I am writing for some advice. I live in a city and worship just outside the city in a small town. I have a passion for sharing the Gospel with the lost. While at a congregation in the city, I was blessed to share with people who often ended up being members of that congregation. However, there were those I studied with who chose to worship at other area congregations. I never had a problem with that because I believe that we are all members of the body.
Where I'm currently at, one of the elders has made it known on three different occasions that he doesn't want me studying with people in the city unless they would end up worshiping with us -- a congregation 15-20 minutes outside of the city. He has also asked me to stop studying with a family in the city when I told him I didn't think they would come out to worship with us because they live on the far side of the city and it would take them an hour at best to get to us. He insists that we focus on the community where we worship at and where most of the members live. The problem is we haven't been that effective in reaching the community, and most of the members don't invite family, friends, coworkers or neighbors to service, so we don't have that many visitors. The only time I'm actually in the area is when I'm there for worship or Bible study. I would love to be busy there sharing with the lost, but there are not too many opportunities to do so.
So my question is what should I do? People call me with prospects. Should I pass on opportunities to share the gospel in the city?
The elder is out of line. He is issuing rules when he has no authority to do so and those rules are contrary to the teachings of Christ.
The job of all Christians is to teach the gospel so that the kingdom will spread. "Now when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord. And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed. And the word of the Lord was being spread throughout all the region" (Acts 13:48-49). I can't think of a passage that directs the church to focus on building up its local membership. True, when members are teaching the gospel, the general result is that the local church grows in number, but the focus is not on local numbers.
The disciples once tried to stop a man from working miracles because he wasn't a disciple of Jesus. "Now John answered Him, saying, "Teacher, we saw someone who does not follow us casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow us." But Jesus said, "Do not forbid him, for no one who works a miracle in My name can soon afterward speak evil of Me. For he who is not against us is on our side"" (Mark 9:38-40). What the disciples forgot is that miracles come from God. If a man was doing miracles, then he had God's approval. Though he might not have been an official follower of Jesus, he was following Christ as the miracles demonstrated.
This also happened to Moses. "And a young man ran and told Moses, and said, "Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp." So Joshua the son of Nun, Moses' assistant, one of his choice men, answered and said, "Moses my lord, forbid them!" Then Moses said to him, "Are you zealous for my sake? Oh, that all the LORD'S people were prophets and that the LORD would put His Spirit upon them!"" (Numbers 11:27-29).
The command is to go into all the world and teach (Matthew 28:18-20). The elder cannot issue edicts contrary to the Lord's commands. If you are able to teach people in the city, then teach! The more who are converted to Christ, the better this world will be.
Thank you, brother Jeffery!
You have given me the same advice other brothers have given, and it really does mean a lot to me. I believe in advancing the Kingdom, and I try to do my part by always being willing and ready. Please pray for me, my elder gets pretty upset about it, and I don't want to leave that congregation, nor do I want to upset him or lie to him. Pray that God will continue to use me, and that I will have peace.