Don’t “Date” The Church!
Many people look for a church for the wrong reasons. Many people won’t even consider a church that doesn’t offer them what they want. For some, that is great music. For others, preaching that makes them feel good about themselves. For others, rituals that make them feel closer to God.
If that’s your approach to finding a church, you are putting yourself first and God second.
Church isn’t primarily about us. It’s about God. He tells us plainly what we should be doing in worship, and we are to look for a church that comes as close to His standard as we can find.
“The focus of worship should be on what God has done and is doing rather than what we have done or are doing. “Worship” is God-centered but “celebration” is man-centered.” (Dr. Kenneth Talbot, President of Whitefield Seminary).
One factor that is hardly considered is, “What does God think about all this?” Is God pleased with this church’s worship? We shall all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, and what will matter then is not how good a church made you feel — but whether God was pleased!
What would you think if you met someone who told you that he is a professional football player, and when you asked him what team he plays for, he said, “Oh, I’m not part of a team. I play on my own”?
Just as you can’t be a pro football player and not be part of a team, you can’t live the abundant Christian life without being part of a church that is faithful to the Bible.
Pastor Charles Spurgeon once visited a man who had not attended his church for some time. The man said he was still a Christian but didn’t think he needed to go to church. Without saying a word, Pastor Spurgeon took the tongs from the fireplace and removed one coal, setting it in the corner of the fireplace away from the others. It soon went out. The man got the message: The coals in a fire need each other to stay hot, and Christians need the fellowship of other Christians and the ministry of the Word to keep them spiritually “hot”! The Lord says, “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17) and warns us not to forsake “the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is” (Hebrews 10:25).
Yes, sometimes you will have to drive many miles to find a faithful church. Lots of people do. If the cost of gas is a problem, tell the elders and the church may be able to help. Sometimes is impossible to find a church true to the Bible, and in those cases people worship in their homes with recorded sermons. However, that is not how the Lord is building His church. Church membership is not optional. God’s Word is very clear; you must make a profession of your faith in Jesus Christ before the elders of the church and submit to their authority.
Jesus said, “Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 10:32).
“Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account” (Hebrews 13:17).
“The devil has seldom done a cleverer thing than hinting to the Church that part of their mission is to provide entertainment for the people, with a view to winning them… providing amusement for the people is nowhere spoken of in the Scriptures as a function of the Church…
“The need is biblical doctrine, so understood and felt that it sets men aflame.”
— Charles H. Spurgeon
Here is some Biblically-based guidance in what to look for when you are “church shopping”:
The minister is under the solemn obligation to preach the Word of God — not his own opinions nor the latest social causes. Nor is he called by God to be a stand-up comic. In fact, the less visible he is the more Christ will be made manifest in his preaching.
And yes, the Bible requires the minister and other elders to be men — do not even visit a church where that is not the case, because if that church is disobeying the Bible in something as clear as that, they are surely doing it in all areas. “The things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses [the Apostles’ doctrine], the same [not something else] commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also…. Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (2 Timothy 2:2, 4:2). “An elder (minister and other elders of the church) then must be blameless, the husband of one wife…” (I Tim. 3:2).
Look for a conservative, Bible-believing church that is Reformed both in doctrine AND worship. Sadly, there aren’t many. Almost all the large denominations no longer believe the Bible is God’s inerrant and infallible Word. You will not be spiritually fed in them and will be in danger of being led away from what the Bible teaches.
Some Questions For The Pastor
Here are some questions you should ask the pastor. All questions anticipate a “yes” answer. If he cannot give you a flat “yes,” and instead talks around the question, or says that the question is too complicated for a yes or no answer, or some other such evasive nonsense, find another church.
Warning: You will find very few churches in which the pastor will answer “yes” to every one of these questions. Even if he answers “yes” to all the others, the question with which he will most likely take issue is the one about worship. Sadly, there are very few churches that conform to virtually all elements of Biblical worship. And of course there is no perfect church on this earth, because they are administered by imperfect men.
