Does it matter what denomination your attend? How can you know if a church is good or bad? Today AMBrewster sheds some light on how Christian parents can know the church their families attend is helping or hurting them.
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Welcome back to TLP’s “Your Family Needs to Go to Church” series.
Today we embark on episode 3 which is all about the kind of church to which you need to go.
Now, I know — like the episodes that went before — this title may seem like a recipe for contention.
That is not my desire at all. I merely want to expose the biblical principles that need to guide our motivation for assembling with the believers with whom we assemble.
But before we do that, I just want to remind you that we publish free episode notes on our blog, Taking Back the Family. You can find that by clicking the link below or visiting TruthLoveParent.com and clicking on our Parenting Tools tab.
And I’d also like to ask — if you've been listening to the show for any length of time — please leave us a rating and review on iTunes. It really is a huge help in getting this truth into the hearts and lives of parents all over the world.
It doesn’t have to be deep or long, but when you put into your own words what TLP is and how we’ve been a blessing to your family, it accomplishes so much.
Okay, so the Bible is clear that believers must assemble if we’re to glorify God. But what does that assembly look like?
First, let me get it out on the table that this is not going to be me pushing denominational preferences.
When born again believers first assembled, there were no denominations. As born again believers, we are followers of Christ. The Greek word for follower of Christ is Christianos, which — historically — has been transliterated into the word Christian.
That word is only used three times in the Bible.
The first is at the end of Acts 11:26: “And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.”
The second is in Acts 26:28 — "And Agrippa said to Paul, ‘In a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian?’"
And the third is in I Peter 4:16 — “Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.”
Now, what you might not be able to tell from those three passages is that in the first century, the word “Christian” was a derogatory term. The first use of it was not invented by Christians, it was invented by the pagans in Antioch in order to deride the believers.
And what’s interesting is that— more than any other name or title — followers of Christ have adopted the word “Christian” even though the Bible uses many other titles more often.
My point is this, in the early church, there was only denomination.
Now, the Corinthians struggles with division and we see Paul rebuking them because some were all like, “I follow Paul,” and others said, “I follow Apollos,” and the really spiritual ones said, “Well, I follow Christ.”
And perhaps that was the beginning of denominations. And it’s not surprising that God has to continually call us back to unity because humans are so stinking contentious. We like division, segregation, and disunity.
And perhaps maybe that’s why you’ve had trouble uniting with a church. Maybe you’ve felt that division too much.
Now, I don’t want to throw the baby out with the bath water. I actually like that churches generally align themselves with denominations.
For those of you who don’t know, a denominational title is designed to tell you what the church believes about the Bible. This is the case because not every church that claims to follow the Bible believes the same things.
In some ways, that may not matter, but in others it does.
I’ll swing around to this concept a couple other times as we go through the material, but for now, just let me say that I’m not pushing a denomination here. But you have to be wise and you have to be informed.
Second, in our first episode of this series we talked about the purpose of church.
And last time we looked at the motivation for church. The only Christ-honoring motivation for anything we do is to please the Lord by obeying Him in love. It’s not about what we get out of it.
So, my first main point of that day is that you need to assemble with a group of believers who are doing those things for those reasons.
I’ve moved around a lot. I’m currently looking forward to my twenty-second move. When and if we make that move, I’ll give you all the exciting details, but — for now — just focus on the fact that that’s a lot of moves. And any time my family would move to a new area, we’d visit a lot of churches. I can’t tell you how many churches of which I’ve been a member, let alone how many I’ve attended and visited over the years.
Since 2006, I added another criteria for what I considered a healthy church. Generally speaking, I will not move to a place or take a job if there isn’t a church in which I believe my family can actively and dynamically grow.
Church is not about baby-sitting. It’s not a social club. It was designed by God to be a place where His children can mature. So, if my family is struggling to mature, that church is not the place for us.
That means the church needs to be intentionally dedicated to sanctification. Sanctification is the process by which God transforms His people into the image of Christ.
So, the whole assembly should understand that they are there out of love and obedience to God. And obeying is not merely showing up. If we’re going to obey God by assembling, we need to be actively participating in the growth and maturity. The pastor needs to be equipping the saints for the work of the ministry, and the people need to be actively involved in being equipped and in doing the work of the ministry.
