hard questions they face and rediscover Jesus. I have written three eBooks dealing with church frustrations, and send out daily posts addressing faith, church and relationships.

  • Bri

    How important is it what church you go to? Obviously, one of the Christian faith, but beyond that…

  • Anon

    We hear and focus so much on “leadership” in the church. What about the followers? What is their role? And should pastors, elders, treasurers, etc have more say in decisions? Sometimes it feels like there are two groups within a church, those who are in the loop and aware of all the goings on and make a lot of the decisions, and those who are just supposed to support everything that happens.

  • Chester Weaver

    Many comments could be made pertaining to the above discussion. Let me affirm the comments above which indicated that the questions being raised have a history of being raised in some form or another for the last 2000 years. “It’s a matter of taking the initiative to read the right books.” How true! But who is doing that? From my observation I am saddened that so many Anabaptist people today are so ignorant of their own 500 year story. Of course confusion exists! People who do not know where they came from also do not know where they are going.

    I am not advocating using certain history books and using them to prooftext a particular item. I wish present-day Anabaptists could feel the heartbeat of their courageous forefathers! I wish all present-day Anabaptists would be experiencing the rich, vibrant presence of the Living Christ, just as many of their forefathers did! I wish all present-day Anabaptists would be demonstrating to the world what the Kingdom of Christ looks like in a practical way with solid, historic, workable answers for our sick society! We do have a history which provides us with a great cloud of witnesses by this time, both the negative and the positive.

    For myself, I am not wise enough to strike out on a tangent of my own based on my own arrogance. I so much value the story of our own past (as well as the past of other denominations) which spares me from the consequences of trying to experiment with this or that as if I am finally “inventing the wheel.” Everything has already been tried. As was stated above; we need to get the books out and discover what has already been learned. This is God’s ordained method as portrayed in the Book of Proverbs: “Learn and live;” not “live and learn.”

    Maybe our problem is simple laziness. Or maybe we find it too difficult to die to our own pride and selfishness in order to take the Better Way of Christ. We simply believe our own ways and ideas are better!

    • Thanks for your perspective, Chester. I believe there is tremendous value in anyone – young, old, well-read or not – doing a biblical study on church. Reading history adds value, gives wise insight and some of the insight it shows is that we have so far to go in understanding God’s design for His bride on this earth. I want to do my part in pressing forward in growth, taking what was given to me and going further.

      Blessings!

  • I had so many of these same questions when I was a young man, and it is very worthwhile to search out answers to them. I submit that the truth of the church of God (ecclesia, or assembly) was lost for more than 1500 years, and only in the early 1800’s was the wonderful truth of the assembly of God restored to Christians, by the grace of God. Neither the Protestant Reformation nor the Radical Reformation offered Scriptural answers to many of these questions, so that I would respectfully disagree with the commenter above who states that these questions have been answered for nearly 500 years. For a start, I would recommend the following article to anyone sincerely interested in investigating further, if I may be permitted to make that suggestion.
    http://www.stempublishing.com/authors/mackintosh/Bk2/ASSEMBLY.html

    • Hi, thanks for your impute. I tentatively disagree on your numbers regarding the truth being lost from around 500 to 1800’s ad. Those numbers breed suspicion of denomination bias. I might say that the truth wasn’t revealed until the 1500’s because I am a Mennonite (and come to think of it, I kinda did.). Asher’s point on answer’s being 2000 years old stands in that we’ve had the truth for that long. My point was “well thought out expositions have existed for a long time and we should be better versed in them.” … in a nut shell.

  • I propose that the greater question is how do we attain such an advanced age and still have these question?

    • That’s a fair question. Do you have any more thoughts behind it?

      • Without doing the research, I suggest most of those questions have been answered for nigh on 500 years. It’s a matter of taking the initiative to read the right books.

        • In that case, those questions have been answered for nearly 2,000 years: in the Bible.

          There is certainly benefit in reading books of how people answered those questions 500 years ago. It helps gain perspective to look at historical contexts. But the fact that people still have these questions isn’t a matter of ignorance. I think God intends every generation to wrestle with these questions. He’s not interested in a generation on auto-pilot. He likes relationship and relationships are fluid. These questions come to every generation because every generation faces the challenge of submitting their lives to God and His Word despite unique circumstances and current events.

          • Ha, I cede the point. I spoke in the context of the Church working off of a (+/-) finished and finite work, the Bible, and answering the questions that will arise out of some of the more vague teachings contained therein. (see reply on John Kulp’s remarks)

            I agree that every generation should explore these questions. I mentioned age not era, in that a Christian who has been a Christian for 20 years should be at least “mostly versed” in the above questions due to the plethora of resources made available by theologians past.

  • Michael

    Lots of really good questions on here 👍🏼. So, I’ll add just one more. We are preparing to move to a different state and will be looking for a church to attend in that area. Where should we go to church? We are planning to move to an area that has so many different churches it’s like a smorgasbord of churches. We could probably go to a different one every Sunday and not get to them all in 10 years! So what should I look for? What should I avoid?

  • Cheyenne

    My biggest question about church is, what are relationships in the church supposed to look like? If we are supposed to be a family, how can we foster honesty and vulnerability in church? So often it feels like most people are wearing masks and we miss the whole point of real fellowship.

  • Ashley

    I’ve also wondered about the instruction class before getting baptized. Our Sunday School class has talked about that before, and we agree that baptism and church membership should be two different things. One should not have to be a member of that church necessarily to become baptized.

    On another note, one thing that frustrates me is when people remark how quiet I am. (I am an introvert, and painfully shy). I realize that I need to overcome my obstacles, but sometimes church is a scary place because I’ve been hurt and embarrassed so often.

