HOW TO SELECT A CHURCH
Have you ever stopped to ask yourself why you are a member of a certian church? We live in a time when there are hundreds and hundredsss of differnet churches, and this presents a problem to a sincere religious seeker. Furthermore, many churches work diligently to enlist people like you on their church rolls. Perhaps you recognize the imporance of having a church connection, but you have not yete become a member of any religious organization. How do you go abvout selecting a chur0ch? What are the characteristics which should influnece you most in making a final decision?
First of all, let us consider some common mistakes which are made in selecting a church. Do not select a church simply because of the preacher. Who would select a doctor simply because he has a good bedside manner and a pleasing voice? Depending on the nature of the illness, the important thing is that he is medically or surgically qualified to treat the sickness. When it comes to preaching, knowledgeability is more important than vocability. A preacher may have a dynamic personality, speak with eloquence, and still teach error. What a preacher says is more important than how he says sit. The says in I Peter 4:11, “If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God.” Preachers are like ambassadors. It is said of gospel preachers in 2 Corinthians 5:20, “Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be reconciled to God.” An ambassador is a messenger and does not act on his own authority. Furthermore, he does not speak in his own name and is not to communicate his own opinions or demands. An ambasador is simply to say what he has been told to say, and preachers are to say what God has told them to say in His word. I do not ask you or any person to follow me or to accept anything I say simply because I said it. However, if what I preach is taught in the Bible than your loyality to God's truth will cause you to submit to it, not because I preached it but because it is the truth. Therefore, it is not advisable to select a church simply becausse you like the preacher.
Furthermore, it is not good to select a church fore the sole reason of its near locaion. It is a common belief that one church is as good as another church, so why not attend the services of the chusrch which is located nearest your home? But is one insurance company as good as another insurance company? Is one lawyer as good as another lawyer? Is one mechanic as good as another mechanic? All would answer these questions in the negative. However, when it comes to religion many are
willing to trust the eternal destiny of their souls to most any religious organization. Nearness of location may be a factor in selecting a supermarket, but it is hardly a logical or a scriptural reason for becoming a member of a church. In reliigion, it is wise to act from conviction instead of convenience. It is not uncommon for people to send their children to the Sunday Schol nearest to them. This is like entrusting your sick child to the care of the doctor living next door just because he is close, without considering his qualifications. The church which is nearby may be teaching the truth or may not be teaching the truth. A far better approach would be ot investigate what is taught and determine if this teaching accords with the Bible before making a choice.
In addition, one should not select a church for the sole reason that parents or grandparents were member of that church. Religion is a personal matter, and every person should determinne for himself if a religous body is scriptural and right. Jesus taught that a blind loyalty to parents in religious matters could lead to the rejection of Him. Jesus said in Mastthew 10:34-37, “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth. I came not to send peace but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance agaisnst his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mothere-in law. And a man's foes shall be they of his own household. He that loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he that loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”
Jesus knew that His religion would cause divison in families. As long as one member of a family decides to become a Christian, and another member refuses to become a Christian, there is going to be division in the home. To disagree with our parents and relaltives over religion is a heavy burden to bear. Jesus said if you have to make a choice between parents and Him, you must choose Jesus at all costs. One should not select a church solely on the advice of parents because the parents themselvses may have made a bad choice. On the other hand, they may have made a good choice. Be that as it may, each person should make his own choice, based on his personal understanding of God's word. Frequently, two people marry who belong to different churches. Each refuses to unite with the other's church. To keep peace in the family, they compromise and unite with an entirely different church. Or, a religiously indifferent partner will forsake his church and unite with that of his companion. Religious disagreement in the marriage relationshlip is very distressing, but compromse and forsaking one's church is not the remedy. It would be better for two people to sit down, open the Bible, and examine their beliefs in the light of God's word.
One more thing to avoid is selecting a church just because it has the largest membership. The number of persons who believe a thing does not determine whether it is true or false. An error multiplied by a million is still an error. In fact, Jesus taught that the majority and the masses are not walking in the right way religiously. Jesus said, “Enter in at the narrow gate, for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and many there are who go in thereat: because narrow is the gate and narrow is the way that leads to life and few there be that find it”(Matthew 7:13). The attractiveness of the church buuilding or the size of the membership will not furnish you a safe guide in selecting a church.
