Why Go to Church?, Pt. 2

Scripture: Isaiah 8:20, 2 Timothy 4:1-5, Revelation 2:12-14
The Bible clearly talks about belonging to and attending a church. But, how do you find the right church? What does the Bible say about this? The key is to make sure your church is really teaching the truth of the Bible and not the traditions of mankind.
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Announcer: It's time now for Bible Talk. Join Gary Gibbs and John Bradshaw as they open the Bible to deepen our understanding of God's word.

John Bradshaw: Hi and welcome to Bible Talk, where we talk about the Bible and how the Bible affects you today. I'm John Bradshaw.

Gary Gibbs: And I'm Gary Gibbs. And we're glad you're with us today, because we're talking about a topic that interests everyone when we're talking about churches and the Christian church.

John: Now we have talked about whether it is important to belong to or attend a church. And there's no question the Bible makes it clear God wants us to be part of a church. But now the big question is, and I get asked this all the time in seminars I conduct, how do I find the right church, how do I choose a church, which church is the one for me? So how are you going to answer that from the Bible? Because you don't find in the Bible where it says "You ought to be a...," whatever denomination the thing is. It doesn't spell it out at least.

Gary: A Baptist, a Presbyterian, a Roman Catholic, an Adventist, Episcopalian, it doesn't just lay it out there.

John: So how do you find it? How do you find the right church? I've got to say this now. There are some people, in my humble opinion, who use this question about whether I ought to join a church, be part of a church, the church isn't good enough, the church is full of sinners and whatnot, it's a cop-out. It's just a cop-out. I've been offended so I'm never going back. These aren't reasons to stay away from church. And some people, some people, hide behind this. "Pastor never shook my hand. Pastor's wife gave me one of them looks." And admittedly, some hurtful things can happen in church, but perhaps sometimes people are just using these things as excuses and cop-outs.

And the Devil uses things to keep us away from finding our way to where God really wants us to be. What do you think about that?

Gary: I think that's true. A lot of people just carry their emotions on their shoulder it's easy to knock them off.

John: Sure.

Gary: Now we have high expectations of church. Let's face it.

John: And we should be able to have high expectations of church.

Gary: And we go there, the world lets us down all the time. The world always lets us down, it doesn't fulfill our expectations. So we want to go to church. It's got to be that one place where you're loved, you're accepted and it's peaceful. And you go there and you find sometimes it's not. And so you just say "Well, I don't need that" if you're offended, then you leave.

John: What amuses me now is where people say "I'm not going to go to church because there's too many hypocrites." Well I've got to tell you something I heard a guy put it this way one time. He said "I would rather go to church with hypocrites than go to hell with hypocrites." And I think there's some room to agree with that. You go to the bank with hypocrites. And you went to school with hypocrites. Come on, you can't go to church with a few hypocrites? And honestly, there's a bit of a hypocrite in every last one of us.

Gary: That's akin to living in Noah's day and saying I'm not going to get on the ark because there is too much manure on there. [laughs]

John: That's a good analogy.

Gary: You want to get on the ark. It's better to be on there with the animals than out in the water.

John: Even if it smells a little bit in there, it's going to be better than taking that big swim for 40 days and 40 nights.

Gary: So how do you choose a church? What do you do? Do you try them on for size? Do you go to town? I have done that before, go to town, and start trying the different churches. Is that the best way to find a church, John?

John: No, it's a lousy way to find a church. But some people do it. They say "Eventually I'm going to find the right one." I met a fellow once when I was spending time in Denver, Colorado. This guy was living right next to me. And he said 'Yes, we were in town for a couple of years before we found a church that just suited us, just suited us." And perhaps it was the right church and the right church for him I don't know anything about it. But the thing is, we don't say what suits us, we say what suits God. And according to the Bible the church isn't necessarily the one with the best choir, or the fanciest stained-glass windows, or the best praise team, or whatever else.

Paul wrote to Timothy and he told Timothy that the church is to be the pillar and the ground of the truth. So Gary, if I'm looking for a church, I'm looking for a place where the truth of God's word is being taught, the truth. If it's not the truth, then I really don't need to be there.

