Selecting a Church


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As a believer, you should fellowship with other believers, so that you can grow in faith together, and worship the Lord together (Heb 10:24-25). But which church1 should you attend? Which one is right for you? This is an important issue to address at the outset of your Christian life.

Choosing the right church will have a profound impact on your growth as you start your walk with Christ. I can offer you the easy answer of simply following what I do, and attend the church I that go. However that is not the proper approach to this issue.

To address this issue, we have to look into the question of adding and subtracting.

Adding and subtracting? Listen to what the Bible2 has to say. The Bible sounds out a grave warning, on the very last page of the very last book:

"I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book." Revelation 22:18-19

The above warning pertains to what is written in the book of Revelation, but it is relevant to the issue of choosing the right church. When selecting a church, the proper approach is to choose one whose teachings are rooted in the Bible. To be precise, one that conforms to the teachings in the New Testament, as the primary point of reference, and the Old Testament, as the secondary point of reference, without adding or subtracting from it. Pay attention to the do's and don'ts expressed in the Bible, and observe whether the prospective church follows them closely. This is naturally easier accomplished if you are familiar with the Bible, so I would recommend that you read up, particularly the books of the New Testament.

One of the dangers of living in this present time is that many so-called "modern" churches tend to bend the rules as found in the Bible. To keep up with times, they say. They introduce practices that are not in keeping with the Bible; they allow what the Bible forbids; they disregard biblical warnings; they exist to serve men's desires rather than God's purpose. What they are doing is adding or subtracting from God's orders and commands, ignoring the very warning so clearly expressed in the Bible.

Beware of churches that do things that are "popular" or "practical", but not in keeping with what is taught in the Bible. If we are to believe God, we have to follow what He says, word for word, without adding or subtracting. As an evangelical believer, you must insist that the Bible alone has everything you need for your faith and your walk in Christ. Otherwise, you are going your own way; you are not following God, and you will find yourself in places where God is absent.

What's the church that I attend? I fellowship with other believers at Sungai Nibong Gospel Hall in Penang, Malaysia. You are warmly welcome to fellowship with us if you are in the same location. We are a New Testament Church.

What do I mean, a New Testament Church? We are a company of believers who come together to worship God in ways that have been set forth in the Bible. We express this by following these principles:
  1. Jesus Christ as our head. We remember Him and what He has done for us by meeting weekly for breaking of bread. We do not have an earthly head, in the form of a pastor or bishop. (Ephesians 1:22-23; Colossians 1:18)
  2. We hold on to the unity of all believers. We are all saints, all believers, all Christians. We are not Baptists, not Methodists, or members of any particular denomination. (1Corinthians 1:11-13, 1 Corinthians 12:13, Ephesians 4:4-6)
  3. We are a priesthood of all believers. By that, I mean we don't divide ourselves as clergy and laity. Our worship and ministry are led by the Spirit. (Hebrews 10:19-22)
  4. We regard our local church as God's household, treating each other as brothers or brethren. (Ephesians 2:19)
  5. We upkeep the order established at Creation (Genesis 1:27; 2:22) with specific roles for men and women. One of these is expressed in the wearing of head coverings for women when we meet to remember the Lord during the Lord's Supper. (1 Corinthians 11:3-34)
  6. We follow a divine order in leadership and safety in having not one, but a multitude of counselors. We have elders who oversee in spiritual affairs, and deacons who help in the administration of temporal things. (Titus 1:5-6, Acts 14:23)
  7. We put to work the Great Commission, equipping believers to be witnesses and evangelists, to go forth to spread the Good News. (Matthew 28:19-20) We will go to the ends of the earth to find and seek you out (Acts 1:9), rather than wait for you go come and find us. Even though our assembly is a local church on a small island in Malaysia, we are a springboard in spreading God's Good News to the ends of the earth.
Now back to the first question: which church should I attend? You should attend a church that follows the principles as I have laid out above. As a believer, you should freely check out prospective churches in your neighbourhood. Observe how they conduct themselves. Do they worship God in ways that have been set forth in the Bible, or do they add and subtract according to their own fancy? The local church that observes the principles set forth in the Bible, without adding or subtracting from them, is the one you should attend.

Notes

1 The Bible presents the church from two perspectives, the universal church as seen by God, and the local church or assembly of believers, as seen by men. In this message, I refer to the local church or assembly of believers, within a specific geographic location.

2 When I speak of the Bible, I refer to the one with the 39 books of the Old Testament and the 27 books of the New Testament.

Bible Passages Referenced

Ephesians 1:22-23 God put all things under the authority of Christ and has made him head over all things for the benefit of the church. And the church is his body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself.

Colossians 1:18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.

1 Corinthians 12:13 For we are all baptized by one Spirit into one body - whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free - and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.

Ephesians 4:4-6 There is one body and one Spirit - just as you were called to one hope when you were called - one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

Hebrews 10:19-22 Therefore brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.

Ephesians 2:19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of Gods's household, ...

Genesis 1:27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

Genesis 2:22 Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.

1 Corinthians 11:3-16 But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God. Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head, but every wife who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonorsher head, since it is the same as if her head were shaven.

Titus 1:5-6 The reason I left you in Crete was that you might straighten out what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you. An elder must be blameless, the husband of but one wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient.

Acts 14:23 Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust.

Matthew 28:19-20 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.

Acts 1:9 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.




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