That work includes evangelism of the lost and one-anothering of the saints.
If your church is not vibrant in those two areas for that one reason — you need to find a new assembly.
But there are some additional specifics of those two areas and one reason that I want to dive into a little more.
Okay, so the motivation is to obey God, and the responsibilities include evangelism and corporate sanctification. Corporate Sanctification is accomplished mainly through the one-anothers.
Third, let’s talk about motivation.
There are a number of churches of various denominations that preach the prosperity gospel. The prosperity gospel is the gospel of Joel Osteen and various mega churches across the world — especially in third-world countries.
Theses churches will occasionally, and some of them will frequently preach Truth from God’s Word. But the problem is that they often preach a health and wealth version of the gospel that twists the motivation from following Christ because He commands it to following Christ because of what I will get out of it.
Now, any time I name a person or denomination or belief, please understand that we don’t have enough time to discuss all of the complicated and multi-layered issues with each one. This is a podcast designed to start you on a journey of knowing God and His Word better. In fact, that one of our points today.
I’m standing here as a siren — proclaiming a call. I’m not providing a comprehensive course in ecclesiology.
The point is, any church of any denomination can do what it’s doing for the wrong reasons. Churches that rally around personalities and programs and celebrities and entertainment are particularly susceptible to this temptation. But tiny churches with no celebrities can also worship for the wrong reasons. It’s a universal problem.
My encouragement for you and your family is that you first start with the potential log in your eye and see if you’ve been assembling for the wrong reasons. And then cast some light on why your church does what it does. Perhaps they’re doing a great job for the right reasons. Perhaps they’re not and God wants to use you to start a revival in the church. And perhaps He wants you to join another assembly.
The real question to ask is, “Why are we doing what we’re doing?”
Fourth, the topic of evangelism is — again — a huge one. But here are a couple considerations:
Your church needs to be active in evangelism, and their goal should be to glorify God by introducing as many people as they can to Him. If that means they attend your assemble thereafter or they go to another — it’s not big deal.
4. Evangelism is not about scaring people into the kingdom. It’s not giving some a fire-insurance or a fire-escape.
True evangelism is about a relationship with the God of the universe. That relationship has responsibilities and expectations. That relationship requires work — not to have the relationship — but to grow in it.
Okay, let’s recap before we get any further.
And our fifth focus is to make sure our church is participating the one-anothers. This is a big one.
In fact, I’d argue that you can tell the health of a church far better by this one than you can the others. It’s easy to make this discussion about denominations. It’s easy to say we have the right motivations. It’s even easy to participate in evangelism in the wrong ways or for the wrong reasons. When the church is run like a business, it’s a natural desire to want more customers.
But, the one-another are harder to justify from a secular standpoint.
It can be done, but it’s harder.
So, here are some ways that it may happen.
Instead of seeing the one-another as a desperate need for each of us personally and all of us corporately to be built up and matured in Christ, some churches will focus on the pride they receive from being “one of those churches.”
One of the most dangerous temptations we all face is to do the right things in the right ways for the wrong reasons. If my deep motivation for washing your feet or encouraging you is so that you’ll think better of me, the church down the street will think better of us, it affords me a platform for starting a movement or a blog or a podcast — whatever — my motivation is wrong, God’s not glorified, and I will probably accomplish the opposite of what God designed us to accomplish.
I say that it’s harder to do that because the one-another really only work when we’re doing them in the right way for the right reasons. If I’m “evangelizing” just to pack the pews, I can accomplish that. But if I’m one-anothering you and the only thing I’m getting out of that is I’m puffing up my own pride, then when something else comes along that will stroke my ego better, I’ll ditch praying for you faster than our bibles close when the pastor says, “Let’s pray.”
There’s another important observation I have to make. Again, church is more than merely being preached at. That’s only part of the purpose of assembling.
That means that unless you have a schedule or a health issue that keeps you from assembling with a local body of believers, then Internet Church is out.
I don’t care how it’s spun, you can’t one-another a TV or a computer screen. Yes, you may be receiving sound biblical teaching, but it’s impossible for you to be one-anothering if you’re not interacting with other believers.