We have studied what we should not do; now let's consdier some sound principles that will aid you in selecting a church. I would recommend an excellent method one Christian couple used to solve the problem of selecting a church out of the hundreds of churches that are available. Together, they read the New Testament through several times, and then visited all the churches in town and compared what they heard to what they had read in the New Testament. They had no problem in selecting the church that taught the truths they read for themselves in the scriptures. If you do not have some knowledge of the Bible, there is no way to make a sound judgment about a church. When it comes to the salvation of your soul, it is worth the time and effort to make an investigation. For something as important as choosing a church home, it is wise to investigate before you invest. There is a wise proverb that is applicable to all serious situations of life, “In all cases of doubt and uncertainty the safe course must be taken, and no risks run.” Life here has a limit; that beyond has none, hence the importance of being safe in religion.
Next, you would be wise to select a church. that wears a name, collectively and individually that Christians used when the apostles lived on the earth. We like people to call us by our own name, not someone else's name. If you make investigation, as above suggested, you will learn the New Testament contains the names which God has given to the church, and it shows respect for Him to abide by God-given names instead of man-made titles. Jesus said, “Upon this rock I will build my church”(Matthew 16:18). Accordingly, when speaking of Christ's church in the plural, the apostle Paul said, “The Churches of Christ greet you”(Romans 16:16). In addition, the church is called the “Church of God”(I Cor. 1: 2) and the “Church of the Lord”(Acts 20:28). The New Testament applies only the names of God and Christ to the church, and man was never given the honor of attaching his name to this divine organization.
In like manner, God has given His own names to the disciples of Jesus, who serve Jehovah in the Christian religion. In the New Testament, the members of the church are called saints(I Cor. 1:2); disciples(Acts 20:7); brethren(I Cor. 15:6); children of God(Galatians 3:26); sons of God(Romans 8:14) and Christians(Acts 11:26). Moreover, God has given the command that we should glorify Him by the name Christian(I Peter 4:16). In view of this divine command, the argument sounds a little weak that there is nothing in a name and that it doesn't matter what one is called religiously.
Fimally, and most importantly, select a church whose teachings are sound on the New Testament plan of salvation. Jesus said, “Unless one is is born of the water(baptism) and the Spirit(Holy Spirit), he cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. The parenthesis is mine for clarification. The kingdom of heaven here is the church, and all who refuse to enter church cannot go to heaven. Is baptsim essential to salvation?. On the day the Christian religion began on earth, the apostle Peter commanded a great mulltitude of people in Jerusalem to, “repent and be baptized for the remission of sins”(Acts 2:38), and 3,000 Hebrews obeyed that command wthout hesitation. Peter reminded Christians all over the world that “baptism saved them”(I Peter 3:21). Hence, baptism is a saving act, as well as faith and repentance. Jesus Himself submitted to baptism before He began His ministry on earth. He said He did it to fulfill all righteusness(Matthew 3:15) Baptsim fulfills all righteousness as well as forgiving all past sins because it is a command of God. It is a command of God, and it is right to obey God's commaqnds. Therefore, select a church that abides in these teachings about baptism. Attend to it and you will be safe. You know it is one of God's commands; it is safe to obey and unsafe to disobey.
Moreover, it is safe to select the form of baptism which is not in doubt, and has never been in question., and you wil be safe. John Calvin said, “It is certain that immersion was the practice of the ancient church. The very word bpatize signifies to immerse”(“Institutes,” Book IV, Ch. 15.,
Sec. 19). Philip Schaff says, “Immersion, and not sprinkling was unquetion-ably the original normal form.”(History of the Apostolic Church,” pp. 568, 569)...Joseph Henry Thayer–“Harvard Univesity” Lexicon–says, “Christian baptism–this according to the view of the apostles, is a rite of sacred immersion commanded by Christ.” The real scholars of the world teach and affirm that immersion was the primitive apostolic form. Jesus was baptized but once by one way, and you should be baptized as He was. It is my hope that these suggestions will be helpful in making the most important decision that you will ever make in your life.