Let’s begin with elephant in the room shall we? Today there seems to be a mandate or cultural movement to shop for churches that fit you or your families (so called church) needs. The question that is asked by these happy consumers is always, what can your church do for me? Implying what do you offer that will make me want to attend your church? I know that sounds harsh, and some may say “Well, I do have a family and every one of them have needs that need to be met, right? We can’t really blame these individuals who think they are being smart and looking out for what’s best for them. After all, you have Mega Church Pastors telling everyone they are being selfish if they do not attend a large church for their children. Not to mention, the difference of music in churches or if they are even using technology in the service at all. (Wait; are there still hitching posts for your horses out front?) I had a couple once tell me they could not attend a church because of the style of music. Their comment was, “We just can’t get our worship on, We can’t feel the Spirit move.” True story, while others excuses cover things like décor, or carpet. Still others, did not like the preacher (This one hurts, but that’s another blog PostJ). Then there is the, “I do not feel love in this church” followed by “this church is dead or dying and nothing is being done” excuse. The one I heard last was, “There is nothing here for my child.”
I could go on and I bet you have heard a few excuses as well. I truly believe these people are being sincere in their assessments, no matter how off base or wrong they are. We can’t place all the blame on them either. After all, we live in an entertainment gathering culture that is called Church. The pastors have failed the people for they have allowed the church to cater to the whims of the human heart and not to the Saviors call. You see the problem is a heart issue. In Luke 9:23 Jesus makes it clear it’s not about us, but Him. “Then he said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” Jesus makes it clear that there is only one desire in a believer’s heart and that is to follow Jesus. The issue with church shoppers is they are seeking self and not Christ. A Church is a gathering of believers who have died daily to self, and seek Christ, and His glory. Who come together to worship Christ to be edified, encouraged, discipled and if need be, rebuked through the preaching and teaching of God’s word. The believer should be asking "What can I do for the church"? Instead of, “what can the church do for me”? The focus of a church should always be to glorify Christ and submit to His authority and ministry. The gospel is the agent and the cause that draws us to the church. Christ and Christ alone is why we serve alongside and worship with a local body of believers. We join a church not for worldly motives or certain programs, but because we love Christ and in loving Christ, we love the body of Christ. “Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually” (1 Corinthians 12:27).
I mentioned there are some criteria we need to consider before joining a church. Once you see what that entails I believe you will agree with me.
The first is this, Do they preach and teach the Bible? Holding to inerrancy and infallibility of scripture. That scripture alone is the supreme authority in all matters of doctrine and practice. For scripture is the very word of God Himself and a church should recognize this truth. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2timothy 3:16-17).
Do they preach Christ alone as the only way for salvation? That salvation has been accomplished once for all by the mediatorial work of the historical Jesus Christ alone. His sinless life and substitutionary atonement alone are sufficient for our justification, and any gospel that fails to acknowledge that or denies it is a false gospel that will save no one. “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).
Do they preach grace alone? That is, God owes us nothing except just punishment for our many and very willful sins. Therefore, if he does save sinners, which he does in the case of some but not all, it is only because it pleases him to do it. Indeed, apart from this grace and the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit that flows from it, no one would be saved, since in our lost condition, human beings are not capable of winning, seeking out, or even cooperating with God’s grace. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is a gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Do they preach faith alone? Justification is by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone. In justification Christ's righteousness is imputed to us as the only possible satisfaction of God's perfect justice. Justification is a declaration of God based on the work of Christ. It flows from God’s grace and it comes to the individual not by anything he or she might do but by faith alone. “whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, 26 to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Romans 3:25-26).
Do they gather for God’s Glory alone? It is affirmed by the Bible that salvation is of God and has been accomplished by God, it is for God's glory and that we must glorify him always. We must live our entire lives before the face of God, under the authority of God and for his glory alone. It is denied that we can properly glorify God if our worship is confused with entertainment, if we neglect either Law or Gospel in our preaching, or if self-improvement, self-esteem or self- fulfillment are allowed to become alternatives to the gospel.
Lastly, is the church more concerned about reaching the lost, preaching the gospel and sharing their faith, then say the next big event? Remember, church is for a body of believers who have come to worship God and hear from His word. We are there for Jesus not so that we can feel good about who we are and be entertained.