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Church:  The Biblical Ideal versus the Contemporary Reality IV

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Question #1: 

Hi Dr L,

Well, I did go to a Bible study. And right after they were saying they all go to the main service and then lunch after. Is it bad that I immediately shrank from the idea of having over half of the day taken up? I know I am also letting bad experiences in the past color how I feel about it now. And yes I got frustrated and forgot what it was like to sit in a seat and be talked at for like 40 minutes (from school back then). I know in that one passage Paul talked late into the night, so maybe I am wrong to think like this. But the good teachings seem to be few and far between. Most of them seem to be like the one they had.

I mean he took a passage and built up this whole narrative around it with a few facts, but the thing is, you could use that same technique to built up a bunch of conflicting narratives like that. Reading into the passage what the character was thinking and feeling that is not stated, or why they did something that was not stated, and then relating your reading-into to some modern present trouble. And I am pretty sure most of the main service is more of that kind of thing after the worship. I guess I have to ask myself if I am willing to deal with that for maybe 1.5 hours every Sunday just for the chance at fellowship. And I think I would have to pretend a lot of the time that I agreed, because if they ask and I am always hesitating it won't go well for fellowship. You know?

Have a good one,

Response #1:  

Finding a "good church", that is, one where they are teaching the Bible – as opposed to preaching whatever they want on whatever passage they happen to read – is no easy thing these days.

I certainly sympathize with your reaction. Nowadays, it seems to me that those who really do know something about scripture and the doctrines it truly teaches are usually going to have one of the following reactions in going to "church", depending on the particular one they try out:

1) "If I have to listen to any more of this infantile tripe for much longer, I'm going to lose my breakfast".

2) "Is there going to be ANY teaching here, or are they just going to keep singing until time's up?"

3) "This place is pretty fun, but I feel my spiritual I.Q. dropping by the minute."

4) "Uh oh – this is ALL terribly wrong! Let me out of here!"

There is nothing wrong with baby food. But I wouldn't want to have to eat a jar of it myself – and I would die if I had to eat it regularly, let alone exclusively.

Believers who have advanced to spiritual maturity are especially "hard to please" when it comes to finding a brick-and-mortar church – and that is a decidedly GOOD thing. Because it means that they have learned enough of the truth to recognize poor substitutes for actual Bible teaching – and to reject them, even if it means missing out on "fellowship". What good is "fellowship" with others, even with believers (or possibly especially with believers), if they want no part of the actual truth taught in any depth? After all, those people wouldn't be hanging in there if they really wanted to grow.

A few links:

Church: The Biblical Ideal versus the Contemporary Reality I

Church: The Biblical Ideal versus the Contemporary Reality II

Church: The Biblical Ideal versus the Contemporary Reality III

Finding a Church . . . or something better I

Finding a Church . . . or something better II

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #2:  

Dr. Luginbill,

There's this thing that's been on my mind since I was 13 years old. I was baptized and I asked my grandmother if what we're doing was necessary and if we're doing something right. Because to me back then, it looked like a tradition because I also saw other denomination do what we did. Now that I'm 18, I still think the same way, I really think that, that baptism was a tradition of baptists, the one where they dip people in water. And also, this thing with being the true church, I would ask my churchmates and pastor if other baptists are our brothers and sisters, they would answer that, yes they are our brothers and sisters but we are the true one's who worship God, that we are the church that Jesus built. But, I'm really doubting it a lot because I don't see in the bible that missionary baptist is the church that Jesus built. And there are no mention of any denomination on the bible like baptists, born again or any other denomination since all of these would claim that they are the church that Jesus built. Please help me, I'm really confused right now and scared that maybe I'm believing and being taught doctrines that aren't actually in the bible.

Response #2:  

I applaud you for looking to the Bible first. All denominations without exception prefer traditions over the scriptures. It's just a matter of degrees and specifics.

The "Church" in God's eyes consists of all who believe in Jesus Christ, all who have been born again, born from above, "by grace through faith" and not of works (Eph.2:8-9). God is not a respecter of denominations or their traditions.

There is a great deal about all this at Ichthys. The most concentrated place is Bible Basics 6B: Ecclesiology, the study of the Church (at the link). See also "Baptism: Water and Spirit XI (at the link).

In Jesus our dear Savior, the Head of the true Church His Body.

Bob L.

Question #3: 

Hi Dr,

I think I will continue to do the outline approach. It has served the Church well when I was away and I will continue it but transition it online.

Now, the fun part. The name if the ministry. I will seek the Lord's help but if you have any suggestions, I would appreciate it sir. It would be similar to this site https://executableoutlines.com/guides/ but more in-depth.

In Christ our Lord

Response #3: 

As to your link, first, I couldn't recommend this person's ministry.

Second, I am trying to figure out who would benefit from the sort of guides contained at this particular link. Wouldn't it be better to read the chapter/Psalm etc., than to have someone else tell you what you should think about it? No one but the Lord can tell you your ministry. It's your job to figure it out and push through, regardless of what anyone else thinks. But if it were me, I would want to be absolutely sure of this method and how I would employ it before spending a lot of time and effort and money on it.

Third, I'm sure you have something somewhat different in mind from the link, an outline that is helpful in explaining the Word and doing so correctly – helpful teaching the truth.

To be honest, I've never gotten much out of the outline approach, but the fault no doubt has been with those making the outlines. So again, I would suggest that you do maybe one Psalm and demonstrate just what it is that you would do with this method which would actually be helpful. After all, "the proof is in the pudding". There are a lot of ministries which may look somewhat similar to Ichthys on the surface, but I'm pretty pleased with my "pudding" (whereas I find most of the others inedible).

