Multilingual Churches

There are various ways in which linguistic issues are being tackled by churches. For instance, there are those who wish to reach out to their own linguistic community and so traverse land and sea to reach their own community. Examples of such would be Hindi or Sindhi or Malayalee congregations making efforts to establish linguistic church communities in other nations. There are others who wish to only have their linguistic denomination in the foreign country they are living in. Sadly, not many of these may be willing to reach and draw in disciples from other linguistic communities.

However, there are examples of churches that hold services in a particular vernacular or more common language, but are not known as a Hindi church or a Chinese church or an English church. These are more open to reach out everyone around and when they feel the need to have services in more languages, they do so while keeping intact the vision of the one flock.

In Acts 2, we have a very vivid example of God’s way. When the disciples were filled with the Spirit, they spoke in tongues, but the Scripture testifies that people from various language groups heard in their own respective languages the words that the disciples were uttering by the Spirit.

And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language. Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born? Parthians and Medes and Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya adjoining Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs– we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God.” (Act 2:6-11)

Paul says to the Corinthians: “unless you utter by the tongue words easy to understand, how will it be known what is spoken? For you will be speaking into the air.” (1Co 14:9)

Truly the Church is redeemed by Christ’s “blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (Rev 5:9) and Christ wants all to hear the words of His Gospel of liberation in words that can be understood. It is very important for people to hear the words distinctly and understand their meaning.

So they read distinctly from the book, in the Law of God; and they gave the sense, and helped them to understand the reading. (Neh 8:8)

Even things without life, whether flute or harp, when they make a sound, unless they make a distinction in the sounds, how will it be known what is piped or played? …So likewise you, unless you utter by the tongue words easy to understand, how will it be known what is spoken? For you will be speaking into the air…. Therefore, if I do not know the meaning of the language, I shall be a foreigner to him who speaks, and he who speaks will be a foreigner to me. Even so you, since you are zealous for spiritual gifts, let it be for the edification of the church that you seek to excel. (1Co 14:7-12)

Paul here talks about speaking in tongues and the importance of the gift of interpretation. The principle, however, is that people should be able to understand the meaning of the words in worship service. Of course, this also means that preachers shouldn’t use jargon and words (no matter how elite it may make themselves feel) that make no sense to the congregation. On the other hand, it also means that where the best possible solution is procuring the help of an interpreter to translate the message (as in bi-lingual or multi-lingual single services), the preacher must try to facilitate ease of translation rather than make it trying to the interpreter.

Existential Challenges of A Mega Church

The challenges of a megachurch are not a few. But, the most disturbing challenge is the challenge of defining what true “shepherding” really is. One “church” in the south of India uses membership card swipes to track attendance of church members. If a card is not swiped, the member will get a call from the church office the next day to inquire if all things are fine. There are also various plans and prizes being offered all the time to attract financial involvement. On the member’s birthday, gifts would be sent to them to express how personally valuable the member is. In a way, this group tries to make sure that the members are active, at least in attendance and financial contributions.

Another pastor of a fast growing congregation confessed the dilemma that he experienced. He met a young man during the week who expressed how happy he was to finally find this church. The pastor wanted to hear more. The young man replied that he was trying to find a church in which people would not ask him any questions or try to bother him with anything, a place where he could just go in and come out. This mega church offered him the very thing he wanted: attendance, enjoying worship and sermon, but no personal member identity. Of course, no pastor will be happy to hear such a “happy” confession from anyone. The services from this assembly are also live streamed so that those who cannot attend the services can watch them online and also pay offerings and tithes online.

The questions to ponder upon are:

  • What does it mean to be an overseer of God’s flock?
  • What does it mean to make disciples and teach?
  • Is it just about opening an office and preaching from the pulpit?
  • What does it mean to be a flock?
  • Should churches follow corporate business organizations in their patterns of employee or customer relations?
  • What does it mean to comfort each other and edify one another (1Th 5:11)?

Probably, the answers to some of these questions are not in any textbook or seminary classroom but in the heart of a true shepherd.

Counseling in the Church

THE BIBLE upholds the importance of seeking counsel in times of need. We are told that “Where there is no counsel, the people fall; but in the multitude of counselors there is safety” (Pro 11:14). If the law is taught by priests and the word proclaimed by prophets, then counsel was expected from the wise (Jer.18:18). The most important source of counseling in the world is the Bible; for, it is the Scriptures that make one wise for salvation (2Tim.3:15). And, the witness of Scriptures is of Jesus who is called the Wonderful Counselor (Isa.9:6). The greatest blessing for the church is the presence of God with us through the Holy Spirit who is called the Counselor (Parakletos, Jn.14:16,26; 15:26; 16:7). The ministry of counseling, therefore, in the church is always through the Spirit based upon the Word of God for the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ and God our Father.

