“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son,
that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” – John 3:16

5.4 Finding a Church

Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking 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. – Hebrews 10:24-25

The Church Which Christ Founded. First, the title for this chapter isn’t technically correct, although I’m using it here because that is the terminology most people are familiar with. But this chapter should be more accurately titled “Finding a Local Congregation.” As Bruce Eubank says [4]: “We don’t go to church, for we are the Church (the people of God) – we go to worship,” and we go for Bible study. Additionally, the building where the local congregation gathers is just that: a building; it has no significance in and of itself before God. In fact, the early Church often met in their homes, which is still the case in some places of the world even today. So now, let us focus on the true Christian Church which Jesus founded.

There is only one worldwide non-denominational body of believers in Christ named in Scripture as the “Church of God” or the “Church of Christ,” and it was established by Christ, not by men. The church is also referred to as the “bride of Christ.” The church began on the day of Pentecost when the Spirit was poured out on the apostles and the believers with them. The “Church of Christ” has local gatherings/meeting places in each city, town, or locale as appropriate and warranted. The sectarian and denominational divisions we see in churches today are not biblical! The book by H. M. Riggle called The Christian Church, Its Rise and Progress is well worth reading.

Jesus prayed expressly for unity among believers, and yet, the myriad beliefs, “traditions,” and false teachings of man have only led to endless division:

“I am no longer in the world; and yet they themselves are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep them in Your name, the name which You have given Me, that they may be one even as We are

“For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth…

“I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.” – John 17:11,19-21

A true “Church of Christ” will have the following characteristics:

  • They will simply be called by the name given in Scripture, which is the “Church of God” or the “Church of Christ,” usually prefixed with the town or locale name (which is fine) – although beware, see the notes later about the “Church of God” name that has been co-opted today). If you’re in one of the “modern” so-called “Christian” churches which go by any other name, or in one of the endless flavors of denominations today (e.g., Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic, etc.), you are not in the church that Jesus founded, but you are in an imposter church, a fake Christian church, and you are not worshipping the Lord “in spirit and in truth,”
  • They will be free from every single false teaching identified in this book (amazing!),
  • They will meet on the Lord’s day, the first day of the week, which is Sunday (so beware the “Sabbath Keeping” false teaching),
  • They will hold services in the manner prescribed in the New Testament, with only a cappella singing by members in worship – they will not consider worship as performance entertainment or an “experience,” nor include musical instruments, singing groups, or solos performed for an audience, dancing around as the heathens do, yelling, shouting, etc.
  • The church (and its elders, preachers, and teachers) should sincerely love God. You can usually tell whether this is so by simply watching how they act, their behavior and demeanor, etc. The “fruit of the Spirit,” which is “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control,” should be evident,
  • They should have elder(s) which are in accord with Scriptural qualifications and instructions (Note: I’m noticing that many Church of Christ locations today simply don’t have any elders, as they are unable to find any qualified men. This, I think, probably reflects on the state of Christianity in recent times.),
  • They should read, teach and preach the Word of God in an expositional manner at every service and not just use Jesus and the Bible as a prop behind them on stage while they tell cutesy stories of how good your life will be and how rich and successful Jesus will make you (and them),
  • They should get the Gospel message correct “that was once for all time handed down to the saints” in Scripture, free from the false teachings of man,
  • They will be active in faith and service to the Lord,
  • They will conduct baptisms, done by immersion in accordance with New Testament Scripture, on the very same day someone comes to faith in Christ by hearing the gospel “message of truth” (not days, weeks, months, or even years afterwards),
  • They will train up their members to be growing and maturing in faith, for we are admonished to always be “growing in the grace and knowledge of the Lord,”
  • They should be exercising biblical discipline with their members, and they will also lovingly admonish, teach and correct members who are going astray,
  • They will show no personal favoritism due to appearances, status in the community, wealth, etc.,
  • They are solely focused on building the Kingdom of God, not on the politics of this world,
  • They may take up a free-will offering from members according to the heart of the individual believer – constant church “begging” for money is not in the Bible. To a Christian, the Spirit of God should move you to contribute financially as you are led to of a glad, cheerful, and thankful heart,
  • They should conduct regular prayer meetings,
  • They should practice communion (Breaking of Bread, the Lord’s Supper) each Lord’s day (Sunday) in remembrance of Christ,
  • They should conduct services in an orderly and organized manner, not with wild yelling, shouting, dancing around hysterically or with emotional audio-visual stimulations, etc. (see 1 Corinthians 14:40),
  • They should not have women in positions of leadership or teaching over men, but in all other aspects, women are fully equal with men,
  • They will have a heart for the lost and be a light to the community around them (if your church is surrounded by a sea of the lost but you are not seeing frequent baptisms, it may be a sign that their evangelism and outreach is not where it should be),
  • They should welcome and love all who come, no matter what sins those people are (or have been) involved in,
  • They do not establish man-made positions and titles nor elevate men in a hierarchy of leadership which is not in agreement with New Testament Scripture (see Matthew 23:5-12). [1]

