Like many in my generation, I’ve done some moving around and with each new move I’ve had to begin the difficult process of searching for a new church home. If you’re like most, a day is coming when you too will be on the search for a new church to call home. When that day comes, you may want to think twice before using these all-too-common reasons for making your choice:
1. “The Pastor is Really Good.”
Perhaps no other man apart from Jesus has had a bigger influence on the church than Paul. But here’s the thing: neither you nor I would have been a big fan of his preaching style. Paul had a reputation for being unimpressive in person and giving contemptible sermons (2 Corinthians 10:10). One sermon in particular was so bad it lulled a parishioner to sleep who then fell out the window to his death (Acts 20:9).
Needless to say, if he were still alive today, Paul would probably not be a staple on your podcast feed. He wouldn’t be invited to speak at your favorite Christian conference. Most large churches probably wouldn’t even consider hiring him for a teaching pastor position. This is the same guy God chose to preach before dignitaries and kings, to plant churches, and write much of the New Testament. Apparently God has very different criteria than we do.
If your primary goal is to be entertained, follow an entertaining pastor. If your primary goal is to know Jesus, follow a pastor who can lead you to the throne. If you don’t know how to assess which is which, ask yourself whether people walk away from the worship gathering thinking, “Wow, that pastor is good,” or “Wow, our God is good.” Few people would have said the first statement about Paul’s preaching, but many thousands experienced the second as a result of his ministry.
2. “The Doctrine is Spot On.”
Is theology important? You bet it is, but what a church believes is not necessarily reflected by its name, affiliations or statement of faith. If you want to know what a church really believes, pay attention to how its people live.
They say they believe in a God who cares about the oppressed? Pay attention to who they advocate for. They say they believe in the great commission? Watch how willing they are to inconvenience themselves to see it fulfilled. They say they believe in grace? Watch how they treat others, particularly those they disagree with.
By all means, weigh with serious consideration what a church believes before calling it home. Just don’t look exclusively to a formal statement to tell you what that is.
3. “They Have a Great Kids’ Ministry.”
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