However, that does not mean one has to avoid a church simply because there are elements of its worship that are lacking. For example, it is very difficult to find a church that sings out of the Lord’s songbook, the Psalms, exclusively. Most Christians are unaware that the opposite has almost always been true — there were no churches that sang hymns until relatively recently in church history. Our Christian forefathers would ask us, “Why do you want to sing words written by uninspired men and women when you have 150 songs written by God and given by Him for us to sing?”
Think about that question.
And many of those churches that sing those 150 songs, the Psalms, have serious problems with other aspects of their doctrine (legalism, for example). Remember, too, that most pastors have never heard the case for Biblical worship, and the Lord may use you in putting a good book in their hands. E-mail me and I will be glad to recommend some.
That said, here are some questions for the pastor of a church you are considering:
* Do you believe the Bible to be the inspired Word of God, the authoritative rule of faith and practice?
WARNING: If he says the Bible “contains” the Word of God, run the other way. That’s a liberal theological code word that reveals he does not believe the Bible to be authored by the Holy Spirit.
* Do you believe the Bible to be without error in matters of science and history as well as in faith and doctrine?
* As the pastor, do you see it as your primary duty in preaching to explain and apply to your hearers the message of the text of Scripture?
* Do you believe the sinner is justified by faith in Jesus Christ alone, apart from all good works?
* Do you believe that all those who die without saving faith in Jesus Christ will be punished eternally?
* Do you believe that there is no salvation for any person apart from faith in Jesus Christ?
* Did Christ’s death on the cross actually save His people, past, present and future, at that moment He died?
Background to this question: The Bible says that Jesus Christ died to “save His people from their sins,” (Mt. 1:21; Lk. 1:68, 77; Lk. 7:16) the “elect” (Mt. 24:22, 24, 31; Mk. 13:12, 22, 27; Lk. 18:7; Rom 8:31; Col. 3:12; II Tim. 2:10; Titus 1:1; I Pet. 1:2; II Jn. 1:1). From the beginning, God chose all who would believe in Him out of everyone who would ever be born (II Thes.. 2:13; I Thes. 1:4; Rom. 11:7; Jn. 15:16; Jn. 6:37, 44, 65; Jn. 13:18; Ps. 105:6; Rom. 8:33; Rom. 9:23). When Christ died on the cross, His death satisfied the punishment for their sins, saving them from hell.
But those who do not understand the Bible’s teaching say that His death on the cross only made it possible for people to be saved if they make a decision for Christ. His death didn’t actually save anyone. By that unbiblical reasoning if no one ever chose Christ His torture and death would have been meaningless.
* Do you believe that God created all things out of nothing in six literal 24-hour days?
* Do you believe in the virgin birth and miracles of Jesus Christ?
* Must God’s people in this age keep the Ten Commandments in obedience to our Lord (not to be saved, but to live the Christian life and please our Father)?
* Must God’s people in this age observe the Christian sabbath in obedience to Christ, the Lord of the sabbath?
* Do you believe that the purpose of worship is to glorify God by doing only those things that He has appointed in His Word?
The biblical elements of worship are prayer, Scripture reading, singing Psalms, giving tithes and offerings, preaching, the proper administration of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, lawful vows (membership, baptism, ordination, marriage, etc.) and fastings upon special occasions; man is not free to add elements of human innovation such as made-up songs, choirs, musical instruments, solo performances, drama, puppet shows, fog machines, and other performances appropriate to the circus.
* Does this church discipline members who persist in living in disobedience to Jesus Christ, the King and Head of the church?
When you find a church that teaches the Word of God, try going to that church for at least four weeks before eliminating it as a possibility. After prayerful consideration, if on balance you think that’s the church the Lord is calling you to, then don’t “date” it — make a commitment to it by your faithful attendance and supporting it financially and in other ways you can exercise your spiritual gifts.
Bathe your decisions in fervent prayer before the throne of grace. The matter of choosing a home church is of vital importance to your spiritual health and eternal happiness. Pray and seek God’s will in the matter.
Listen to “What Is Biblical Worship?”: http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?sermonID=122605161821
“I Can’t Get No Satisfaction”: http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=51407161528
And read “Feeding Sheep Or Amusing Goats?”: http://www.reformationpres.com/feedingsheep.htm
(Some of the above is from “Choosing A Church” by Dr. Stephen Pribble).