Wednesday, January 9, 2008

How Do I Find A Good Church?

“They [followers of Christ] devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42 NIV). One of the questions I am most frequently asked is, “How do I find a good church?” This question has taken on added significance in recent years because of the massive impact televangelism has had on our culture. In all too many cases, worship has been replaced with entertainment, and fellowship has been transformed into individualism. In view of these cultural developments, it is critical that Christians have a handle on the ingredients of a healthy well-balanced church.
The first sign of a healthy, well-balanced church is a pastor who is committed to leading the community of faith in the worship of God through prayer, praise, and proclamation. Prayer is so inextricably woven into the fabric of worship that it would be unthinkable to have a church service without it. From the very inception of the early Christian church, prayer has been a primary means of worshiping God. Through prayer, we have the privilege of expressing adoration and thanksgiving to the One who saved us, sanctifies us, and one day will glorify us. In fact, our Lord Himself set the pattern by teaching His disciples the Prayer of Jesus (Matt. 6:9–13).

Praise is another key ingredient of worship. Scripture urges us to “speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs” (Eph. 5:19). Singing psalms is a magnificent means for intercession, instruction, and the internalization of Scripture. In addition, the great hymns of the faith have stood the test of time and are rich in theological tradition and truth. Spiritual songs, in turn, communicate the freshness of our faith. Thus, it is crucial that we preserve both a respect for our spiritual heritage and a regard for contemporary compositions.

Along with prayer and praise, proclamation is axiomatic to experiencing vibrant worship. Paul urged his protégé Timothy to “preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. 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” (2 Tim. 4:2–3). Church leaders must once again produce in their people a holy hunger for the Word of God; for it is through the proclamation of God’s Word that believers are edified, exhorted, encouraged, and equipped.

Furthermore, a healthy, well-balanced church is evidenced through its oneness. Christ breaks the barriers of gender, race, and background and unites us as one under the banner of His love. Such oneness is tangibly manifested through community, confession, and contribution.
Community is visible in baptism, which symbolizes our entrance into a body of believers who are one in Christ. It is a sign and a seal that we have been buried to our old life and raised to newness of life through His resurrection power. In like fashion, Holy Communion is an expression of oneness. As we all partake of the same elements, we partake of that which the elements symbolize—Christ, through whom we are one. Our fellowship on earth, celebrated through communion, is a foretaste of the heavenly fellowship we will share when symbol gives way to substance.

A further expression of our oneness in Christ is our common confession of faith—a core set of beliefs, which have been rightly referred to as “essential Christianity.” These beliefs, which have been codified in the creeds of the Christian church, form the basis of our unity as the body of Christ. The well-known maxim bears repeating: “In essentials, unity; in nonessentials, liberty; and in all things, charity.”

As with community and confession, we experience oneness through the contribution of our time, talent, and treasure. The question we should be asking is not “What can the church do for me?” but, “What can I do for the church?” The tragedy of modern Christianity is that when members of the body hurt, too often we relegate them to finding resources outside the walls of the church. That is precisely why the apostle Paul exhorts us to “share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality” (Rom. 12:13).

Finally, a healthy, well-balanced church is one that is committed to equipping believers to be effective witnesses to what they believe, why they believe, and Who they believe. In the Great Commission, Christ called believers not to make mere converts but to make disciples (Matt. 28:19). A disciple is a learner or follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus, we must be prepared to communicate what we believe. In other words, we must be equipped to communicate the evangel (good news). If Christians do not know how to share their faith, they have never been through basic training. The gospel of Christ should become such a part of our vocabulary that presenting it becomes second nature.

We also must be equipped to share why we believe what we believe. As Peter put it, we must “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Pet. 3:15). Too many today believe that the task of apologetics is the exclusive domain of scholars and theologians. Not so! The defense of the faith is not optional; it is basic training for every Christian.

