When it comes to church, it’s not about the type of music or the number of people or the programs that a church offers.
It’s not about the budget or the high profile names of the leaders or the members.
It’s not about the location and how close the church is to your home—although it is nice to have a place to worship that is close to home if your family is actively involved.
It’s not about whether the church has classes for the adults on Sunday mornings or if it encourages meeting in homes and coffee shops.
I have attended:
* both Southern Baptist churches and non-denominational churches.
* big ones and medium ones and small ones.
* churches that were started by the pastor, ones that have had the same pastor for thirty years, and ones that were on the thirtieth pastor.
*ones that had a homecoming and week-long revival every year, ones that seemed to be in a constant state of revival, and ones that wouldn’t know what revival was if it jumped up and bit them in the face.
I’ve been to the “wear your Sunday best” churches and the “come as you are” churches and I’ve worn pants to a church where women were supposed to wear dresses (you should have seen the looks I got) yet the men wore jeans (Explain that one to me.).
I’ve sat on pews in a traditional sanctuary with a cross hanging over the baptistry, sat in warehouses with no air conditioning, school gymnasiums and lunchrooms on squeaky, uncomfortable chairs, and nice auditoriums with theater lighting.
I’ve witnessed those arguments over the color of the carpet and I’ve also heard every opinion on which was the best hymnal to use.
I’ve heard the argument on how churches are going down the toilet because they don’t sing hymns anymore and how the modern praise music is nothing but rhythmic, droning, chorus-only, drum-driven, feel-good music.
I’ve been treated very poorly by team leads who wanted to make sure everything was picture-perfect for the visitor—making me feel like the visitor was more important than the ones who serve regularly, when all attendees should be equal.
I have seen amateurs with a heart of gold lead worship that wasn’t 100% flawless but that totally hit the mark and I’ve seen “professionals” who weren’t walking with the Lord drive the Spirit right out of the place.
I’ve seen money go to the needy (been the recipient of it, actually) and I’ve seen that same charity abused.
I’ve seen small amounts given with a big heart and big amounts given just for the press exposure.
I’ve been to churches where the sermon was God-inspired and I’ve sat through messages that came out of a book or that were read word-for-word and were equivalent in spontaneity to an infomercial speech.
I’ve been more inspired and convicted at funerals before than in church.
David Platt says: “Inspiration demands exposition. If the Bible is God-breathed, then why would we want to preach/hear anything else today?” (http://www.brookhills.org )
The message should be more about living in VICTORY than focusing on the bondage of whatever addiction you may have.
Through all of this we have managed to raise two Godly children who serve in their own churches of choice. This happened only because we dedicated them to the Lord from the very beginning and we constantly poured into them that what matters most is the relationship they have with God—not where they attend church. Since the Bible tells us not to give up meeting with believers and it stresses the importance of being united to a body, that is what we have taught them (Hebrews 10:25).
However, I must admit that after all of these years, it sure would be easy to dust our hands off and consider our job well done. But going to church is part of BEING the church and it has more to do with just raising kids. We cannot not tuck our tails and hide when our kids are grown. It’s about fulfilling your calling. So we must press on.
So where does that leave two people who have raised their kids but find themselves, for the first time, seeking a place that is right for them—when the children’s ministry or youth program is no longer of utmost importance to their family? (After all, even though those things are not on the top of the list, often those things indicate the life that may or may not be coursing through the veins of the church.) You don’t want to be somewhere that is full of old geezers who gripe and complain about the condition of the world but who don’t do anything to change it. We all want to belong. We all want to serve in the areas of our giftedness. So we look for a place that provides those outlets.
I’ve said I didn’t want to be somewhere that was so big I didn’t know everyone or somewhere where people might only want to climb the ladder to the top. And not a small church that everyone knows everyone’s business or so small that there must be something wrong with it and that’s why it’s small. I’d rather be in a medium-sized church—one that’s big enough that the people there must obviously be following God. A place where everything isn’t rehearsed and timed to perfection in an effort to impress man, but that exhibits the heartfelt desire for excellence in an effort to honor God. But we can never know the motives of everyone who attends the church we attend. Big churches are not the only ones where people try to climb the ladder. Small and medium churches are victims of that mindset, too.
Let’s face it…no church is perfect because if it was, I’d ruin it as soon as I walked in the door.
And let’s face it…I am not Goldilocks. I can’t try them all in order to decide which one fits me best. That attempt is exhausting.
Side note: I did a little test on my Facebook to see how many people would tell me about their churches and why they attend them. Only a small handful of my more than 1,000 friends even responded to tell me why they thought their church was so great. I really thought there would be more enthusiasm.
Finding a church should be easy. If the leaders of those churches are committed in their ministries to preaching the Word of God, committed to pleasing God and not man, willing to live at a higher standard so as not to lead the flock astray into discouragement (1 Timothy 3:1-13), then more churches would be on fire and would be attractive to the visitor. More on this: click here
No matter who walks through the doors, no matter what their motives, if God is the number One agenda then that church is a great place to belong to—albeit not perfect. I do believe that if a church is truly alive, it will experience growth (Acts 2). I do not believe, however, that all large churches are alive. There are large churches all over the world that are that way because they offer something flashy or a get-rich-quick feeling of prosperity. Don’t get me started on the whole “God has a plan to prosper me” teachings.
If you are a believer, you are already a part of THE Church. Finding A church is tough in the world we live in today. There are many deceivers. There are many who—well, there’s no other way to put it—lack the power. 2 Timothy 3:4-5 says they are “lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power.”
So anyway, I think what to look for is a body of believers—believers who are like-minded, in a church in or near your community, where you can love and be loved and serve. It will not be perfect but it will be a perfect fit for you. It will be a place that ignites a passion inside of you—a desire to serve. It will be a place where the recipe is missing a key ingredient—you!
Do not lose heart. If you believe in God, He will lead you to the right place. He will help you see that church is and should be about more than just the place you meet, the songs you sing, the clothes you wear, the programs you participate in, and the palatable words that make you feel warm and cozy on the inside. There is a place for everyone. It may be small or it may be large but it will be ALIVE (well-watered, well-fed, well-oxygenated, and well-lit). If you do not have such a place, start searching for one now. The battle is just beginning and we must be well-suited and part of an army much larger than ourselves in order to fight the battles in the days ahead.