The Bible says that we should not forsake "our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more, as you see the day drawing near," (Heb. 10:25). It is wise to go to church because that is where we can go to hear the word of God preached and to experience the friendship of other believers.
It is very important that we hear the word of God. The Bible says, "So shall My word be which goes forth from My mouth. It shall not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it," (Isa. 55:11). Also, "For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart," (Heb. 4:12). The word of God, when it is preached, presents to us the truth that the Lord wants us to know. We need to hear the word of God presented to us, analyzed, and applied to our lives so that we can live better, accomplish what God desires for us, and can bring glory and honor to Him.
The other very good reason mentioned above for going to church is to experience friendship with other Christians. We need friends in order to be well balanced and healthy. Also, in church we discover opportunities to serve and be served. Therefore, we learn to apply what is taught out of God's word and then we learn to extend it to others outside the church.
churchAlso, in church we share in the successes and failures of others and learn how the Lord has worked in the lives of other people. In this we are encouraged. Remember, God did not make us to be alone. We need the friendship of other believers.
So, you should go to church because that is where you can hear the word of God explained and applied to your life, see how God works in people's lives, and experience the friendship of others.
"What should I look for in a good local church?"
worship silhouetteThere are so many different kinds of churches these days: Lively churches; traditional churches; strict churches; churches where you can wear your jeans; churches which insist on suits; modern churches; house churches...
It can all seem a bit overwhelming! Here we try to pinpoint what's most important in church life, and how to know if you'll find it in a particular church.
Jeremy says: In writing this little guide, I'm assuming that you are fairly new to the church scene, so it's written with people who want to find out more about Jesus and new believers in mind. You may have a Christian friend who can introduce you to their church, but in case you're on your own and struggling, or you'd like to feel a bit more informed, this article may help you make sense of it all.
Religion or Reality?
Most people who want to get to know Jesus better are not looking for religious ritual, but for real life. So I recommend looking for a church that presents Jesus as He is, and as He always has been portrayed in the Gospels: The Son of God, come to bring God's forgiveness, love and healing power to people who are aware of their hurts and searching for truth that can really make a difference in everyday life. There are many churches out there that seek to bring God's love to people in this way - I pray that God will help you to find one near you!
Firstly: Try before you buy!
Finding the right church to go to is a bit like buying a car, a pair of shoes or a new home: you might have to look at several before you know which suits you best.
Treat this as an adventure: you are exploring and finding out which church will best suit your needs. So don’t be discouraged if a few places don’t seem to be right – this is just part of the selection process. You may find that a variety of factors influence your decision. Often the place that makes a person feel the most welcome is the one they keep coming back to.
Modern technology can help make the search easier! Surf the web for churches near you; then call the church office or leadership to talk to someone and ask questions. The websites www.findachurch.co.uk and www.findachurch.com may help you, although not all churches have registered with these directories.
Another good way to find a church online is to visit the Evangelical Alliance website. Search their 3,000+ member churches here.
little_snowy_churchSeco nd: Know what to look for.
Some churches are very traditional or a bit restricted in their ways and do not place much emphasis on teaching people how to find freedom and abundant life in Jesus Christ. Look for a church that does the things Jesus did when He was on Earth: healing people; loving them in their weakness; introducing them to a God who is personal, real and involved; setting them free from sins and problems. If a church is doing these things, you'll soon know it!
Churches that welcome people the way Jesus did often say so on their websites or in a printed mission statement. They will say things like, “We have a heart for those who are hurting,” or, “We want to reach out to people who don’t know Jesus yet”.
Secondly: Nothing but the Truth!
It's also very important to be at a church that preaches the truth of God's Word, the Bible. Churches that describe themselves as "evangelical" are churches which preach the truth about salvation through Jesus, and are worth looking at. Churches that call themselves "charismatic" are those that use the gifts and power of the Holy Spirit in helping to set people free - just like Jesus and the apostles did in the Bible.
If a "church" or group insists on following a set of writings other than those found in the Bible, i.e. they may say they believe the Bible or accept Jesus' teachings, but actually turn to some other book or publication, or they cling to the teachings of a man or woman who claims to have had an exclusive revelation of truth in modern times, then you've probably found some kind of neo-Christian sect, or even a cult. There's no need to panic, but you need to know this: movements such as Jehovah's Witnesses, Christian Science, Dianetics, the Mormons, Spiritualists and Christadelphians are not Christian churches (and they will generally be happy to explain this). The town I live in has several of these; yours probably does too. The people there may be nice and welcoming, but they can't help you. Leave politely and keep looking.
What can you see when you go to a particular church? Is it a church that welcomes everyone just as they are, or do they seem to want people to join them who “look the part”? Do you see people smiling, happy, enjoying being children of God? Or are they more sombre and burdened when they go out than when they went in? Living for Jesus is about the love, peace and joy that God gives. If nobody at a particular church has that, it’s not the place for you.
Is the church growing?
Churches that preach the love and forgiveness of God add new members because they are attractive, dynamic and real, just like Jesus is. If a church is growing, you should easily be able to find people there who are new believers and who can tell their stories.
Fourth: Play detective!
Ask questions in order to find out more about what a church is like. Talk to people and find out their stories of what God has done in their lives. Find out what role the church played in those events, and which leaders and members were instrumental in helping people to meet with Jesus.
You can also find out what the church ethos and leadership are like. Do they live up to their claims? Are they patient and loving with people who are struggling, or do they tend to condemn people who are having difficulties and expect them to “grow up” and sort themselves out? Churches that really reflect the love of God seek to help people in their tough times, tend to their wounds and gently encourage them to receive God’s love and grace, walk in His truth, and grow.
Fifth (Last but not least!): Ask God to guide you!
Before you get stuck in to searching for a church, ask God to lead you to a church that can really help you. After you have prayed, be sensitive to the ways in which He might lead you. Will He point out a particular church as you drive through town? Will you find it by surfing the web? Maybe He will arrange for you to meet somebody who can recommend a church or even accompany you to one. Maybe you will find that the feeling of being “at home, in a safe place” comes over time, as you keep coming back to a particular church that attracts you.
For other practical ways of getting to know Jesus: Find Out More About Jesus
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