Finding the right church is a daunting task for many people.
There are so many options to choose from. Whether you are a brand-new Christian looking for your first church or a life-long Christian seeking a new fellowship of believers the choice can be difficult.
Many people are familiar with what is known as Jesus' "Sermon on the Mount" found in the gospel of Matthew chapters 5-7. At the end of this sermon (Matthew 7:24-27), Jesus uses the illustration of two builders building their respective homes. In this sermon, just like any construction project, there are three key elements: the Foundation, the Building Materials, and the Ability of the Contractor. Let's apply these principles to your search for the right church:
THE FOUNDATION: Sound Doctrine
Jesus speaks of the two builders choosing two distinct building sites. One is on the rock, the other is on sand. We all know that building on the rock is more tedious and tiresome. People can spend ages digging out the foundation and have very little progress to show despite all their efforts. One who builds on the sand, however, can dig and pour a foundation quickly and begin to see results on their living space right away. Then the rains come. Have you ever had to pay for a foundation repair to your house? Does the thought of doing so send shivers up your spine? It should. If the foundation is good, the whole house can withstand the storms. If the foundation is bad, the house can easily crumble.
Many people take the same approach to building their spiritual "house". They don't take the time to lay an adequate foundation for their faith, they just want something flashy and fast. Their reasoning is that whatever looks good / sounds good / feels good must BE good. Then when the storms of life come and they wonder what on earth God is doing, their "house" of faith crumbles because they never took the time to prepare a proper foundation. The reality is that it's not God's fault. He's eternal and unchanging. Their collapse is often due to their poor understanding of God.
As you are looking for a church, make sure you find one that has a solid doctrinal foundation. There are hundreds of churches and every one of them thinks they are right. Much of the distinction between denominations and churches comes in the interpretation of Scripture in non-essential issues. There are, however, three particular issues that are essential to a rock solid foundation.
The first essential issue is the priority of God's Holy Word, the 66 books of the Bible. The Bible has stood alone throughout the centuries as the only "Holy" book that is without error. It has been tested by time, science, history, and archaeology, and every time it stands. The Bible itself testifies to being the Word of God. The issue of the priority of God's Word is simple. Here's an example. Assume you have an expensive sports car. When your car is broken, do you take it to your buddy down the street who subscribes to a car magazine to fix it? He knows a lot about cars, he has a lot of pictures, but his ability to observe a fine automobile does not qualify him to fix YOUR piece of machinery. Instead, wisdom would suggest that you take it to the designer of the automobile. It might cost more, but you know it will be done right.
So it is with the Bible. You are God's creation, infinitely complex in your body and soul. God has written his instruction manual for your life in the form of the Bible. Instead of using the superior Word of God, however, churches and pastors turn to self-help books and the opinion of "experts" who make a living observing the intricacies of God's creation. Take the time to find a church that will open the Bible to you. It might require some more discipline, a little bit harder work, but isn't your foundation worth it?
The second essential issue is who they say Jesus is. Without the Bible, we cannot know God or His plan for our lives. Without Jesus, the One around whom all Scripture centers, we cannot have salvation. There are many "religions" that will teach that Jesus is just a good man, a prophet, one of the sons of God, or simply a man possessed by the Spirit of God. Quite simply, Scripture declares that Jesus is God made flesh, completely unique, the perfect fulfillment of prophecy, the perfect fulfillment of Old Testament law, the sinless sacrifice for our sins, and the resurrected King. If there is a church that teaches anything but this truth, you'll be preparing a house on sand.
The third essential issue is how to be saved. The Bible makes it plain that salvation from slavery to sin and the penalty of sin is found in the gracious gift of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ alone. This can only be accepted through faith in Jesus Christ, not by any amount of good deeds, family heritage, baptisms, or rituals. Faith alone in Christ alone. This is the rock of our faith. Anything else is shifting sand.
THE MATERIALS: "Biblical", not "Bible-Based"
Jesus explains in the Sermon on the Mount that those who HEAR His Words and PUT THEM INTO PRACTICE are the ones who build upon the rock. We have identified the benefits of the foundation, now with what kind of materials will you build your house: Man's words or God's Word? So many churches, groups, and ministries say they are "Bible-based". What does that mean, exactly? It is a common phrase used to explain the foundational principles of a ministry. Let's look at these terms from a practical standpoint now.
Think of a major corporation that has its headquarters based in Denver. This corporation has branches located all throughout the world. The company might be based in Denver, but each branch is operating in a completely different environment with different facilities, staff, and experience. How connected are the branches to the headquarters?
So it is in our definition of "Biblical" vs. "Bible-Based". Have you ever stopped to wonder what makes the preacher any different than you? Seriously. He sins just like you. He needs the grace of God just like you. Why should YOU listen to what HE says? The next time you go to a church or listen to a preacher on TV, run a simple evaluation. How many times does the preacher go back to the Word? Does he start with a verse and then spend the next 30 minutes giving his opinion or viewpoint? Is the sermon more full of cute stories, funny jokes, and secular wisdom than the meat of God's Word?
Herein lies the difference between "Biblical" and "Bible-Based". A "Bible-Based" church uses the Word of God as a springboard from which to preach well-contrived content. You might be getting the truth. The real question is are you getting the WHOLE truth - the BIG PICTURE? A "Biblical" church preaches the Bible as both the springboard AND the content. Why should you listen to a Biblcal preacher? Because he's preaching the Bible! God's Word is the best building material for building your spiritual house.
THE CONTRACTOR: Opportunity for Spiritual Growth
We have now seen the benefit of a strong foundation (Doctrine) and the benefit of superior building materials
(The Word of God). Now the question is, "Who is going to build your house?"
Most people evaluate and decide upon a church based upon the type of music played there and what the church has to offer their family in the form of programming. If this combination appeals to them at the time they select the church. Worship and various ministries are essential to church work, but the question should not be "What does this church do for me?" The questions should be "How can this church help me build my spiritual house?" Someday God will ultimately hold YOU accountable for the condition of our Spiritual house. God has provided the foundation, the materials, the instruction manual, and the ability to build through the power of the Holy Spirit. What are you doing to build a house that God delights to dwell in?
The last part of Jesus' sermon says that those who HEAR His Words and PUT THEM INTO PRACTICE will build their house on the rock. You can be a phenomenal scholar and theologian who has memorized the Bible, but unless you are putting Jesus' words into action your materials are still piled up on the ground. Part of the genius of God's design for the church is that He has mandated an apprenticeship program so that older contractors can teach new builders all their skills necessary to be good builders.
A good church will have implemented a program to help you learn to build through two very practical channels: listening and doing. Find a church that provides ample opportunity to get immersed into the Word of God on a regular basis. At the same time, it is essential that you be provided oportunity to apply your newly acquired skills in an environment that is safe and allows for your to master them. The proper balance of listening and doing in proper environment will help you to become an expert builder - one that God can use some day to train others in how to be an effective Christian. The Apostle Paul tells us in the book of Ephesians that we are God's workmanship created to do good works which have been prepared for us to do from a long time ago. Going to church just to receive is not helping you to build your spiritual house.
We hope you would come and try L.I.F.E. Fellowship Frederick for a few Sundays and evaluate us by the standards mentioned above. We realize, however, that this might not be the church for you. Each person is unique and is at a different point in their walk with the Lord. People don't expect to attend the same school from Kindergarten through University. In the same way, God moves people to different churches for different seasons in life. We encourage you to find a Biblical church that will assist you in building your spiritual house on a firm foundation with excellent materials. May God richly bless you as you seek His best for your life.