It’s difficult to walk the Christian life alone. The challenges of living for God in a sinful world can often overwhelm even the strongest believers. The scriptures tell us to team up with other believers to:
- Worship God together (Psalm 34:3)
- Stir up and motivate one another to love, do good works and to follow God (Hebrews 10:24-25)
- Teach and admonish one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs (Colossians 3:16)
- Encourage one another to live in righteousness daily (Hebrews 3:12-14)
- Be refreshed through fellowship together (1 Corinthians 16:18)
- Rebuke in the fear of God and in love for each other
- Mutually submit to one another in humility (Ephesians 5:21).
- Pray for each other for healing (James 5:15-16)
- Edify one another through our spiritual gifts (Romans 12:3-8, 1 Corinthians 12:7-28)
Being “plugged in” to a church will help us meet the above objectives and foster our spiritual growth. It will help equip us for service in God’s kingdom.
If you are not involved with a church, we encourage you to find one and get involved! If you are involved in a church that you don’t like, ask God what to do. It may be that you have gifts and talents that aren’t being fully employed – perhaps you’re supposed to put them to use in your current church or at another church? Sometimes God places us in situations we don’t like so we’ll make changes for His glory. In other cases, we may simply be in the wrong place and God is calling us to move.
What to look for in a church
It is good to remember that the Body of Christ is one “church” and that there are many different groups of believers that gather around the world as a part of that church. The church isn’t a building – its the Body of Christ made up of many groups of people. They may have have different names or denominations, but if they truly follow Jesus then they are all part of the Body of Christ. Before you start the church search, be sure to ask God to guide you in the search. Ask Him to show you the right place to go. Be sure to verify that a prospective church’s doctrinal positions are in line with the Bible. Some notable good things to look for include:
- Belief in Jesus Christ as the risen Son of God for salvation; that salvation only comes through faith in Jesus Christ
- Belief in the Bible as the inspired Word of God
- People reflect God’s love; an overall atmosphere of love in the church
- Leadership is accountable to a real person or group of persons (no “lone ranger” pastors)
- Balance in employment of the gifts of the Holy Spirit; peaceful and orderly, not chaotic
- Ongoing training in Christian living (Bible studies, Sunday School, Men’s Ministry, Women’s Ministry, Prayer Meetings, etc..)
- Belief in the current healing and delivering power of God: This will be helpful to the recovering sex addict, as it encourages faith for healing.
- Active prayer ministry
- Active evangelism or outreach ministries
- Multi-cultural, multi-racial, multi-generational
- Church leadership is friendly / respectful toward other churches in the area (as opposed to hostile, derisive, competitive or condescending)
- Praise and worship of God is a priority during services
There are many possible deceptions that the enemy can use to lead people astray from within a church. As you check out a church, remember to ask the Holy Spirit to guide you in truth and discernment. He will help you see things that might otherwise go unnoticed. Here are some examples of trouble signs in a church’s doctrine or teachings:
- Salvation requires membership in the church or its denomination
- Salvation is not guaranteed through Jesus Christ
- The Old Testament does not apply today
- Homosexual lifestyle is permissible for a Christian
- Sex is not sinful between unmarried people
- Restrictions on what kind of food you can eat
- Instrumental music is not allowed in worship
- Healing is not a part of today’s church ministry (ex. it died out with the Apostles)
- There is no absolute truth
- The Bible is outdated
- Worship or “excessive” veneration of saints (like Virgin Mary), historical figures or church leaders
- Legalism (salvation by keeping the letter of the law)
- Association with a non-Christian religion or a religion that departs from sound Biblical doctrine, such as: Scientology, Christian Science, Unitarianism, Jehovah’s Witness, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS/Mormonism), Mind Science, Metropolitan Church (gay/lesbian theology), Transcendental Meditation, Unification Church, etc…
Granted, there are no perfect churches, but hopefully you will find a good church that will best encourage you in your living for Christ. As you search, ask God to show you where he wants you to fellowship and what your role should be. Don’t settle for TV church, although it can make a good supplement to your spiritual walk. We all need face-to-face interaction and encouragement in the body of Christ!
One of the areas that often makes a big difference is the Gifts of the Spirit (e.g. speaking in tongues, healing, prophecy, etc.). There are many churches that consider the ministry of the Holy Spirit and its gifts to be vital to the modern day church. They will even go as far as encouraging people to discover and use their spiritual gifts. Such groups include Church of God, Assemblies of God (AG), Pentecostal, charismatic and some “non-denominational” churches. Churches that have been traditionally non-receptive to the Gifts of the Spirit include Baptist, Lutheran, Christian Reformed Church, and Nazarene. With the exception of the Episcopalians and Anglicans, most of the traditional denominations have also not been receptive to the Gifts of the Spirit. Additionally, most of the traditional denominations such as Presbyterian, Methodist, Congregational, and Episcopalian are moving rapidly toward liberal, heretical views on scripture, such as pro-gay theology.
In checking churches out, you may find that many have generic names that don’t clue you to their background or denominational ties (e.g. XYZ Community Church, Living Waters Church, Christ’s Church, etc.). In those situations you can look at the pastor’s background for clues or in the “What we believe” section of their website or doctrinal statement, or simply call the church office and ask if they are tied to a particular denomination.
Another area of growing popularity is home churches. While they have many potential advantages over a traditional church setting, they are vulnerable to many of the same corrupting influences that big churches face. As with exploring big churches, prayer, discernment and caution would be prudent when exploring home churches.