02 October 2011

Loving the Church: {Day 2} Choosing (a) church

Don't we all have opinions about how to find a church?  What do we look for?  Do we "church shop"?  Do we follow friends?  Choose the best preacher?  Go for our favorite songs?
Or are you in the camp of "Why even go to church at all?  I'll just watch a webcast of a cool service from a city far away."
Now, I realize I could be opening up a big ole can of worms here.  But I thought it would be beneficial, as we talk about loving the church, to also discuss ways to choose a church in the first place.
The first question, alluded to in the title of this post, is:  why even go to church?  Does a believer have to go?
Short answer: yes.
Why?  Because Scripture tells us that God's people make up a body of many parts.  If each of us is a part of a body, how are we to survive on our own?  Can a hand thrive without the fingers or the wrist?  Can a leg make much sense without a knee or a hip?  (See 1 Corinthians 12:12-26.)  Additionally, Scripture tells that we must not forsake meeting together (Hebrews 10:25).  We have been given the gift of each other; we mustn't squander the gift!
    
So after we've decided we should be a part of a church, how to go about finding one?
Let's assume the big things, shall we?  First, we look for a church that believes the BIBLE.  A church should have Scripture as its authority.  Beyond that, there are so many issues one could consider.  Some of them  may be important; others may be mere distractions.


The main thing that I would be willing to live or die for in choosing a church is that I need to hear the Gospel preached every week.  I need to hear about grace, that life is NOT all about me, that I am a worse sinner that I even imagined, but that I am more deeply loved than I ever dared hope.  I surely would hope this message comes through in the preaching, but one can also hear the Gospel in the liturgy.  Or the songs.  Certainly in the Lord's Supper, the Gospel is proclaimed loud and clear.  Look for the message beyond just trying to imitate Jesus; we need to hear OFTEN about all that Jesus is and does and has done for His people.


Another thing to consider when choosing a church is context.  For many years, my husband and I attended church that was far away from our home (this was a by-product of husband being in seminary and needing to be in church of our denomination).  Let me tell you, it was a strain.  Not only was the commute somewhat ridiculous, but I never felt comfortable inviting friends from the 'hood to church.  It just seemed too ridiculous to say, "Hey, want to drive 45 minutes each way with me Sunday morning?  It'll be fun, I promise."  I couldn't participate in mid-week activities because of the distance.  Also, because we didn't live near the church, I found it difficult to connect emotionally with the neighbors near the church.  It was just too far.  Now that we live much, much closer to church, not only can we enjoy being with the body on days other than Sunday, but we can love the neighbors of the church in a much more authentic way.


So to sum up, choosing a church comes down to two critical components.
First, is the Gospel of grace preached?  Are you hearing about Jesus, and not just about how you should try to be LIKE Jesus?
Second, is the church near you?  Can you easily invite friends?  Do you care about the people near your church, and can you "do life" with them, as you get to know each other?
I know I've barely scratched the surface here, but perhaps this is a good jumping-off point for thinking through this question.


NOTE:  I am not an expert on all these issues.  Tomes have been written on most of these topics.  I'm writing these posts from the perspective of a lay person and wife of a pastor, and based on my own experiences. 



2 comments:

  1. What a great place to start! Can't really talk about loving the church if you're not connected to it, eh? :)

    gospel and proximity - great places to start in choosing a local church. (btw, thanks for pointing us to City Reformed; I love being under Matt's preaching.)

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  2. Our family drove the 45 minutes to visit your church one Sunday and it was well worth the drive. We were blessed.

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