By Pastor Ed Collins
“If you find the perfect church, then don’t join it, because you’ll be the one to mess it up!” – Phil Johnson, Theologian
Mr. Johnson’s point here is that there’s no such thing as a “perfect church”. I couldn’t agree more. I’d argue that some people make this an excuse, claiming they just can’t seem to find the “right church,” so they continue to freelance their way through the spiritual life. Over the years, I’ve learned the simple truth is that many in this group are essentially unwilling to submit to the God-given authority of a pastor.
Once bond service as unto the Lord is sidestepped (remember, God ordained local churches for a reason), people are “free” to begin treating churches and pastors as they would vendors at a flea market, with a dismissive, “sell-me” attitude. Well, the last thing we pastors are supposed to foster in a godly church is salesmanship! Yet, isn’t that what most so-called “Christians” are looking for nowadays – to be sold to? (Have you seen today’s megachurches???) Maybe I missed the part of the Bible that likens spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ to a business model…maybe that’s why I regularly receive unsolicited correspondence from industry-leading marketing firms on how to “market” my church and gain more congregants.
Sadly, the demand for “Christian” salesmanship is certainly there…If only I’d just let go of my integrity…Not going to happen.
So, what do these “churchless” people do? Well, some of them church hop as I alluded to earlier. Others design their own homemade curriculum, a virtual patchwork of Internet based sermons, from both dead and living pastors, that appeals to their personal interests and allows them to avoid the discomfort of becoming offended by honest teaching.
A person who’s waiting to join the so-called perfect church is arrogant. Perfect churches simply do not exist…and they know it.
There are so many options when it comes to churches. What’s a person to do in such a muddied landscape? I mean, so many buildings bear a cross on the outside, but is that enough to trust that it stands for Truth? The answer is simple – one that I’ve been teaching for years now. Find a church that teaches the inerrancy of the Bible and that articulates a doctrinal statement that is in keeping with Holy Scripture.
Unfortunately, most church seekers pay more attention to the style of the church than the content it produces. That speaks volumes to motivation.
Church style has no place in making a decision about joining a church. Heck, if style were the issue, I wonder how many congregants would sit under the apostle Paul’s authority if he were alive today. Not many, I suppose, given his unimpressive stature, marred looks, speech impediment, and intolerance for frivolity. For that matter, I wonder how many would sit under Jesus, Himself. This makes me sad and, frankly, a little angry.
He was despised and forsaken of men,
A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
And like one from whom men hide their face
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. — Isaiah 53:3
Neither Jesus nor Paul would garner much in the style department these days, yet who could teach the Gospel greater than them???
I wonder, what say the person who claims they joined a church because of the prep school, or the music ministry, or the personality of the pastor? What say this person in the presence of the Lord if they know another ministry exists in their area that has a more sound doctrinal statement? Who leads their family away from “truth that sets [them] free” (John 8:32) in favor of style? Dishonest people, that’s who.
The question one needs to ask themselves when joining a church is very simple. Does it have a rock-solid doctrinal statement in keeping with the Word of God? If not, there is no reason to consider it any further (unless a person is seeking to satisfy their flesh, of course). I wonder how many people choose a church based on a heartfelt, prayerful analysis of a church’s beliefs. I wonder how many take the time to “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33). I wonder how many people have been deceived, as Paul would teach if he were still alive on earth, ”But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:3).
So, how should we confront the issue: How to join the perfect church?
Easy. First, there’s no such thing as a perfect church, so stop making excuses. Second, if you’re truly looking for a church where the good Lord will shepherd you, then consult the doctrinal statement before you even consider other things the church might have to offer (if “offer” is even the right word). Given the dire drought of honest, accurate Biblical teaching nowadays, not to mention mainstream “Christian” errors like the charismatic and ecumenical movements, these considerations are all the more critical.
As many happy congregants will tell you, finding a church home is one of the greatest blessings in life. Breaking the very “bread of life” (John 6:35) with like-minded believers is a form of fellowship that is second to none.
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near. — Hebrews 10:23-25
Look for strong leadership, beginning with the pastor. He (never she) is the one responsible for guiding the church. Faithful ones usually aren’t that difficult to locate – they are the ones that most people find offensive. I speak from experience – “If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20). As I stated earlier, a person who’s waiting to join the perfect church is arrogant. Arrogant people hate to submit to authority, even if it is God-given. Yet that is God’s command.
Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you. — Hebrews 13:17
Our Great Shepherd has promised to care for His own. But what can He do if a person chooses to ignore His Spirit’s guidance? What’s He to do when people claim, “the Spirit led me this way,” as they walk away from sound teaching or refuse to submit to a pastor? The Lord provides, always, so there are no excuses.
And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.
As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love. — Ephesians 4:11-16
Choosing a church is a big deal! It is neither a flash-in-the-pan decision, nor one to be made on style points. We pastors are commissioned to watch over your souls. Our accountability is very great as a result. “As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed” (Galatians 1:9)!
Integrity to truth is increasingly unpopular. So be it. It is to be expected, for our Lord and Savior, Himself, was called the “Rock of offense” (1 Peter 2:8). If you’re a church hopping or Internet sermon “freelancer,” now’s the time to reconsider the vector you’re on. Are you, too, offended by the Truth? Have you made excuses in the past? Are you disjointed from the Body of Christ as a result?
If you’re disenchanted with your past church(es), maybe you ought to take the time to seek an honest conversation with the elder(s) instead of simply throwing stones and moving on. Be a part of the solution, to whatever degree possible, not merely a pretender passing through, flying under the radar, as they say. If none of that works, then read this article again and see where the Spirit leads you. Just don’t fall for any more lies from the kingdom of darkness!
Though imperfect, good pastors and good churches still exist out there – trust me, I’m leading one of them. If you’re looking for perfection, you aren’t going to find it. Besides, a good pastor will always tell you to have your own convictions before the Lord, even if they differ from his own. Just don’t miss out on the blessing a godly church can bring to you and your family.
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. — 1 John 4:1
Pastor Ed can be found preaching and teaching at North Christian Church, 2360 Chestnut Street, North Dighton, MA, 02764. Learn more at the church website, http://nccdighton.org.