How do I choose a “church”?
With a religious meeting house on most literally every corner, how does one choose which to attend? The answer to this question will be determined by our reason for attending church in the first place. Many choose the church (I use that word very loosely) that provides the most interesting and entertaining programs for their family. Much like you might choose a health club or a sporting event. Others choose a church because it is consistent with what they have always known; the same denomination, style of services, and familiar surroundings. Really, this is no more a choice than we have in choosing a family. We are just stuck with what we have. Some choose the church to closest to where they live. This is a good reason to choose a convenience store, but do associate with a church for convenience? Many are looking for that subjective “good feeling”. They can’t put their finger on anything specific except to sy, ‘I’ll know when it feels right’. This may be a good way to decide on a flavor of ice cream but does it really work in finding a church? Most, they tell us, go to the place where they know and feel comfortable with another person or persons. This sort of “fellowship” makes for a nice civic club, but is it the criteria one should use in associating with the place that is to care for their soul? Finally, many choose a church because the charismatic delivery of the preacher keeps them awake. One can not but wonder if the apostle Paul whose ‘bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible’, would have any success at all in pastoring today.
Well, the answer to the question; ‘why do I go to church?’ is inseparably linked to what I see the purpose of the church to be. If the church’s reason for existence is to serve man, then all these reasons are very valid. If, on the other hand, the true church exists to serve God and His purposes, then we best look to God’s word to see what He says about His church. Paul sums up the true church when he says to Timothy; “the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth”. I Tim. 3:15 We would do no violence to the word of God by paraphrasing this verse to read; the true church is the place where the living God meets with His called out ones who hold up, on firm ground, the person and work of Christ Jesus the Lord. There is only one question to ask to determine if the church I am attending is the right church. Is the Christ of scripture being fully preached, worshipped, and followed? Many men lie about our Lord by saying things of Him that are not true. Others lie about Him by not saying things that are true. If Christ is fully preached, the content of truth will be preferred over delivery, sweet and satisfying fellowship will be in Him, the joy will be incomparable to all entertainment, the consistency of scripture will be far superior to that of my past experiences, and no distance or barrier will be too great an obstacle. To get the right answer you must ask the right question. Choose carefully!