What should we look for in a church??

In the consumer-driven age in which we live it is the customer who has all the power. I mean, think about it. We can choose what TV we want to watch, when we want to watch it, how we want to watch it (High Definition or standard definition). We can choose what radio stations we want to listen to, what electrical products we want to buy, what magazines we want to read, what food we want to buy, what friends we have on facebook and on and on we could go. The “customer is always right” is the marketing ethos of the 21st century, however is the customer always right when it comes to church, or rather is the layperson always right?

You see we naturally imbibe certain mindsets/worldviews from the society and culture that we are immersed in and I am wondering if this “consumer is always right” thing is becoming a sub conscious mindset of us Christians? I’ve heard stories of new pastors being told by laymembers “remember who pays your cheque” when they tried to implement biblical changes to the organisation and running of the church. What the church member meant in saying this was basically “if you do something i don’t like i’ll not be giving the money in to pay your wages mate”. This is a classic example of a church member thinking they have some sort of superior choice over the pastor/elders in relation to how the church should be run. There are many mumblings and grumblings today about how people want church to “be done”. Some of these are justified, for there are churches out there that are dying who continue to insist upon holding to the unbiblical traditions of men, pushing away the younger generation in the process. However, there are also churches who are trying so hard to be hip and relevant that they have completely abandoned the New Testament teaching about what a church should be. They almost act as if the New Testament is completely silent about how church should be done.

In his book ‘The Paradox of Choice- Why More is Less’ Barry Schwartz highlights this consumeristic phenomenon sweeping through our churches today. He observes,

“We are unwilling to regard religious teaching as commandments, about which we have no choice, rather than suggestions, about which we are the ultimate arbiters. We look upon participation in a religious community as an opportunity to choose just the form of community that gives us what we want out of religion

If our mindset as Christians is focused on the self, what we want out of Christianity, the only thing that will happen is that we will grow more and more discontented with our churches and with our walk with Christ. God does not exist for us….we exist FOR HIM. He has given us his word, the Bible, whose authority we are to sit under, not twist or ignore to suit our own sinful desires. So when it comes to “doing church” just what does the Bible teach about how we should do church? Well, to be sure, there are some grey areas, areas which the Bible is silent on, such as what clothes to wear, what instruments to use, what programmes should be run etc. However there are certain areas that the Bible is clear about. The guys at 9 Marks Ministries have, in my opinion, hit the proverbial nail on the head when it comes to this issue and below is a list of the 9 aspects or duties that they believe are vital for a church to be a healthy New Testament church. Have a look and see what you think…..

  1. Expositional preaching. Does the pastor preach God’s Word, or his own ideas? Does he allow Scripture to set his preaching agenda, or does he pick topics by some other criteria?
  2. Biblical theology. Does the church openly confess key biblical doctrines? Do the leaders consistently teach sound doctrine?
  3. A biblical understanding of the gospel. Does the church clearly proclaim the good news about what Jesus Christ accomplished for sinners in his death and resurrection? Consistently?
  4. A biblical understanding of conversion. Does the church teach that people must be born again in order to enter the kingdom of God (John 3:1-8)? Does the church teach that in order to become a Christian, a person must repent of sin and trust in Christ, both of which are ultimately gifts of God?
  5. A biblical understanding of evangelism. Does the church preach the gospel to non-Christians and encourage its members to do the same? Does it understand that it’s our responsibility to preach the message of salvation yet God is the only one who can do the saving?
  6. Biblical church membership. Does the church take membership seriously by seeking to ensure that its members faithfully attend? Does it encourage members to fulfill the biblical “one-anothers” with each other?
  7. Biblical church discipline. Does the church lovingly, patiently practice church discipline?
  8. Biblical discipleship and growth. Does the church expect and equip its members to grow spiritually? Does the church encourage its members to disciple one another? Growing as a Christian should be normal, not exceptional.
  9. Biblical church leadership. Is the church led by godly, qualified men? Does the church look to Scripture to determine its leadership structure?

7 comments on “What should we look for in a church??

  1. This is an interesting post, and I never thought about this point you wrote: “…rather is the layperson always right?” Your conclusion is “no.” But I think it is important to look at church as providing a service. (Hope, comfort, a place of worship, etc.) And the church’s congregation (customers) are free to choose another church. In so many ways, churches ARE like businesses. It seems that, if churches do not realize that their members are also customers, that could drive ppl away…

    • Hey Deborah, thanks for your input! Firstly, I think i should highlight that I do agree that the voice of the layperson should be heard and their opinions taken on board. Churches are to be a community of believers where each others opinions and suggestions should be listened to because we are to be loving and gracious towards one another.

      The definition of a true church is not the people who attend a building, but in fact it is all those who’s names are written in the lambs book of life, and let me tell you, there are many names on church membership rolls which are not written in the lambs book of life (Matthew 7:21). Yes the church provides a service but the service is not meant to be people-centred in the sense that it’s all about us…..we come to church to focus on Jesus not ourselves. We receive hope and comfort primarily through the word of God being preached, the public reading of the Bible, prayer, and the taking of communion and fellowship with each other throughout the week. You talk about driving people away…….my take on it is that if people want to leave because the church won’t put a starbucks in it, or won’t stop preaching that unsaved sinners are en route to hell without Christ then as far as I’m concerned they can walk out the back door and I won’t stop them. Jesus didn’t walk after the people who didn’t like his teaching did he?? Reasons like the two above are illegitimate reasons for leaving a church. However, if a church says you HAVE to wear a suit every week or you’re in sin, or will only sing old hymns, or only use the organ etc then these are, in my opinion, concerns that need to be dealt with because there is obviously an atmosphere of legalism/ unbiblical traditionalism in that church.