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #4: 

Thanks for the feedback. I will continue to seek the Lord on this.

Response #4: 

It also occurs to me that you had success teaching the Word face to face.

You might want to consider that in lieu of an internet ministry (just a thought).

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #5: 

I was thinking the same thing. That will entail joining a church. It was a success because the Lord bought hungry hearts there.

I will have to think and pray on this and what could be the best approach.

Thank you for your suggestions.

In Christ our Lord

Response #5: 

"That will entail joining a church." ??? I don't see why.

"It was a success because the Lord bought hungry hearts there." And He can do that WITHOUT you tying yourself to an already existing brick-and-mortar church – where more likely than not they will be doing many things wrong and teaching many things which are not true.

"I will have to think and pray on this and what could be the best approach." Indeed. The Lord has something in mind for you, I assure you. Our job is to continue to prepare and be ready to fulfill whatever purpose He has for us once the Spirit makes that clear.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #6: 

Hello Robert,

It's been a while, I pulled the trigger this week. Got a job and told my parents that I want to leave and follow a light that God has shown me that's different from the pin and needle salvation that they believe.

They were very emotional at first, then they got very angry. Told me a few revelations and dreams that they've had (according to them) where they said they saw me develop mental illness and got blind if I left our town or church for somewhere else.

They told me that God wants to only use me in their church and leaving will mean the devil has stolen me away for his own use.

They even read Ephesians 6:2ff, that I must obey they and if I dont, they will commit me unto the devil like Saul. They claimed they will disown me and all sorts.

I got confused at first but God gave me courage and I'm planning to leave tomorrow to live my own life and serve God how I've learnt. Possibly also, maybe even do God's work in as little a way as I can.

How have you been?

I'll appreciate a swift response.

In Christ,

Response #6: 

Good for you!

I have been praying for you on this score, my friend, and I'm very happy to hear that you have taken the plunge and decided to follow the path the Lord has set out for you.

We always want good relations with our family, parents in particular. But if it comes down to them or the Lord, we have to continue to honor them – but follow the Lord.

I am sure that the Lord has a ministry in mind for you, my friend. And that requires preparation on all fronts – hard to get if you are stuck in a legalistic environment where you can't say or think anything true without it being opposed.

I'll continue to keep you in my prayers, and I've put up a prayer request for you on Ichthys (do let me know if you want the wording changed in any way).

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #7: 

Thank you very much, Bob.

I've tried searching through the website, can you send me the direct link to the prayer request page?

One other thing, my parents quoted 2 Timothy 3:14 when I asked them for where the Bible asks a believer not to leave a church where he got born again. I know it's wrong, what do you think?

Thanks again.

In Christ,

Response #7: 

It's on the email page at this link: https://ichthys.com/e-mails.htm#Special_prayer_request

On the latest verse, well, this assumes that "what you have received" is actually true. That WAS the case for Timothy – since he got what he got from Paul – but it would not be, for example, if someone was raised in the RC or JW tradition. This is not a mandate to stick with what is wrong. If it's wrong, a little or a lot, we have to go with what is right – once we are convicted by the Spirit about what is right and what is wrong.

Keeping you in my prayers, my friend!

In Jesus our dear Savior,

Bob L.

Question #8: 

[Question about potentially going to local church small groups for fellowship]

Response #8: 

It always sounds like a good idea; but it always has given me severe nausea. Don't suppress that feeling if and when (it's no doubt the Spirit trying to get your attention). That said, maybe you've found the one golden exception (I'm not holding my breath here, however).

I'm confident that your spiritual radar is plenty good enough to keep you safe – if you listen to it. When they do something really pathetic and you hear that voice in the back of your head saying "what am I doing here?!", don't disregard it.

If you're looking for someone to date, why not try a dating service instead? Seriously, these rationalizations apply equally there. I used to know someone whose dad owned such a service. They make it sound as if they are carefully matching you with just your right "soul mate", but in fact they are only screening for religion, race and age.

As a prospective teacher, you have a responsibility to be true to the truth 100%. But the place you will be going to will not be anywhere close to that. And of course there is also the problem that you have to respect the authority of the pastor who runs the place – but he will be wrong about so many things. That is a difficult dilemma to navigate without qualms of conscience.

You know, of course, that the Lord is capable of finding you just the right "someone" without you ever darkening the door of some place questionable. But if you do that latter with the former in mind, you might just find someone who looks the part without actually being able to play it (that will mean trouble down that road). I have been praying for you to find someone through your own ministry and ministering.

In Jesus our dear Savior,

Bob L.

Question #9: 

Dear Brother Bob, hope you are well.

Thank you for that detailed response on evangelism and sharing the links. I had a misconception that if I learn some skill, I could get better at evangelism, but as you wrote, I thought of when Paul mentioned it was not with persuasive speech that he came, but in the demonstration of the Spirit’s power. (1 Cor 2:4).

That is a great point that if we are pleasing the Lord, that is enough, I think it is human nature to want to please people, and in this culture of tolerance, we try not to offend anyone.

I think a few days ago I was on your site and I was reading how your studies began, and that you have a house church? For a while I have been thinking about starting a house church, but I am not quite sure, how to make that happen. I mean there are the basics of having people to gather in studying the Bible, fellowship, and praying for each other, but how do you make it sustainable? One issue my Dad and I have is sustainability. We have a small group that has been gathering for a few months now, it kind of just happened. We have a mix of Christians and seekers, the group fluctuates between four and eight people each week. One major difficulty is material. The people are new in the faith or seekers. They are not ready for solid food, but there are 2 to 3 who have been Christians for many years. We have talked about random things like prayer, spiritual growth, but one key missing element is having structure, and discipleship material. Brother Bob, what do you suggest?

