as you may know, I have been “church shopping” for many weeks…
And I told you about the one where the legalists were who keep the Sabbath.
Besides that one, I went to many, many more – it was quite a schedule I had to be honest, sometimes more than one Sunday service and many different ones during the week, plus the online research I did, looking for churches, locations, listening to sermons…
All of the churches I visited had something I really liked and also every single one had at least one aspect that I didn’t truly approve of.
Beginning with the way they greeted me (I already said that all were very welcoming) – there were big differences in how they approached me, sometimes I felt genuine friendliness and love and sometimes, I felt interrogated and pushed to give my contact details or make commitments to come again.
Just to name a few more, when they don’t use the King James Version of the bible, and there are only few churches who do use this version, which I after much research believe is the most accurate one and also, I am used to it, memorised the verses I know from this version and it simply puts me off when I hear a passage I recognise, but I can’t speak with it (loud or in my head) and sometimes, even the sense gets altered through the translation – call me a stickler, but it puts me off, plus do I believe this is one of the ways the enemy wants to dilute and change GOD’s word through more modern and less “to the point” translations.
Unfortunately, when you research on their website, most churches don’t state which version they are using, if they have sermons online you can find out, but not all do… and then, sometimes, the WORD OF GOD doesn’t even get properly read at all, just playing a “side roll”, cited shortly or only referred to in the sermon, not read and honoured, that is not giving GOD the honour for HIS word HE deserves and wants. It’s as if it was more important what the preacher had to say than what GOD said – that’s not the right and correct balance for me, even if the sermon is good – that’s another one: the sermons.
There are some which inspire me, even stir me up or set me on fire and then there are some which I can only sit through, afterwards not even remember, even though I always go to church to hear something relevant from GOD – as I said before, if they put their sermons online, you can get an idea if they will be “for you” or not.
But what will actually be for you and what won’t?
I had to ask myself what I want from and in a church.
And I am inviting you to do the same today.
The sermons, for instance, what do you want from them?
Some people want to hear something from the bible which sounds familiar and then perhaps a few words about it, not too many… or something about what happens in the world maybe? That’s where it gets tricky and where no consent will ever be possible… then there are those, many people, who don’t even care and quite a few people even fall asleep, at least did I see many!
Not that I am so busy that I don’t have time to waste – that’s not the point.
I don’t mind to listen to things I heard before when I have the feeling that they are important and that they need to be said and that someone will profit from them. But sometimes the sermons are just so empty and superficial and lukewarm, as if the pastor didn’t want to offend anyone so that they won’t stop coming and thus he is trying to please them and only telling them what is either irrelevant or not difficult to process or even pleasant, sometimes too pleasant and this is not GOD’s word! I am not saying I want to be offended or attacked in church, but when we look at our LORD JESUS, HE was never worried about offending anyone when HE preached – and HE offended everyone and everything in everyone which was not of GOD – there is no way anyone can improve on JESUS and HIS ways inside and outside of church, so if a pastor never says anything which will offend anyone, he can’t be doing everything right in my take…
So what do I want from a sermon?
Me, I want to learn something, want to be edified, want to hear something I didn’t know before and most of all, I want to hear GOD speak to ME through the pastor, I want to sit in the pew or on the chair and want to start sweating and want to be scared that he will look at me, because I think “he or she was just talking about me!” – it is not a pleasant feeling, but what else would I go to church for?
If I want to read or hear my bible or even sermons and stay in my own little bubble and stay the same person I am today, I might as well stay at home, listen to the sermons of my favorite teachers and preachers online (which I also do, but I also like the personal and live experience) – right?
And “my church” must be a church where everything is talked about and taught.
A full gospel church! Many churches deny or ignore the existence of the devil or of demons or if they admit that the devil is real, they still don’t talk about these things, let alone do they do anything to help people struggling with spiritual warfare – again, if we look at what JESUS did, wherever HE went, He did 3 things: preaching/ teaching, healing the sick and casting out devils, you can look in any gospel and in any chapter where it tells about what JESUS did – shouldn’t a proper church of CHRIST do the same?
Where is the healing ministry?
Only a very, very small percentage of the churches I visited even offer prayer!
