"He cannot have God for his Father who does not have the church for his Mother."-Augustine
Have you ever held an acorn in your hand? Then you've held an oak tree in your hand. What it will take for that acorn to grow into an oak tree is being planted in the right environment, and being fed the proper food. Our spiritual lives are very similar. If we are to grow properly, we must be planted in the right environment, and be fed the proper food.
This is why one of the most significant decisions you will ever make in your walk with God is the church you choose to join with. The church is the functional body of Jesus Christ in the earth (Ephesians 1:22-23.) God wants every Christian to be united with a dynamic, Bible believing church. Often, however, we do not take our relationship with the Body of Christ seriously enough. Often, the choice of a church is based on things such as "My grandparents were members there." "It is conveniently located." "I'm a die-hard [insert denomination name.]"
Growing up in small southern town, a popular slogan was "Attend the church of your choice this Sunday." While the people saying this no doubt meant well, there is much more to it than that. It isn't just a matter of our choice, but of God's choice. We must base our choice of a church on what the Bible says about the church, its mission,and its function.
This, like any other worthwhile thing, will often involve stepping out of our comfort zones. However, if a church is just like you, you will never grow there. We all need to be challenged and drawn to higher levels spiritually. This can't happen unless we are willing to put ourselves in an atmosphere where this can happen. Remember: A rubber band has no value until it is stretched!
The first step in finding a church is, of course,to pray for the Holy Spirit's guidance, but remember, the Spirit and the Word agree (1 John 5:7.) Any church that God leads you to will be conducive to what His Word teaches about the church.
I have been asked "Would God not call someone to an unhealthy church, so they can help change it from the inside?" While those asking this question are undoubtedly sincere, God never calls on us to compromise His Word and our own spiritual growth. On the contrary, several times in the Bible God commands us not to join with certain kinds of churches (see 1 Timothy 6:3-5; 2 Thessalonians 3:6; 2 Timothy 3:5.)
Keep in mind that no church is perfect. That's because they are made up of imperfect people. However, a healthy,Biblically sound church will invariably display the following characteristics;
1.SOUND DOCTRINE-The Word of God is to be preached as the final authority in all things (1 Corinthians 4:6; Ephesians 4:14; 2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:16-19.) Every book in the New Testament, except for Philemon, contains at least some exhortation in this area. We learn how to relate to God by studying and obeying the doctrines of the Bible.
2.TRUSTWORTHY LEADERSHIP-The church's leaders, the pastor, elders, and deacons, are required by God to model Christian excellence and faithfulness (1 Timothy 3, Titus 1.) In addition, the church should be committed to cooperating with their church's leaders in accomplishing the vision God has given the church. Without a vision, the people perish(Proverbs 29:18,) so a church's leadership should have a clear understanding of what God has called the church to do and to be, and the congregation should be ready and willing to lock arms and work with the leadership in accomplishing God's plan (Habakkuk 2:2.)
3.GENUINE WORSHIP-God is actively seeking people to worship Him in Spirit and Truth (John 4:24.) If it is possible to worship God in Truth, then it is also possible to worship Him in error. His Word IS Truth (John 17:17.) He will only accept worship when it is done in line with His Word (Mark 7:7.) Worship is much more than going through religious ceremonies. True worship is a dynamic, life changing experience. It is responding to God's love and goodness from the depths of our being.
4.GENUINE LOVE FOR GOD AND EACH OTHER-True devotion to God should be evident in the lives of the people, in addition to love and devotion to one another. Genuine love doesn't gossip, slander, or backbite, it reaches out, builds up, and edifies (see 1 Corinthians 13.) Remember, the church is a family!
5.OPENNESS TO THE GIFTS AND LEADINGS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT-Jesus said that where two or more are gathered in His name, He would be there in their midst (Matthew 18:20.)Think about that. Why does He come? Does He just want to look at us? No, He wants to minister to us! Jesus, who is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8,) wants to do the same miracles we see Him doing in the New Testament! If the Holy Spirit is quenched,stifled, or not allowed to have His way in the church, then the church will miss out on a great deal of God's healing and delivering power. God's presence must be honored in a worship service, and He must be given an opportunity to manifest His presence as He desires. Some of the ways He does this are listed in 1 Corinthians 12-14. Everything must be done in proper order,of course, and all manifestations must be judged in light of Scripture. God wants to reveal Himself to us. When He is properly honored, miracles happen!
6.STRONG COMMITMENT TO EVANGELISM AND MISSIONS-A healthy church will take the Great Commission seriously. Jesus entrusted us with the awesome responsibility to preach the Gospel to every creature (Matthew 28 19-20.) He will also hold us responsible for failure to do this (Ezekiel 3:18.) Bringing people to Jesus is one of the most fundamental duties of the church.
7. HOLINESS-Without holiness, no one will see God (Hebrews 12:14,1 Peter 1:15.) This is a pretty serious statement. Therefore,a healthy church must hold up a proper standard of holiness. The church has both the right, and the responsibility to expect holy living from its members. By holiness, I don't mean legalism, i.e.keeping a list of rules to try to make ourselves acceptable to God. We come to God through His grace, not our efforts.True holiness is living a separated, consecrated live in grateful response to what God has done for us.
8.DISCIPLESHIP-Someone once asked Billy Graham what he would do differently if he could relive his life. He said that he would work harder at making disciples, not just making converts. Conversion is absolutely essential, to be sure, but it doesn't stop there. Conversion is a launch pad into a life of discipleship.The church must be committed to building stable, fully committed disciples of Jesus Christ. This is done from the pulpit, as well as the interaction of the people, opening their lives to each other, encouraging and building up each other, and establishing vital relationships with each other based of the bond of love. Regardless of where you may be spiritually, you will always need to be mentored by more mature Christians.They have a great deal to teach us!
9.COMPASSION-The very heart of Jesus is compassion. He calls on us to be the same way.The church should love and reach out to those that are hurting. As we do, God will love people through us.
10.GROWTH-Where there is life, there will be growth. That's the way it is with the church as well. If a child never grows ,that is a sign of a definite problem. Size in itself does not necessarily mean that a church is healthy. However, a healthy church WILL be a growing church. The New Testament church grew daily (Acts 2:47.) A healthy church will have people continually sharing their faith and bringing in new people. I realize that a church must start somewhere, but if a church has remained small for an overly large period of time, that is usually a sign of a deeper problem.
I realizer that these are pretty stringent guidelines, but there are lots of healthy churches out there. Don't be intimidated. Seek God's guidance, and He will lead you to one.
Remember:A CHURCH THAT'S ALIVE IS WORTH THE DRIVE!
© 1999 JHB
Back to Top