Love in Christ,

Response #9: 

Ichthys is "my church". Because of the internet, Christians can avail themselves of the teaching remotely; they don't have to move to Louisville, KY – probably a good thing.

"Church" in God's eyes is about hearing and learning the truth, and encouraging each other through the truth. We manage to do that pretty well. It's all the other "stuff" that has nothing to do with what assembly was meant to be in God's eyes where Ichthys is "lacking" – decidedly a good thing.

After all, our Lord never organized a coffee hour. What did He do? Just read the gospels and see, e.g.:

"In that hour Jesus said to the crowd, “Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I sat in the temple courts teaching, and you did not arrest me."
Matthew 26:55 NIV

And they were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.
Mark 1:22 NKJV

And Jesus, when He came out, saw a great multitude and was moved with compassion for them, because they were like sheep not having a shepherd. So He began to teach them many things.
Mark 6:34 NKJV

Our Lord is not called "teacher" dozens and dozens of times in the gospels for nothing, for the above are not isolated passages (Matt.4:23; 5:2; 7:28-29; 9:35; 11:1; 13:54; 21:23; 26:55; Mk.1:22; 2:13; 4:1; 6:2; 8:31; 9:31; 10:1; 11:17; 12:35; 14:49; Lk.4:15; 4:31; 5:3; 5:17; 6:6; 13:10; 13:22; 19:47; 20:1; 21:37; 23:5; Jn.6:59; 7:14; 7:28; 8:20; 8:28; 18:20). Leading up to the cross, "teaching the truth" is WHAT our Lord occupied Himself with doing almost exclusively (the miracles drew people to listen). And teaching the truth is what He commands of us as well:

Then Jesus came over and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me, so go and make all nations my followers by baptizing them [with the Spirit] into the Person (i.e., “name”) of the Father and [into the Person] of the Son and [into the Person] of the Holy Spirit, and by teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you.”
Matthew 28:18-20a

So it's not the form of the church or its organization, nor is the numbers game so many churches play: if a pastor-teacher is teaching the truth in a way that actually helps other believers grow, He is doing his job and no doubt pleasing the Lord. If we are doing that, we don't have to worry about anything else.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #10: 

Hello Robert,

Peace be with you in the name of Jesus our Lord and Savior, I have been reading your site as well as the Word these past few months. I would like to seek your advice as I respect you as a mature brother in Jesus. I attend a Free-will Baptist church of about 120 steady attendees. I love the smaller churches as they are more family-like and one can become acquainted with virtually everyone. The pastor is a good solid teacher who teaches from the Word. However he does seem to have accepted some doctrines based on tradition. Anyway, I seek advice on the following:

1. The Pastor uses a considerable amount of material from Rick Warren, whom clearly is an apostate teacher.

2. He teaches a Pre-tribulation Rapture.

3. He is a big fan of motivation speakers, such as Tony Roberts and Norman Vincent Peale to name a couple.

I have approached him one on one concerning items 1 and 2. Item 3 is troubling but I don’t know what to say to him about it. I have explained why I believe Mr. Warren is an apostate, giving examples such as his eisegetical use of scripture in almost all his writings. There is just enough truth to make it sound good. His response is that Mr. Warren was a good teacher but may have strayed. No further discussion was had.

As to the timing of the Rapture, I realize it is not a salvation issue but I still think it important to understand God’s Word correctly. I tried to explain why a Post-Tribulation Rapture was scriptural, but he replied that he was a Pan-Tribulationist and that everything would pan out. I’ve not heard that old chestnut said above a hundred times. Anyway, I said that if believers had been taught a Pre-Trib Rapture and were then faced with the Tribulation they would be spiritually unprepared to face what is coming, which in turn may cause them to lose their faith. His response was to repeat his stance.

I understand that even if he agreed it would be difficult to ‘change course’ and remain credible, but does not the truth matter more? Should I just back off? Is it right that I should question the pastor who has much more theological training than I? I am looking for guidance or advice, not a definitive answer if you follow.

Do not get me wrong, he is a good believing Christian man, but these skewed teachings add up.

I kind of feel like this is a “Dear Abby” letter, (my sense of humor) but based on your writings and responses to others I value your thoughts.

In Jesus,

Response #10: 

Good to make your acquaintance.

I certainly agree with your take about there being no pre-Trib rapture (as you probably know very well from reading the site). It's typical of "church" in our era of Laodicea to focus on pablum for entertainment's sake rather than to do the hard work of digging into scripture – hard work for the pastor who is doing it but not so easy for the congregation either. That goes a long way to explaining why so few churches and ministries are doing so. Lukewarm is easier – or at least so it seems; but then we remember our Lord's statement about spitting such types out of His mouth. And you are right on the money about the dangers of being unprepared for what is coming out of just such an "it doesn't really matter" mind set . . . when it couldn't matter more.

