Choosing a Church

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    Most people, when choosing a church look for a church that they like. They want to hear sermons that will leave them feeling good and they go to church for what they get out of it. The ultimate purpose of going to church is to get to heaven. It doesn't matter how much we accomplish in this life or how good we are...if we don't get to heaven we have lost everything. We know from John 12:48 that we will be judged by the words that Christ has delivered to us (the word of God). It says, "He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day." It is therefore of utmost importance to know and follow the word of God if we want to get to heaven. Matthew 7:21-23 stresses this same point again. It says, "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. [22] Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? [23] And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity."

    So with that in mind...the first and foremost determiner of where I am going to attend church must be whether or not they are teaching the word of God...and not just part of it, but ALL of it. We must even teach the parts that we don't like and the parts that show we are wrong and need to change. Paul was often hated for the truth that he spoke, but it could never be said that he didn't teach the entirety of the truth from the word of God. In Acts 20:27 Paul says, “For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God." If a church/preacher is teaching the entirety of the word of God, then there will be times when I leave feeling horrible about myself. Remember...truth is only intended to make us feel better if we are right...however when we are wrong or need to grow, it should reveal such and cause us to want to change. If a church/preacher is not teaching truth (and the whole truth), then that church will not help me get to heaven. This includes teaching regarding the church, worship, God, home/family, daily living, morality, salvation, and many others.
    Have you ever considered that if everyone taught the word of God accurately and in its entirety that there would not be division in the church? God never intended for there to be division...but rather that division came from man deciding what to teach and what not to teach. 1 Corinthians 1:10 says, "Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment."

    This one thing places a great responsibility on the shoulders of each and every person. It now becomes my responsibility to know the word of God and to know whether that which is being taught is 100% truth, or whether it just sounds like truth and is leading me astray from God's word.

    Now...most people will choose a church based on how it makes them feel. Yet sometimes we need to feel bad about ourselves so that we will change. Others pick a church based on whether or not they agree with what is being taught. Yet if what is being taught is truth, I must change my beliefs in order to be right. Many people simply want a preacher to tell them that they are right...not to teach truth. We must desire truth.

    The second factor that is often considered when choosing a church is: how did the people treat me? Many times people will be drawn to a church because the people there treated them very nice and really treated them well. Second to doctrine, one should choose a church that has people who live the truth they are teaching. These people should treat others properly, worship as they should, live as they should, and will in general be a kind group of people. When choosing a church, one must ask, "are they hypocrites"? "do they practice what they preach"?

    Now...there are times when a church is teaching the right thing, however there are some in the church that don't live right. The ones not living right are wrong for what they are doing...but they don't stop me from living right. However...I cannot be a part of a church that teaches wrong and still be right with God...therefore doctrine must come first. There are always going to be some hypocrites in every church...and they are wrong...but again, they don't stop me from living and worshiping God as I should.

    Personal preference comes next...but only after carefully considering the first two. Usually there will only be one or two churches in a given region that actually teach what the Bible teaches. It is VERY rare to find one that is both teaching the truth and living it as they should. Yet if there are more than one that both teach and live it, then it comes down to personal preference.

    If you have any other questions...don't hesitate to ask

  • What is the biblical definition of a church? Could one consider your daily bullets from the Bible and discussion that commences "church"? Does a church have to have a pastor or could it just be a family or group of people gathering together to study and discuss the Bible? If it does have to have a pastor, what qualifications/certificates/education determines who is considered a pastor....are there any?

    I've always been curious about the defition of church, as I was always told that a church was only defined as the establishments we see today, however once upon a time it wasn't physically feesible for people to get to a church every Sunday due to distance, weather conditions or what have you.

  • @gash

    There is no single thread in Scripture that says "this" is a church. The word "church" comes from the greek "ecclesia", which means, "the called out ones" or "those who are called" Christ established the church on Peter (Mt. 16:18), so we do know that the church is not a building, but it's actually made up of people. That passage is the only one in the entire NT where Jesus uses that word (ecclesia). Some people read passages like "where 2 or 3 are gathered together, there I am in their midst" to mean that where 2 or 3 are gathered to read/learn/discuss Scripture, that there is a church. In this case, people that subscribe to this idea of the church do not necessarily believe a pastor is needed. The Catholic Church teaches that the family is the domestic church because it's the closest image to God, who is not a solitude, but a family (Father, Son, Holy Spirit). In this case, the father is like the pastor, similar to the OT where the faith was passed on from father to son.