    I confess I’m not a fan of Sunday School. I prefer worship because I love music, and the message because it inspires me, but also I can be a wallflower and listen. In Sunday School, the teacher likes it when people talk and participate, and I dread it. Our church had considered at one point doing away with Sunday School, and honestly, I’d be okay with it. My Dad even said, “We go to Sunday School to talk about things that we already know!”

    • Thanks for sharing, Ashley! Although it shouldn’t be this way, sadly, church often doesn’t feel safe to be real and share openly in discussions. It’s really awesome when it is that way!

  • Sarah

    I see a lot of good questions here and I’m looking forward to seeing the results of your study, Asher. I’m especially intrigued by Ernest’s questions. Some additional questions I have, which are not as important questions as the others, but which do matter to me are these: Does God intend for women to participate fully in the church, or is it more godly for women to just hang around on the fringes and observe the “leadership” of the men? What does it mean for women to be “silent” in church? Is it appropriate for churches to have men’s meetings where they make decisions for the local body without the input of any females?
    It feels heartbreaking to me to be rejected (on the basis of my womanhood) in the one earthly organization that matters most to me, while other organizations accept me as equal to any other human. I’d really like to know whether that rejection is truly based in Scripture or whether it is just the twisted results of Anabaptist culture.

    • Sarah, thanks for asking these questions! They’re great questions! The role of women in the church isn’t an easy one to address, but so necessary.

  • Jason Croutch

    I love to see churches working together as a body to encourage each other and pray for each other. I know churches don’t always work this way, but I’m grateful to be part of one that does! I think we (churches in general) tend to put way too much emphasis on outward uniformity and not enough emphasis on knowing God and living sold out for Him.

    • Amen! Thanks for adding this, Jason!

    • Anonymous

      Yes! Is outward uniformity necessary? And why can’t we work together even with churches we don’t necessarily agree with on every level (as long as we agree on the most important thing-Jesus!)?

  • Anonymous

    This is something I am very interested in.
    Some more questions:
    Should membership exist?
    How important is membership?
    What is the purpose of membership?
    How important is it to agree with your church?

  • Lillady

    Is there more security/spiritual benefit in joining a church that is affiliated with others? Our church refuses to become a part of a conference and won’t associate much with others.

    • Interesting question. Thanks for adding it, Lillady!

  • Matt

    Are leaders called to preserve the “status quo” in the church to a degree? Scriptural basis either way…

    Is the church really “all there is” to our experience on earth?

    Men pleasers? At what point is a church this?

    Awaiting the answers to 11, 12, and 14.

    Blessings as you seek His ways by doing this study. Thanks for sharing what you learn!

    • Challenging questions, Matt. Thanks for adding them!

  • I welcome your studies concerning the church. One of my most pressing questions is #15,16. I will anxiously await your conclusions concerning the Biblical view for or against church membership. God bless you as you prepare these posts.

  • Is the church an end in itself? Or is it an interim/parenthetical concept awaiting the entrance of the Kingdom? Are the church and the Kingdom of Christ synonymous? Is the church just for now, and the Kingdom for eternity? Or are they both for now AND for eternity? Do these questions bear upon how we should view the church and it’s role today?

    • Thanks, Dad. Do you have thoughts on them you’d care to share now? 🙂

  • Melanie

    I wonder why baptism is withheld until after a person has gone thru instruction class. Why don’t Mennonites baptize immediately upon confession of faith? Why is this aspect of the early church still not practiced? If we were being persecuted and possibly not live another day, would we then baptize immediately and not require the “instruction class”? Blessings to you!

    • Melanie, thanks for adding your questions! I’ve wondered the same things as well.

      • Anonymous

        I wonder about this too.
        I know Mennonites typically require a person to be membership-ready before they baptize them. I question whether it’s right to require someone to become what we consider a “good Christian” (good Mennonite) before allowing them to be baptized. In the early church, they didn’t seem to wait for the person to start dressing right, start doing all the right things, stop smoking, drinking, and doing all the wrong things (or whatever would have be the equivalent in that culture) before baptizing them? (And should we withhold membership from those people? Given that they are sincere and growing in the Lord?)
        Should baptism and church-membership be connected? What about if a 10 year old comes to Christ and wants to be baptized? Does a 10 become a member then? Do we make them wait a few years?
        What about those who are Christians and are wanting to be baptized but aren’t wanting to become a member of your church? Is withholding baptism from anyone who isn’t ready/wanting to be a member ever okay?
        I’d be interested in your thoughts.

        • Thanks for asking these questions. Those are right along the lines of what I want to study. There will definitely be a post or two coming about it throughout the study. Stay tuned! 🙂

  • Otee

    What is a “good” church service and what should included with some degree of regularity?

  • Trevor

    Hey thanks for bringing up the subject . The biggest question I have with about church is , is church to be an oasis where we can raise our family safely , a place where we come to get away from the presure of the world ? Or is church a place for the lost and dieing to come and feel acceptance and altimatly see Jesus ? Or can u have booth in the same church ? Looking forward to the results of your studdy . God bless.

  • Oh how close to my heart this subject is! On baptism and church membership, why would they go together? What good is having church “standards” when the people in the church have the holy spirit? And so many more… I can’t wait to see what you have to share in your next post.

    Keep following God!

  • Duane Good

    This sounds like a study that will resonate loudly with me… Its an issue that I have been learning about more on also… I am waiting with baited breath to see the result of your labors!

    May I suggest that you include liberally, specific scriptures for where your various thoughts and conclusions are founded…

    God bless you as you continue to study….

    • Thank you, Duane! Yes, I want to stick close to the Scriptures!