As to the individuals mentioned, I think it's very clear to anyone who is serious about learning the Bible and growing closer to Jesus Christ through the truth that none of these ministries is going to lead to that result. So enough said about that. As to what to do about it, I am not a fan of trying to change things "from the inside". This, in my view, is pouring new wine into old bottles. It might break the bottle but it won't result in wine preserved – which is the result we seek. I'm willing to bet that if somehow you did manage to change this pastor's heart (and it is hard to express how skeptical I am about even the possibility existing), in no time flat the congregation would kick him out. After all, they have what they want and that is why they are there. I am sure that they are nice people and that there are wonderful personal relationships. That is true also of many kindergartens. But after a while we ought to want to put childish things behind us. Trying to have it both ways, namely, to grow from one ministry (like Ichthys) but continue with another (as in your church since of course we all dearly love to have friends who are Christians) inevitably results in spiritual dyspepsia. That is what you are experiencing now. I have heard it said more than once (and have experienced it myself more than once) that having to listen in church to drivel completely devoid of true biblical content – except in terms of things that are false – makes a person feel sick to their stomach after a while. Eventually, one either has to make one's peace with not growing or go someplace else where it is possible – or embracing something else, like Ichthys.

I do think it is good of you to have tried to lead this fellow to the truth. It also seems to me that he has given you your answer, and very clearly too. From this point onward, if you persist, you are only going to make yourself persona non grata with him and with everyone who likes him. If you are determined to stay, then I would suggest that you leave him and the rest who like what he is doing to their own devices – because otherwise you are likely to be asked to leave. I have seen this many times before. On the other hand, if the Spirit is telling your conscience to do something, you should do it. But I have a feeling that the Spirit is showing you that this is not the place you should be. As I've said, I've never seen a successful "change it from inside out" operation. Rather, persistence in trying to correct the pastor usually leads to his ouster or the ouster of the person/group trying to force the change – or to complete civil war. Hard to see how that is godly. So please to take care and consider future steps with consequences in mind.

You are certainly very welcome here at Ichthys any time! And also do feel free to email me.

*Incidentally, when I was in graduate school after seminary working on my Ph.D., I actually put in an application to be the pastor at what is now R. Warren's church. They were apparently unimpressed with my academic credentials – earned at great effort in order to be a better servant in teaching the Word. Got a letter from them sometime latter informing me that they "had not been led to choose me". Given what this group now embraces, this turned out to be one of the most gracious deliverances the Lord has blessed me with in my life.

In Jesus,

Bob Luginbill

Question #11: 

Hello Robert,

Peace be with you and thank you for your rapid and solid advice. What you recommended as possible outcomes I had considered, but it is rather nice to have a man of faith confirm those thoughts. I certainly agree about trying to change from within as I have tried this in my prior profession and will simply say it was disastrous. For now I will continue to pray and seek the Spirit’s guidance, I will stay until I feel prompted to make a change.

In the interim I shall continue to study God’s Word and Ichthys.

If you do not mind my asking, is there a church you attend? If so have you experienced such matters?

Thank you,

In Jesus,

Response #11:  

As I've said many times, "Ichthys is my church". Now that we have the internet, I am able to share what I consider to be substantive Bible teaching with whomever wishes from wherever they may be around the world. This occupies much of my time and energy which is limited because I also work a full-time job and, of course, have other life responsibilities. If I thought it were important to "attend church" when I'm essentially doing what church is supposed to be doing I would do so; as it is, not even "real churches" are doing what THEY are supposed to be doing, very few of them here in Laodicea at any rate. So there is no spiritual profit in that. It is a mark of the misguided guilt-trip that modern "churchianity" has laid on people that most if not all feel guilty for not "going to church" when it isn't doing them any good and in fact is often leading them astray – even while at the same time giving them a "warm feeling" for "nodding to God", warm enough that they don't then feel the need to do what Christ really wants them to do in terms of spiritual growth – a lukewarm feeling, that is.

Here are some links about this:

"Not forsaking the assembly"

"The assembly of the local church" (in BB 6B)

The Meaning and Purpose of True Christian Assembly

Red Hot or Lukewarm? Bible Teaching versus Sermonizing.

Mega-Churches, Emergent Christianity, Spirituality and Materialism.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #12:  

Dr. Luginbill,

That’s good, glad to hear. Anything interesting at the U-Mich library? That sounds like a nice weekend.

The seminary plans are okay. I’m getting involved in a church here because I need that pastoral recommendation to be accepted. I enjoy the fellowship I’ve been getting, but I still feel that I need to put in my own study time to grow more. The pastor is okay, but I still wish church was like an every day type endeavor.

I’ve been getting the sense that God maybe wants me to serve a little more and help other believers aside from my individual study, so that’s also why I’m getting involved. I’ve been figuring this because for some reason I haven’t been so engaged in my study and I haven’t been having much joy, so I think the Spirit might be telling me to change things up. I can’t think of much else of an explanation. I have a lot of free time on my hands and it’s the worst when you feel you aren’t spending your time effectively.

In our Lord,

Response #12:  

Very interesting. Keep me in the loop about this.

Here's one thing I saw, a part of P46 (part of Romans, dating to ca. 150 A.D.).

Free time? Enjoy it while you can. Seminary and all academic prep is very busy, especially if you are dead-set to keep up your personal spiritual growth at the same time.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #13: 

Dr. Luginbill,

That’s awesome, seems like it was fun.

I’ll keep you in the loop about everything. The church thing is definitely kind of annoying, because the ones I’ve found emphasize baptism, tithing, and not a ton of study. I don’t know how people somehow figure that we’re supposed to tithe.

I might hit you up with questions later in the week. But sometimes I say that and then don’t do it, so we’ll see.

In our Lord,

Response #13: 

Yes, that sounds like most (almost all) churches these days.

Write any time, and thanks again for the update.

I'm keeping you in prayer on this.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #14: 


I have my own deeper opinions about things and experiences in them. More than once when in a church when I went away for a short time, vacation or something else, I would come back and things seemed the same--but they were not. Once it was choir group who had their own meetings and started to conspire; another was a larger group who wanted things they way they were before good Bible teaching but that is usually the pattern. One gets the impression when they call you to the church they want Bible teaching but they really did not or the majority did not and soon people are taking sides. The victims would be the pastor and his family. Christians can be awfully cruel and heartless sometimes.

