AUDIO VERSION: YouTube Podbean
God’s Church, aka the Bride of Christ, is a fractured mess. She looks like a crystal figurine that someone has taken a hammer to. We Christians have split into so many denominations that we can’t keep track of them all. Of course every time a new branch of the family tree is formed, there will be those who say that division was necessary in order to protect essential doctrines. We have bickered and split over every subject there is: baptism, Communion, faith, works, tongues, miraculous healings, ministry, worship. We get our noses bent out of joint over the most ridiculous issues: Should we use instruments or worship with just our voices? What kind of songs should we sing? How long should the sermons be? Can women preach? Should we use juice or wine for Communion? Should dancing be allowed? Does God still heal? Should we greet one another with a holy kiss? The list is endless. Today you will not be able to find any branch of the Christian family that doesn’t have its share of petty attitudes and flawed teaching. There is no perfect denomination. So how do you decide where to go?
The first step in choosing a church is to take the whole issue to God and ask if He even wants you to go to church right now. The whole theory that “you can’t grow in the faith unless you regularly attend church” is an absolute crock. Spiritual growth is a result of your soul choosing to stay in alignment with God and obeying the Holy Spirit’s convictions. Other people can’t do your growing for you, but they can sure get in your way. When you view the health of your soul as being dependent on how much time you clock with other Christians, you are setting yourself up for serious trouble. The only people who insist that you can’t grow without attending their program are people who are trying to measure their own spiritual success by numbers. They need you to come and boost their stats. If they don’t have enough people, they think they’re failing God. You can’t get all caught up in other people’s insecurity issues. The Holy Spirit does not need the assistance of bungling humans to help you progress in the faith. He will certainly use humans along the way, but they are never essential to His work. You staying focused on God is what is essential, and if going to church is going to get you sidetracked into a bunch of carnality, then you’re better off staying home for now.
While it’s quite true that fellowshipping with other Christians can be a positive upper, you need to realize that every Christian has their theological blind spots. No pastor, Sunday School teacher, or home group leader can ever substitute for the Holy Spirit. If you go to church looking for some pure, unadulterated truth, you aren’t going to find it. Pure truth comes from God alone, which is why HE needs to be the only Pastor you revere in life. Everything you hear in a church needs to be checked with the Holy Spirit. Don’t just sit there bobbing your head in Wednesday night Bible study class. You have to THINK about what you are hearing, and constantly be on your guard for bad teaching. Growing old is not the same thing as growing up. Just because someone’s been teaching or preaching for 20 years doesn’t mean they don’t have some serious flaws in their beliefs. Many seasoned leaders don’t even have the basic fundamentals of the faith right. You must check with God about EVERYTHING.
As a general rule, critical thinking is strongly discouraged in churches today. Teachers will tell you to be discerning, but never about what they are personally teaching. There is enormous pressure to align with those who are holding formal titles in the church congregation, regardless of how badly they are abusing their positions. Questioning the authority or teaching of leaders is heavily frowned on. Don’t go to church if you’re just going to act like a brainless lamb who blindly trusts everything the know-it-alls tell you. That is how you end up getting seriously hurt. Unfortunately, our churches have become so corrupted with carnality, and a desire to capitulate to the world, that they are no longer safe places for the spiritually young to go. Unless you are sticking close to God in your mind, you can easily be led astray by your brothers in Christ.
God needs to be the One who picks your church for you. If you’re feeling inspired to start going somewhere, ask Him to open doors. Before you try a church, take the time to look up what their core beliefs are. Be aware that the current trend is to downplay denominational connections. Many churches have dropped denominational terms from their signs as a way to attract more visitors (especially nonbelievers). In such cases, ask the pastor what the roots of the church are. They had to start somewhere. When you find out what their hidden denomination is, familiarize yourself with the basic beliefs of that group (there are many quick reference charts you can get for this). No one will be perfect, but they need to at least be correct about the identity of Christ. When possible, it’s good to go into a church setting already knowing where you differ from them on basic theological issues.
When God stirs you up to attend church, it is because He sees opportunities for you to grow closer to Him through the experience. Also, He might want to use you to help others grow in their walks. God is a multitasker. Always be looking for the lessons He wants to teach you, and be available to interact with other souls as He directs. Don’t expect your relationship with any one church to last forever. God works in seasons. He will send you somewhere for a while, and then He will move you on. You must stay fluid. Don’t fight Him when He says it’s time for a change of scene. In everything we do, we want our first priority to be growing closer to God. It is an honor to serve Him in any location: at home, at work, or in a church. Go where He sends you, stay as long as He tells you, and be ready to leave when He wants to move on. GOD must always be your First Love in life—not His fickle Bride.