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                     "WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A CHURCH"


INTRODUCTION

1. It is not uncommon for Christians having to look for a church...
   a. They have an obligation to assemble with other Christians - He 10:
      24-25
   b. With our mobile society and current job market, they often have to
      relocate

2. How does one decide which church to attend...?
   a. People often use different criteria in making their decisions
   b. Some prefer large, others like small
   c. Some look for many young people, others want all sorts of programs

[Some factors are important, other not necessarily so.  To help in
making proper decisions, allow me to share some thoughts on...]

I. WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A CHURCH

   A. WHERE THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST IS PROCLAIMED...
      1. The church is not a social club, but is to be the body of
         Christ
         a. In which Christ is the head - Ep 1:22-23
         b. For which Jesus died to produce a glorious church - Ep 5:
            25-27
      2. Consider how Christ is building His church
         a. Through the gospel, Christ calls us - 2Th 2:14
         b. As we heed the gospel call, the Lord adds us to His body,
            the church - Ac 2:41,47
         c. That is why it is so important that the gospel not be
            perverted in any way - Ga 1:6-9
      3. If the gospel proclaimed by a church is different...
         a. By changing either the facts or commands of the gospel
         b. Then people are not being saved, and the Lord is not adding
            them to His church!
      4. A church with a perverted gospel...
         a. May have the nicest people, but they are still unregenerate
            people!
         b. May wear the name of Christ, both as individuals and as a
            church, but are not truly the people of God!
      -- Unless the gospel of Christ is preached in its simplicity and
         purity, a church cannot be pleasing to the Lord

   B. WHERE THE APOSTLES' DOCTRINE IS OBSERVED...
      1. This is what characterized the churches of the New Testament
         - Ac 2:42
         a. Our goal is not to emulate the churches of the 2nd, 3rd,
            18th, or 20th centuries
         b. Nor to simply imitate the traditions of Catholicism,
            denominationalism, etc.
         c. But to be like the faithful churches of Christ in the first
            century A.D. - Ro 16:16
      2. Such a church will have worship like that described in the New
         Testament
         a. With such elements as singing, prayer, Bible study,
            preaching, and the Lord's Supper - Col 3:16; 4:2; 2Ti 2:2,
            15; 4:2; Ac 20:7; 1Co 10:16-17; 11:23-29
         b. With assemblies stirring one another to love and good works
            - He 10:24-25
      3. Their work as a congregation will be similar to that found in
         New Testament churches
         a. Equipping the saints for ministry (edification) - Ep 4:11-16
         b. Spread of the gospel by sending out evangelists (evangelism)
            - Php 4:15-16; 3Jn 5-8
         c. Meeting the needs of the saints as problems arise
            (benevolence) - Ro 15:25-26; 1Co 16:1-4; 2Co 8:1-9:15
      4. Their organization as a congregation will seek to be like that
         found in the New Testament - cf. Php 1:1
         a. With elders (also known as bishops, pastors, presbyters,
            shepherds) qualified to oversee and tend to the local
            congregation - Ac 14:23; 20:28; 1Ti 3:1-7; Tit 1:5-9; 1 Pe
            5:1-4
         b. With deacons qualified to minister to the local congregation
            - 1Ti 3:8-13
         c. With saints (members) who sojourn in this world with conduct
            that is honorable and which gives glory to God - 1Pe 2:9-12
      -- A church seeking to please Christ will let the apostles'
         doctrine guide its worship, work and organization, and not be
         based on traditions of uninspired men

   C. WHERE RIGHTEOUSNESS, PEACE, AND JOY IS FOUND...
      1. Such is to be the focus of those in the kingdom of God - Ro
         14:17
         a. Not social entertainment and food, but matters of grace - He
            13:9
         b. Not social programs, for such can hinder the church - 1 Ti
            5:16
      2. A place where brethren are focused on peace and edification
         - Ro 14:18-20
         a. Pursuing things that make for peace, like love and unity
            - Jn 13:34-35; 17:20-23
         b. Pursuing things that make for building up (edifying)
            brethren - 1Co 14:26
         c. Avoiding those who cause divisions and occasions to stumble
            - Ro 16:17-18
      -- A church should be conducive to spiritual growth, where people
         are encouraged to live holy lives in peace and joy

[Such are the things to look for in a church, if one is serious about
following Jesus.  As one considers what to look for in a church, I have
some other thoughts on...]

II. WHAT MAY BE NICE, BUT NOT NECESSARY

   A. MANY PROGRAMS...
      1. Some measure a church by its programs
         a. E.g., the Bible classes they offer all ages
         b. E.g., the evangelism efforts supported by the congregation
         c. E.g., the benevolence being done
      2. Not that such is wrong, but one should strive to be strong with
         or without such programs
         a. Spiritual maturity is gained mostly by individual effort,
            through one's own personal devotions, Bible study, service
            - cf. 1Ti 4:13-16
         b. One will not always be where there is a large congregation
            with many programs; will he or she be able to remain strong
            without them? - e.g., Ac 16:25
      3. The majority of Christian duties takes place apart from the
         local church
         a. How we live, work, and play - cf. 1Pe 2:11-17
         b. What kind of workers we are, what kind of families we have
            - cf. Col 3:18-25
      4. It can be easy to be caught up in "church overload"
         a. Where one becomes busy in church meetings, activities, etc.
         b. That they neglect their God-given duties to family, self and
            others
      -- The true measure of a strong church is not how many programs
         they have; nor is the measure of true spirituality how many
         church activities one is involved in

   B. MANY YOUNG PEOPLE...
      1. Parents often choose a church based on this factor
         a. Out of a loving concern for their children
         b. Assuming that the more young people, the better
      2. A congregation with more young people may be better, but not
         necessarily so
         a. Children tend to form cliques with their peer group, then
            rarely associate with others outside their peers
         b. Not all peers provide positive influence; I've seen good
            children ruined when they went from a small church with no
            peers to a large church with many peers
         c. Children need to learn to relate to those outside their peer
            groups; such is often much easier in small churches without
            anyone their age
      3. Spiritual interest and faithfulness in children is affected
         more by parents than peers
         a. Fathers have the charge to bring up their children in
            spiritual matters - Ep 6:4
         b. Mothers and grandmothers can have a powerful influence
            - 2Ti 1:5
      -- Parents should not abdicate their children's spiritual training
         to the church, or to their children's friends

CONCLUSION

1. Over the years I have been privileged to be a member of many
   churches...
   a. Some fairly sized (200-300) that provided lots of programs and
      children
   b. Others rather small (10-100), even meeting in a home or storefront

2. I have found that wherever people faithfully proclaim the gospel and
   abide in the apostles' doctrine...
   a. There is a family of God's people
   b. There is a place where one can grow in faith, hope, and love

A church should be a group of Christians where as we assemble to
worship, we are encouraged by other Christians to go out and live for
Jesus, serve our brethren, and minister to those in our community.

Whether large or small, size does not matter.  Where there is no church,
one can start one in their home as was often the case in the New
Testament... - cf. Ro 16:5; 1Co 16:19; Col 4:15; Phm 1:2
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