Hebrews 10:23-25 (NLT)23 Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise.24 Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.25 And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.
A few days ago I published “Joining And Attending A Church Is Not Just A Good Idea”. In that post I quoted something from Greg Laurie "Those who isolate themselves from other believers do so at their own peril, because the Bible tells us that it is important to get together, encourage one another, and correct one another. A true Christian will want to be around other Christians. After all, why should God go to your house if you won't go to His? A lot of us want all of the fringe benefits of Christianity without applying ourselves.
If you haven't been a regular church attendee, have moved or relocated, or looking for a new church for some reason l want to caution you against looking for a new church the way you shop for a new car, new house, or a new pair of shoes. This will be one of the most important decisions you will make because this will be the place where you can praise and worship God and you can learn things that you didn’t know before. You will be challenged. You’re going to be motivated. Church is where you will be inspired to go higher than you’ve gone, to live a life that is better and greater than you’ve been living, to sync your life up with God and His purpose and plan for your life. You will come to understand why you’re here on this earth; to serve, to give, and to do those things which are going to bring you maximum benefits!
by DARYL EVANS
Your church, in many ways, helps to shape who you are and your relationship with God. Many of the things you will learn about the Bible will come through your church. This decision is not one to make flippantly or without putting much thought into it. The choice is important and the options are many. So where do we begin? How do I choose?
I am going to go through some things that are important about picking a church. These will include things to look for and also things to avoid.
The Authority and Inerrancy of the Bible
This means that all the words in Scripture are God's words and if we are to disobey them, we are disobeying God. Ask these questions…Is the Bible the main resource for preaching and teaching in the church? Does the church believe that the Bible is the inspired and inerrant word of God and is the final authority on every church matter?
A Place That Encourages You in Worship
Every church should encourage you to worship God. This point almost seems too obvious to mention. The church is about worship to God the Father. That is what we exist for. He created us to worship Him. Jesus makes this point very clear when He is asked by the Pharisees which commandment is the greatest.
Matthew 22:34-39 (ESV)34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together.35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him.36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.38 This is the great and first commandment.39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
Worship isn’t just about sitting through a worship service or singing songs. At the core of worship is an intimate communication with God. The church must help you in this connection with God not only with the weekly Sunday Service but throughout your life.
A Place That Encourages and Equips You to Grow in Discipleship
A disciple is one who is learning to live like Christ. A healthy church is just as concerned with growing members than with growing numbers. Growth is a sign of life in a church.
The writer of Hebrews stresses the importance of growth (discipleship).
Hebrews 5:11-14 (ESV)11 About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing.12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food,13 for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child.14 But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.
These are strong words addressing the fact that this group of believers was not growing but remained as spiritual “infants."
God is glorified by growing churches. That growth does not just mean numerically but through people growing as evidenced in serving, or by getting involved in missions, or by giving financially (maybe for the first time), by sharing the gospel with others…and the list goes on and on.
We all need to be very careful what we teach others when it comes to salvation. There are many doctrines floating around out there. According to scripture, there’s just one faith:
Ephesians 4:4-8 (ESV)4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call--5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism,6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.7 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.8 Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.”
Sound doctrine is important. Most churches will have a doctrinal statement posted on their website. Carefully look over this and see if it agrees with Scripture and hopefully what you believe too. A good doctrinal statement will explain their positions on at least these topics; the Trinity (God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit), salvation, sin, human destiny, the Bible, and the church.
A Place Where You Can Experience Christian Fellowship
True Christian Fellowship is not just pot-luck meals and times of social gatherings. These type of fun events can often lead to fellowship but don’t underestimate the importance of fellowship.
Hebrews 10:24-25 (ESV)24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
1 Peter 4:10-11 (ESV)10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace:11 whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
While Jesus was walking on this planet he also showed the importance of fellowship. He invested his life into the twelve disciples and when He sent them out, He sent them out in two’s. We need encouragement, support, correction, and guidance from other believers for us to grow the way God wants us to grow.
This type of preaching believes in our earlier point of the authority of Scripture. This is the oldest preaching style around but it never goes out of style. The goal of this preaching is to expound on what is said in a particular passage of Scripture and to carefully explaining the meaning and applying it to the congregation.
The expositional preachers authority begins and ends with Scripture. Sound expositional preaching is often the catalyst of growth in a church. Pray for your pastor that he will commit himself to the study of Scripture, carefully and earnestly, and that God will lead him in applying the message of the text to his own life first and then to the body of the church.
We can see this element clearly in the beginning with the Reformation. Martin Luther was earnestly seeking to understand Scripture and what he was hearing taught and preached did not match up to the words that he was reading in the Scripture. We too, must be committed to be men and women of the Word of God.
This topic may be covered at least partially under the category of doctrine but I believe it is so important that it needs special mention. The view that a church takes about evangelism and salvation is so important. A simple definition of evangelism is to present the good news of Jesus freely and trusting God to “convert" people.
One of the primary callings of the church is to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ so that those who believe it already might be encouraged and so that those who don’t believe might have a chance to do so. Every single Christian church should preach the gospel regularly and faithfully.
There are actually some churches that do not preach the good news of salvation through the death and resurrection of Jesus because they don’t actually believe this. They have replaced this gospel with another, perhaps “God loves and accepts everyone, period” or something like that. Today’s culture wants religious tolerance where all views are okay but that is not what the Bible teaches. We must always show love to people and not be judgmental but there is only one way to God.
John 14:6 (ESV)6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
This is not an exhaustive list but 7 things that I believe should be considered when choosing a church. I once had a great seminary professor that warned us young pastors in training of this…he said, “Don’t look for a perfect church. Because if it is, it won’t be after you get there." We all laughed but he was so right. There is no perfect church but there are some things that are so important in finding the right one for you.
However, keep in mind that our number one resource for every decision in life is to turn to God and the leading of the Holy Spirit for any decision that we will make in life. I encourage you to pray and to look to God for wisdom and leading in this all-important choice.
Editor’s Note: Full scriptures added by me.