    After Christ ascended to heaven and after Pentecost, which is the birth of the church, the church was understood to be made up of all those who believed in Christ and followed the teachings of the apostles. In the writings of the early church fathers the church is understood in the sense above, those who believe/follow Christ based on the teachings of the apostles. After the apostles were dead, then it was their successors who would continue on the teaching through time.

    Now, to belong to the church (the people of God) one has to be baptized. This comes from the OT times, except back then it was circumcision that made men part of the people of God. Baptism is the NT equivalent of the OT circumcision, however baptism does something circumcision never did, it makes us sons and daughters of God. And this is a fantastic thing, because as son and daughters we are heirs to heaven.
    /end tangent/

    As far as qualifications to be a pastor, the first and most important should be because they are called by God to that ministry. After that is several years of preparation in Scripture, philosophy, theology, church history, etc. I can't speak to the formation programs for Protestant pastors, all I know is that it depends on the seminary they attend and the denomination they follow, but I don't know how long is their formation. For Catholic priests, their formation is a minimum of 8 years, for those that follow a specific order like the Dominicans or Franciscans it's usually 10 years. If they decide to specialize in a certain area, for example obtaining a degree called Master of Divinity (M.Div) it's an extra 2-3 years. And for those that decide to pursue PhDs, it's an extra 2 years or so.

    Hope this helps.

  • The word "church" as Ramiro said literally means "the called out assembly". The meaning specific to the New Testament church is that members are called out of the world. Many people refer to the verse (Matthew 18:20) that says, "where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst" to refer to meeting to worship...however again as Ramiro has said that is not at all what the verse is referring to. That verse is in the context of confronting a brother who has trespassed against you. By definition in the Bible, the church is not a building, but rather is the whole of those who are called out (Christians). When "going to church" many often view that as going to the building...but this couldn't be farther from the truth. "Going to church" in the New Testament was when one went to gather with Saints (Christians) to worship God. In the New Testament this was done in many different places and many occasions. Romans 16:3-5 records a church meeting in the home of Aquilla and Priscilla. It reads, "Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, [4] who risked their own necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles. [5] Likewise greet the church that is in their house. Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who is the firstfruits of Achaia to Christ."*

    As far as "pastor" goes, the world has a very different view of "pastor" than the Bible teaches. A "pastor" is much different than an "Evangelist". A pastor is one who is there to lead the congregation of people. Their main responsibilities as listed in the Bible are to feed the flock and take oversight over the flock (1 Peter 5:1-2). The same word that most refer to as "pastor" is also used in talking about Elders and Bishops. Qualifications for Elders/Bishops/Pastors are listed in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1.

    1 Timothy 3:2-7 says, "A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach; [3] not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous; [4] one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence [5] (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?); [6] not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil. [7] Moreover he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil."*

    Titus 1:5-9 says, "For this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are lacking, and appoint elders in every city as I commanded you— [6] if a man is blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of dissipation or insubordination. [7] For a bishop must be blameless, as a steward of God, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, [8] but hospitable, a lover of what is good, sober-minded, just, holy, self-controlled, [9] holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict."* is the interesting fact that most fail to notice. "Elders", "Bishops", and "pastors" is ALWAYS mentioned in the plural in the New Testament except when talking about a specific one such as Peter. We have no authority in the New Testament for there to be only one pastor/elder/bishop in any congregation. I believe the reason for this is that when there is more than one person in authority, there is less likely to be corruption. Usually when people say "pastor" they really intend to mean "preacher/evangelist". Many people in the Bible were preacher of the Gospel (evangelists) such as Timothy (2 Timothy 4:5) and Phillip (Acts 21:8). In the New Testament, the responsibility of the evangelist/preacher was simply to preach the truth (2 Timothy 4:1-5). Now...when it comes to preaching/teaching the word...EVERYONE has the responsibility to teach others. This does not mean everyone has to stand in a pulpit and preach publicly...and the New Testament actually reserves public roles such as that for the men, but everyone has the responsibility to teach. One can go to school to learn the word of God...yet the word can be learned through diligent personal study. I did go to school, however I have learned far more through my personal study than I did in school. The Bible doesn't specify the amount of school or training necessary for one to preach...only that they must preach truth in its entirety.

