How can I be sure that God wants me to be part of a particular church or denomination?
First it is important to know that God wants us to attend church.
. . . not forsaking our own assembling together . . . (NASB) Hebrews 10:25
Why Is It Important? It is the only way for us to grow as Christians. Spiritual growth involves mainly three areas. We can take all of the commands in the New Testament about how a believer can grow, and they will fall into three areas. First, we need to follow the example of a spiritual leader. This is in fact how we start to grow. Almost every new Christian asks someone what he/she should do after becoming a new Christian. The new Christian starts by following the example of another Christian. Often we do not pick the best example to follow, but the important thing to remember is that we do follow someone. Many follow the pastor and learn from him how to pray, how to confess their sins, what God’s love looks like, what it means to be spirit-filled, and many other things. Second, other Christians minister to us too! We encourage each other when we use our spiritual gifts, share Christ together, spend time together, and challenge one another in the areas in which we struggle. Finally, we need to feast on the Word of God. Some Christians are happy with the milk of scripture. They like the soft, sweet flavor of God’s love, but they do not like the spiritual meat that they need to become mature Christians.
Now these areas are important because it is these areas that you want to consider when you look for a church.
Does It Provide Spiritual Meat?
From this foundation, we can now determine what to look for in a church. First, we need to ask ourselves, “Does this church teach through all of scripture or do they just teach topics?” Does the pastor teach through books of the Bible verse-by-verse and help you understand what scripture says? If the pastor is confusing then he may not have the spiritual gift of teaching, or he may not be preparing for Sunday as he should. There are many pastors who want to give their people a warm feeling. Most people attend church wanting to experience God – to have a good feeling. But the Holy Spirit tells us in Hebrews 5:11-14 that spiritual growth comes by chewing on the meat of scripture and not remaining on a diet of milk. The primary obligation of every pastor-teacher is to teach the Bible and to teach it in depth. For a fuller explanation visit A Call: Teach The Bible.
What are we looking for? We are looking for a church that is committed to teaching truth and is committed to actually teaching through the Bible. Most pastors will tell you that they “teach the Bible.” But that is not what we are talking about. We are talking about a pastor who is an in depth Bible teacher. Last, ask him what he believes about the Bible. Look to see if he teaches error. It is hard to discover a false teacher. He may be careful to not reveal what he does not believe. I would interview the pastor and ask questions. Then I would attend the church for about a year before joining. It will take that long or more to discover what he really believes. During that year compare what he is teaching against what others are teaching, and ask God, “Who is right?”
Are The Leaders Spiritual Men?
The next area to consider is the spiritual character of the leadership of the church, including the pastor. Jesus gave us a biblical principle.
A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master. (NASB) Matthew 10:24
A believer tends not to be more spiritual than his leadership. In fact, the leadership will tend not to be more spiritual than the pastor. There are many churches with pastors and leaders who are proud, greedy for money, have been divorced, or are in love with the world. Such men will rarely be empowered by the Holy Spirit. Such men will rarely have great wisdom or insight into scripture because the Holy Spirit is not able to minister through them, due to their lives. One way to measure the spiritual character of the leadership is to look at the character of the people in the church. In every church there is a common attitude among the people. They are generally unloving or loving. They are eager to know God or they are more interested in their personal time and the things of the world. So ask, “What is the character of the people in this church?” Again it will take time to evaluate.
Are The People Ministering To Each Other?
Finally, are the people loving and eager to serve one another? it is not enough to ask if they are ministering to each other. Some years ago I heard a pastor admit that he “released people to ministry.” I thought to myself that I did not know that the Holy Spirit gave that responsiblity over to the pastor. There are pastors and leaders who want to control everything.
I wrote something to the church; but Diotrephes, who loves to be first among them, does not accept what we say. For this reason, if I come, I will call attention to his deeds which he does, unjustly accusing us with wicked words; and not satisfied with this, neither does he himself receive the brethren, and he forbids those who desire to do so, and puts them out of the church. Beloved, do not imitate what is evil . . . (NASB) 3 John 9-11
Look for a church where the people are eager to minister and are able to minister. Do they get together in Bible studies? Is the church mainly focused on social times or is there a hunger for God and a caring attitude toward others.
What should one look for in a good church? First, a church that is committed to teaching all of the Word of God, teaching it in depth, and teaching it book-by-book and verse-by-verse. I would flee from a church that is topical and uses too many illustrations. The pastor’s messages should be more than 25 minutes. Men who violate these guidelines are usually more interested in pleasing people and are not committed to building disciples.
Second, look for godly men who flee sin and have a heart of love. Finally, look for a church where the people love each other, love strangers, are free to minister to each other, and have a passion for God.
Suggested Links:Imitating Great Faith
True Belief Should Minister
You Should Be Teachers
God's Great Passion
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