If you’ve ever had to find a new church home, you might remember how painful the process is. Perhaps you are there right now. You are looking for a place to take your family where you can be fed spiritually, and contribute to the work of the Kingdom going on through that local body. In a small town, your options may be limited. But you still have options. In a large city, you may be overwhelmed with the options, but you still have to make a choice. It is painful to see people who have been looking for a church for months, whether there are only 10 churches in their town, or if they are in a city where there are literally over 700 churches, as there are in Nashville, TN. At a certain point, you aren’t actually looking for a church. You are just wandering.
This week, our devotionals are focusing on what it means to be a God-honoring, pastor-supporting, and believer-edifying parishioner. How can I be a better part of my church? Today we look at the wrong way and right way to find a church.
While the Church does exist for the edification of believers, it does not exist to reinforce a natural consumer mentality in Christians. God has gifted every local body to care for the spiritual and community needs of those who are members. When you are a part of a church, you should find nutrition and nurturing. You should find a place of acceptance and accountability. You should be able to use your gifting within your church. But that doesn’t mean that you should choose a church based on what makes you feel good, or which one meets your checklist. The Church is not your Santa Claus.
When people look for a church to attend, they are often looking for services provided. People with children may look for a solid children’s ministry. Those who enjoy music may look for a vibrant arts ministry. If a person enjoys good old-fashioned preaching, then they may focus in on whether or not the pastor can deliver a great sermon every week. Those who are outreach focused may look to see which church is most actively engaged in mission projects. None of these are bad pursuits or interests. I think churches should offer these things. But when we determine what church we will join based on the size of their playground equipment, perhaps we are a little too focused on ourselves.
We like to be plugged-in. But it seems we are hesitant to join something that will draw power from us. What if instead of looking for a church that already has a hot children’s ministry, you help them start one? It is kind of arrogant to think that you shouldn’t have to be involved in the difficult area of building. The old children’s story said, “Everyone wants to eat the bread, but no one wants to make it.” Usually if you find a church that is doing everything you want, you won’t be that involved in ministry. This is why we should be looking for the church that God wants for us, rather than looking for the church that we want. I wish I had a dime for every time someone said, “Well, we would like to come to your church, but we are looking for a church that offers ___________________.”
Do not choose or dismiss a church because of the style of the preaching, the style or quality of the music, the size or condition of the building, the lack of a gymnasium, the proximity to your house, the average age of the congregation, the number of golf trips the men’s group takes… or anything that isn’t God telling you, “This is the place for you to serve” or “This is not the place for you to serve.” The values you use in deciding which church you join will determine how well you help advance the cause of Christ in that church.
Even Jesus, who is the Master, did not come to the earth as a consumer. He did not take the easiest path to being our Savior. He was counted as nothing and yet continued to serve people well. In fact, towards the end of His ministry He said, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life—a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28) Church is not the placed for consumerism, but the place for contributing. If you contribute well in the place where God plant you, your needs will be met by Him, through them.
This is true even if you join a church that is open to new ideas and workers. You may come from a church that spent $50,000 on playground equipment. As you join a small church with very few amenities in the children’s department, they may ask you to participate in growing that ministry. Let me give you a tip… the pastor does not want to hear you talk about how great the playground was at your former church. When you make suggestions, they should be contextually relevant. A jungle gym is nice. Providing a place for kids to play is great. But your new church doesn’t need to replicate your former church. Be spiritually minded when sharing ideas. If your child grew spiritually at the other church, it was probably because there were people there guiding your child to God. McDonald’s has playgrounds. That makes it a fun place for kids, but it doesn’t make their food healthier. Playgrounds don’t make disciples… Godly people do. Focus on what matters eternally.
Paul told the early Christians…
“You are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with the saints, and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the cornerstone. The whole building, being put together by Him, grows into a holy sanctuary in the Lord. You also are being built together for God’s dwelling in the Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:19-22)
This week, as you think about your church, or you continue to look for a church, do not settle for less than God has for you, but do not place your own felt needs ahead of what God has for you and wants from you. God has a great church for you and your family. Stay focused on Him and He will lead you there.
[Bible quotes are from the Holman Christian Standard Bible, unless otherwise noted.]
Find more of David’s work at Heart Of Ministry.
My name is David, and I want to know God more, and help other people find Him.