Gary: But a lot of people would say "My church is teaching the truth. They teach Jesus is the son of God. He died on the cross for me." How do you find one that teaches all truth? You might stay in a church 10 years before you find out that maybe they're not teaching the truth.

John: Well, I'm sure that if you're genuine in your search and you're following where the Holy Spirit is leading you, He may have led you there and left you there for a while to mature and grow up. But there comes a time when there are other key things that you learn from the Bible that you need to have reinforced in your worship experience. You know, if my son was in a math class and they were teaching him two plus two is five, I'd get him out of that math class double quick and probably out of that school. It doesn't matter whether his friends were there or whether the teacher was a really nice lady or a nice guy, or whether that school has got a best reputation or it's the biggest school. It doesn't matter. The teaching has got to be right because that teaching is going to set my son up for either a successful or unsuccessful future.

And it's the same in our experience. When you look for a church, it ought to be leading you into the truth of Jesus Christ.

Gary: We have a terrific resource for you today. It's a Bible study called "Angel Messages from Outer Space." If you write or call the phone number or address we give at the end of the program, we'll give that to you. And John, I think this is a good resource to go along with the topic we're talking about because we need to be studying the Bible on our own to determine what the truth is and then that will help us find the churches that teach truth.

John: Yeah, there's no question. Here is what a lot of people do. They go to a church in order to find the truth, in order to find the right message from the Bible. But unless you're going to the Bible, you're never going to know. You go to the Bible and you find what the Bible is teaching and then you say "OK, where is there a church that teaches this?" Are they putting the dead in the right place? Are they telling the truth about the character of God? Are they upholding the commandments of God? You remember Isaiah 8:20. It's a verse many people know. "To the law and to the testimony, if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them."

And in Christianity today there is a tendency to say "Oh well, we all worship the same God and let's just agree where we agree and let's just disagree where we disagree. And let's just go right on." There ought to be harmony among the churches, whether you believe the same or not. There ought to be brother and sisterhood and whatnot.

But the ecumenical drive, while positive in its preaching of tolerance and understanding and acceptance, it kind of leaves you saying "Well, what you believe doesn't really matter." You don't get that message from the Bible, though.

Gary: You don't. Paul warned about the last days. And he said this in 2 Timothy 4 he said "The time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine." Now doctrine is teaching, biblical teaching. "The time," he says, "will come when people won't endure," they won't be able to stand, sound doctrine, biblical teaching. "But after their own lust, they'll heap to themselves teachers having itching ears and they'll turn away their ears from the truth and shall be turned to fables." What is Paul telling us, John, about this day? What are the itching ears he is referring to and trying to get teachers that will turn us to fables?

John: You see that all over the place. I don't want to sound critical and come off as a bit rough here, but you see all across Christianity where people will say "I will come to church or I will meet God on my terms. As long as my pastor doesn't rub my fur the wrong way, step on my toes or upset my applecart, I can't think of another cliché to throw at this, so three ought to do, as long as he's telling me things that leave me feeling good, don't call me up too high and don't make too many demands, that's OK. I want to feel good about myself where I am." The right alternative to that is to experience genuine broken-hearted repentance and coming to Christ fully at the foot of the cross. But that's too high a price for many people to pay. So they want to go the pastors who speak those things that just tickle their ears and make them feel good about where they are. Not good, not in the long run or even in the short run for that matter.

Gary: So we shouldn't be looking for churches that just make us feel good?

John: No. And I tell you what, there's a whole lot of them out there. That's why you've got the churches that cater for the immoral and the progressive, whatever that means, there's the rock and roll churches.

Gary: Progressively downhill is what that means. Here you've got churches today, I think it really matters where we go because there are a lot of good Christians probably listening to us right now out there in a dilemma that their churches are forcing upon them, their denominations. We've got churches today that are just getting way off base on the teachings of human sexuality.

John: Absolutely.

