Hello friends! Would you believe it, I still have more to write on the topic of Navigating Church. Are you still with me? Isn't it amazing that one topic can spawn so many posts!
Now, today I want to talk about finding a church family. What do we look for when finding a church?
I've mentioned before that in 2021 the church I was attending closed. Yikes, what a thing to happen! The pastor simply lost his vision for the church and felt that we were meant to all disband. Strangely, I felt it was a God thing. God works unusually sometimes.
Something interesting happened next. As we disbanded, God seemed to show each person where they were meant to go next, and he put us into some quite varied churches.
One of us, for example, was a SUMite. She felt that God was leading her to attend the local mega-church, an enormous glittering presence in the inner-city of Auckland. Her response to that was 'Crikey, NO!' as she had formed a bad opinion of mega-churches. However, good on her for following God's lead because weeks later her non-believing husband gave his life to the Lord in the walls of said mega-church!!!
((Let's just pause and take that in for a minute)).
God knows best.
From all that, I say the key is to simply ask God 'What church do you want me in?' It's as simple as that. Ask him to give you a sign or two to help you figure it out.
It's all about where God wants you.
God will have a job for you to do in the church family of his choosing. Your job might be to care for the bruised and broken body of Christ in a less-than-perfect church, in which case you might have some differences with the church. Or, more comfortably, he might want you to go somewhere you are going to be nurtured because that's what you need right now.
When it comes to church, though, there is one deal-breaker for me, and I say this because I can't imagine God putting me in a church that was otherwise. It's this: The church must preach the Gospel.
By preach the Gospel, I mean:
The church must preach that Jesus is the only way to salvation
The church must preach that there is such a thing as sin, therefore we need the cross.
The church must preach the need for repentance and living a changed life; not choosing to live life on our own terms.
There is more to the Gospel; I mean the gift of eternal life is AMAZING! But in all seriousness, the above sentences are critical parts of Jesus's message; and, as our presence supports a church's mission, I can't imagine God putting us into a church that didn't preach the above. That's one thing, therefore, that I would look at before settling in.
On that note, God wants his church to become pure and spotless, not swayed by the world's morals. The church must be willing to be counter-cultural on certain difficult topics, because that's how we honor the cross of Christ, his blood shed for our sin. That means being gracious and truthful. We must be a church that frees people from the things that enslave them, and that involves being truthful about sin. Hard stuff.
The church is called to be very different to the world; and to be brave ... And that is all part of what it looks like to preach the Gospel.
Will the church ever be perfect? Well, we're a bunch of humans, so no. But our job as little SUMites, spiritually single and all, is to help our church be the best it can be.
That's a challenge I can rise to!
Ok, let's chat in the comments. What has been your experience of trying to find a church family?