In addition to being prepared to communicate the what and why of our faith, we must be empowered to communicate the Who of our faith. Virtually every theological heresy begins with a misconception of the nature of God. Thus, in a healthy well-balanced church believers are equipped to communicate such glorious doctrines of the faith as the Trinity and the deity of Jesus Christ. It is crucial that we, like the early Christian church, come to understand more fully the biblical concept of the priesthood of all believers. Clearly, it is not the pastor’s calling to do the work of ministry single-handedly. Rather, the pastor is called “to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature” (Eph. 4:12–13).

In short, we know we have discovered a good church if God is worshiped in Spirit and in truth through prayer, praise and the proclamation of the Word; if the oneness we share in Christ is tangibly manifested through community, confession, and contribution; and if the church is equipping members as witnesses who can communicate what they believe, why they believe, and Who they believe. Worship, Oneness, and Witness equal WOW!


In Yeshua haMashiach -Jay said...

What if your personal theology doesn't match up with the local churches? I personally believe that we should keep the sabbath holy as God has commanded. Unfortunatley many teachers out there keep telling me that the day doesn't matter, but that is wrong. If it didn't matter then God would not have mentioned it. Also, no where in the bible does it say that the day was changed. The only changes that have been made in regards to Sabbath has been at the hands and reasoning of man not God. Cardinal Gibbons said this regarding the change of days from Sabbath to Sunday:
The Catholic Mirror, official publication of James Cardinal Gibbons, Sept. 23, 1893.

"The Catholic Church, . . . by virtue of her divine mission, changed the day from Saturday to Sunday."

Also, Hank said the other day when asked by a caller about the sabbath that the change came in the days of the appostles. They met on the 1st day...etc. A study of the sabbath by Dr. William Meade Jones stated that in the study of the many languages of mankind you will find two important facts:

1. In the majority of the principal languages the last, or seventh, day of the week is designated as "Sabbath."

2. There is not even one language which designates another day as the "day of rest."

From these facts we may conclude that not only those people who called the last day of the week "Sabbath," but all other peoples and races, as far as they recognized any day of the week as "Sabbath," rested on the seventh day. In fact, it was recorded by the great historian, Socrates, that in his time the whole known world, with the exception of Rome and Alexandria, observed the seventh day of the week.

"The people of Constantinople, and almost everywhere, assemble together on the Sabbath, as well as on the first day of the week, which custom is never observed at Rome or at Alexandria."
Socrates, "Ecclesiastical History," Book 7, chap.
The only places not honoring the sabbath were the ones ran by egocentric rulers that believed they were God themselves and we should live by their rules. People that hated the Judaic/Hebrew religion (which Yeshua (Jesus) was a member of) changed Gods commands, festival days and calendar. God didn't do this, people did (ungodly ones at that).
So do you see my problem, not many churches today think that the sabbath day is still Saturday. They say and Hank says it can be Sunday or whenever you wish. I agree we can go to church on Sunday and worship God but that does not make Sunday the Sabbath. That day still belongs to the 7th day not the 1st.

So, do I go to any church or do I try to stick it out and wait for a Messianic church to open before I go?

NewCreation said...

Hank I am glad to see you have your own blog. I am a former Full Preterist who has started a new site called Preterist Heresy to deals with Hyper-Preterism. I know you may be annoyed by these types of people and thought you might enjoy a good laugh. I have posted some serious issues and some pretty funny things that appear in their fellowship. Anyway, I thought I would share the link.

In Yeshua haMashiach -Jay said...

This Preterist stuff sounds pretty confusing. Where did it come from? BTW, I sincerely hope you are not implying that I, based on what I said in reference to the Sabbath day not changing, am therefore a preterist. From what I read on your blog, I have absolutely nothing in common with them. Simply put I believe that the commands of God will never be done away with nor is there reason for them to be done away with. It isn't a salvation issue at all. God said to do it so who am I not to obey his word. On the other hand, who are you or anybody else to have the arogance to say that you or anybody else can do away with what God commanded. Again, I don't tkae this as a salvation issue just an obediance issue an a major misunderstanding of scripture based on a lack of understanding of the Hebrew language and lifestyles of those who lived in the time of Yeshua.