Call To Die

Then [Jesus] said to them all, "If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it. (Luke 9:23-24, HCSB)

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Follower of Christ, husband of Abby, member of Kosmosdale Baptist Church, and tutor/staff member at Sayers Classical Academy.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Import Factors re: Choosing a Church to Join

My friend Justin Brewer, after stepping down from a youth ministry position in his church and after counsel with the pastors of his church, is amicably leaving his fellowship to join a congregation "closer to home." As part of the process of looking for a new church home, Justin posted the following question on his blog:

Place in order from 1 to 5 (1 most important, 5 least important) the personal importance of these specific parts of a church experience( I know there are more, let's just focus here for now). If you would like to explain why that would be great...if you just want to list'em you can do that as well.

Your choices in no specific order:

  • Fellowship (Sunday school, small groups, events (although i am aware there is more than fellowship in these things... you get the idea))
  • Music (Style, Skill)
  • Message (Pastors presentation of the word, style, personal growth or conviction through preached word )
  • Denominational Ties (government and system of beliefs)
  • The Tots (children's, youth, nursery)
My response to what Justin wrote follows:

I believe that Almighty God has revealed all that is necessary to life and godliness (2 Pet 1:3) in the sixty-six books of the Holy Scripture (Rev 22:18). All Scripture was given by inspiration of God, is infallible and inerrant, and is the sufficient, final arbiter of all disputes and decisions concerning matters of life and godliness (2 Tim 3:16-17).

Due to these commitments about Scripture, I believe that "Denominational Ties" (as you have defined them) are the most important consideration.

Specifically, you mention "government and system of beliefs." The system of beliefs are of primary importance because they define key convictions of the congregation concerning what the Bible says; the system of beliefs, if revisited from time to time, will shape what the congregation teaches and does. Of course, there will be a great deal of similarity between the beliefs of various evangelical congregations, but the differences are important; inasmuch as you are willing that, at some point, God would use you as a minister within whatever congregation with which you join, you want to be sure that your teaching does not contradict points of that congregation's system of beliefs.

Church government is also very important. Many churches claim to believe in the authority of Scripture or claim to believe that Christ is Head of the Church, but then they disregard the teaching of Christ and His apostles concerning how the Church- the body and temple of Christ- is to be organized. It is all too common to see congregations aping the business practices of the world; this inevitably leads to strife within the church and/or a personality cult around a charismatic pastor.

Next in importance, also flowing from convictions concerning Scripture, is the category you have labeled "Message." How does the pastor handle God's Word? Does he preach through books of the Bible so that all of God's Word is brought to bear on the congregation, rather than just picking and choosing pet topics? Is the main point of the passage the main point of the sermon so that what the pastor is echoing and explaining what God says rather than using the text to make his own point? Without these considerations the true authority in the congregation is not God's Word, but the opinions of the pastor.

I would argue that the other categories you mention are subservient to these first two, and that a Christian would be well-advised to join with a congregation where these are strong, even if all the others are weak. Because how God's Word is handled is foundational and where the foundation is strong the other aspects can be built (or torn down and rebuilt) upon this strong foundation. But where the foundation is weak the other aspects become an empty, crumbling shack (though maybe a well-decorated shack) on sandy ground. Also, if the congregation fervently desires conformity to God's Word (which desire will be primarily expressed in the two categories I've argued as most important) they should be consistently seeking to improve in the other areas.

Now, it turns out that my response wasn't exactly what Justin was looking for. Specifically, it seems that when he wrote "Denominational Ties (government and system of beliefs)" he did not intend to have a response about "government and system of beliefs" that excluded comment about a particular denomination. But, overall, I stand by my answer.



Blogger Nathan White said...

Thank you for this post, Andrew. Very profitable.

8:50 AM  
Blogger ajlin said...

Thanks for the encouragement, brother!

7:04 AM  

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