As to that situation, I think I can explain what is going on I but I do not want it to sound judgmental. As I read some earlier letters, they were quite positive and exciting. I thought it a rare thing for someone to go anywhere in the world today and find a lot of positive response to Bible teaching. Many act like they like it because they know they should--but their heart is not in seriously following Christ. As I said, I cannot know for sure but from what I know, what they had in the beginning was incredibly rare.

And of course, there is the devil and his ways that move in to unprotected sheep. But usually it is the sheep themselves who decide they like the old uncommitted way of doing things-- being a little religious learning a little Bible. I also find it interesting that after someone has been in contact with me and this ministry for a long time, they ask a question that goes back to basics that they probably never heard in the first place. That basic series is short too--yet critical.

Many would be surprised, probably not you, of how many actually give to this ministry. Out of so many subscribers, very few give with any frequency–and I give praise to God for that. What really concerns me is the great drop off of people who actually will listen to an entire lesson. Less than half than before covid and not improving. And I think I am teaching better now than ever.

One may expect an increase of interest in the truth as times get tough but it appears to be just the opposite. Well, I could go on but you get the drift. Bob, I appreciate your ministry and staying so faithful to it as I am sure God is pleased and you will see that one day.

In His perpetual care and love,

Response #14: 

Thanks much for your perspective on "face to face church". This certainly is Laodicea. Expecting for there to be enough Christians who really want to grow all to be living in one area – enough to support a pastor-teacher and make a "real church" – without all the politics, well, I guess it's asking a lot nowadays. What I have never been interested in doing is compromising or putting up with nonsense, so I know I'd never have been able to do much except "blow up" one of those "doctrinal churches" which are already out there. I'm happy to have a part in this ministry. And I note that even though the internet allows us to reach around the entire world, the number of people who are really interested and dedicated is turning out to be precious few. I hear what you are saying about numbers. As I mentioned before, the Ichthys numbers have been steadily declining, even as, as you say, the fruit is getting better and available in ever greater quantity. Fruit trees can produce wonderful fruit and in great abundance, but the tree can't do much about how many people come and partake. That is up to the Lord. Our job is to keep the fruit coming.

I also join you in being surprised that the "tough times" have led to less instead of more interest. But there have been a few who have proven themselves loyal in spite of everything and I'm sure that is true of your ministry as well. As one of my professors at Irvine once told me when he was getting a lot of bad reviews on his latest book: "I write for my fans, not for my critics".

Your old (and gettin' older) pal.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #15: 


On this memorial day, we are reminded of those who have fallen to help maintain our freedom. Thank God we have had our lifetimes-- so far-- to live in a free country so we could pursue our ministries without restriction.

I came across writing in one of the books I am studying by Grant Osborne. I came across him some years ago and learned he did not except eternal security similar to our view on it. He died in 2018 and was a former professor in the Greek dept. at Trinity Evangelical Seminary. I thought this quote from his book would be interesting to read for you. He is writing about churches and how little concern there is for biblical truth.

"As I travel to literally hundreds of churches, I am too often chagrined at the lack of a serious teaching ministry among them. Where is the concern for truth? It is at the heart of Scripture but too rarely emphasized today. This is why so many churches have gone astray. Too many average Christians do not have a firm grasp of doctrine or care much about retaining the truths of God’s Word. They cannot tell when they are being fed false ideas."

Osborne, Grant R. Revelation Verse by Verse (Osborne New Testament Commentaries) . Lexham Press. Kindle Edition.

We share the battle my brother. "Stay frosty" as they say.

Your fellow warrior for Christ,

Response #15: 

It has been a great blessing NOT to have to answer to the government for our beliefs. Now that this sort of censorship has been delegated to the guardians of the internet, however, I'm wondering how much longer we can keep this up. I just posted a response from a brother who ended up in "Facebook jail" for having Christian views. Also, the number of hits I get from that place and also from Google is decidedly down. Still, we're not being kicked off the internet (yet), and I am confident in the Lord's ability to help anyone who is truly interested in what we have to offer find our little oases of truth.

This is a great quote! It being Memorial Day, I'm reminded of an open air market in Pohang, S. Korea I went to back in '79 as part of the annual "Team Spirit" joint ops. There was table after table of all manner of colorful candies in a variety of shapes and interesting packages. But it turns out it was all the exact same rice starch and sugar – and tasted awful. Even though the churches today have different names, different presentations, and all manner of different "packaging", it does seem that they share that characteristic of offering the same sort of banal and tasteless dreck from which no one would ever be able to grow. That's the times we're living in.

I certainly have hopes that the Tribulation will finally light a fire among the lukewarm. But it hasn't happened yet, and if the response to our ministries following all the recent troubles of the past few years is any sort of indication, I suppose I'd better not count on it.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #16: 

Hi Bob,

Just checking in to see that you are fine and enjoying the last days of summer, although I guess you are back at the university now. I recently spent a few weeks in Zambia with a dear friend whose husband passed away. On my way back through South Africa I attended church with her and was heartened to see how alive the churches are there (not all I guess) and I wish we had something here where God’s word is preached faithfully from the pulpit every Sunday.

I miss belonging to a church and wonder how one can be expected to “not forsake the assembling of ourselves together” when we cannot find a church in which to worship. Do you have any thoughts on that?

God bless you Bob,

Response #16: 

Yes, we're finishing our third week tomorrow, so well into it here.