That’s a scandal in my opinion.
JESUS prayed all the time and the bible says we should pray without ceasing.
I can see no reason whatsoever why prayer shouldn’t be a central focus in the church when a church is supposed to be HIS BRIDE! And since demons and witchcraft and spiritual warfare have been the topics I have been studying and learning about and also personally have had to deal with for many years now – to go to a church where this is a taboo would make absolutely no sense for me and I believe also not for anyone else – but that’s just me, and unfortunately, that rules about 90 – 95% of all churches out.
For me, it is a must-have!
Healing / laying on of hands / anointing with oil and casting out devils
(because that’s what the bible says)
Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord:
They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.
and in many other places.
Why would a church not do what the bible says that believers do?
Where are the miracles and signs in many churches?
Do they even preach to believe in miracles?
Or what do they tell their sick?
What if someone is tormented by an evil spirit?
Will they send him or her away?
Sadly, many churches will!
More than the ones who will offer help – and the ones where the pastor knows how to help are even fewer.
That is such a disgrace in my opinion.
I mean to be demonized is one thing and the shame and guilt which comes with it, especially when you are a Christian – but then, where are you supposed to go if not to your pastor? And when your pastor is a member of the “Christians can’t have demons”-club, then you are screwed – at least if you stay there… that’s NOT right, friends! WHERE should a Christian get help against the devil if not in his or her church??!!
The other extreme is to be too charismatic and focused on miracles and prophecies, mostly for financial blessings or childbirths or marriages – what these churches are not doing at all is helping the poor or any other social activity, they are so focused on what GOD will and should do for them that they forget to seek HIS kingdom first!
No need to mention that it is often witches themselves cunning people into donating whatever they can to receive a blessing – that’s not preaching or teaching the gospel and I also did come across churches like that and all you need to do if you want to see a preacher who is not into the gospel but into the mammon is turn on the TV and watch the televangelists. That’s not a church anyone with half a brain would want to attend either – at least not anyone who is diligently seeking GOD.
Many deal breakers in many churches… I am being difficult, but HE is worth it!
HE is worthy that I immediately leave every church where anything goes against HIS word or HIS will – at least to my understanding and the best of my knowledge of it.
Then the music.
Nobody wants to admit that it is vitally important, but it is.
Admit it or don’t, it IS important to you as well.
For all of us, there is music we love and music we just can’t stand.
And this will affect our verdict if we are comfortable in this place or not.
Music speaks to us, it speaks to our soul in a way only music can.
And there is a certain part of our soul which can only be sanctified by the music which truly speaks to us.
This may be different for everybody.
Some may prefer the traditional hymns and some may love the more modern Christian worship music and some may be really into lifting their hands, singing in the spirit or into clapping and dancing – I believe this is an important part of the worship experience and if the praise is not the way you like it, you won’t give it your all and then, your relationship with GOD won’t be improved by attending this particular church, but worsened, and why would you go to a church which doesn’t bring you closer to HIM?
Many people don’t go to church for this reason though.
And I am also sometimes falling into temptations, too, and enjoying other things more in a church than the fact that it is MY FATHERS HOUSE and that I come there to worship HIM, give HIM praise and to serve HIM.
There is the music for instance.
I think there can be too big an emphasis on the music and dancing and clapping… or the people.
I have the impression that some people come to church to socialise.
Why do I believe that?
Because they come hours late when Sunday School and the sermon is already over and then after the service, they stay on and on and chatter and gossip with everyone who will not run away…
The socializing is also important though, because it is part of the entire package.
What is happening after the service?
Do you like it or do you want to run away as soon as you can?
Is there food?
Are you enjoying the company?
Will there be opportunities to engage during the week if you want to?
Then the kinds of ministries.
Does your church involve in activities and do things which you would like to be a part of and / or which you can approve of?
What is important to you?
Do you want “your church” to have a focus on the youth, do you want them to have a ladies’ ministry or do you want to have the opportunity to sing in the choir or go out on the streets to evangelize together with your brethren or do you believe Christians should go to hospitals or to prisons and visit there?
These are all aspects which can be a plus or a minus on your list when you rate the church.