Generally, if you are new to an area, you can search the Internet for the name of your town/city along with the words “Church of Christ” (e.g., “Medford Church of Christ”). That can help you find ones that are nearby but be sure to do proper diligence on any church, whether it has those words in the title or not. Be very aware that many so-called “Christian” churches, which even use the name of Jesus or Christ in their names, are not true Christian churches! Also, beware that those who now go by the name “Church of God” may not be the true church, as that name (while biblical) has been co-opted and corrupted.

If you desire to worship the Lord “in spirit and truth” (John 4:24), you will need to come out of the fake “Christian” churches which teach any of the false teachings outlined in this book (Revelation 18:4); see the Beware the Wolves chapter on how far and wide false teachings pervade the so-called “reformed,” modern, or liberal churches today. Oftentimes (but not always), their false teachings will be documented as part of their foundational statement of faith – but you have to make sure you find and read it. Many of the cults and sects go to great lengths to actually hide their foundational beliefs from you! Furthermore, churches that place man’s writings on equal footing with Scripture or rely on “false prophets” with new “special revelations from God” are to be avoided. Also, if your church describes its service as an “experience,” run away as fast as you can.

Additionally, nearly all Christian churches today fail to conduct services in accordance with New Testament instructions. Wayne Jackson writes: [2]

Is Your Worship Becoming Disney Church?

There was a time in most churches when the services were focused upon worship that glorified God, and the preaching consisted of reverent instruction from the Scriptures. In some places, it’s still that way.

On the other hand, drastic changes are underway in hundreds of churches across the land…

In a word, “worship” services have become “us-centered,” rather than “God-centered.”

Would you rather have your Sundays free to camp, play golf, or visit with family? Fine, we’ll implement a “quickie,” convenience-service for you at some other time so your conscience will be mollified, and you can enjoy your weekends. A news program featured one group that offers a Sunday drive-through communion to accommodate those who prefer not to get out of the car on their way to the beach, etc.!

Do you find the Lord’s supper too musty with tradition? Hey, that can be fixed. How about some Coke? One minister has written that he has no problem with Coca-Cola on the Lord’s table. Why not make it a bit more sophisticated and have Dr. Pepper? Many feel we need not be manacled to a beverage that was voguish in Palestine twenty centuries ago!

Are the old songs boring? Are you sick of “Rock of Ages” and “Amazing Grace”? We understand. We’ll jazz it up for you. How about: “Me and Jesus – Got Our Own Thing Going”? Let’s get rhythm—with some hand-clapping, foot-stomping, swaying, get-with-it gospel boogie. Fan those emotions!

Tired of being “preached to”? How would you like some “sharing” sessions where everyone can relate their personal experiences, air their frustrations, and share their “opinions” on a variety of topics? We could talk about unsafe conditions on the job, how to control your weight, dysfunctional sexual problems, how to take advantage of tax laws, etc.

After all, this is the practical side of life. Great therapy!

Do references to “sin” and “repentance” turn you off? Okay, we can restrict ourselves to sessions on self-esteem, how to have healing in your life for emotional distress, skills in effective conversation, and so on.

The Christian Chronicle (1999) tells of an Alabama church that uses videos of the “Andy Griffith Show” as a part of their Sunday school curriculum. They spend the first portion of the class watching Andy and Barney, and then talk about moral lessons learned from the episodes.