Gary: I have nothing but compassion for people who have a hard time identifying what their sexuality is, their God-given sexuality. But when you have churches now that are condoning aberrant behavior in sexual behavior and they're ordaining homosexuals and they're doing homosexual marriages. Now I know the Bible does not allow that. It absolutely condemns that. Here you got churches that are just going far away from that. What do you do if you're in a church that has that going on?

John: You're not left with that many options. What did Jesus do? Now Jesus had a commitment, a radical commitment to following the truth. And ultimately He had to move forward with the light that He had and He couldn't stay bound. He couldn't change his church nor could he be bound by his church. You look at people like Martin Luther, who had no desire to go start a new church, but he had to follow the truth. And so it led Luther to stand up and step forward and go on in the advancing light of truth. That's where a person is, as difficult that can be in practice, at least in theory it's a simple decision to make.

You see some things. Your church is not standing for the Bible, and careful now, because people go running off from their churches at the least little thing. "I don't like the way they put new chairs in the sanctuary," or they got rid of the piano or the organ or they changed the color of the... I don't mean leaving over the carpet being changed.

Gary: Right.

John: But serious doctrinal things and subjects and teachings that strike at the very core of what Christianity is. No, it's time to find another church when those are the circumstances.

Gary: I think about Jesus counsel to the seven churches in Revelation one, two and three. Now he wrote to a church in Pergamos. I've been to the ancient city of Pergamos, there in Turkey. And he says there in verse 13, I know you're works, where you dwell, even where Satan's seat is. Pergamos was a place that was really into Satanism. They really worshiped the false gods. In fact, they built the city on top of a high mountain and had beautiful temples up there to get close to God, and they were into serpent worship and all sorts of things.

So he says this is even where Satan' seat is. And you got this church right in the midst of all this corruption. And you hold fast my name. You have not denied my faith, and he goes on. But then he says "But I have a few things against you."

So you got all these good things going for the church. And you might look at your own church and say "Wow, I've got great people in this church I love." But the Lord may have something against our church, he says, because here in Pergamos, "you have them there that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to cast a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit fornication."

I mean, this is pretty serious stuff here.

John: Oh sure.

Gary: And he says, "Unless you repent, I'll come quickly and I'll fight against them with the sword." In other places he says "I'll take your candlestick," I'll take the light away from that church. This question I raised a moment ago. If you're in a church that has really strayed from the Bible, whether it be on this issue of human sexuality or something else, and you've appealed to leadership and you've talked to leadership and then the official delegates of the church are condoning this type of stuff, it's time to come out. The Bible says "Come out of Babylon."

John: No question.

Gary: Because that is a church that is no longer holding up the light, and they're not repenting. They're not changing. I hate to say that but that's the reality.

John: And there is something else, and we need to mention this before we close. The question is, how do I choose or find the right church? You look in Revelation at how the Bible describes the church, keeps the commandments of God and has the testimony of Jesus Christ. I've got to be where I know the commandments of God, the truth of the word of God, is being taught. If God's word, God's law, really representing the written principles of his character, is not being held to, the Bible makes it clear that's no place for me or you.

Gary: We have to find a church, friends, that is teaching the word of God where we can grow in the grace of Christ, we can learn the Bible more and we can live our lives faithfully for Jesus Christ.

John: Thank you for being with us this time. We hope you will join us again for more right here on Bible Talk. [music]

John: If you'd like more information on what we've been studying today, we have a comprehensive Bible study guide we'd love to share with you that's absolutely free. This study includes many of the texts we've just discussed and expands on the subject, including information you will want to know. To receive this free, informative Bible study guide, simply call, write, or email and ask for "Angel Messages from Outer Space." The toll free number is 866-BIBLE SAYS, that's 866-242-5372. You can write to us at Bible Talk, P.O. Box 1058, Roseville, California, 95678. That's P.O. Box 1058, Roseville, California, 95678. Or email us at bibletalk@amazingfacts.org, bibletalk@amazingfacts.org.

Bible Talk has been produced in association with Amazing Facts in the studios of Life Talk radio.

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