By Stephen Pribble
So you’re looking for a church! Finding a good home church is an exceedingly important endeavor. God’s Word requires that His people be in good and regular fellowship in the church of Jesus Christ. But among the many churches around, what is the best way to go about finding the right one? Here are some suggestions.
First of all, it is important to realize that it is essential that you be in such fellowship. Church membership is not optional but necessary. God’s Word is very clear; you must make a profession of your faith in Jesus Christ before the elders of the church and submit to their authority. Jesus taught, “Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 10:32). God commands, “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account” (Hebrews 13:17).
Second, you must find a church that believes the Bible and sincerely desires to put it into practice. The minister is the mouthpiece for God; he (yes, God’s Word requires him to be a man) is under the solemn obligation to preach the Word of God not his own opinions or pet causes: “The things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses [the Apostles’ doctrine], the same [not something else] commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also…. Preach the word [not your own ideas]; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (2 Timothy 2:2, 4:2).
Look for a conservative, Bible-believing Presbyterian or Reformed church (“Presbyterian” refers to biblical church government by a plurality of godly officers called elders; “Reformed” refers to the system of doctrine taught in the Word of God which was so clearly stated at the time of the Protestant Reformation).
Many people look for a church based upon what it can offer them in terms of a worship style they enjoy or activities for various age groups. People often look for a church that caters to them as consumers, but our tastes cannot govern the living God. Much of the common advice regarding choosing a church is humanism, pure and simple. A popular Christian magazine recently offered this advice regarding choosing a church: “The key in choosing a worship style lies in realizing what works for you. Which form of worship — formal, spontaneous, or somewhere in between — helps you best appreciate God and most enhances your spiritual life?”
One factor that was not even considered was, “What does God think about all this?” Is God pleased with the church’s worship? We shall all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, and what will matter then is not how good a church made you feel but whether God was pleased!
One woman wrote, “I was drawn to Mission Valley Church by the worship service. They offered a contemporary service with drama, contemporary-sounding music, and other elements that fit in with the lifestyle of people my age. The services reflect our needs and interests.” This is a self-centered not God-centered approach and is therefore wrong.
Here are some questions you might want to ask the pastor. All questions anticipate a “yes” answer.
- Do you believe the Bible to be the inspired Word of God, the authoritative rule of faith and practice?
- Do you believe the Bible to be without error in matters of science and history as well as faith and doctrine?
- As the pastor, do you see it as your primary duty in preaching to explain and apply to your hearers the message of the text of Scripture?
- Do you believe the sinner is justified by faith in Jesus Christ alone, apart from all good works?
- Do you believe in a literal hell or lake of fire in which all those who reject Jesus Christ will be punished eternally?
- Do you believe that there is no salvation for any person apart from faith in Jesus Christ?
- Do you believe that God created all things out of nothing in six literal 24-hour days?
- Do you believe in the virgin birth and miracles of Jesus Christ?
- Must God’s people in this age keep the Ten Commandments in obedience to our Lord?
- Must God’s people in this age observe the Christian sabbath in obedience to Christ, the Lord of the sabbath?
- Do you believe that the purpose of worship is to glorify God by doing only those things that He has appointed in His Word? Note: the biblical elements of worship are prayer, Scripture reading, singing praise to God, giving tithes and offerings, preaching, the proper administration of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, lawful vows (membership, baptism, ordination, marriage, etc.) and fastings upon special occasions; man is not free to add elements of human innovation such as drama.
- Does this church discipline members who persist in living in disobedience to Jesus Christ, the King and Head of the church?
When you find a church that teaches the Word of God, try going to that church for at least four weeks before eliminating it as a possibility.
Finally, bathe the whole effort in concerted prayer before the throne of grace. The matter of choosing a home church is of considerable importance to your spiritual health and eternal happiness. Pray and seek God’s will in the matter.
Copyright © Stephen Pribble, Holt, Michigan, 1996