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Frequently asked questions

Don’t elders have to be ordained and sent out by other elders?

Ephesians 4:11–12 tells us that elders or shepherds are given as gifts to the church by God himself, to equip his people for ministry and to build up his body on earth. In other words, eldership is a spiritual gift bestowed by God.

Because it comes from God, it cannot come from ordination—from other elders laying hands on a new elder. Indeed, it must be recognized prior to his being ordained, or otherwise they would not have laid hands upon him in the first place (1 Timothy 5:22). He must be tested, he must prove himself, before being called.

The purpose of the laying on of hands is to formally recognize the gift, and appoint the man to the eldership. Laying on of hands first appears in the Old Testament, and is used for the same purpose: to appoint a representative.

And he shall lay his hand upon the head of the burnt-offering; and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him. (Leviticus 1:4)

Symbolically, when you lay on hands, you impart something from yourself. In ordination, what is imparted is authority and identity—authority to act as a representative of God on behalf of the local body with whom the new elder is identified. This is the origin of the laying on of hands that we see in the New Testament to ordain a man (Acts 6:6; 1 Timothy 5:22).

The Holy Spirit is also imparted through the laying on of hands, since he is bound up with the authority and identity of God’s representatives, being the one from whom that authority ultimately comes, and the one who unites them all into one identity in Christ (Acts 8:17; 9:17; 19:6). For this reason, it can certainly be said that a man receives the gift of eldership formally, and perhaps in greater measure, through the laying on of hands, as Paul indicates of Timothy (1 Timothy 4:14; 2 Timothy 1:6).

Ordinarily, the responsibility and authority to recognize and ordain a man is invested in the existing elders of a congregation. This is why the normal and ideal means of ordination is always the laying on of hands by previously-ordained elders. However, those elders themselves serve at the consent of the church. A church, as a body, may dismiss an elder as head over them. Equally, then, a church, as a body, must be able to ordain an elder as head over them. This is just one application of the keys of the kingdom, which Jesus himself invests in the local congregation (Matthew 18:17–18). The power of the keys is ordinarily administered by the elders, but it is held by the congregation. Therefore, where no elder yet exists, the authority to recognize and ordain him falls directly to the congregation itself.

This is simply an application of the broader principle of rulership that is articulated throughout scripture: that under God’s law, rulers are ratified by the people, govern at the consent of the people—and that responsibility for their governance therefore falls on the people:

When thou art come unto the land which Yahweh thy God giveth thee, and shalt possess it, and shalt dwell therein, and shalt say, I will set a king over me, like all the nations that are round about me; 15 thou shalt surely set him king over thee, whom Yahweh thy God shall choose: one from among thy brothers shalt thou set king over thee. (Deuteronomy 17:14–15)

You see that the congregation of Israel is authorized to set a king over them. It is from both their election of him, and God’s, that his kingship derives. Now, if this is true of a king over an entire nation, how much more of an elder in a church? Indeed, the principles of kingship are echoed in Paul’s qualifications for elders. In Deuteronomy 17:16–17, the king is forbidden from multiplying three things: wives, warhorses, and wealth. In Titus 1 and 1 Timothy 3, the elder is required, among other things, to be the man of one woman, to not be pugnacious, and to not be a lover of money. Many of the other qualifications for elders are drawn from the qualifications for judges in Exodus 18:21: elders, just like judges, must be able men, fearing God, loving truth, and hating dirty gain.

So the ordination of elders is based on the concept of corporate responsibility and representation. (This is the same principle that grounds the gospel itself, for it is also how we can be considered one body with Christ, and share in his righteousness.) It therefore cannot be that the only validly ordained elders are those who can trace a continuous line all the way back to the laying on of hands by an apostle of Jesus. Not only does this contradict God’s law on how rulership works, but it would disqualify vast numbers of elders in denominations across the world today, and would make it impossible, for instance, to form a new church in an area where no contact with another church exists.

All this to say, if a group of Christians covenants together as a church, and then lays hands on the men they wish to represent them, those men are validly ordained elders.

Why did we need to start a new church?

