Or, what kind of church does Christ want for you?
While I was in school, I studied under a world-reknowned preacher. One weekend, when I was in town I asked where he attended church? I thought I might join him for worship. He told me and said I would be more than welcomed to worship with them. In this area, there were significant, historical places of worship. And this teacher had preached a lifetime in grand sanctuaries of worship that attracted thousands. But when I drove up to church that Sunday, it was a small wooden structure. White, well-worn white, let’s call it. I stepped inside and there were only a few saints there at the time. I made my way to a large room, not the sanctuary and there was my teacher. He was setting up the coffee for the morning worshipers.
The people of the church ambled in by ones and twos. They poured their non-descript, over-cooked coffee, from the large aluminum pot. And in walked, who I assumed was the pastor. He was a young man who greeted each person by name. Eventually he made his way to me and welcomed me to their church.
I don’t remember the service much. I just remember the picture of this great-man-of-God, and master communicator making the coffee and listening to his pastor open the Word and share God’s heart. And the question that rattled around in my mind, “Why would he pick this church?” After all, he would have a significant place in any church. There certainly were other churches that had better services. There are churches that are more cutting-edge and more traditional – whichever one prefers. So, why? I think he understood how to pick a church.
- Find a people you can know and who will know you. Church isn’t a place for being noticed, but known. This teacher was not Doctor “so-and-so” here. Will these people let you “do life” with them? Are they even interested in that? Do they do life with one another? It can happen in a small group, or on Sunday morning. However it works, it has to happen if you’re going to grow. Remember how the early disciples knew each other? “Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to them was his own, but they had everything in common (Acts 4:32).”
- Find a people who love to pray. They don’t necessarily have to be good at it. But if they pray, God will do something there. And if they pray, you will learn to pray too. The earliest Christians understood where life-change came from. “And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness (Acts 4:31).”
- Find a people who are wowed by the Word, not the preacher. The people that Sunday, didn’t gather for the show because there was none. They gathered for the joy, strength and comfort of God’s Word. Is it really God’s Word here, or is it a prop? “And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers (1 Thess. 2:13).”
- Find a people who know Jesus is there! Is he mentioned? Is he worshiped? Is his cross central to the message? “But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world (Gal. 6:14).”
- Find a people who will let you help make the coffee. Who knows where service will lead after that? It might just be that is the greatest service you can do in the Kingdom. Is that okay? “I’d rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness (Psa 84:10).”
Once you think you’ve found this people, dig in. There will be times you’ll doubt your choice. The old tendency to shop for a better place will creep up. You will want to shop again. Don’t! There will be conflict, both inner and outer. Let the Spirit of God walk you through it. This is a family. Learn to stay, serve, and do God’s mission together. Do that and Christ will change you.
What else is on your list for discerning the church family you should be part of?
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