Pastors are counselors; however, this doesn’t mean they should use the title “Counselor”, since that title is a professional one and pastors are not counselors in the sense of a professional that the world understands. They are counselors only in the sense that they use the Bible to help someone understand a situation and find for themselves the biblical solution for the same. Therefore, pastoral and biblical counseling is not the same as psychological counseling. The role of a pastor is of a shepherd who watches out for the souls of Christ’s flock, as one who must give account (Heb 13:17). A pastoral church is that in which each member knows that he is his brother’s keeper. Therefore, biblical counseling lies at the core of Christian fellowship. We are called to exhort (parakaleo) one another daily (Heb.3:13).

AREAS OF COUNSELING IN THE CHURCH
The issues of the soul are many. The soul is the part of man that reasons, feels, and decides. It is the place of intellect, emotion, and will. Therefore, it often gets engrossed with intellectual, emotional, and decision problems. The pastor approaches such issues with, chiefly, the word of God and prayer. “The word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb 4:12). Some of the areas that biblical counseling addresses are:
• Healing and Deliverance
• Spiritual Formation
• Family Counseling
• Pre-Marital and Marital Counseling
• Grief and Crisis Counseling
• Leadership Counseling

Healing and Deliverance
Biblical counseling is not psychological therapy. It flows from the comfort, consolation (paraklesis), and power of the Holy Spirit. The word of comfort is spiritual in nature and is life-giving and comforting. Therefore, from the Spirit comes life and deliverance. Jesus declared that He was anointed by the Holy Spirit to heal the brokenhearted, i.e. heal those whose heart has been broken in pieces (Isa.61:1; Lk.4:18). However, He cannot heal those who think they are fine and do not need a physician (Matt.9:12). Those living in fear, anxiety, and depression need healing and deliverance and there is nothing more powerful than the Word of Truth that can truly bring spiritual and emotional deliverance. The Word instructs anyone who is sick to call for the elders of the church so that they can pray for him (Jas.5:14,15). Sometimes, this prayer session may also involve confession of sins to one another and prayer for one another (Jas.5:16). The prayer of faith is not discouraging but full of positive expectations and encouragement. Therefore, it is effective. The man of God will not discourage the sick, but will minister through word of faith and the prayer of faith that both can only build the other in faith and bring healing into his soul and body. There are some who are in bondage of evil spirits. Such need the ministry of deliverance and also the ministry of the Word in order for them to be rooted in the truth that sets them free.

Spiritual Formation
The Christian is not a perfect human being in this world. His life in Christ from day one of his conversion is a life of progress in faith. He moves from strength to strength (Psa.84:7). He doesn’t consider himself that he has attained, but keeps moving forward (Phil.3:13-16). But, such progress is not possible without the ministry of the Word, fellowship of the Body, and prayer. Now, the ministry of the Word in spiritual formation has two aspects: Preaching and Teaching. While preaching calls forth one to repentance from sins and obedience to faith, teaching roots, builds, and establishes one in faith. Teaching that builds one up is patient in nature and convinces one of the truth by proper reasoning from and interpretation of scriptures. It also rebukes someone who is hardened against the truth and is frivolous about sin. But, it exhorts the one who is weak and needs help to stand again. Therefore, it says: “Preach the word! …. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching (2Tim 4:2).

Family Counseling
Churches are made up of families. A big role of the pastoral ministry is to help families be founded upon the model of the Divine Family of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The church herself is the Household or the Family of God (Eph.2:19). Family counseling involves counseling to children, to adolescents, to teenagers, to adults, to parents, and to the elderly at home. Therefore, it is required of a pastor that he should be someone “who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?)” (1Tim 3:4-5). Elderly women are called to be godly teachers of good things, and to counsel the younger women to love their husbands, children, and be good homemakers (Tit.2:3-5).

Pre-Marital and Marital Counseling

Pre-marital and marital counseling occupies a very important space in the ministry of the church in the present age. Humans are bombarded with all kinds of conflicting and false-liberation ideas that have damaging influences on their views of relationships, marriage, and marital life. The Lord has raised several ministers in these days who specially minister in this area to help married couples as well as prospective couples to learn the teaching of the Bible on this subject as well as understand important practical lessons on the same. Increasing conflicts, separations, and divorces have drawn the ministry of church heavily towards this area of need. It is not surprising that much of teaching today caters to the need of family and marital counseling. Certainly, people fall where there is both no counsel and bad counsel. But, they are established by right counsel.