    What is necessary to constitute "church"? Christians can meet to worship God in their own home with other Christians just as they did in the New Testament at times. Christians can come together out in a field to worship God. Or it can be done in a building. There are times when one finds themselves in a situation where there is not an "established" group locally with which to gather and worship...and in this situation they must still worship God and teach as God has commanded and can do so in their home or other location. The thing is, we are commanded to gather with saints (Hebrews 10:25) and we are commanded to worship God on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:1-2). We cannot ignore these commands and be right with God...however we don't have to choose the "lesser of evils" if there is not a faithful group meeting in our area. We can start meeting with the faithful that we know and seek to teach others and grow as a congregation.

  • I really don't intend to start a dialogue with this response, I really don't have the time or the energy to follow through on a detailed discussion, but there is so much with your response that I disagree and things that are in error. Here I only want to focus on 2 things: 1) that there is no authority in the NT for a single pastor/elder/bishop for a congregation, and 2) that preachers need to teach truth in its entirety.

    You made this statement:

    We have no authority in the New Testament for there to be only one pastor/elder/bishop in any congregation.

    But you also shared this scripture (emphasis mine):

    Titus 1:5-9 says, "For this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are lacking, and appoint elders in every city as I commanded you"

    All the "you"s I bolded in greek are the 1st person singular forms of the word. Seems pretty clear that there was only 1 person in charge of the church in Crete. Even the point of establishing elders, that had to be done by a specific person, Titus, that was appointed, and no one else could claim to be an elder/pastor/preacher unless he was appointed by the one person that was left in charge to set things straight. Seems very clear that we have authority in the NT that shows that 1 person was in charge, not only in congregations (appointed elders) but in an entire city. Same with Timothy in Ephesus. The plurality of the word does not negate the fact that there was always 1 person in charge. There were 12 apostles, but there is no question of who is the leader of the apostles. The apostles needed helpers, so they established deacons, but there was no question who in charge to teach the new Christian faith, the apostles. Eventually they all dispersed and went to different parts of the world, but there was never a question of who was in charge where they were, and neither in the Bible nor historically has it ever been that more than 1 person was in charge of the local church. They had helpers, but there was always 1 person in charge.

    Rom. 10:14-15 "But how are men to call upon him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without a preacher? 15 ¶ And how can men preach unless they are sent?"

    You made this statement (only focusing on what's in bold):

    The Bible doesn't specify the amount of school or training necessary for one to preach...only that they must preach truth in its entirety.

    How can anyone today do that? For example, Paul spent 3 years in Ephesus. Paul was known to teach daily and to teach for hours on end well into the night. We can read Paul's letter to the Ephesians in a couple of hours. So how can anyone today teach the truth that Paul taught for 3 years in Ephesus in it's entirety?

    Christ taught the apostles daily for 3 years. Are we to conclude that all that teachings of Christ are contained in their entirety in the 4 Gospels. Take Christ 3 years of teaching the apostles, then take the 7 decades the apostles taught until the last one died. Are we to think that the entirety of what they all taught over 70+ years of daily teaching is contained in the NT?

  • I also don’t intend to carry out a long dialogue on this topic as I don’t believe it to be profitable in this venue. However I have been told I am in error and will answer such.

    Titus and Timothy are both evangelists or teachers...not elders/bishops/pastors. Their outlined responsibility is to teach. The appointment of elders was done by teaching and applying the qualifications that Paul gave them. Timothy and Titus are never called elders, shepherds, or pastors...and one must read into the text to assume that they are such. It is also reading into the text to assume that Titus had any authority over the newly appointed elders except to teach them (and the rest of the church) from God’s word. Our modern religious world usually assumes that a preacher/evangelist is the same as a pastor/elder...however there is a distinction.

    As far as teaching the entirety of the word of God, Paul said, Acts 20:27 “For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God.” It is possible for every sermon to be truth...yet to never speak on topics that are not popular or that people won’t want to hear. A preacher should not hesitate to teach the whole counsel of God as he teaches in the church regardless of how popular it is.

  • I have noticed that as I get closer to Atlanta, the less comfortable I feel.

    I don't want to worship with 10,000 strangers that have filled out financial disclosure forms and are led by a Prosperity Preacher that has no problem with modern definitions of Family and moral sexual behaviour as long as the two Daddies or Mommies Tithe well.

    Makes me wretch.

    I have to pray a lot..
    He who claims to love God yet hates his fellow man, is a liar.
    To paraphrase.

    I keep looking at the sky.
    Either Revelation or a smoking asteroid is going to appear over that city one day.

  • @hypo said:

    I keep looking at the sky.
    Either Revelation or a smoking asteroid is going to appear over that city one day.

    And don't forget Houston. Even John MacArthur says that what Joel Osteen teaches is satanic.