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Monday, September 19, 2005

How to Pick a Church

With the American love affair with the automobile, it is no longer seen as necessary to attend a church near one's home. I know people who drive past half a dozen churches to get to the one they choose. Well, how is this choice made?

Unfortunately, I fear, many people make a church choice based on not-so-good reasons. I am not one of those who says that all churches are basically the same or that our denominational differences do not matter any more. I think the differences do matter because truth matters. Denominational differences arose from doctrinal disputes. And while Christian history has not been free of petty arguments, legitimate doctrinal differences should not be simply glossed over.

You see, I am of the conviction that the Bible is the Word of God. Inspired and Inerrant. So differences of interpretation are not merely personal preference, opinion or whim. They are disagreements about what God has said. And since presumably all Christians care to know what God has truly said in His Word, we want to clarify and be certain that we know what we believe. For instance, when Jesus said, "This is my Body...", he either meant "This bread truly is my body," or He meant "The bread merely represents (thus 'is not') my body." Which is it? Jesus said it. I think His intention was to be understood.

My point is that doctrine should be the chief criterion by which a person or a family determines which church to join. Not the personality of the pastor. Not the beautiful architecture. Not the accomplished musicians. Not the size, the wealth or the racial makeup of the congregation.

Of course, I speak as the pastor of a small congregation. I have seen people choose a church that teaches (or tolerates) false doctrine merely because they have a bigger Sunday school or a more dynamic youth group. Hey, I'm all in favor of big and dynamic. And when the doctrine is straight, those are fine reasons to select a congregation.

What trouble me - and what I hope troubles you - is the rampant indifference to teaching.

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The Heresy Hunter said...

I thought it was rather ironic when on Issues, Etc. last week NAE president Ted Haggard lamented that people today choose their church based on feelings and not on its beliefs, and that such methods would leave us vulnerable to heresy, and then he commented on how Joel Osteen has "pretty good theology"!

Stan said...

Check out:
For many Americans, autumn is a time for trying new churches from the Christian Science Monitor. This was printed, ironically, almost a year ago.

Darin said...

Ain't that the truth. Every time I've had a conversation about this with someone, I get the craziest answers to the question, "Why do you worship where you do?" The answer is almost never based on theology. At the same time, I always end up teaching about how our fidelity should be to theology and not a building--if our church body goes off of the rails, then it's your duty as a faithful Christian to go somewhere else.

BTW, I'm sorry I didn't get to tackle you when you were in St. Louis--you know how it goes sometimes. :)

Paul in South Park said...

from the standpoint of a christian coming to the lutheran faith about 4 years ago, i couldn't agree with you is sad, but true, that many folks i come in contact with are at their present church for mainly these reasons:
mom and dad went there
it's the closest to where i live
someday, my children have a place
to get confirmed, married, etc.
"what's the difference...we all
worship the same god"
this can and will change when all christians with the strength of his/her convictions goes boldly into the world to spread His Word.

Preachrboy said...

Check out my blog for an interesting anectdote related to this post:

I completely agree, as usual, with everything Pr. S. says here.

Lisa said...

I actually joined my present church because of the choir. That was just about 20 years ago. I was new to the area and was sort of "recruited". This 80+ year old church has had three pastors in it's lifetime. It passed from number 2 pastor (who was wonderful) to number 3 (who is wonderful) during my membership. I have learned so much and am so grateful to be a part of this church. I chose it for the wrong reason but I love it in every way. I truly came to know Christ as Lord, Savior and King in this particular church.

I do not always..ok hardly EVER..agree with the Presbyterian USA church at large. It is heartbreaking to watch her disintegration. But I stay because I think my home church is a small example of how it can be when flawed people are presented with the Truth of Christ through diligent study of the Scripture and Prayer.

Truth is I favor Luther to Calvin. But I am so blessed to have a Pastor who favors Christ to either of them.

To make this more relative to what you're saying...I like to think that were all of this to change I would leave despite the choir and the friends I've made. My first loyalty is to the one who Created and Sustains me.

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