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Thursday, July 20, 2017

When You Can't Find a Good Church

It's a common complaint among many. "I've looked for a good church in my area, but I can't find one." Maybe the music is too loud or too boring. Maybe the preaching isn't ... whatever. Not enough of the Word. Too much of the world. "I'm not being fed." "I'm not able to worship." "I don't feel welcomed." Lots of things. I've seen both "They're King James Only" and "They're not King James Only." Lots of things.

So what do you do if you can't find a church? There is a tendency among many to join the "Nones", the "I'm spiritual but not a part of any organized religious function" group. One famous author said she had given up on Christianity but was still a believer in Christ. That kind of thing. For some of these it's not so much a position as a surrender. "What else can I do?" I, of course, would recommend a biblical approach. What can we find in Scripture to answer this dilemma?

Well, here's what we know. We know that God's Word says that the church will be in trouble. For instance, false teachers will come out from the church (1 John 2:18-20). Jesus said, "When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?" (Luke 18:18) and warned that in the end the danger was that the very elect would be deceived (Matt 24:24). I think many of us today could raise our hands and say, "Yep, we're seeing this today."

We also know that Christ's followers are commanded to be in church. There is no getting around the clear command to not forsake our assembling together for fellowship (Heb 10:25). (As a side note, do you know what the very next verse says? "For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins." A bit pointed, isn't it?) We know that the Scriptures are full of "one anothers", commands about how we are to work and relate and interact with each other, starting with "love one another", all of which are impossible if we are not involved with one another. And, of course, we know that each of us is gifted and empowered by the Holy Spirit "for the common good" (1 Cor 12:7). In other words, no matter what else we see around us, we know that "the unchurched Christian" is an oxymoron -- both unwise and outside of God's commands.

So, here we are with these two genuine conditions. On one hand, churches will be difficult -- some twisted, some perverted, some downright lost. There can be no doubt that no matter how good your church is, you will not find the perfect church because churches are filled with imperfect people. On the other hand, we know that church is mandatory for believers in order to share in worship, in fellowship, in the Word, and in the building up of one another. Not being there is not an option. I know that it is even possible for Christians to go to church and not be part of church, just as much missing the mark as the believer who does not go at all. So church will be tough and followers of Christ do not have the option not to be involved in the church.

What to do? Not do anything is not an option. We'll call that ... sin. Followers of Christ -- those who call Jesus "Lord" -- will not find that a biblical possibility. So it would seem that, if a Christian is going to follow Christ, it will be necessary to engage in extreme diligence in finding a church. That diligence will begin with prayer -- perhaps extreme prayer. And the road may not be easy. There is no perfect church. Maybe the music isn't what you want or maybe the preaching isn't what you have in mind. Maybe you're not "fed" or "moved" or "welcomed". But I'm pretty sure that there is somewhere that you can plug yourself in, maybe as more of a minister than a visitor, and worship and serve and love the brethren (John 13:35). I once worked with a guy in the military who was a career military guy. His plan, wherever the military took him, was to find a nearby church and insert himself and his family in that church to be involved and to minister wherever that was. This guy understood "church".

Jesus didn't say, "You will build My church." Lots of voices today bemoan the passing of anything resembling Christ's Church in our present time. If it's not dead, it's surely sick. If we don't do something, it will vanish. It's not a new theme, of course. Elijah was quite sure that he was the last believer in his day (1 Kings 19:10). God told him He had kept 7,000 believers (1 Kings 19:18). Maybe genuine believers are harder to find these days, but Jesus said, "I will build My church" (Matt 16:18) against which nothing will prevail. Our command is like Peter's -- "Feed My sheep." (John 21:15) So in churches where Christ is obscured or where mistaken methods are employed or where imperfect people are found (In case you're unclear, it turns out that I'm referring to every church where people are found), Christ still calls His followers to minister one to another. We are not commanded to "be fed" or "feel warmly toward God" or whatever other common complaints are out there. And it is undeniable that many of the groups with Christian-sounding names on the front are no longer Christian churches. But there will be believers everywhere for believers to join in building one another and worship together. Find that. Because "I'm a Christian, but I don't go to church" makes no biblical sense.


Glenn E. Chatfield said...

The body of Christ, i.e. Christians ARE the CHURCH -- the buildings are not the church.

The Scripture does not command us to go to church, rather we are to not forsake assembling with other believers. That can be done any day of the week (Sunday was never the "Sabbath" for Christians, nor was it mandated by Scripture to meet on Sunday), with any amount of believers. House churches will become more and more important as the end times draw near and the buildings are full of goat-herds and goats. It is indeed becoming more and more difficult in many areas to find a solid, Bible-believing and Bible-teaching "church" to attend.

Stan said...

I will agree with you that "church" is not defined as "that building on the corner", "Baptist", "Presbyterian", or the like. It comes in a variety of forms including house churches. It is, on the other hand, quite clear that believers in the New Testament met on "the first day of the week" and called that "the Lord's day". I'm cautious about taking Jesus's words, "Sabbath was made for man" and concluding "So we don't need it anymore." The Body of Christ is indeed believers and is referred to as "the Church", including all Christians throughout history, but it isn't possible to read texts like 1 Corinthians 14 and concluding that "church" does not include gathering with other believers. Most of those who I know who have opted not to have anything to do with gathering with other believers for shared worship, the preaching of the Word, and fellowship do not exercise their gifts or work out those "one anothers" in Scripture. It is these things that I addressed. I would guess that you are NOT recommending believers give up on those things or gathering together that way.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

My point was that we are indeed to meet with other believers on a regular basis, but that doesn't have to be in any church building or establishment, especially in an era of horrid teachings and apostasy when it is sometimes in some places virtually impossible to find a decent assembly which isn't teaching some sort of apostasy, let alone heresy. And it doesn't have to be on Sunday (e.g., I spent 30 years with a schedule that left me working about 80% of Sundays yet I would meet with other believers for worship, prayer, edification, etc on other days.)

Christians met on the "Lord's Day" not out of any requirement, rather it was in honor of the day Jesus rose from the dead. As for the Sabbath, it was never meant for anyone but the nation of Israel -- the Jews -- as a sign of a covenant between them and God. No one else had that covenant. Like my wedding ring is a sign of a covenant between me and my wife -- no one else can wear my ring for that symbol. I explained this thoroughly in this article:
Sunday is NOT the Sabbath, never was. It was Rome who decided that the Church replaced Israel and therefore needed priests for intercession, etc, and decided that Sunday would be the new Sabbath.

In short, my point was just against that the meetings have to be at some "Church" on Sundays.

Stan said...

Yes, we were largely in agreement. My point was NOT "You need to go to a stereotypical church building on Sundays", but that we need to be personally engaged with the Body of Christ. I'm even opposed to "going to church" without being personally engaged.

I do have to wonder, however, about the Sabbath. Yes, there was a portion of it that was part of the covenant with Israel, but Jesus's version did NOT say, "The Sabbath is part of the covenant with Israel", but "The Sabbath was made for Man." As long as there is "Man", there ought to be a rest ... for our benefit. No, not "It has to be Sunday!" but I think those who work 7 days a week are missing out on God's design. Completely different topic. And, fortunately, we're way past those silly first-century Christians who thought worshiping on the first day of the week in honor of Christ's resurrection was a good idea. Okay, that was uncalled for, but I do think that honoring Christ is a good idea when believers meet, whenever and however that might be.