Now, again, there are times that internet ministries, radio programs, and podcasts have a tone of value. They provide amazing ways for additional study and equipping throughout the week. They are perfect when you’re not physically well and you still want to hear the preaching of the Word. And they’re good on those occasional times that you may be out of physical reach of local body of believers because you’re traveling and there are literally no options around you.
But other than that, you need to be meeting. Even if that means you invite your Christian friends over to your house to watch the internet preacher. Fine. But then you can engage in one-anothering.
Okay, so what’s the meat of today’s discussion?
Lastly, let me give you one more very important admonishment.
And this may sound harsh, but the reality is true. You and I are not going to just know our churches are glorifying God. We must study to show ourselves approved unto God. And we can only do that by rightly dividing the Word of Truth.
I don’t care what denomination you grew up in. I don’t care if you agree with the pastor’s preaching. I don’t care if there are thousands of people unchurch every Sunday. I don’t care if every seems happy and is having a good time.
Consider the children of Israel. Moses when up onto Mount Sinai and he was gone for a long time. And the people were restless. They coerced Aaron into making a golden calf, and the fun started. Hundreds of thousands of people were totally loving their worship . . . but they had sinned against God and He punished them for it.
We must make sure we understand the doctrinal disagreements between denominations. And it doesn’t matter if your church calls itself non-denominational or calls itself a “Christian Church” or calls itself a “Community Church” or calls itself a “Bible Church” or uses any number of one-word, hipster names like: Vineyard, Create, Journey, Harvest, Passion, Crossing, Oasis . . . it doesn’t matter.
What mattes is what they actually believe.
Do you know what they believe? Do you know where you pastor stands on the doctrine of soteriology? Do you know what he believes about baptism? What does your church believe about the end times? What do they believe about the trinity, sin, gifts, creation, miracles, inspiration, sign works, and countless other significant truths to which the Bible speaks.
And the reason I’m pushing this so hard is that it doesn’t matter what anyone things . . . it only matters what God says. And, as a pastor myself — let me be honest — it’s really easy to convince people of just about anything if they’re not studying the Word of God on their own.
That’s why there are so many heretical denominations out there that claim to be Christian. This includes the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Mormons, and even a large cross-section of the Catholic Church that adds human works to salvation.
You and your family must know God’s Word. You must know it so well that you can spot countnerfiets. So you need to start by knowing what God says, then compare that to what your pastor says, and then you need to loving confront your pastor if he’s preaching more opinion than Bible.
Let me give you one last example. If you preacher believes that homosexuality is not a sin, then he’d preaching his opinion . . . not God’s Word.
My friends, this is important. It’s so important I’m going to ask you to share this episode. We need to empty the buildings who are pushing heresy and self-worship, and we need to fill the buildings where God’s people are meeting to obey Him by speaking His Truth and applying it to their own lives so that they grow to become more like Him.
My former church had this as their mission statement: We exist to make and mature disciples of Jesus Christ for the glory of God.
That is it right there. But it has to be more than a slogan, it has to be a working reality.
I know I just set a high bar, but I do that because God does it.
Is there any such thing as a perfect church? NO! All assemblies will be imperfect and sinful because they’re full of imperfect and sinful people. But the general trajectory of the body of believers must be right or they’re going to end way off course.
Is the trajectory of the church right? If so, that’s a good church.
Please join us next time as we look at the consequences of participating in a church that glorifies God.
And then we’ll end this series off with a discussion about the consequences of neglecting to assemble.
Please feel free to sign up for our free parenting course, “25 Days to Becoming a Premeditated Parent.” You can find out all about that by going to TruthLoveParent.com. You’ll find it under the Parenting Tools tab.
I didn’t want to overwhelm you today and make it sound like an impossible task to find a good assembly of believers.
What I wanted to do is help you get your family in a church in which they can truly grow and glorify God. Why would anyone want their children to be in a place that encourages them to do the wrong things or the right things for the right reasons?
There are plenty of amazing churches out there, and if there aren’t, maybe God might want you to invite some believers to assemble in your home.
See you next time.
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