03 March 2006

What do I look for in a church

I put a post on my training blog last night about a sermon from Mars Hill Church that I listened to while training. In that post, I commented about expository preaching, and that I should post an entry about why I like expository preaching. I am not ready to compose that post yet. I need to gather some information first, and organize my thoughts. You can expect to see a post in the next week or so on that subject.

In the mean time, I want to post an entry about what is important to me in a church. As I have previously posted, I am involved in starting a new church in my home town: Christ Community Church. With so many churches in town, why would a group of nine families come together to start yet another new church. Is there a need for another church? We obviously think that there is a need if we are putting all of the time and energy in that it takes to start a church from the ground up, especially since we do not have a pastor yet.

So, the two questions are linked: What do I look for in a church? and, Why do I think we need a new church in town? In truth, there are a lot of answers.

Expository teaching: I have visited a lot of churches in this city. I have only found one that has really good teaching. I have been told that another church has good teaching, but I never had the chance to visit that church. As you will see in the next week, I am a strong believer in expository teaching. I think that there are other ways that a pastor can come up with good sermons and teach the Word of God deeply, but expository teaching is clearly one of the best. Too many of the churches in this city have sermons that barely scratch the surface of a text, or that are really not based on a text at all. Lots of churches have pastors that are either not willing to put the time into preparing a deep sermon, or accept the notion that non-christians will not attend a church unless they are entertained, and never challenged.

Good theology: Lots of churches have either bad theology, or worse yet, no theology. There are many churches in the area that have a name and claim it theology. They teach the idea that a true christian, with true faith, will never suffer, be sick, or be poor. They forget the stories of the New Testament -- all the suffering that befell the early church. Christianity is never meant to be all fun and no suffering. The American church has it so easy, that their theology has suffered. The other side of this is the churches that have no discernable theology. These include seeker sensitive churches that think that the goal is to get people into pews, get them wet, and then let them be. Personally, I want theology and good teaching. I want to be challenged to grow and think.

Good worship: No. I am not talking about the style of singing. We recently had a great sermon at the church on what worship really means. It is not just singing. It is a lifestyle of bringing glory to God. Certainly, one reflection of worship is the songs on a Sunday morning. I for one am not concerned much on whether a church uses hymns or modern choruses. I am concerned about churches that exclusively use one or another, as it shows a closed-mindedness. One of the churches that has good teaching, has this mentality. The sing hymns and only hymns. The only instrument is a piano. Worship is led by an elder, who is really not musically gifted. This wouldn't be a bad thing, if the church was looking to grow its music, and accepted offers to enhance worship. This church however, has not accepted offers of others to help with worship. They have turned down guitarists and more talented vocalists. They even handed out a pamphlet to the whole church about how musical styles in a church should be limited to old line hymns. In essence, because Jesus didn't use a guitar, they wouldn't use a guitar. It is one of the reasons, that I could never get comfortable in that church, although I tried hard to be satisfied there.

Fellowship: I just listened to a great sermon by a pastor in Charlotte. He stated that most churches think that fellowship is having a potluck. One of his points is that true fellowship is sharing life with each other. This involves vulnerability and true honesty. A willingness to admit struggles is necessary. I am told that the book Risking Church by Jim Kallam, Jr. addresses this topic very well. I recently met Pastor Kallam and was impressed by what he had to say. Lots of churches miss the point and think that church is the time to show up and appear successful and all together. Kallam says that these churches make church irrelevant and meaningless, and eventually, people stop coming because there is no relevant interaction.

I am running out of time. I will continue this topic later. But in the meantime, do not get me wrong. I do not think that any church can be perfect. But, I church can be aware of where others have failed and try to start with a solid foundation. That is our goal in our new church.

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