Finding a church
Once you have been saved you will need to find Christian fellowship. This page is not intended to tell you what church/assembly of Christians to attend. You may have already realised that the Christian Church is no longer one united gathering of Christians. It has fragmented as a result of Satan’s continual attacks and the infiltration of doctrines, teachings and ideas that are not found in the Bible. Many churches may seem large and vibrant while others are perhaps small. They may have large, imposing buildings or be meeting in a house. This sheet seeks to outline some general principles that will help you look at churches from the right perspective.
Where is the Church today?
At the beginning of the book of the Acts the Church can be seen in the form the Lord intended it to be. There was commitment, simplicity, fellowship, the breaking of bread and powerful prayers. “And they persevered in the teaching and fellowship of the apostles, in breaking of bread and prayers” (Acts 2:42). It is good for us to think about this and internalise this ‘image’ as the blueprint for the Church. “And the heart and soul of the multitude of those that had believed were one, and not one said that anything of what he possessed was his own, but all things were common to them” (Acts 4:32). There was a selfless attitude of love in the early Church that maintained its unity and fervency. This spread as the persecution of Saul of Tarsus made Christians flee their homes taking the gospel with them.
It can be very disheartening to look around and see that this united image of the Church does not seem to exist today. So much of the world and sin has come into the Church over time that its outward testimony as Christ’s 'one body' here, connected with its glorious Head in heaven, has broken down.
However, throughout the last two thousand years the Lord has raised up various revivals of that same spirit that marked the original Church and has ensured that He has always left to himself a witness in every place. At each point He has gathered a remnant of his faithful people out of systems that had become dominated by the mind of mankind and influenced by the world. Believers have been exhorted by Him to follow 2 Timothy 2:19 to “withdraw from iniquity”. This has often been a painful experience for those concerned who have often had to leave family and friends behind as they sought to put the Lord first. Some have been so immersed in these systems or groups that, despite being truly saved Christians, they have found the ties too strong to leave. Hence no-one can ever say that a 'church' contains no real Christians even if it may seem hard to see how christians could go along with the practices or teachings being taught.
The result has been that there are now many ‘churches’ within ‘the Church’. The thoughts of Man’s mind, logic, reasoning, pride and popularity has gained a place in varying degrees in some of them. It is important to study the scriptures so that we find a group of Christians who cling to the Word of God and honour Him above all else.
How can I find the right place to go?
Firstly and most importantly, we must make sure we get close to the Lord, finding out from a fervent and diligent study of the scriptures what the Lord’s view of the Church should be. In that sense, we must acquaint ourselves with what it first looked like when the Lord left it. If you imagine looking at a great ruin. We can see what it must have looked like and perhaps glimpse the glory of what it must have looked like. We can’t rebuild it but we can find parts that still bear the glory of the original building. Like this we have to start by seeing the Church in its true form in Christ’s sight. We must then learn it and internalise it in our hearts. This will help us to see every blood bought saint in the way the Lord Jesus sees them and test the different groups of Christians around by how close they are committed to this view of the Church.
Next, we must surrender all thoughts of self and self-preference. From now on we must be determined to find the company that is suitable to Christ and not what is simply suitable to us. It will require a big change of direction within ourselves as we ask the Lord to align our thoughts and attitudes completely with His. We shouldn’t go a church simply because it has a good crèche, or the décor is nice, or it has more people in attendance, or it has a good programme of youth events, etc. We need to seek primarily a church that honours Christ and values the whole of the Bible allowing it to guide their lives unreservedly.
Thirdly, we must seek those who are separated as far as they can be from ‘the world”. As seen in the study on “The World in the Bible” there is a tremendous influence that often works its way into churches/assemblies through weakness in ourselves and a lack of watchfulness by Christians causing Christians to go back to the pleasures and attitudes that they had before they were saved. We must make ourselves separate and then seek others doing the same. This will greatly help us to know the Lord’s view. We should “pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace, with those that call upon the Lord out of a pure heart.” (2 Timothy 2:22).
Fourthly, we must be prepared to find that the Lord may only have two or three that are seeking this and accept that the believers with whom we are thrown together by the Lord may not be great in number. “For where two or three are gathered together unto my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:20). It is not numbers that are important but rather the Lord’s presence that is essential if we want to grow as a Christian. This doesn’t mean that big churches are bad, but rather that it is where the Lord is honoured that is important whether it is big or small.
Finally, do not base your assessment of a church purely upon what doctrines they hold. A church may be going on with some misconception of a scripture, but there may be an opportunity to correct them later on. The important thing is whether they are real in their desire to love, honour and serve the Lord and do they desire above all else to follow His word in its entirety in the Bible.
What should characterise a good church to attend?
With the Lord Jesus before our mind, we will find a church/assembly where the Lord is honoured and is rightly represented in the Christians there. It will be where His original view of the unity of believers in the Church as his Body on earth is practised as far as it can be. It will be a company of Christians that meets simply and dependently on the Lord and His rule. It will be a company where the Lord’s Supper/the breaking of bread will be honoured and maintained (see study on “The Breaking of Bread”). It will be a company that will view and appreciate the whole Church. Finally, it will be a company which will seek, with the Lord’s help to ensure that the world and man’s mind or influence gains no place amongst them. It is to that place, where the Lord would lead us, that we must give full commitment; as it is ultimately commitment to Him.
If we find it hard to see a church like this then take heart. The Lord will always have a testimony in a place, even where the great religious systems of the world seem to dominate. It may be small, but we must not accept anything less than a Christian company where Christ is loved, honoured and worshipped. We cannot accept anything where the world or its organisation systems have a place. Christ must be accepted in His entirety and served fully where there is a real desire to recognise our witness as His body and the preciousness of every believer.