My pastor said something this morning that pleased me to no end: “If a church is dictating behaviors, that’s a huge red flag!” The church should stand on the authority of God (the Bible) and nothing else. We are to imitate Jesus, and no one else. So, if the church has expectations of its members that are outside that, major red flags should cause us to run to the scriptures and stand on truth alone.
I thought that was a very fitting thing to be said and a good way to start what I think is a deserved and required response to, “Shunned: When the Church Goes Terribly Wrong.” I mentioned that the response to that post was tremendous and it saddened me greatly that so many have been hurt by church leaders, church members or bad church doctrine. BUT it must be made very clear that those unfortunate and terrible situations should not and do not diminish the glory and perfection of God and His design for His followers on this earth.
Church is fantastic — when you’re in a good one! Here is why:
- Love! Everyone needs it and it’s not so easy to find. A good, solid church community is filled with people who love God, love each other, and love others outside their community. Jesus said, “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”
- Related to this, the church is home to the proliferation of authentic relationships based on the solid foundation of shared beliefs. It is important to know what you believe and what the church believes. If either one doesn’t line up with the word of God, then there is a problem.
- Purpose. There are things we can do in community that we can’t do on our own. We are “better together.” Corporate worship is rich and fulfilling and a mirror of one of our major pastimes in heaven. We are encouraged and challenged by the preaching of the word of God. We use our gifts to help others and others’ gifts are used to help us. Only in a community of believers can we obey Christ’s command to remember Him through what we call “communion” or “the Lord’s supper.”
- Hope and healing. We get beat up all week long. We hear more lies than truth, we experience stress and anxiety, pain and fatigue, sometimes even depression and despair. The church is a safe haven where we can find arms to hold, words to comfort, empathy that others have been there and come through, and very real help in time of need.
- Does the church preach from the Bible? Know the word of God and test the beliefs of the church against God’s word alone. Reject church doctrine or rules that are not grounded in the word of God. Reject churches that don’t preach the word at all. Don’t be shy about asking questions, both initially (who are you, what do you believe?) and later on (where is that in the scripture? can you explain more about that?). God gave you a brain: It’s OK to use it!
- Do you feel welcomed? The church is your spiritual family — you should soon feel like a welcomed friend, not an outsider. But don’t judge a book by its cover: One visit doesn’t provide the whole picture and the people you meet sitting next to you might be visitors just like you! You wouldn’t buy a house without checking it out thoroughly, do the same with your church family. Look for love and care demonstrated between people; Look for smiles and laughter, hugs and tears; Look for diversity; Look for authenticity.
- Pray. God knows exactly what you need. He knows others’ need that can be met by you. There is a place where everything gets worked out. It’s not always neat, because people are often messy, but within our fallen, messy, human relationships, there is beauty and something precious that just doesn’t happen elsewhere. Pray that God would clearly reveal the right community in which to become a part of the family.