Ask Me Anything (Communion as a Guest, Lent, Egalitarianism, Eschatology, etc)
It has been a long time since I shared an “Ask Me Anything” article—which is to say, since I publicly answered a selection of the questions that have come my way in the past while. But here, at long last, is my attempt to remedy this.
Can a believer take communion at another Bible-believing church besides his own.
Generally, yes. But there are two important matters to consider: your convictions and the church’s convictions.
Before I explain what I mean, though, I’m glad that the question assumes two factors that I regard as important. The first is that this communion is being celebrated in the context of a local church rather than a camp, conference, or other kind of gathering that is something less than the local church. The second is that this is a Bible-believing church, which I take to mean a true rather than a false church. These are both important because Christians have long held that the Lord’s Supper is properly celebrated in the local church and that the right administration of the sacraments (or ordinances) is a mark of a true and healthy church.
As for participating as a guest in a church that is not your own, different Christians will have different convictions. Before visiting another another church it would be good to sharpen your own convictions on the matter. The majority of Christians regard it as acceptable, though there are some who do not. Personally, I will participate at a church I am visiting but would not at a camp, conference, small group, or other context that is not the gathering of the local church.
The second consideration is the practice of the church you are visiting. Most churches are glad to welcome guests, though there are some who will not and others who will only do so if you have first spoken to the elders to give them confidence that you are a believer (e.g. some churches in the Dutch Reformed tradition). Hopefully the church you are visiting “fences” the table by clearly explaining who is invited to participate and who is not. They may say “all believers are invited” or “all baptized believers are invited” or “all baptized believers who are members of a gospel-preaching church are invited.” Listen carefully and you will probably hear whether you can participate or why, out of respect for their position you should not.
I hold to the egalitarian position on gender roles. Could you please recommend a irenic complementarian book I could read?
Certainly. I am glad that you are willing to consider the alternative position and that you’d like to hear the strongest possible case for it. There’s really no better way to sharpen (or modify) your beliefs.
I might turn first to Kevin DeYoung’s Men and Women in the Church: A Short, Biblical, Practical Introduction. This is how he explains his goal for it: “Our church has a book nook in the corner of our main lobby. I have often wished for a book there that explained the Bible’s teaching about men and women in the church in a way that the interested layperson could understand and in a size that he or she could read in a few hours. I have wished for a book that would argue its case without being argumentative; a book I could give to other pastors wrestling with this issue; and a book pastors could give to their elders, deacons, and trustees that they would actually read; a book that displays exegetical integrity with minimal technical jargon; a book weightier than a pamphlet but lighter than a doorstop.”
As a follow-up I would encourage you to read Embracing Complementarianism by Graham Beynon and Jane Tooher which focuses on how to work out complementarianism in the life and worship of the local church. They do a great job of showing how the doctrine can and should be worked out in practice.
I am just getting acquainted with you and your writing, and noticed you said that Jesus is your Savior. I stumbled on that, because, I don’t understand why you didn’t say he is your Lord and Savior. It seems to me this is an extremely crucial point.
I would respond that there is a difference between denying the Lordship of Jesus and simply not stating it each time. If you look over the way the New Testament uses “Lord” and “Savior” you will find that it sometimes uses one, sometimes uses the other, and sometimes uses both. Here’s the evidence from the epistles and Revelation:
You’ll need to scroll a bit to read them all, but you’ll see the writers affirming Christ as Savior and Lord, but only sometimes (rarely, actually) joining the two. So my assumption when it comes to other believers would be that they affirm that Jesus is Lord even when they don’t explicitly state it. And, indeed, I very much affirm that Jesus is my Savior and my Lord.
Can you suggest a book on eschatology for a study group for men?
I was recently struck by Paul’s words to the church in Thessalonica. At the end of chapter 4 he briefly describes the last days and the resurrection of the dead, then says, “Therefore encourage one another with these words.” It is more than a little sad that eschatology tends to discourage more than encourage. And so perhaps the place to begin in order to be encouraged by these matters is with a book like Dayton Hartman’s Jesus Wins. His burden is to understand eschatology as a doctrine meant to help us live for the Lord right now. He also wants to foster unity among believers by focusing on what the various positions hold in common. It is just a short book and no more than an introduction to a vast topic, but it is useful in shaping the purpose and direction of our studies of the end times.
What is your perspective on Lent?
I have written about this at some length so will direct you to that article. But in summary:
- Nowhere in the Bible are we commanded to observe Ash Wednesday, Lent, Good Friday, Easter, or any other holy day. And nowhere are we forbidden. So Lent (and even Easter) is a matter of Christian freedom.
- Those who do mark it and those who do not should both be cautious against disparaging others or afflicting their conscience.
- There is no blessing conferred by Lent that is not available through the ordinary means of grace God has established. (This may well be the most important point to understand so you can be sure you aren’t unintentionally communicating the opposite.)
- Those who mark Lent are reaching outside the Reformed tradition and borrowing elements of other Christian traditions.
- To quote R. Scott Clark, “The history of the church tells us that the road to spiritual bondage is paved with good intentions.” Hence we should be aware of potential negative consequences of marking what the Bible does not instruct us to.
I concluded this way: “To those who plan to observe Lent, I wish you well and trust you’ll benefit from a time you’ve chosen to make special between you and the Lord. To those who plan not to observe Lent, I wish you well also and trust you’ll benefit equally from the so-ordinary, so-wonderful means of grace that are available to all of us all the time.”
I’d encourage you to read and consider it all.