Tuesday, August 18, 2009

How To Find A Good Church

Beyond the obvious things like friendliness, location and opportunities for you to minister your spiritual gifts, there are some core issues which will help you avoid rocky shoals and steer you to safe harbors. If these were my opinions I would not speak them. I am not qualified to counsel on Church hunting. But the Word of God lays down some critically important criteria to guide our quest.

Paul, if he was the author of Hebrews, chided his Jewish readers because they should long-since have outgrown the pabulum stage.

In Hebrews 5:10-14, he mourned the fact that he could not delve into deeper things because of their immaturity in the Word
…and then without hesitation or apology...in Hebrews 6:1-9 , Paul immediately launched into some of the deepest waters of Scripture with his warning against apostasy and the impossibility of renewing such folks to repentance. To this day, theologians wrangle over what he meant by that.

Here’s the point: Paul urged the less mature to step up and then he taught them that which they most needed to grow. He did NOT tone down his message to suit their immature appetites; he taught them the wisdom of the ages.

Put another way, Admiral Paul did not set the speed of the early-Church convoy to its slowest ship; that would have spelled vulnerability to the enemy’s torpedoes and disaster for the whole convoy. Paul maintained the speed of the aircraft carriers and finished his course successfully.
Paul was a man on a mission; he had an assignment and carried it out. You can read his job description in his farewell speech to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:17-32. It included things like risking his own life for the sake of fulfilling his assignment (24), teaching them daily from house to house (20), and declaring to them the whole counsel of God (27). There was no partial, toned-down lesson material for Paul and his disciples. The whole counsel of God was his only curriculum. He was a meat and potatoes kind of guy!! THAT was Paul's recommended diet. So, as you search for the Church God would have you identify and worship with, these things will assure your continued joy and happiness. As eternity is infinitely greater than time, the priority of the Word preached and taught supersedes pleasant surroundings, appealing music or entertaining drama. In the exercise of His will, God brought us forth by that Word of Truth, not by music, drama or any accouterments (James 1:18).

Would you like to be blessed in what you do, in this case, your choice of a Church? Your blessing will involve three things that each amounts to hard work.

It Demands Intensity (James 1:25)

According to James, the blessing is reserved for those who look intently into the perfect Law, the Law of liberty, and abide in it, not having become forgetful hearers. God designs to bless you through your Church and to bless the Church as you exercise your spiritual gifts. He does not keep it a secret how you receive this blessing. James has given the great KEY to experiencing that: Look intently into the Word of God and abide in it. Don’t be a forgetful hearer. Don’t be a superficial looker. Intensity is required.

It Requires Diligence (Hebrews 11:6)

According to the writer of Hebrews, it is impossible to please God without faith. The one who comes to God must also believe that He rewards those who diligently (KJV) seek Him. This echoes James' promise that these—not the forgetful hearer, not the superficial hearers—shall be blessed in what they do. Diligence is required.

It Calls For Endurance (2 Timothy 4:3)

And finally, Paul warned Timothy that a day would come when men would no longer endure sound doctrine, but would seek toned-down, dumbed-down messages to scratch itching ears. By the way, my friend, that day is here! Across America and around the world men no longer have stomachs for enduring sound doctrine; consequently they will die of malnutrition. Avoid such churches like the plague that they are! Endurance is required.

It won’t take long to determine the preeminence of the Word or the lack of it at a given Church. Jesus reiterated the truth that man cannot live by bread alone, but by every Word that proceeds out of the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4). Does the teaching of the Church reflect that priority? Or is it marked by its brevity, story-telling or entertainment? Is it overshadowed by the strength of personality?

Look for a Church that teaches every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God verse-by-verse. Look for these things in a Church: intensity in the preached Word, diligence in the preparation, and enduring, faithful consistency in expository preaching both from the pulpit and in the classrooms.

Finally—and perhaps most importantly: Pray. It is the delight of the Good Shepherd to lead you into green pastures (Psalm 23). May you hear your Shepherd’s voice and follow Him into those pastures and enjoy the banquet He has prepared for you! May God bless you in your search.


Mama Mimi (Dana) said...
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Mama Mimi (Dana) said...

So that must be why I love Mabton Grace Brethren so much. It's everything you described. Keep up the good work you are doing pastor and welcome to the blog. Love you to Pluto.

Karen L. Brahs said...

Steve and I thank God every day for leading us to Mabton Grace Brethren! We are truly blessed to have you and the Church as our family!

Thank you SO much for sharing with us here on the blog, Paul! We look forward to reading more of God's wisdom!