Some people couldn’t care less about religion. They do not believe in God; and “church,” in their opinion, would be a burden and a waste of time. There are not many theoretical atheists (the evidence for God’s existence is much too compelling); there are, though, legions of practical atheists—those who profess belief, but live as if there were no God.
Most folks, however, have a genuine conviction that there is a Creator and they believe they owe him allegiance. Accordingly, if they really are conscientious about that, frequently they will search for a church. They may choose one associated with a family tradition, or they may simply go shopping for something near their home. Neither of these avenues of pursuit is necessarily wise.
Churches are plentiful. If one lives in a metropolitan area, he scarcely will be more than a few blocks from a church building. There are large facilities and smaller ones. There are bright, well-kept places, while others are run down. If you are looking for material constructions, you can just about have your choice. Unfortunately, it is the case all too often that “church” choices are superficial. For many, spiritual considerations are not the prime factor in a church selection.
In looking for a church, the first consideration for some is what type of facilities or programs are available. For example, is the building comfortable? What sort of seating is provided, or how is the temperature regulated? Is the parking convenient? Is there a commodious nursery? Is a day-care facility available? Are there recreational and social activities for the members? Do you have a “bail-out” program in case I get behind on my car or house payments?
Notice that all such questions are grounded in physical-material interests. Others move in a slightly different direction. They want to know: Do you have a good music program? Is there, perhaps, a chorus or “praise” teams? Is your church a democracy where everyone has the right to help make church decisions, etc.? Questions of this nature, though sincere, indicate the need for a more mature level of knowledge.
More crucial are the following considerations: What does this church stand for? Does it hold the conviction that the Bible is the inerrant, inspired word of God? Does the leadership believe in the uniqueness of the New Testament church pattern and strive to lead the congregation in the direction of faithfulness, as opposed to a loose philosophy which alleges that most all “Christian” churches are okay, and doctrine really doesn’t matter? Does the church have an “open-door” policy where folks can simply float in or out at their convenience, with no accountability to the leadership? Such is not a responsible way to conduct the Lord’s business.
Does sound doctrine emanate from the pulpit—teaching that enriches the soul and inoculates against worldliness and false doctrine? Or are people looking for speakers who are jokesters, stand-up comics, with a repertoire of jokes that ridicule the church and biblical preaching?
Are we anxious to have leaders who love us and are concerned about our souls? Or do we prefer to be left alone to craft religious procedure according to our personal tastes? Do we want healthy teaching that reproves, exhorts and, when needed, rebukes? Or would we rather have that mushy, feel-good psycho-babble?
Are we still interested in restoring the original church, or have we gravitated toward the Joel Osteen, Rick Warren “community church” motif? There is much talk these days about the “emerging church.” The so-called church is one that has “emerged” from the restraints of New Testament authority and is of the Jeroboam variety (1 Kings 12:25-33). Far too many want a religion fashioned after their own inclinations (Colossians 2:23), with just a faint aroma of pristine Christianity.
Congregations that have been identified with a “restoration” principle for many years are coming under a new leadership that is charting a course more toward Rome than Jerusalem, and scores of naive people can’t tell the difference. Many need to look into the mirror of divine truth (James 1:23-24), and ask themselves this question: “What am I looking for in a church?”