People ask this for various reasons. Some are simply curious; others are concerned about the legitimacy of Redwood as a church at all; most probably just want to know why we didn’t think existing churches were good enough. Do we think there’s something deficient about other churches in the region?

We are going to try to answer this question at a high level, without airing any other church’s dirty laundry, and seeking to avoid offence as much as possible.

There was one, single, overriding reason that Bnonn, Jared, and the other men who founded Rewdood, felt compelled to gather a new church:

We could not find a church that would uncompromisingly declare that Jesus is Lord.

This may sound extreme, but we do not intend it to be. It is simply a fact. During covid, the state started to dictate how, and even whether churches could worship—and every church submitted. There was no church in our region that stood up and maintained the exclusive right of Christ over worship.

A church whose worship is controlled by the state has a name in China: it is called a state church. State churches submit not to Christ, but to lawless rebellion against Christ (whom the state is supposed to represent). Christ commands us to worship freely, fearlessly, and faithfully.

A body cannot hold fast to one Head while submitting to the unlawful, rebellious authority of another. Either it will hate the one and love the other, or it will be devoted to the one and despise the other (Mt 6:24). And what the body does, its members do—so every person within that church is implicated in toppling Jesus from his throne, and replacing him with Jacinda. Hence, we determined that we could not be members of any church in the region.

Since we are commanded to gather on the Lord’s Day to worship, and to not neglect doing so, we therefore had no choice but to gather as a new church.

It is not because we are rebellious or contentious or hard to please. It is because we cannot join ourselves to a church body that is functionally submitted to a different head than Christ.

If we say that we have fellowship with him and walk in the darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: but if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanseth us from all sin. (1 John 1:6)

For a fuller explanation and defence of the necessity of worship, and of the church resisting the state’s orders on this issue, see Bnonn’s article in Discipleship & Dominion: Not Enough Faith To Worship.

Why do we always sing a Psalm?

We include at least one psalm in every Lord’s service, because God has given us an inspired songbook to shape our souls, and has instructed us to use it as a means of being filled with both the Spirit and his Word (Colossians 3:16; Ephesians 5:19).

Why do we have the Lord’s Supper every week?

The Lord’s Supper is a neglected practice in many churches today. Like all of Christian worship, it is the fulfillment of patterns first established by God in the Old Testament—in which the pinnacle and goal of sacrifice was a meal in communion with God. To come to the temple and offer sacrifices, without them culminating in this meal, would have made no sense. Similarly, to come to the spiritual temple in worship, without consummating that worship in the Lord’s Supper, makes no sense of scripture’s patterns.

This is such an important principle that we have preached a series on the Lord’s Supper, within our larger series on worship. We encourage you to listen to these sermons:

Why do we kneel or prostrate ourselves to pray?

Body language really communicates. The posture of our hearts is connected to the posture of our bodies. If we are truly to worship God with our whole selves, then our bodies will be as involved as our spirits. In scripture, the words typically translated “worship” in both the Old and New Testaments literally mean to prostrate or bow low to the ground. This is established as a consistent pattern for all people who come into God’s presence.

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Why do we only sing traditional-sounding hymns?

Simply put, because they fit the pattern for worship laid down in scripture, while contemporary Christian worship music does not.

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Why do we practice veiling?

Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 11:3–16 that man is the glory of God, that woman is the glory of man, and that a woman’s hair is her own glory. Since God’s glory alone should be on display in worship, he instructs the men to uncover their heads during the Lord’s service, and women to veil theirs.

We usually have spare veils that you are welcome to borrow if you need one.

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Why do we use a traditional call-and-response liturgy?

The Bible instructs us that the church is a body and a priesthood, and so the Lord’s service should be properly corporate—that is, the people should all participate in speaking and singing as one body (Revelation 4–5; 15). Therefore, just as we use pre-written songs so that we can sing with one voice, we use pre-written responses so that we can speak with one voice also. The Bible also models how this corporate service should be structured, so that it is theologically correct and in line with God’s will.

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Why do we use the order of service that we do?

