Finding a Church Home
Many times in course of the year individuals and families will ask, "Pray for me that I will know for certain what the will of God is concerning my church home." It is obviously a difficult decision and one that should never be taken lightly. There are more than 150 Protestant denominations, and some 325,000 local congregations. There is 1 church to every 550 people in America. The reality is that most churches in America have fewer than 100 people in attendance on any single day of worship. It is estimated that 90 million Americans are in the business of "church shopping"
Real estate ads say that the purchase of a home is one of the most significant decisions a person can ever make....I am sure that in the temporal world that is very true. So when you consider choosing a spiritual home where you can learn the principles of God and serve the Lord Jesus Christ then obviously this decision has even greater significance in terms of eternity!
People look for a church home for basically one of three reasons:
• They move to a new location.
• They are new believers in Christ and desire to choose a fellowship that will assist them in spiritual growth.
• They feel their current church home is not meeting their spiritual needs or has departed from biblical principles.
If you find yourself in one of those three areas then quite possibly you find yourself in the "market" to shop for a new church home. As you travel home from your visit with us, I want you to consider the biblical criteria when making this important decision.
If you were purchasing a new home you would ask certain questions like.
1) How solid is the foundation?
2) Can it meet the needs of my family?
3) Is the home functional.
4) Is it a good investment for the future?
5) What will it cost me to get into the home?
1. Let’s Begin with the Foundation: (Matt. 7:24-27)
Jesus said that the wise man built his house upon the ROCK and foolish man builds his house upon sand. Jesus was saying the foundation is going to be critical to the success of the ministry. The foundation determines both the direction and durability of the structure.
There are four main biblical principles that you should examine when looking at the foundation of the church:
A) The Proper View of Scripture:
What does the church believe about the Word of God? Do they believe in biblical inerrancy and the infallibility of the word? Do they believe in the God-breathed inspiration of the Word? Listen to the Scripture:
2 Timothy 3:16; “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.”
2 Peter 1:20-21: "Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. "
B) The Priority of Biblical Preaching and Teaching:
Acts 20:27 "For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole word of God."
Observe the emphasis on the preaching and teaching of the Word of God. Is the preaching balanced? Is there both preaching that address the issues that confront today's Christian? Is there also expository preaching of the Word that disciples the believer? Is there a balance of evangelism and discipleship? All are vital to a solid foundation when looking for a church home.
C) Their Position on Biblical Doctrine:
It is vital to your spiritual growth and happiness when you are shopping for a new church home to understand clearly the church's doctrinal position. There is NO such thing as "Baptist" doctrine or “Pentecostal” doctrine. If what we call doctrine does not match Biblical doctrine then we have a problem. I would instruct you to understand that when talking about doctrine there are two areas to consider. The "essentials of our faith" and the "non-essentials". When looking at the foundation of the church you MUST agree with the doctrinal essentials of the fellowship if there is to be spiritual unity. The "non-essentials" provide us all room for interpretation and it is not essential that there is always agreement.
The essentials of our faith include: The virgin birth of Jesus Christ, the deity of Christ, the sinful nature of mankind, the substitutionary work of Christ on the Cross, His death, His burial and His resurrection, salvation by faith in Jesus Christ alone, the second coming of Christ, the ordinances of baptism and the Lord's Supper.
D) The Practice of Biblical Doctrine:
James 1:22 "Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says."
If the church's walk does not match their talk then you need to take a walk. Are they practicing the biblical doctrine they claim to believe?
2. Is it Functional?
Only 4 out of 10 adults in America say that the church is relevant for today's world. Only a very small proportion of adults say they would turn to the church for help in a time of crisis.
When looking for a new home you must ask yourself if the home is functional? Does it fulfill the purpose for which it was designed? The functions of the fellowship according to the Bible should include:
A) An emphasis on God honoring worship:
Col. 3:17 "And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him."
Are the worship service both motivational as well as inspirational? Do you leave the service feeling both challenged by God and also knowing that you have been in His presence and worshipped Him and honored Him with your life?
B) Is the church involving its members in service?
I Peter 4:10-11 "Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. "
The strong New Testament church is leading its people to an understanding of their spiritual gift and then helping them find a place of service that matches their passion for ministry! The weak church is the church that has the Pastor and his staff doing all the work while the people serve as nothing more than spectators and not active participants!
C) Is there a strong emphasis on evangelism and missions?
Acts 1:8 "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."
Evangelism is the priority of the church. What was first with Jesus must be first with His church. You should carefully examine if the church has experienced any growth, both numerically and spiritually. Genuine New Testament evangelism involves the making of the disciples, the marking of the disciples through baptism and the maturing of the disciples through discipleship and spiritual growth. The pattern for missions is first the local area in which you live, then your state, your nation and the world. No area can be neglected!
D) Is there an obvious display of genuine love in the fellowship?
John 13:34-35 "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."
If you have visited Crosswalk Church I trust that you experienced a genuine love caring spirit that we have for one another. Barna research found that on any Sunday Morning, one out of four unchurched people would willingly attend a church service if a friend would invite them to do so. That represents 15-20 million adults each Sunday who could have been involved in a worship or spiritual learning experience if the Body of Christ had taken the responsibility of evangelism more seriously.
Love will be expressed in the way the Body meets the needs of those in their fellowship. You will see it through the way they respond and react to one another when they come to the house of God. An excellent barometer of the "love factor" of the fellowship is to watch the crowd at the end of the service. In warm loving and caring fellowships you will always find brothers and sisters talking, loving and ministering to one another for 30 minutes to an hour after the service is ended.
