2 – How to Select a Church
Excerpted from Devotions For Couples (Zondervan)
After Hurricane Andrew, the devastating 1992 storm that ravaged South Florida, many people began rebuilding their churches even before their own homes and businesses. Why would they do that?
Consider how the church meets the needs of our families: Weddings, baptisms, communion, confirmations, funerals, fellowship dinners, evangelistic outreaches, worship services, preaching, hymns, choir, spiritual education, ministry opportunities, accountability, softball leagues, small groups, Sunday school classes, special classes, conferences, retreats, women’s groups, men’s groups, nursery, Mother’s day out, and hospital visits. No institution supports marriage and family like the church.
Consider for a moment what America would look like without the church. Where would be the great hospitals, schools, and universities? Where would be the soup lines, the coalitions for the homeless, the rescue missions? Would anyone be doing inner city youth work or providing homes for unwed mothers? Where would be the voices calling out for abstinence from premarital sex or the right to life? Who would be the voice of justice, and the hands of mercy? Who would be the feet of the gospel of salvation? Who would be the light in the darkness, the salt seeking to preserve society and culture? As someone said, “The church has many critics, but no rivals.”
WHY SHOULD WE BE ACTIVELY INVOLVED IN CHURCH?
Jesus Christ is the head of the church. “And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy” (Colossians 1:18).
We attend church because He wants us to attend. To attend church means to gather with other believers to worship the Lord to give Him the supremacy. The church is the people, not the place though we certainly need a place to meet.
We should be active in church for the singular reason that the Bible tells us to: “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25).
The church is a “community.” Here are five concrete reasons why every believer should, and will want to, be part of a vibrant Christ-centered church “community.”
1. Worship: Experience With God. The ultimate, overarching purpose of the church is to worship God. Most important of all, church gives us a special place to stoop down and render religious homage, respect, awe, and reverence to the God Who is. The Greek word for worship literally means “to kiss, like a dog licking its master’s hand.” I’ve heard it said that the only thing that has more germs than a public telephone is a dog’s tongue. How gracious of our God to let such sinners as us “lick His hand.” Worship is an experience with God.
2. Fellowship: Encouragement From God. Times come when we need spiritual, prayerful, emotional, and social support that can only come from a group committed to caring for and loving others. We cannot love people unless we are connected to them in some way. The church gives us a larger family of which we can be part. Who besides the church? God uses other believers to encourage each other. Fellowship is encouragement from God.
3. Growth: Knowledge Of God. The church is a place to learn about God. The preaching and teaching of God’s Word — what it says, its meaning, its message, and how it applies — are critical elements in the life of a Christian. Growth is acquiring a knowledge of God.
4. Service: Work For God. Every Christian is called to serve God through personal ministry or service (see Ephesians 2:10). The church is the principle outlet for discerning your spiritual gifts, becoming equipped to serve, and finding an outlet to serve as part of the body of Christ and to the broken, hurting world. Service is doing work for God.
5. Accountability: Persevere In God. Howard Ball says, “The Christian life is not difficult. It’s impossible.” No Christian ever led a vibrant, obedient life on their own. Without the help of a few friends to keep us on track we, too, like sheep will go astray. A major purpose of the church is to provide a framework for accountability. Besides formal church discipline, successful churches link people together in smaller groups where there is increased visibility. Visibility increases accountability. Accountability is to persevere in God.
HOW DO WE FIND A CHRIST-CENTERED CHURCH?
There are two principle considerations in selecting a church: Beliefs and Worship Style. Let’s look at these two considerations.
We must not select a church independent of understanding its beliefs and doctrine. What does the church believe? What does the pastor believe? Some of the most basic beliefs you should consider include:
1. Are Jesus and the cross central to the life of the church?
2. Are the Scriptures viewed as the authoritative, inerrant Word of God?
3. How does the church believe people are saved?
4. Does the church believe all people are sinners in need of a Savior?
5. Is the church evangelistic?
6. Does the church administer discipline, and how?
7. Is the Word of God preached?
8. And critically in this age, is the pastor a Christian?
Why do you think it is important to understand what a church believes?
Churches vary widely in style of worship. None of these styles is more right than another. The important issue is to find a church that helps you worship God aright.
Gordon MacDonald1 has identified six “leading instincts of the soul” which lead people to prefer worshiping God along six different lines. You will likely be most inclined toward two or three of these.
1. Majesty: The Aesthetic Instinct. The aesthetic instinct seeks to be overwhelmed by the majesty of God. This person is happiest when the worship environment includes beauty, order, tradition, and artistic integrity.
2. Joy: The Experiential Instinct. The experientialist wants to “feel” the presence of God and respond with a full range of emotions, including clapping, singing, prayer, weeping, laughing, and more.
3. Achievement: The Activist Instinct. The activist sees everything through the lens of service. The world needs to be changed, and this person feels closest to God when making a contribution to the work of the kingdom.
4. Listening: The Contemplative Instinct. The contemplative cherishes the inner life, opening up to God in the quiet of his own soul, and sensing God’s presence. This person is impressed by the mystery of God.
5. Truth: The Student Instinct. The student loves truth. The study of the Bible forms the core of this person’s worship style. Happiness is found in a church which emphasizes the preaching and teaching of the Word.
6. Love: The Relational Instinct. The relational person finds God most present when people are bonded together in fellowship, worship, or mutual support. This person is torn when there is conflict, lifted high when the walls come down.
1. Which of the five reasons for attending church have you not fully considered? Do you need to adjust your thinking and, if so, how?
2. Which of the six “instincts” make you feel closest to God like you are worshiping Him? Take a moment right now and order the six “instincts” by putting a “1” in the margin by the instinct you most identify with and so on through number “6.” You will be most at home in a church whose worship style correlates to the two or three “instincts” with which you most identify.
3. Have you fully understood and appreciated all the contributions your church makes to the life of your family and to society? If you are regular church attenders and members, express your appreciation to your pastor(s) and staff for the benefits your family has received.
4. If you don’t have a church presently, plan to start attending the church of your choice regularly. When you find a church, support it with your membership, time, talent, and finances. When you visit a church, rank it on each of these six “styles,” then compare with your own ranking. Answer the questions about “beliefs.” These exercises will help you make a more sensible, reasoned selection.
God ordained the church to be the visible manifestation of the kingdom of God. As followers of Christ we must always strive to cherish, protect and serve His body, the church.
1 Gordon MacDonald, Christ Followers In The Real World, (Nashville: Oliver Nelson, a division of Thomas Nelson, 1990.)
Business leader, author, and speaker, Patrick Morley helps men to think more deeply about their lives, to be reconciled with Christ, and to be equipped for a larger impact on the world.
© Patrick M. Morley. All rights reserved.