EAU CLAIRE, WI - Many people today are tired of the modern church. They want to get back to the bible. Some churches claim to fill this need by calling themselves "New Testament Churches." However, one church decided to go all the way in this endeavor. While they found it to be exciting at times, for the most part they discovered that it was just a pain. Pastor Francis Wiley (photographed here), of Authentic New Testament Lutheran Church (ANTLC), told TBNN that following the New Testament model "is a challenge."
According to Wiley, "A few years ago, we were a typical Lutheran church. There was nothing special about us; we were just like all the rest. Then something amazing happened. First individuals and then the church as a whole began to voice a desire to be like the church of the New Testament. I was initially excited about this. After discussing it for a few months, we decided to go all out. I don't think we were prepared for it."
TBNN has learned that the church leadership was concerned that ANTLC transform into a "good" NT church, and not just change into a "bad" NT church. They wanted to be like the churches in Philippi and Thessalonica, and avoid becoming like the believers in Corinth and Laodicea. In light of this, they decided to change in every way to be like a church from New Testament times. First, they changed their name from Grace Lutheran to ANTLC. Second, they sold their 400-seat building, and purchased a small house (at left) in which to meet. Deacon Philip Sayers said, "It seemed like a really good idea at the time. We saved a ton of money when we bought the new building. Also, it didn't have any modern amenities like running water, electricity, or heat. We thought it would give us a feel for what it was like in the NT. Well, it did that, and a lot of our people weren't too happy about it."
Mrs. Doris Wells, a 30-year-member of the church, complained, "I understand wanting to be biblical, but this is too much. The new building only seats 35 comfortably, but on Sunday we had 247. We were crammed in like Sardines. Beyond that, the pastors want us to eat together after the service - but there is no place to put the food. Also, we don't have anything to heat up the food with! And the worst thing is the little outhouse we have to use. The pastors said that in order to be realistic we would have to use an outside gutter, but the women demanded an outhouse. I guess it's better than nothing."
For others, the real struggle is the language barrier. According to Thomas Dallard, "Even though I like the KJV, I'll admit that Paul wrote in Greek. I have no problem with that. But why do we have to use the Greek in our services? Only the pastor understands it, and not too well at that. Despite this, during our service last Sunday all of the singing and preaching was in Greek. The pastor said it was Koine Greek and not modern Greek, but that made no difference to me. Pastor Wiley even tried to do the announcements in Greek, but it didn't work out."
Pastor Wiley admitted to us that there are some problems that they did not anticipate. "We were used to using bibles. However, the NT church didn't anything more than scrolls of the OT. We compromised on this and allowed our people to use NT scrolls as well as OT. We didn't think about the fact that the scrolls would get so beaten up so quickly. After just one Sunday our scrolls were falling apart. Using the Greek also seems to have been a slight miscalculation."
After a few Sundays of meeting in the new building, several female members of the congregation handed a list of grievances to Pastor Wiley. TBNN received a copy of this list, which you can see here:
-The building is too small and doesn't have electricity.
-The bathroom situation has to be fixed immediately.
-No more Greek!
-No more requirements for wearing robes.
-No more limiting make-up to kohl for eye liner and berry juice for cheeks.
-Men must be allowed to use deodorant!
-Warm water must be allowed for infant baptisms, especially when immersing.
-Bulletins and PowerPoint must return.
-Most important, bring back Children's Church and Youth Group!
With note in hand, Pastor Wiley sadly surrendered, in our presence, to these desires. "Some people say they want to be biblical, but when it comes to making changes, they just aren't willing."