I may not be the most popular gal at parties....but I love to ask questions like the following and I'm always amazed at the answers.
Why did you decide to go to your current church?
"My teens insist they don't like church. I let them pick. Even if I don't like the church or don't agree with them on certain issues at least my teens are happy. They picked a church with a large youth group and lots of activities."
"My husband likes sports and our church has a large sports team. Better to go there and have him with me than go where I want and leave him at home."
"My son likes rock music. He won't go anywhere that won't let him play his electric guitar. (whispered to me) I have a nice set of ear plugs."
"I'm a singer and I picked a church with a large choir so I can sing."
Unfortunately for people who believe the preceding answers are good reasons to attend a church - they are betting their eternal souls on their choice! There is absolutely nothing in the Bible that instructs us to pick a church based on anything it offers us in the way of fun!
There are only two reasons we should choose a church. (1) The pastor adheres to and preaches from the full Bible. His knowledge and understanding of Biblical principles is not based on his congregation's desires but on the truth contained in the word of God. (2) God is leading you there in order to be a servant and to participate in the outreach of the Gospel.
Organized church isn't a big topic in the Bible. But when it is talked about, the Bible is clear about the holiness of the church body and its pastors. Read the book of Corinthians. The members of the Corinthian church were rebuked and chastised for their crooked and unchristian ways.
For example, Chapter 10:14-22. In this passage Paul was asking the people to "flee from idolatry". The contemporary church today doesn't pay much attention to this verse. After all, how many Protestants believe in idols. But if you read verse 18-22, you might get a different take on the scripture.
"Consider the people of Israel: Do not those who eat the sacrifices participate in the altar? Do I mean then that a sacrifice offered to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God and I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord's table and the table of demons. Are we trying to arouse the Lord's jealousy? Are we stronger than he?"
I read that and had to sit back in my chair as I felt conviction. I'm not an extremist. I'm not sure we have to avoid everything this world has to offer. I censor the type of movies I watch, but I love a good movie and it doesn't have to be a specifically Christian movie. I censor the type of music I listen to, but I love Dean Martin, Perry Como and of course Elvis Presley. So I wonder what does this scripture have to say to me. Am I wrong?
Continuing in the article by Lorin L. Cranford on Sanctification she writes....
"Sanctification is vitally linked to the salvation experience and is concerned with the moral/spiritual obligations assumed in that experience. We were set apart to God in conversion, and we are living out that dedication to God in holiness."
Wow! If we are set apart in holiness, how much more should our church be set apart? I've heard stories of pastors bringing actual circus acts into the sanctuary in order to increase attendance. Some pastors approve professional dancers, zoo animals, local secular bands and any other "show" type efforts - not for edification of the body but just to fill the pews on Sunday morning. Pastors want to look cool and contemporary. Yet, when I search the scriptures I can't find one verse where Jesus, Paul or any other writers thinks it's our duty as leaders to "blend".
The scripture in Corinthians is about Sanctification and perhaps we all need to rethink our priorities. But what about the church? Not only should we be careful about sanctifying our own lives to God....but we must not and can not bring anything that has been offer to or used by demons into the house of God! God will not share his house with the unclean. You can bring your unclean friends for salvation and for God to save them....but our house of worship must be consecrated and sanctified in order for God to be there. How? (More on that later)
This subject then is where we desperately need a pastor who has not only given his life to the service of God....but also is "living" in the constant stream of enlightenment from God. The pastor you choose will have to sort out all the details of how your church service is presented, how the business of the church is administered, who can be a member and how to present the Gospel to your community.
Again I asked a deep question. Once I asked a pastor, "What is your week-day schedule like?" I was amazed that 90% of it was business. He started his day with devotions and a prayer with his staff, but the rest of the day was business. He didn't visit the sick; he passed that to someone else. He rarely called members - that was someone else's job. After listening for a few minutes, I felt that his main function was to come up with ideas that would build membership. (Notice, I said membership - not evangelism.) He based his decision to sort of distance himself and only deal with his "inner circle" on Rick Warren's teachings.
I did some research on Rick Warren. While I don't know the pastor personally and I don't want to say anything bad about him....I can NOT agree with his philosophy that the church is a business. The Holy work of God is not a business. The Holy work of God is about preparing us to approach a divine being. I do NOT believe (as Rick teaches) that the Bible supports the idea that we need to give the congregation what they want so they will be happy. (2 Timothy 4:3 For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.)
Most important however is that your pastor has been charged with taking care of "every one" of the sheep in his congregation! He is responsible not only for you but for everyone that attends his church. That means that like the good Shepherd, he must be able to go out and leave the 99 and look for the lost sheep. (Matthew 18:12 What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off?) Your pastor must be just as concerned about the elderly as he is the newborn. He must visit the sick as much as he visits the well. He must participate in the lives of his congregation as much as he participates in the local baseball game.
The worst lie spun by Satan is that the head of any church is not responsible for the sins within that church. Matthew 18:6-7 is for all of us...but how much greater is it for a pastor - God's man to lead his children? But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to sin! Such things must come, but woe to the man through whom they come!
Pastor, your main function is to prepare your congregation to live a life holy and acceptable to God. If you aren't doing that - you are not doing the work of God.
Whew! Debbie that's kind of strong.
Yes it is. But losing your soul is even stronger!
Don't think that I'm suggesting we all go fuss at our pastor. I'm not. You must respect him and allow him to lead your church. But....we must be sure that in our constant request for what we personally want that we are not "pushing" our pastors to step back from teaching the hard stuff and instead become a "people pleasing" pastor. We need to ask for and appreciate it when our pastors preach about living a "Holy" life. We need to require him to answer first and foremost to God and the Bible on which all of this is based!
And....it's imperative that when choosing a church, we look first to the teachings of the pastor and determine where those teachings will lead us.
Join me tomorrow for Part II of this discussion. We'll discuss the following topics.
What are the Biblical goals of the church?
What should my pastor be teaching?
How can I tell if I'm at the wrong church?
God loves you,