Grief and Crisis Counseling

Grief that comes from loss of beloved ones cannot be comforted by mere words alone. Then, there is also grief from loss of job or business. The more one draws deeper in the waters of counseling, the more one knows how much it is important to identify and feel along. The very words “sympathy” and “compassion” carry the connotations of feeling along. Jesus is a Wonderful Counselor because He is a High Priest who can sympathize with our weaknesses (Heb.4:15). The Holy Spirit (Parakletos, One who is called to our side) “helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered” (Rom 8:26). One without mercy and compassion cannot even start to think of helping anyone in times of grief and crisis. A minister detached from the conflicts, anguishes, cries, and fallings of people around is a minister at paradox, for he cannot even begin to minister unless he comes along with them. The Good Samaritan is good because he didn’t talk much but helped so much with all he had.

Leadership Counseling

Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus teach us that he was truly a very good counselor to leaders, through the grace of Christ given to him in all wisdom and understanding. The letters give us only a glimpse of all the time and mentorship that he invested in them so that they could become good soldiers of the Lord Jesus Christ. Leadership counseling involves attempts to understand others. Paul knew that Timothy was young, therefore he encourages him to be strong, fearless, and an example to others. He empowers him with sound words and authority. He calls both Timothy and Titus as his “true son” (1Tim.1:2; Tit.1:4). We also see the leadership counseling of Paul in his letters to the Corinthians, where he instructs them about the various questions of doctrine, practice, and church discipline. Jesus said that a true leader doesn’t lord over others but serves them (Mk.10:42-45). Peter tells us to shepherd the flock by being examples to them (1Pet.5:3). One cannot counsel a leader just by power-point presentations; one has to be a leader indeed and be able to say like Paul said, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ” (1Co 11:1)

CONCLUSION
We briefly went through the various areas of need that calls for the church to minister by the comfort of the Word and prayer. It is important to note that one cannot teach unless one has learned; therefore, the Bible discourages the church from appointing a novice to a place of authority (1Tim.3:6). Unless one has spiritual maturity and understanding of the truth of God, one cannot teach the truth of God. Therefore, the Bible discourages people from being hasty to become teachers (Jas.3:1). However, this doesn’t mean that we should not stop exhorting each other daily. Yet, true biblical counseling will have the all-sufficient and irrefutable backing of the Holy Scriptures, in all right and proper interpretation. Therefore, it is called biblical counseling and is an important ministry of the church.

One Body

“So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.” (Rom.12:5)

The Church is not a denomination, for denominations are organizations, but the Church is one body, and the believers, being many, are individually members of one another, irrespective of location, language, nationality, or time period. Unity is organic, not organizational, obviously. Organizations exist for the sake of order and oversight; however, they can often be a hindrance to the individual. But, the Church has no name or human barriers. It is always one body. The deeper connection is undeniable and basic to the body no matter what the external identifiers may be; the Lord only knows His one body.

The Apostles’ Creed, The Nicene Creed, and The Chalcedonian Creed

The Apostles’ Creed


The Apostles’ Creed is the earliest creed that we know. It listed the main and basic doctrinal statements of Christian Faith.
The Creed

1. I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth:
2. And in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord:
3. Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary:
4. Suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified, dead and buried: He descended into hell:
5. The third day he rose again from the dead:
6. He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty:
7. From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead:
8. I believe in the Holy Ghost:
9. I believe in the holy catholic church: the communion of saints:
10. The forgiveness of sins:
1l. The resurrection of the body:
12. And the life everlasting. Amen.

Nicene Creed


The Nicene Creed was adopted by the First Council of Nicaea in 325 in response to heretical views of Christ related to His divine and human nature.
The Creed

I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.

Who, for us men for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.

And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life; who proceeds from the Father [and the Son]; who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets.

And I believe one holy catholic and apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

The Chalcedonian Creed


The Chalcedonian Creed was adopted in A.D. 451 at the Council of Chalcedon in Asia Minor. The Creed asserted the divine and human natures of Christ and His divinity as co-equal, co-substantial, and co-eternal with God the Father.
The Creed

We, then, following the holy Fathers, all with one consent, teach men to confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the same perfect in Godhead and also perfect in manhood; truly God and truly man, of a reasonable [rational] soul and body; consubstantial [coessential] with the Father according to the Godhead, and consubstantial with us according to the Manhood; in all things like unto us, without sin; begotten before all ages of the Father according to the Godhead, and in these latter days, for us and for our salvation, born of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, according to the Manhood; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, to be acknowledged in two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably; the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved, and concurring in one Person and one Subsistence, not parted or divided into two persons, but one and the same Son, and only begotten, God the Word, the Lord Jesus Christ, as the prophets from the beginning [have declared] concerning him, and the Lord Jesus Christ himself has taught us, and the Creed of the holy Fathers has handed down to us.