E) What is the style of leadership in the church?
Titus 1:5-9 5 The reason I left you in Crete was that you might straighten out what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you. 6 An elder must be blameless, the husband of but one wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. 7 Since an overseer is entrusted with God's work, he must be blameless--not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. 8 Rather he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. 9 He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it."
Are the church leaders functioning according to biblical principles? Does the Pastor and the leaders of the church understand the centrality of Christ and His desire to lead the church through godly men submitted to His spirit and dedicated to His Word? There are two types of leaders today. The Pastor/leader that drives the people to accomplish the goal and the Pastor/leader that leads by love and example.
What is the role of the deacon? The servant leader or the church boss? For years the servant leader role has been essential in the building of this fellowship.
F) Does the church have a vision? Goals? Direction for the future?
Paul said that the church should NOT "run in such a way as not without aim!" (I Cor. 9:26)
Be sure to examine the vision the church has for reaching the community and then what the plans that are in place to accomplish that objective?
G) How does the size relate to the function of the church?
This is one of the most often asked question. "I am not sure about the size of the church. If it’s a large church, won't I get lost in the crowd? If it’s small, will everybody be nosing into my business? I'm afraid that it would be to impersonal … or too personal." First of all let me assure you that you will only have as much fellowship as YOU want. No one will ever force you into fellowship. Secondly, let me tell you that church research indicates that the average "regular" church member will only know 60 people by name. The unusually gifted member will only be able to call the names of no more than 100. So it becomes the same principle whether you are in a large fellowship or a small church. The key is in identifying a small group and begin developing relationships within that group. It is called, "Koininia" the bonding of Christian love and sharing the common life.
Creating more churches is not what we need. That is like trying to make people read more by publishing more books. The issue is not availability, but RELEVANCE.
3. Is It Beneficial for the Family?
Col. 3:18-21 "Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged."
Titus 2:1-8 "You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine. Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance. Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good ... Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us."
Recent surveys show that peoples greatest source of happiness in life is family. Whereas they also show that peoples greatest source of frustration and disappointment in people’s lives is dealing with family problems. Today's parent is concerned about their children. Studies show that today's parent wants their children to have to have the best. It doesn't matter whether that is education, health or spiritual growth. Is the church helping to build the principles in the life of the family that will strengthen them or is the church hindering the family growth? What is the commitment of the church to your family? Children and students as well as adults. Does the church look for opportunities to reinforce the concepts of a biblical family? Examine carefully the emphasis of teaching your children and the investment that the church is willing to make in building your child's faith for the future.
4. Will it be a good investment based on the Future?
When you purchase a home you always consider what kind of investment it bring in the future when you leave the home. In shopping for a church home you should also consider your investment in light of your future! Will my church home prepare me and my family to live in the world today as well as prepare us for eternity tomorrow? If all your church does is live for today with no mention of eternity nor the preparation of eternity then you have made a bad decision in the choice of your church home.
A church that is preparing its member for the future will be involved with leading its family in understanding:
A) The High view of Holy God: Proverbs 9:10 "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." Must be obvious from the leadership through the people that there is a reverence and respect for the majesty of God and His holiness. Is the church preoccupied with itself and its personal victories or are they focusing on His glory?
B) The Presence and Practice of Sincere Faith: James said, "Faith without works is dead." Is the church you are considering willing to challenge you to not only learn the principles of our faith but insisting that you walk in the practice of faith? Does the church itself operate on the basis of faith or are they tied to the world's method of operation with fact and feeling? A part of that faith walk is the spirit of true and genuine sacrifice. The spirit of sacrifice of their lives, their time, their possessions. Do you sense that they are willing to make their sacrifices to the Lord so that His glory can be witnessed?
C) The absolute necessity of spiritual unity? In Heaven we will be one with the Lord. The church is nothing more than the training ground to prepare you for your eternal existence. You must ask yourself when shopping for a church home; "Do I sense a spirit of unity in this fellowship? Are the brothers and sisters at one with each other?" Most any visitor to any church on any given Sunday can readily tell if there is unity in the church.
5. WHAT WILL IT COST ME?
The answer to that depends on what you really want out of your church.
After you have considered these four basic questions when shopping for a church home: The foundation, the function, the family and the future then you must decide if you are willing to make a commitment. Your decision to join a church means not only your enjoyment of the building, its programs, its people, its location but it also means that you are willing to make a commitment. With privilege comes responsibility. You would never consider choosing a church home without first considering the cost. What is the cost of your membership?
Are you willing to allow us to help you identify your spiritual gifts and talents and then match them to your passion for ministry? In other words are you willing to serve as well as be served? Are you willing to not only consider what the church can do for you and your family but what you can do for the church? Are you willing to give your time, your commitment to the ministry of attendance, you money, your prayers and your energy as you contribute to the success of your new church home? A house is NOT a home until all the members contribute to the growth and success. Please understand your decision concerning your church home will not only affect your spiritual life and the life of your family but you will be laying the spiritual foundation for generations to come in your family. As I have shared these considerations please understand and remember that NO church is perfect. We are all made up of imperfect people. Not any one church will meet all the spiritual needs. You must consider how they will best meet your need and ask, "IS THIS A BALANCED MINISTRY?"
Shopping for your church home could be the most significant decision you will make...one that touches into eternity. I understand that there is a church home for everyone, and not everyone is called to be a part of the same ministry. My prayer is that you and your family will be blessed and fruitful wherever God plants you.
-Pastor Robbie Patton