Click the link below to download the PDF.
Welcome back to our “Celebrating God at Church” series.
Today we embark on part 3 which is all about the kind of church to which you need to go.
Now, I know this title may seem like a recipe for contention.
That’s not my desire at all. I merely want to expose the biblical principles that need to guide our motivation for celebrating God with the believers with whom we assemble.
But before we do that, I just want to ask you to consider leaving us a rating and review on Apple Podcasts — if that’s where you happen to listen. You can review us other places as well, but if it’s not Apple Podcasts or Facebook, we may not ever see it, so you can always send it to TeamTLP@TruthLoveParent.com. Your rating and review really is a huge help in getting this truth into the hearts and lives of people all over the world.
It doesn’t have to be deep or long, but when you put into your own words what The Celebration of God is and how we’ve blessed you, it accomplishes so much.
Okay, so we know from the first two parts of this series that 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 started assembling, there were no denominations. As modern 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 one denomination — followers of Christ.
Now, the Corinthians later started to struggle 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. I can’t say for sure. Maybe there was a First Church of Apollos, which — honestly — sounds pagan. Who knows.
So 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. It’s ridiculous.
Perhaps maybe that’s why you’ve personally had trouble uniting with a church. Maybe you’ve felt that division too much in your life.
Now — of course — I don’t want to throw the baby out with the bath water. I actually like that churches generally align themselves with denominations. Really, I do.
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, the things they believe may not matter, but in others it definitely 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. Still, 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. And we learned that 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 the day — as we discuss the kind of body with whom you should celebrate God — is that you need to assemble with a group of believers who are doing the things we just mentioned for the reasons we just mentioned.
Now, there’s no particular passage that words the need that way, but the previous episodes are filled with Scriptures that teach us why the church exists. It’s an obvious conclusion then that God expects the church to keep the commands He’s outlined for us. Therefore, a church that submits to God’s expectations is the right kind of church.
I’ve moved around a lot. I’m on my twenty-second move. And any time my family has moved to a new area, we’d always visit a lot of churches. There have been so many 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 celebrate Him and be conformed to His image as they do so. We learned about that in Ephesians 4:15. So, if my family is working to biblically mature, but the atmosphere of the church hinders that growth, that church is not the right kind of church.
That means the church needs to be intentionally dedicated to the sanctification of its members. As we mentioned in our introduction to the Season of Power, 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 of the body. That includes us as well as the people sitting around us.
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 as well as doing the work of the ministry.
That work includes evangelism of the lost and discipleship of the saints.
If your church is not vibrant in those two areas for that one reason — you need to find a new assembly.
Now, as we consider evangelism and discipleship for the glory of God, there are some additional specifics that I want to dive into a little more.
Our motivation must be to truly celebrate God by submitting to Him in love and obedience, and the responsibilities include evangelism and corporate sanctification — otherwise known as discipleship.
And we know that corporate Sanctification is accomplished mainly through the one-anothers.
So, third, let’s talk about that motivation a little more.
There are a number of churches of various denominations that preach the false prosperity gospel. The prosperity gospel is the bad news 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’s actually one of our points today.
My goal is to stand 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 just like the Corinthians were. But tiny churches with no celebrities can also try to celebrate God for the wrong reasons. It’s a universal problem.
My encouragement for you and your fellow disciplees is that you first start with the potential log in your own 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 doing a great job, 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?”
The answer to that question will reveal whether or not God is actually being pleased by our celebration.
Fourth, the topic of evangelism is — again — a huge one. But here are a couple considerations:
Your church needs to be active in evangelism, but their only goal should be to glorify God by introducing as many people to Him as they can. If that means they attend your assembly thereafter or they go to another — it’s not big deal.
What matters is that they’re a citizen of the Kingdom of God that we celebrate on Pentecost.
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 go any further.
And our fifth focus today is to make sure our church is participating in 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 characteristic than you can the others.
It’s easy to make this discussion about denominations. It’s easy to say our church has 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-anothers are harder to justify from a secular standpoint.
It can be done, but it’s much harder.
So, here are some ways that it may happen the wrong way.
Instead of seeing the one-anothers as a desperate need for each of us personally — 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.”
Since 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 deeper purpose behind washing your feet or encouraging you is simply 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 — in the end — I’ll probably accomplish the opposite of what God designed me to accomplish.
In the end, it’s impossible to fake the one-anothers because they don’t actually work unless we’re doing them in the right way for the right reasons.
If I’m “evangelizing” just to pack the pews, I may accomplish getting seats in the seats. But if I’m praying for 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.”
But 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 actually interacting with other believers.
Now, again, there are times that internet ministries, radio programs, and podcasts have a ton of value. They provide amazing ways for additional study and equipping throughout the week. They’re 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 a local body of believers because you’re traveling and there are literally no good options around you.
But other than that, you need to be meeting in person. Even if that means you invite your Christian friends over to your house to watch the internet preacher. Fine. But at least then you can engage in one-anothering with the people in your house.
Now, you may be a little uncertain about all these one-anothers I’ve been mentioning. There are so many of them in the New Testament that I’m planning a future series were we discuss all of them and how they are necessary parts of our Year Long Celebration of God.
But let’s start wrapping things up for today. How can we know our church is the right kind of church?
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 or feel if 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 in church every Sunday. I don’t care if everyone 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 finally coerced Aaron into making a golden calf, and then 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, trendy names like: Vineyard, Create, Journey, Harvest, Passion, Crossing, Oasis . . . it doesn’t matter.
What matters is what they actually believe.
Do you know what your church believes? 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 any of us think . . . it only matters what God says. And, as a preacher myself — let me be honest — it’s really easy to convince people of just about anything if the people aren’t 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.
If you ever want to celebrate God, you must know His Word. You must know it so well that you can spot counterfeits. That means 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.
As we wrap up, allow me give you one last example. If your preacher believes that homosexuality is not a sin, that abortion is okay, that women should be allowed to be pastors, that people can’t heal from trauma without secular psychology, then he’s 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 of the people 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.
One of my former churches had this as their mission statement: We exist to make and mature disciples of Jesus Christ for the glory of God.
That’s it right there.
But it has to be more than a slogan, it has to be a working reality.
Now, 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, then it’s a good church.
I plan to continue this series in a few weeks. At that time we’re going to look at the glorious consequences of celebrating God in a church that actually pleases Him.
And then — Lord willing — we’ll end this series off a few weeks later with a discussion about the consequences of neglecting to assemble.
Of course, you may be listening to this series in the future and all the other episodes are already complete, so head over to CelebrationOfGod.com, select holidays, choose Pentecost, and find all the episodes there.
Listen, 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 find a church in which you can truly celebrate God. Why would anyone want to be in a place that encourages them to do the wrong things . . . or even the right things for the wrong 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.
Please share this episode on your favorite social media outlets and join us next week as we take a look at Children’s Day.
Now, you may not have kids yourself, but given what we just talked about, I want to encourage you to hang out with us. No doubt there are children in your life, and God wants you to celebrate Him in your relationships with them.
I’ll see you then.
The Year Long Celebration of God is a dynamic, holistic resource that utilizes the Bible, our holiday calendars, and even the most average moments of the most normal days to equip Christians to worship God all year long
and disciple others to do the same.
AMBrewster is the creator and host of the Celebration of God. He originally designed the COG to be a discipleship tool for Christian parents to train their children to know and love God, but he quickly realized how valuable it is for all Christians. Whether it's a small group, church, classroom, one-on-one, or community relationship, this resource is guaranteed to draw people closer together as they draw closer to God.
Aaron is the President of Truth.Love.Parent. and host of its podcast.