Last, but not least:
Do you like the other members of the congregation?
Can you relate to what they believe and how they are living their faith?’
Is this YOUR spiritual family, your “tribe”, the sisters and brothers who you want to be speaking to about your problems and spiritual questions, the ones whom you will allow to correct you, the ones you will do your best to love no matter what? (Yeah, I know we are supposed to love everybody, but if we can’t even love the other members of our church, how are we going to achieve this?)
I don’t know if you have a church you go to regularly.
Or if you are looking for one.
And I don’t know if you have always gone to a certain church, if you have ever asked yourself these questions, but I am assuming that even if you haven’t really thought about it, that many aspects in this church are just perfect for you, otherwise you would have felt uncomfortable and started looking for another place to worship and fellowship at, now, wouldn’t you?
Me, I am more and more learning what it is that I want in and from a church.
And I am glad that MY FATHER troubled me to go looking and to leave my old church, because I feel the place where I go now is better for me.
I loved them, my old church family, in a way, but in another way I knew that this wasn’t my “home”, but I wanted to be loyal and wanted to train my endurance, but when THE HOLY SPIRIT wants you to go, there will come a point where you can’t stay…
My situation now is that I have found a church I have been going to for a few weeks now and I have learned a lot and it is always interesting, they talk and teach about the things which are on my soul and spirit, some things are a lot different than in other churches, but even though many things are new and also sometimes a bit hard for me, I like it, because I feel that I am being fed and growing… can’t say if this is my “forever church home” yet, but it is the best church for me that I ever found, which is pretty good and good enough for now and probably for at least quite a while longer. I also need some rest from all the seeking and can’t be church hunting forever, perhaps the HOLY SPIRIT will trouble me to move on one day, but not now – there is yet still a lot I can learn there and there are many people I enjoy seeing – and the music and fellowship are amazing – and I am of course asking MY FATHER to show me if HE wants me to stay there or move on. Lots of pluses on the “list”!
The good thing is that I can be relaxed, for I have come to realize that I don’t even NEED a church to have a relationship with HIM.
I am grateful that HE took me on this journey and there were also some Sundays, when HE told me to stay at home and speak with HIM there and that is also a very enriching experience, to learn that it is not the church which is the most important thing, but your own, personal relationship with JESUS CHRIST.
And this is what everything else comes and falls under.
So what is the most important aspect for me is that I go to a church which will help me put JESUS first even more, learn more of HIM and come closer to HIM.
If anything else is on the agenda other than having a closer relationship to JESUS and learning more about HIM, then this is not the right church for me, because I can pursue worldly issues in the world, I don’t need to go to a church for that – and I can very well do it with everybody, I don’t have to look all over the world for saints, who are supposed to be holy and help me sanctify and purify myself and my life – if I want to sin, I can do it right outside my house, even inside my house, I don’t have to go anywhere and I don’t have to look for anyone, let alone do I have to go to a church and look for holy brothers and sisters to share my faith with.
I am a sinner and I need people who will teach me, encourage me, strengthen me, edify me and not lead me astray.
And even when I am the one tempting them to not focus on GOD first and foremost, I need to be in a church where they will rebuke and correct me.
That’s what I want.
In and from a church.
Learnings and inspiration and feedback – things I cannot study or get alone without them.
Help and support on my walk with GOD, tips how to get closer to HIM.
I want to see examples, too.
People who are Christians the way I want to be a Christian.
Like the ideal family none of us had.
Someone to look up to and listen to and learn from.
Someone to talk to and ask the tough questions.
Someone to laugh and cry with and share secrets and love with.
Someone who will know and won’t mind that I always put GOD first and that they, too, MUST love HIM before I will even consider entering into any kind of relationship with them. Someone who will seek godly friends and company only.
To be in a context where EVERYBODY knows and wants HIM to be above all other things and relationships and issues and where everybody will honor HIM first.
That’s what I want.
How about you, my friend?
I hope and pray that this inspires and blesses you and that THE LORD will bless you abundantly in all areas of your life, that HE will keep you and shine HIS face upon you and give you peace. In JESUS’ name I pray. AMEN.