      Our starting point must be correct when it comes to thinking about the church………Christ did not die for a business did he? He died for a people….that whosoever believes will not perish but have eternal life. We also have to remember who it is who does the saving. If we believe it is God (as the Bible clearly teaches) then we must seek to be biblically faithful in the area of the church. If we believe that we can sway men and women into being saved by emotionalism, softening the message and entertaining them then the gospel is pushed aside, pragmatism is employed and the true sheep suffer because the church has become more focused on pleasing people rather than pleasing God. If a church exists to please people then they believe in the supremacy of man…..if a church exists to please and glorify God, then they believe in the Supremacy of Christ (Matt 6:24).

      Church members are not consumers….we are “receivers”…..receivers of the grace of God through prayer, scripture reading, communion and the preaching of God’s word….we are worshippers….we are to be servants, towards each other and the wider community. Consumerism does not lead to Christian love and service…….its lead to selfishness, arguments and disharmony amongst the body of Christ and im my honest opinion it is a totally unchristian attitude.

  2. Ah ok sorry i thought you were a Christian, hence the nature of my response! Had I known you were Agnostic I most probably would have replied differently!! May I ask you a quick question? Does your agnosticism lean more towards atheism or theism?

  3. I guess it wouldn’t have been as long and drawn out a response as I initially gave! However hopefully you gained something from it!

    I find it intriguing that you say ure agnosticism has no leanings to either side. Surely deep within your conscience there’s some sort of belief? Even if it is a belief in the “possibility” of something? I don’t believe one can be truly agnostic. Uncertain or unwilling to nail their flag to the mast yes. But entirely uncertain to render making a decision impossible no. My own mum (the british spelling of the word ‘mom’ 🙂 ) claims that ignorance is bliss but really all she is doing is trying to suppress what her conscience is telling her, namely that there is a creator God. She somehow thinks that if there is a God and it is the God of the Bible that He will forgive her for her deliberate ignorance or uncertainty. I also think true, true agnosticism (if that makes sense?!) is impossible because of some of the things the Bible says,

    1) “Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end” (Ecclesiastes 3:13)…..everyone has a sense, even if it is a small one, that there is something more to life than the here and now but many of us choose to ignore or suppress that feeling. Yea we can’t know or understand everything but this sense of life after death or search for a higher being found in every generation of human civilization does not fit in with evolutionary theory (survival of the fittest) and to this day it leaves atheists stumped. Or does it? That brings me to my next wee passage,

    2)[18] “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. [19] For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. [20] For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. [21] For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” (Romans 1:18-21 ESV)

    That passage in Romans basically points out that all men and women everywhere have a sense of there being a Creator, and when they observe the world around them, the stars at night, the beautiful sunset, the moments that take your breath away, there is a sense of the transcendent, or a greater power if you will. But we don’t want to believe it because it confronts us with the possibility that we might actually be wrong. Stephen Jay Gould (a former curator of the Museum of National History-evolutionist bigwig!) once said that “the probability of evolution in its beginnings is so astronomically high that it is pretty much impossible…however the only other alternative theory is that there is a creator God and thats not a possibility I can begin to consider.” (paraphrased)….so here is a perfect example of a suppression the truth talked about in Romans in the Bible.

    Apologies if I got carried away in that response lol! I just want to give as full an explanation as possible for each point so that it will be as benificial/interesting (or boring 🙂 ) for my readers as possible!

    Hope your well!

  4. Hmmm. Well, there’s a lot here. Whether you believe one can be “truly agnostic” or not has no bearing on whether I am.

    No, I’m not “uncertain or unwilling to nail my flag to the mast.” I’m sure you didn’t mean that to be the insult it sounds. I was brought up Catholic. I spent a lot of time reading and studying the history of religion, and this is just my opinion. Your opinion is that a god exists. It seems to me that if you really tried to examine your belief system, you’d see that it is flawed. There’s blissful ignorance in believing something without analyzing the underpinnings of your faith.

    For me, your reference to the bible carries absolutely no weight. I do not believe it is the spoken word of god. IMO, it is a collection of folktales, originally told verbally for generations, and finally written down (and recopied and recopied, makikng it susceptible to even more errors, until the printing press). Telling me that “true agnosticism is impossible because of what the Bible” says means nothing to me.

    Agnosticism has nothing to do with “wanting to believe” or “wanting to be right.” Who in the h*ll would NOT want to believe that we are all carried off to a wonderful afterlife? Who would NOT want to believe in a loving, forgiving god? Trust me when I tell you that it would be much easier to bury my head in the sand and believe in god. Do you remember what it was like when you discovered Santa wasn’t real? It’s that feeling of disappointment–and you can never believe again.

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