Good to hear that you are back safe and sound.

That verse in Hebrews is all about mutual encouragement of believers, one to another (Heb.10:25: "not abandoning your mutual assembling as some have made it their practice to do [and which makes that impossible], but rather encouraging each other"). And that mutual encouragement is certainly possible whether or not there is a church building (there surely wasn't in the case of the believers who received the book of Hebrews). But how can believers encourage each other if they are not spiritually mature and haven't been tested themselves and passed the test? So whatever else a church may do, if it is not promoting the spiritual growth of its members as the first priority it is failing, even if it is expanding.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
2nd Corinthians 1:3-4 NKJV

Thank you for YOUR encouragement, my friend.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #17: 

Thanks Bob,
A great reply as usual. I pray that the Lord will continue to encourage and bless you! I believe that God sends people across our path for a definite reason. Wish we could meet you personally but we believe we WILL one day!

Response #17: 

It's my great pleasure!

We'll be singing His praises together in New Jerusalem before you know it!

Looking forward to it.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #18: 

[question about online romantic relationships and feelings of insufficiency in ministry]

Response #18: 

Apologies in advance if I don't address everything in these emails. It is difficult enough to have a decent purely personal relationship with a person one has known a long time face to face; how it's possible to have anything good or decent online without ever meeting someone . . . well, let's just say I have my doubts. I receive unsolicited emails all the time from women in foreign countries . . . which I am certain are actually written by middle-aged men (angling for a credit card number). It's dangerous enough trusting people you know something about and can see with your own eyes.

As to the Bible, I wouldn't despair about not understanding everything immediately. I have been working on this ministry for over forty-five years; it is the most important thing in my life, believe me, but I still have to study out passages before I translate and interpret them. I have learned many things, but I have yet to learn "everything". I have learned a lot from and with the help of other people in preparing for this ministry. That is what the Church is supposed to be all about, namely, helping each other. We all have our own gifts and our own ministries and ministry opportunities. If a person is a hand instead of a foot, or vice verse, well, we need both, don't we? I need prayer – and a lot of it. We all need encouragement. Some need material help – many good ministries are only possible because of it. And everyone needs the truth of the Word – not just what can be gleaned from reading through the English Bible (or even if a person knows Greek and Hebrew). We all need the scriptures illuminated by the Spirit and taught with some spiritual power. There is little enough of the latter these days. Pastor-teachers who are genuinely prepared and genuinely doing the job to which they have been called ought to be receiving as well as providing such spiritual sustenance. I couldn't do what I do without the Spirit and without prayer support. To be honest, I look back and don't know how it all got done to this point. But I don't "feel bad" that I needed your prayers or the Spirit's guidance or the help I previously received. We're trying to fulfill the objectives the Lord gave us and of course we can only do that together.

So please enjoy the feast of truth to which you have access and don't feel that your own contributions are of no importance; they are very important.

If you want more, then make a point of devoting yourself to spiritual growth more and more. To whom much is given, more will be added, after all. There is no limit to what we can achieve for Jesus Christ in this life, other than the limits we impose on ourselves.

In Jesus our dear Savior,

Bob L.

Question #19: 

Good day Dr. Luginbill,

I came across this verse again, and I recall a sermon where the pastor explained it as "double honoring pastors". I Timothy 5:17 is the verse. And it says there,

"Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine."

Is that right? Because I don't think it mentions double honoring pastors at all.

Response #19: 

Good to hear from you.

On 1st Timothy 5:17, KJV has "double honor" and that is an accurate reflection of the Greek (diple time).

The question is what that means. And the answer is found in the very next verse where Paul assures us that even draft animals need to eat. So the "double honor" due to pastor-teachers is first the respect due to any teacher, but especially to one who is genuinely teaching the Word of God, and second the honor of having their labor "in the Word" supported: if they have to work a full time job in addition to having family responsibilities, it will be deuce difficult for them to be devoting enough time to studying and teaching to be able to feed their congregations – analogous to a mule which isn't fed but is kept on working: eventually it will drop dead.

I hasten to reiterate that the verse says that this extra honor is to be reserved for "those who labor in the word and doctrine (literally "teaching"). VERY few pastors in Laodicea are worthy of the title "pastor-TEACHER", because so very few are prepared to teach and even fewer are actually teaching the substance of the Word of God – the truth in enough depth for a congregation to grow.

Proclaim the Word! Keep at it, whether circumstances are favorable or not! Reprove, rebuke, [and] encourage with all patience [in your] teaching!
2nd Timothy 4:2

If you are asking about who are these "elders who [take the] lead", an "elder" is another term for a pastor-teacher – or to put it another way, in the NT, all pastor-teachers are "elders". The ones who "lead" or "stand before" the congregation (Greek, proestotes) are the "teaching elders" or "pastor-teachers". Churches are not required to have more than one elder; if they do, there will inevitably be one who "takes the lead" in teaching. This person is the "pastor" who looks out for the flock through his teaching; aka the "pastor-teacher". So the elders in the verse you ask about are indeed pastor-teachers. No one else needs to be supported in order to edify the church through teaching – which takes a lot of time and effort to do the job right.

As I've often remarked, the NT is deliberately vague about how churches should be organized – except that they need at least one elder who is in charge (it says nothing at all about denominations or membership or buildings). For more on this subject, see the link: BB 6B: Ecclesiology, section II, "The Local Church".

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #20: 

Hello again Bob and sorry to bother you again,

Are there any people in the UK I can fellowship with? I get very lonely a times not knowing any other Christians. I tried to email the Dr. who baptised me but he always seems too busy to respond. I really appreciate the fellowship you give me but am also aware that you are an acutely busy man with many, many other people relying on you for fellowship and guidance.

