Our grandson recently accepted a job in Chicago. As a concerned grandfather I asked him if he knew where in the big city he would be worshiping.
“Yes,” he replied. “I know where I plan to worship, and it is my intention not just to be a drop-in. I plan to join the congregation as soon as possible. During my four years at the university I attended a wonderful church, but I never joined. Consequently, I felt like an outsider. Now that I am employed, it is important that I become a member of the church and assume my responsibilities as a part of the congregation.”
When I asked what criteria he had used in selecting this congregation, he answered, “The first criterion is faithfulness to the message of God’s Word. I have listened to the pastor of this church preach and appreciated his sermons.”
When he mentioned the pastor’s name, I said, “But this is not the denomination in which you were raised.”
He replied, “No, and I will have some doctrinal differences with this church. However, I can accept this in order to hear the Law and the Gospel each Sunday. I need to hear the absolutes of God’s Word, and I need to hear the message of the cross and resurrection.”
I thought, what would his great grandparents have thought? Their own flesh and blood was joining a congregation not affiliated with the denomination where our family has worshiped for any years. We have come to a time where tradition is not as important as it once was. Today we ask questions such as, What is the congregation’s message, and What is its mission? I have no doubt in my mind that, if our grandson’s work takes him to other communities during his life, he will seek out a congregation where he feels his soul is being nourished and he can serve his Lord.
Many find it shocking to see people move from one congregation to another. Perhaps it is shocking, but is it not healthy that belonging to a congregation is more than just following the family tradition? I will always be partial, but not limited, to the denomination in which I spent my entire life. This church has introduced me to my Savior and fed me with the Bread of Life. Nevertheless, if my children and grandchildren must go elsewhere for the same blessing, then so be it.
Now listen to the Apostle Paul. Speaking to pastors and teachers he says, “Men ought to regard us as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the secret things of God. Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. I care very little that I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me.”
If you are one of those people whose attention has been caught by the Church since 9/11, you might be asking yourself, what am I looking for in a church?
You need a church that each Sunday presents Christ crucified and risen from the dead. This is the Gospel that feeds your soul and assures you of your relationship with God. He has taken away your sins and restored you into fellowship with God. This is the unique message of the Church.
You need a church where the Holy Spirit is active. He is the One who will be your teacher, guide, encourager, and strength when facing the big decisions of life. He will be your counselor when problems arise in your marriage. He will give you strength to stand firm when confronted with ethical decisions about what is right and wrong. He is the One who will give you a heart for the poor, lonely, and those treated unjustly. He is the One who will give you a true sense of values and make you a dynamic witness for Christ.
You need to be a part of a congregation that will provide you with brothers and sisters in Christ who will become your closest friends. Your church should be a place that will assist you in the raising of your children Ð one with a Sunday school and youth programs that will make the Christian message clear to your sons and daughters. It should be a sanctuary where you can retreat to gain spiritual strength to face the temptations of the day.
A congregation fashioned after the culture of its day is not adequate. Culture changes and seeks to change everything within its reach, including the mission of the church. However, God’s Word is not one of these parts of life that needs to change with culture. His Word never changes.
There are many great churches Ð some small and some large Ð that have this Biblical message. This is where you should belong if you want to be a person of God.