To Pick a Church

I was listening to a sermon series the other day given by a pastor to a group of graduating seminary students on identifying the most important attributes in selecting a Church. In other words, how do you make your list of needs vs. wants?  I wanted to have a discussion around this with several friends but since I don’t have a blog myself, I asked Kyle and he has graciously allowed me to post a guest blog here for discussion.  (much easier for everyone to post their thoughts rather than keep it on a massive email!)

Kyle lived with me and my brother in Charlotte a couple of years ago for around six months and we have stayed in touch during his time in up north.  I live in the
Charlotte area and work for a Fidelity Investments company in their finance department.  I teach Sunday School and work with a very small youth group at my Church here in
Charlotte.  I enjoy photography & ultimate…but enough about me.

I thought it would be a good exercise to think through these questions and try to develop my own list before listening to the sermon series.  Now granted, no Church in the world is perfect but I suppose there should be some consensus on the most important attributes.  At its core, this also addresses at some level what is the purpose of the Church but I hoped to keep the discussion centered on specific attributes.  I would like it to be a discussion format where you not only give your list but support your choices.  I prefer something hopefully deeper than just opinions lest we slip into what my father would term “pooled ignorance.” 

So – lets hear it – what do you think are the most important attributes for a Church? 

Andrew <><

3 thoughts on “To Pick a Church”

  1. Earl Pennell at Woodlawn Baptist Church in Charlotte mentioned his primary criteria for joining a church was that the church preached Jesus Christ. I think the reasoning was something along the lines that, in recent years (and probably frequently in times past) one of the first doctrines to go in a slide toward apostasy was a proper understanding of who Jesus is and what he has done. So a church that’s missing it will say things such as that Jesus was just a man, that he didn’t rise from the dead, that it was a “spiritual” resurrection, that he isn’t coming back, or perhaps that he already has, but that it was (again) a spiritual resurrection. Or worse, a church could stay within the official bounds of orthodoxy by avoiding the question altogether: There are churches that you can go to for a full year and never (or almost never) hear the name of Jesus mentioned. If you don’t talk about him, you can’t say anything that might be condemned, can you?

    I think my pastor was right, but that he didn’t go far enough. Jesus is only one third of the Trinity, and while Jesus has always been the one whose person and work were harder for the unbelieving to swallow, the full Trinity is the foundational distinctive of the Christian faith. If you get any part of it wrong, your church is going to slide off into something less than orthodox Christianity. Churches have gotten it wrong on the sovereignty and foreknowledge of God, such as the “open theism” movement that’s flared up recently.

    However, in my opinion, the biggest thing that’s missing in most otherwise orthodox evangelical churches today is a proper doctrine of the Holy Spirit, and I think this is on both sides of the charismatic divide. Some churches ignore the Holy Spirit entirely, or give him a minor, supplementary role to Jesus’ work in salvation, ignoring the fact that most of the verses in the Bible that refer to the Holy Spirit ascribe to him activities that they’d really rather not see in their churches. Others enlarge too much on the Spirit, as if his goal were to upstage the Father and the Son, even to the point of superseding the scriptures.

    So I think the highest point on my list would be a properly balanced doctrine of the Trinity.

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  2. I believe Kyle’s point is well taken; a proper understanding of who God is covers a wide area and is critical for a Church that wants to follow God. This not only covers a proper reverence for scripture and its teachings but also our position before God. The world is not human-centric but God-centric. This pride and self-centeredness is so quick and easy to creep into even the best intentioned Church today. I also think that a proper view of God is difficult at best to achieve here on earth. There are quite a few distractions that keep this image hazy. The desire to understand God fully also has implications to the approach taken in many areas – method of preaching the Bible, Church structure, method of dealing with sin, much of this is covered under that general approach.

    That covered I propose that a second element is a Church that desires to fulfill both elements of the Great Commission. As our Pastor recently stated, if saying the sinner’s prayer were all there was to being a Christian, then as soon as we said the prayer, off we would be whisked to heaven. As seen in Pilgrim’s progress, accepting Christ is only the beginning of the journey. I mention both elements because I believe there are two distinct parts to the Great Commission.

    “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded.” Matthew 28:19 (NIV)

    Making disciples and teaching them to obey states that we are to evangelize the lost AND equip and disciple the believers. Seldom have I seen a Church that really fulfills both of these very well. A “seeker friendly” Church tends to be a little light on teaching the real meat of the Word since they are focused on reaching out to the unsaved. I have seen the other extreme, where the body can become a silo of knowledge but doesn’t allow all of that teaching to reach out to the lost. A difficult balance at best; I suspect because we as humans tend to lean toward one side or the other and must work to achieve a proper mix of both parts.

    What else? Any argument with this approach or Kyle’s insistence on the importance of the Holy Spirit? (or the Holy Ghost for those of you that love the KJV)

    Andrew

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  3. I, naturally, had to “stick in my oar” though my answer may appear at first to be overly simplistic. It is, nonetheless, my “bottom line” when it comes to finding the will of God in any situation. The Bible says if any man lacks wisdom, let Him ask….that answers for all time, the question of whether or not God speaks. However, God is good and doeth good. If the only language we understand is Bible, I believe He will speak to us in Bible.

    Once when I was going through a particularly “silent” period, I started thinking that maybe I was in sin — maybe God had rejected me. About that time, God spoke one sentence: “I am well able to make Myself heard by you.” And then we went back to silence. I appreciated that reminder that God is God and I am not and he is not limited by my limitations.

    Ask.

    Believe that He will be the voice behind you saying “this is the path, walk ye in it”. Also know “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” and the steps of a righteouss man are ordered by God.

    Lay down by faith everything you think you need to find in a church. It may be that the things you are looking to find, God is planning to establish through you.

    Which brings me to my 2nd oar: God’s purpose for us IN THE CHURCH and God’s purpose for US in the church. I believe that every member of a church is as much called there as those on staff. God brings us and fitly joins us together “until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” There is something on the inside of each of us that without it there would be a lack.

    The other aspect is how God uses the church to conform us to the image of Christ — mostly by using all those other rough stones he puts in his rock polisher called the church. Too often we have “cut & run” politics and bail at the first offense, not recognizing that God is using those offenses to give us the opportunity to become just like Him.

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