[questions about fellowship and dating omitted]

I realise that the best thing to do, always in this situation is to wait on God. If I am passionately pursuing the truth and spiritual growth and production, I'm sure that if it is God's will for me to marry then the right man will come along whilst pursuing the narrow path..

In the meantime, please let me know of people in this country I can fellowship with.

Thank you again. I really would be in sorry state and looking in all the wrong places if it wasn't for your friendship and ministry.

God bless you Bob my friend,

In Jesus,

Response #20: 

I suspect that there are a good number of Ichthys readers over there, but I have to say that probably less than five percent or so of the folks who utilize this ministry ever contact me. That's certainly fine (I do have my hands very full already!). Until recently, there wasn't any mechanism for Ichthys readers to get together. But since Steven T. has set up his forum, that is now a possibility. There are some folks on there from the UK, I believe, but I do confess to (deliberately) not participating so those who partake can feel more free to say what they wish.

As to marriage and the like, I can tell you for most unmarried Christians this issue tends to occupy a disproportionate amount of their time and energy. It's better not to get fixated on it because if God has someone for you, it will happen; if He doesn't (for whatever reason – the time we are in certainly being one consideration), then forcing the issue – as Abraham did with Hagar – never ends well.

You're making good spiritual progress, and you have a lot of wonderful things ahead of you! Keeping your focus on the Lord and "one day at a time" and not worrying about the future – except for THE future when we hope to get a good report at Christ's judgment seat – is always the best way to go. When we are feeling pressure of any sort, that is sometimes tough. On the other hand, we are ALWAYS feeling pressure of one sort or another. I can tell you being married does NOT end pressure; it merely changes the nature of it (cf. 1Cor.7:28b).

I'm keeping you in prayer on this.

In Jesus our dear Savior,

Bob L.

Question #21: 

Dear Dr. Luginbill,

Please forgive the very long overdo update. By far the greatest obstacle to reaching back out has been having so much that might be said and not knowing how to boil it down to the essentials!


Back in the Fall, the Good Lord led me to a brick-and-mortar church, which came as a surprise (even though I had been praying for a face-to-face connection) and in a most unexpected way (which is really so like Him!). The denomination on the sign out front is not one I would have pursued, to be honest, but there were just too many coincidences in being led there to not go and see, and I am so glad I did! There’s just *something* going on there - the pastor’s sermons are steeped in scripture, and he has no problem going beyond the usual fare to tackle difficult and uncomfortable things to really challenge us to truly follow Jesus, and the community as a whole is very earnest in prayer and trusting God. The growth within me and the strengthening of my faith simply can’t be denied. That said, I still make sure to keep myself grounded in my personal time with the Lord in Scripture and in prayer, trusting Him to keep me in tune and able to recognize warning signs.

Oddly enough (or so it seemed at first), not long after I was drawn there, my husband and I had to move to another town. It is not so far that I can’t continue to fellowship with that community of faith, but it was certainly perplexing for a time. As it turns out, we have benefitted from the move in our individual ways and as a couple, the details of which I will spare you! Suffice it to say that my earnest hope now is that somehow it will all lead to my husband also coming to faith in the Lord.

Unfortunately, I am not able to spend the time on Ichthys I once did, both because of being busy and needing to take it easy on my eyes! Nevertheless, you and those who “meet” there are often in my thoughts and prayers. May the Good Lord bless you all!

In our Dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Response #21:  

Thanks for the update. I'll be praying for your husband now as well.

I'm happy to hear that you've found a good place to go – although not so much about "I am not able to spend the time on Ichthys I once did". It's fine if you are being sufficiently fed at your church. That has not been my observation and experience personally, but maybe your place is the rare exception.

Sorry to hear about your eyes! If you didn't notice, courtesy of Chris B. all of the major studies at Ichthys now have MP3 audio files, so you can "spare your eyes and treat your ears"! Here's the link for that.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #22:  

Dear Teacher,

Glory be to God! And what a testimony of your faithfulness to this ministry He has entrusted to you - 25 years!

Also - on a personal note - what providential timing that this email should come just now, as I have just again resigned myself to the simpler path of maintaining a more home-based walk of faith and worship. Not to mention my having recently thought that I wanted to do a deep dive into Hebrews… How marvelous that your study should be presented as an answer to a prayer I hadn’t even uttered!

May our Gracious Heavenly Father continue to bless you in your ministry!

In Christian Love,

Response #22:  

Thanks for the encouragement – and the update.

I was wondering how things were going for you in that church you mentioned. Please know that you will always be welcome at Ichthys!

Keeping you and your family in my prayers daily, my friend.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #23: 

My wife and I recently attended a B'day celebration for a dear friend who turned 89. We met some other people who were there, but there were two people I believe that God put us together. They knew that I was a former Pastor, so we began to talk with each other. They both brought up the subject of the selection of a new Pastor for their church which is Presbyterian. She asked me for some advice on how the "committee" should proceed; they were not members of the committee but fellow members of the church. They were concerned that the committee would just vote for whoever was sent from the I suppose some headquarter office? They have been without a Pastor for over two years. They stated to me: Should they inquire into the background, and past pastorship of this person. Among some other things that I recommend they also do. The person that would be coming is 32 years old, but the congregation knows nothing about this individual, but they want to hurry up and vote for anyone who shows up.

