Church with a capital ‘C’
That’s right the church of the USA. Grand old America and our American traditions. In a country that is full immediate sanctification and churches filled with the prosperity gospel and false preaching, where does one find a home amongst a fellowship of believers? After much church hopping all over the west coast (from Seattle to Baja to be exact), I have come to some simple conclusions that have become my ruler for judging a church I wish to attend. I am very thankful to have found a church home at Southlands Church in Brea. I do understand that every church has its faults, and that if a church truly has a heart for Jesus, they will help teach the Gospel and reach the unsaved. However I am a very picky girl and I work hard and taxing jobs that require me to be filled. I do have a healthy expectation on my church family to do that filling. God has placed that in my life for that purpose. Community is a biblical call, not an option. The church’s purpose is clearly laid out in the Gospel and Epistles.
Recently I have attended a couple different churches and this is the list I have come up with. This is how I look at a church to decide if I want to attend. I think everyone has different needs and wants and I am not saying this to push my views on the reader. That being said, I don’t want to be preached about my views on preaching (pun fully planned and intended). I have studied the Bible, I have studied churches and I have searched my heart. Here are the six things I look for:
- Overdone production and décor- why in the world does a church need leather chairs?? Or why is the video I’m watching on volunteering for VBS feel like I’m watching American Idol?? I understand being contemporary and current, but those things cost a church a lot of money. When you consider what a church can do with that money it makes me sick to think that a church has automated blinds! I don’t always like using this, but there are literally children starving in Africa. I also understand that Church is a production, but a production is not a church. There is a big difference between those two things. That means worship doesn’t need to be a concert, but and expression of love. It means that the building and grounds should be neat, clean and stylish, but that you don’t need to splurge as a church to for extravagant décor. When I see that my question is always why? I have never once heard a salvation story of someone walking into a church and being blown away by the production of it that they had to be part of the faith. Mostly because it’s a heart issue and people want love not decorations.
- Pressuring and over promotion of tithing- Tithing is an act of worship. No one needs a preacher to stand at a pulpit and tell him or her they are less of a believer if they don’t put all their money in the basket, because they are NOT! Tithing does not redeem us of our sins, it does not insure Gods blessing’s on us, it does not grow us in our walk (at least not directly) it is simply an act of worship. Again there becomes the question of why? Why do churches and its pastoral staff and leadership lack faith and understanding that God provides? Why does a pastor feel the need to pressure the congregation that the Lord blessed him with to do anything, let alone give money? Why can’t he just teach? There are many ministries out there that don’t ever ask for money and God abundantly provides. Just sayinggggg…
- Friendliness- If I can go to a church for two months, sit next to the pastor’s wife, approach people about community, and still never have made a single connection, something is wrong. No matter what the size of the church, members, leaders, volunteers, staff and attendees should be loving and interested in their guests. No matter what your personality everyone plays a role in making people feel welcomed. Loving all people starts with the people that walk into the door of the church!
- Yelling- I will never understand why pastors yell at their congregations during every sermon. I’m an adult. I don’t appreciate feeling belittled while you read a passage out of Philippians. It makes me feel like my emotions are being provoked for no reason. Why can’t you just talk to me? I’m already here to listen. I understand that raising your voice in the passion of a sermon when the Holy Spirit really moves, other than that DON’T YELL AT ME! Sheesh I don’t need to go home wet from your spit!
- Being on a Mission- the purpose of the Church is to teach and send. John spoke of that in his letters to the churches many times. Teach the congregation and send them. If I’ve gone to a church of any size for more than six months and I haven’t heard once about any outreach both to their city and globally, I question what the church is doing. This might mean I need to follow up with the pastor, but it is a tell tale sign of bad fruit when I church isn’t following biblical principles and purposes. We as Christ followers should be invested in the least of these, the needy, and the unsaved. As a church that should be the pull of the congregation. My question becomes where is Jesus in this if we aren’t reaching out to love people?
- THE GOSPEL- this is the most important one. The trump card to the rest and in my experience the reason why churches are lacking in the other five categories…it’s a lack of teaching and understanding of the Gospel. Its about Christ’s death on the cross all the time, we don’t need to add anything to salvation. I don’t need a topical study, I don’t need a to learn the many ways God works, I just need the Gospel all the time. It is the foundation of our faith and should be the foundation of the church. All things are covered in the Gospel and all things point back to it. Sure, go ahead, talk about Leviticus, but also in that same sermon tell me about the Gospel. It just shouldn’t be lacking is what I’m saying. It should be there.
I know there are churches that turn off many people for many other reasons, but this is my list. I pray often for the Church and for God to continue to move through the ones that I see being so broken. People are coming to know Jesus as their personal savior all the time because of the church! Praise God for that!
Now carry on, go spread the Gospel and go Love!