3 Things You Should Expect From Your Church
The Feast of Pentecost marks the founding of the one New Testament Church. With so many different churches today, what should you expect from your church?
In A.D. 31, the Church of God started with the coming of the Holy Spirit on the Feast of Pentecost (Acts 2). The people behind Life, Hope & Truth will commemorate that day on June 12 this year.
But today, some estimate there are around 30,000 different Christian denominations. It is quite a different situation from the one church started almost 2000 years ago.
With 30,000 different churches come 30,000 different choices. If you’re a person looking for a church home, how can you choose from so many options? How does the Bible suggest you choose? The criteria for determining which church to attend should not be based on internal feelings or comfort zones. Though you should feel comfortable and welcome at church, there are other important criteria to consider when trying to find a spiritual home.
It is important to go back to the early New Testament Church and use its example as your criteria for finding a church. Here are three basic expectations to consider based on the example of the early Church—and these items should be big red flags if they are absent from the church you attend.
You should expect your church to …
1. Encourage you to live by every word of God.
Well, they all do that, don’t they?
While many denominations speak positively about the Bible and claim their worship and doctrines are based on it, close inspection reveals something quite different. Whether using the “Christ did away with that stuff” catchall or simply putting a different slant on clear biblical instruction, most Christian churches ignore or reject much of the Bible.
How many Christian churches encourage their members to keep the annual feasts of God (like Pentecost) and the seventh-day Sabbath created by God (Genesis 2:3; Leviticus 23; Matthew 12:8)? Instead, thousands of churches go to church on Sunday and keep holidays foreign to the Bible.
How many Christian churches encourage their members to eat clean meats (Leviticus 11; Deuteronomy 14), instead of meats that are described as “unclean,” “detestable” and “abominations” in the Bible?
How many Christian churches encourage their members to pray to the Father in Christ’s name (Matthew 6:6; John 16:23), instead of praying directly to Jesus or even encouraging their members to pray through Mary or saints?
There are many more examples, but hopefully the point is made. Just because a church says it follows biblical instruction doesn’t mean it truly does. It is essential that people search for a church that teaches “every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).
2. Encourage you to continually change your life for the better—even if it makes you uncomfortable.
Of course they all do that, right?
When we understand that there is a standard called “the truth,” we discover that 30,000 different churches and denominations can’t all be right. Many denominations focus more on a “feel good” message than a message of real change. The ideas of “well, Jesus already paid for my sins” or “you can’t earn salvation” lead to churches in which members are not growing and changing the things they need to change. It’s true that Jesus’ sacrifice paid for our sins and that we can’t earn salvation, but the Bible does show us that God holds us accountable for our thoughts, words and actions, and He expects us to change and grow (Romans 12:2; 14:10-12).
Is your church teaching you how to overcome sin in your life (Galatians 5:19-21)?
Does your church discourage members from engaging in destructive sin in their lives or does it enable poor behavior (1 Corinthians 5:1-2)?
Does your church spend more time on music, testimonials and other activities than giving deep, meaty messages expounding the depth of the Word of God (Hebrews 5:12-14)?
You have the right to expect more of your church. It shouldn’t just be a social club, but rather a place where you really learn to change and grow.
3. Teach the truth as revealed in the Bible.
With 30,000 possible churches to attend, believing different doctrines, there couldn’t be one unchanging standard of truth, right? Wrong. Too many churches have made truth relative to human reasoning—instead of seeking the standard of the truth found in the Bible (John 14:6). When we understand that there is in fact a standard called “the truth,” we logically discover that 30,000 different churches and denominations can’t all be right.
Here are a few examples of biblical truths that are missed by many churches:
Most churches teach the mistaken belief that we go to heaven or hell immediately after we die, but how many teach the truth of a future resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:49-53; Revelation 20:4-6, 11-15)?
Many churches teach from just the Psalms, Proverbs and the New Testament, but how many teach the truth of God revealed in the entire Bible (Matthew 4:4; 2 Timothy 3:15-17)?
We should expect our churches to teach us truth—not parts of it or remixed versions of it. It is reasonable for you to expect this from your church, right?
What do you expect from your church?
Church attendance continues to decline in many nations around the world. People are clearly dissatisfied and disillusioned with organized religion. Part of the reason for this may be that people are not getting what they need out of today’s churches.
We believe that it is not unreasonable to expect your church to teach the Bible’s clear instructions on life, to encourage change in the lives of members, and to teach biblical truth free of clouded human reasoning and tradition. That is what the disciples at that Pentecost festival nearly 2000 years ago expected, and that’s what they got. You can have the same if you search for it.
For a more detailed description of the biblical Church of God, read “The Church: What Is It?” To learn more about the church behind Life, Hope & Truth, visit the website of the Church of God, a Worldwide Association.