While Scripture does not give us explicit instructions for structuring our worship, it does model for us the correct sequence to follow when approaching and communing with God—along with the purpose of doing so. Because the church is the new temple of God (e.g. Eph 2:19–22; 1 Pet 2:5), her worship is a new covenant development of temple worship. The Old Testament therefore instructs us as much as the New about the key elements of worship:

  1. Call. God summons us to worship, both explicitly (Heb 10:25; 12:22–29) and by example (Acts 2:42; 20:7; 1 Cor 11:24; Job 1:6; Lev 23). Therefore, the minister issues this summons to the congregation on behalf of God, reminding them of why we are gathering, and of the awe-inspiring fact that we are entering the heavenly court itself.
  2. Cleansing. Before coming into God’s presence, we must be purified (e.g., Isa 6:5–7). The sin that separates us from God must be done away with before we can be at one with him. This was the purpose of the Sin Offering that was always the first in the sequence of sacrifices under the Old Covenant. Under the New Covenant, we no longer need to slaughter an animal in our stead, for Jesus has died once for all. We instead call upon him to cleanse us from sin, and to clothe us in his righteousness. Through him, we can stand before God (cf. 1 John 1:9; Zech 3:3–5).
  3. Consecration. After being cleansed, we are set apart and fitted for communion with God. This was the second sacrifice, in Hebrew the Ascension Offering (often translated as the burnt offering), where the slaughtered animal would carefully be cut up and arranged on the altar, then transformed into fire and smoke by burning it. This symbolized the worshiper being committed wholly to God, and incorporated into his glory-cloud (cf. Ex 13:22). Under the New Covenant, we are spiritually divided by the knife of the Word (Heb 4:11–12), and brought up to God by the fire of the Holy Spirit within us (cf. Acts 2:3; Matt 3:11). This is possible because Jesus has entered for us into the Most Holy Place where God’s glory-cloud resides (Heb 9:11–12; Lev 16:2).
  4. Contribution. Now the worshiper brings tribute offerings to God, consisting of the work of his hands. Under the Old Covenant, this was typically bread and wine, representing the worshiper’s contribution of his own labor to refine the resources that God had gifted him with (e.g., wheat, oil, grapes). Under the New Covenant, we bring offerings of prayers and thanksgiving.
  5. Communion. The pinnacle and ultimate purpose of worship is mutual participation with God. We become one spiritual body with him, represented in our sharing a meal: the common food symbolically builds up our different physical bodies into the same substance. This meal was the final sacrifice, the Peace Offering, where the worshiper would eat with the priests before God. Under the New Covenant, we enter into God’s heavenly temple to eat with him, and in the same way he enters into our church to eat with us (Rev 3:20). This meal is the Lord’s Supper, a memorial in which we are incorporated into God and he into us (1 Cor 10:16–18; 11:24–26), as we renew our covenant with him through Christ Jesus.
  6. Commission. In worship we enter into God’s Sabbath rest—but we do not stay there. Rather, God refreshes and equips us in order to send us out again to the weekday work he has given us: building his kingdom (Gen 1:27–28; Matt 28:18–20). At the end of the service, therefore, the minister commissions the congregation for this work on behalf of God.

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Why don’t we do online worship?

It is fundamental to a church that it gather as a single body. This is what the word church means in Greek: a congregation; i.e., a body that congregates. Hence, Hebrews 10:25 strictly forbids the “forsaking our own assembling together.” Certainly embodied gathering is what the author of Hebrews had in mind when he wrote this. Physically-isolated people, separated by miles, are not “gathering together” in any sense that the author of Hebrews would have recognized. When we view pixelated representations of each other in small boxes on a screen, and hear tinny reproductions of our voices coming out of speakers, we may be communicating in real time—but we are not with each other in real space. We are together in spirit, perhaps, but we are most certainly absent in the body.

Embodied existence is of central importance in scripture. The incarnation itself testifies to how seriously God treats this issue. If embodiment does not matter, then Jesus being incarnate in a personal body does not matter. But if embodiment does matter, then online worship is a contradiction in terms.

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