April 30, 2014

Choosing a Church: It's Not about You

In the past four years or so, I've changed churches twice. (Not ideal, I know, but I had many good reasons both theological and practical). I've had opportunity to reflect, then, on what one ought to look for in a church. Here are a few of my thoughts on choosing a church:

  • There is no perfect church. Every congregation has problems. These problems vary in both kind and degree, but there will always, always, always be problems. What, then, can one do? Simple. Pray, trust God, forgive early and often, and do your best, by God's grace, to make sure you're not one of those problems. Love covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8; cf. Proverbs 10:12; 1 Corinthians 6:7). As one who has been shown so much grace, be quick to show grace to others, especially your brothers and sisters in Christ (Matthew 6:14; Colossians 3:13).
  • Prize truth over personal preferences.  Your church is not really yours. It belongs to God, and it must cater to his preferences rather than yours. There will be things, in even the healthiest congregations, that are not to your liking, but, if your church is truly seeking to be faithful to Scripture, then you ought to learn to overlook these things for the sake of unity in the truth (see Romans 14:10-12; 15:5; Galatians 5:13). 
  • Prize faithfulness to God's Word over personal relationships. When I left behind Pentecostalism, I did so for the health of my own soul. When I left behind Pentecostalism, though, I also left behind family and friends, straining (or even ending) relationships. It was difficult, especially for someone like me, someone who is slow to build new relationships. There were lonely times, but eventually, by God's grace, I forged new friendships with other believers. It took time and work, but it was worth it. The friendships I have now are deeper and more satisfying than those I enjoyed in the past because we are in agreement on so many wonderful truths. I wouldn't trade one friendship nourished by the truth for ten friendships that can only be sustained by downplaying or disregarding the truth. When you lose friends because you have embraced the truth, realize that, most likely, these people were not true friends to begin with. Love God and the truth of His Word enough to leave behind your acquaintances, friends, and, yes, even family when necessary (see Luke 14:26).
  • You have to give in order to get. God has designed the church so that each believer has a part to play—something to contribute (Romans 1:11; 12:5-6; 1 Corinthians 7:7; 12:4; 1 Timothy 4:14; 2 Timothy 1:6). It's often those who contribute the least who are least satisfied with their church. This is often because they have a consumeristic mindset. They ask, "What can this congregation do for me?" rather than "What can I do for this congregation?" When we reject this worldly way of thinking and start serving others rather than seeking to be served, we often find that our complaints start to dissipate.

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