I shared a bit with them about my experience in the ministry, and how this selection should be done; I told them that the congregation should be praying daily that God would send the right person to fill the position. But I sincerely doubt that will ever happen. So, I told them I would pray every day for this situation, which I am doing. They were very excited to hear what I had to say about this subject. If it is God's will that we get together in a weekly Bible Study with the Mother and daughter, the mother is 92 years old, and is very sweet kind, she even told other people whom she knew that they should meet her Pastor, and she was referring to me. I knew what she meant. We became instant friends.

Now I know that I would never be their Pastor because I am not of the same denomination as they are. That is my opinion. The mother is all alone here in Evansville, In. where my wife and I live and her Daughter lives in Indianapolis, Ind. a three-hour drive from here. So I said since we are close by, whenever you need help or would like to chat with us, we would be more than happy to do so, and also help you [the mother] as we are able physically. Her husband passed away some time ago. They have lots of friends, and I am hoping to perhaps start a Bible Study with them, the LORD willing, or whatever He wants us to do. We will help them in whatever way we can spiritually speaking. So that is the new news from here. I ask for your prayers for these and for the church itself so that they will make the decision that God wants.

May the richest blessings of God be with you always,

Your Friend,
P.S. I am fairly sure that God put us together with them, and how He did that is rather marvelous indeed.

Response #23: 

I pray for your Bible ministry efforts daily. I hope this does work out for further service to the Lord for you.

My dad was a Presbyterian minister, and I was at one point (after the USMC and after a second B.A. when I went off to seminary) on track to be one as well . . . but when push came to shove I couldn't accept many of their doctrines and wasn't willing to compromise. As things have devolved in that denomination, I'm so grateful I didn't make the bad decision to try and make it work anyway. Just a note to demonstrate that when the tree is rotten, it doesn't really matter how much care is taken in picking the apple.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #24: 

Hello Dr. Luginbill,

Because of a brother in the LORD, I am reviewing the 15-page doctrinal statement of the Missouri Synod Lutheran where he is a member. He claims that 90% of the doctrinal statement of this Lutheran church is in line with Scripture. Well, not quite. On water baptism, which they consider a Sacrament, and Communion, which they all wrong on. Plus their view of the Book of Revelation is totally wrong; they reject the 1,000-year reign of Jesus Christ and believe that the anti-christ is the Pope. Among other things. They totally deny the Millennial reign even exists. They believe like the RCC from which they supposedly broke away.

Well anyway, here is one of the statements they make in their doctrine that I don't know what it means, but perhaps you could shed some light on this.

"To be sure, it is necessary to observe the Scriptural distinction between the election of grace and the universal will of grace. This universal gracious will of God embraces all men; the election of grace, however, does not embrace all, but only a definite number, whom "God hath from the beginning chosen to salvation," 2 Thess. 2:13,

Perhaps they need to read and study what Rev. 22:18-19 says? Hmmm, sound like some pre-destination coming out? I doing this to send to this brother/friend to prove to him that his denomination as almost all others, does not have it together like they think they do. I advised this brother to go to the Lutheran hierarchy and ask them about this document, but he never did, sooooo.

Thanks so much as always,

Blessings be multiplied to you,

Your friend,

Response #24: 

I've never liked or recommended creeds of any sort, because of necessity they assume an authority higher than the Bible when they are NOT the Bible. Since they are the uninspired words of mere men, it's also the case that they will "get it wrong" to some degree (that's inevitable). And creeds are also very much the creatures of the specific men, the specific time and place, and the specific group which concocts them. Which means that they have a shelf life of usefulness (to the extent that they are useful at all) of about five to ten years – yet they are always kept around MUCH longer than that.

Here's a couple of links on that:

Various questions about statements of faith (Q/A #3 and following)

"Plain statement" of faith

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #25: 

Hi Bob,

In my experience, there was a Methodist church near my hometown where people wandered around during the "service" sipping on provided coffee listening to guitar "religious" rock. Another "church: in North Austin, some flavor of Episcopalian I believe, had a woman priest/pastor, probably lesbian because she posted rainbow signage and flew the homosexual rainbow flag. I don't really consider those people believers. To be fair, I never attended either of their services -- rock 'n roll and her advertising turned me completely off -- so I don't really know. My information is second hand.

I believe that rainbow symbol is satanic and designed to pervert the Lord's promise. It appears to be working if headlines mean anything.


In our Lord Jesus,

Response #25: 

And they say you can't find any good churches these days (lol).

The one thing almost all churches have in common in this country today, in my observation and experience, is a complete disregard for Bible teaching. So even if some place is "better" in not obviously adhering to nutty or godless practices, and even if the pastor laces his sermons with Bible verses, it's almost always the case that there isn't enough of the truth being taught in order to grow spiritually – which is the whole point of assembling, biblically speaking.

I promise to keep your family in my prayers, my friend. In terms of ministry, one never knows what doors the Lord will open – for those who are willing to prepare.

In Jesus our dear Savior,

Bob L.

Question #26: 

I appreciate your comforting words, my friend. Not much opportunity for ministering as things stand here today.

Maybe I can add this. When I was in rehearsal for Murry Schisgal's "The Old Jew," the director took me around to various Jewish synagogues to prepare for the role. Bob, there are more flavors of Judaism than Christianity and as far as I could tell, very little material difference between them. I've been to many Christian denominations and I can remember very little Bible teaching until I discovered you.

Thank you for your prayers. They are much appreciated. You and yours are in mine daily.

In Jesus,

Response #26: 

It does often seem to be the case that the less truth involved, the more "flavors" of non-truth there are (even though in the end they all leave the exact same sour taste).

Thanks for your good words – and most especially for prayers too, my friend!

In Jesus,

Bob L.



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