Have we totally forgotten there is a book called the Bible that is the most exciting volume in the world? It is from Heaven—not Hollywood.

The “new church” for the coming millennium in many cases may well be a “Disney Church,” (i.e., entertainment-oriented). Snap, crackle, and pop. Feel good, laid back, play it cool. A church in Amarillo, Texas has what they call a “casual” dress, “high energy” Sunday morning service, with lots of “testimonies.” Do you dig it, dude? They claim eight hundred members—three hundred of whom have been baptized! (Can you do math?)

Is this what God intended? Such “worship” ideology is as far from the New Testament pattern as it could be. It is what an inspired apostle called “will-worship” (Col. 2:23), and it’s carnal to the core.

Spiritual people will make God and his Word the center of their worship life.

Furthermore, the modern practice of having one person acting as the church leader with the title of “Pastor,” also isn’t Biblical. Wayne Jackson writes on this: [3]

The modern-day “pastor” system is as much a departure from the New Testament pattern of church organization as is an ecclesiastical hierarchy. No one man can assume the role of “the pastor,” whether by title or by practice, for a congregation. Neither can a congregation delegate one man to be the sole church manager, regardless of the unanimity of vote or the crises at hand.

Whew…I hope you are starting to see the difficulty in finding a true church! You may have noticed that I didn’t list finding a church as the first step you should take as a new Christian. The most important thing you must do when you are born again is to start reading, understanding, and memorizing Scripture. If you do not know (extremely well) the gospel “that was once for all time handed down to the saints” in New Testament Scripture, you won’t be able to recognize the churches and false teachings which can lead you astray, and you will very likely end up in an apostate, “lukewarm,” “dead” church and not even realize it. “Wolves in sheep’s clothing” abound in all directions as far as the eye can see!

You will also find that if you start to eliminate churches one by one if they contain the false teachings identified in this book, you will soon end up with only one church left to choose from: which is the true “Church of Christ”! Amazing! Now some may accuse me of writing this book (and the false teachings) to lead directly to that result because I (now) belong to that church. But nothing could be further from the truth. In actuality, I didn’t even have a church for many years, and all the way up until the 2nd draft of this book was completed, and I left this chapter blank the whole time because I didn’t even know what to put in it! I had given up trying to find a church because no matter where I looked or which church I tried, I found that it was full of false teachings, and I would therefore not become a member of it. I knew that Scripture exhorted me to “not forsake assembling together,” but I couldn’t find a single church without false teachings.

I tried to force myself to keep going to some of the churches, but I just couldn’t sit there while they preached nonsense. It wasn’t until I was nearly finished with this book that I found the local “Church of Christ” – and I was then able to write this chapter to finish the book. Frankly, I was astonished that I had finally found a church that didn’t have even one single false teaching! I didn’t think such a church existed anywhere – and I had pretty much given up trying to find one! I don’t know why it worked this way with me, but it is written that God “works in mysterious ways” (Isaiah 45:15) and that “as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9) So, amen and amen!

I’ve included the instructions (praise and admonitions) to the churches from the book of Revelation at the end of this chapter. These instructions were written to real literal churches that existed when John wrote the book of Revelation; they are not prophecies mapped to “historical periods” of church history as many falsely teach/claim. These verses contain a wealth of information for the born-again Christian on exactly what Christ expects from the churches (and believers) who call on His name. These instructions apply equally to churches (and believers) in every age – including today. We can learn much from what Christ says to each of the churches and take great heed, for there is a little (or a lot) of each church in each one of us individually. If you find that any of Christ’s admonitions to the churches apply to your church or to yourself, pay close attention and strive to correct that. We must be constantly watchful and wary of straying out of the path to eternal life.

FALSE TEACHING(S) YOU WILL ENCOUNTER:

RELATED SCRIPTURE:

…and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking 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. – Hebrews 10:24-25

Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality. – Romans 12:9-13

Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing. – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

Iron sharpens iron,
So one man sharpens another. – Proverbs 27:17

And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ. – Ephesians 4:11-12

Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. – Colossians 3:16

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. – 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. – Hebrews 3:13

Without consultation, plans are frustrated,
But with many counselors they succeed. – Proverbs 15:22

And He summoned the twelve and began to send them out in pairs… – Mark 6:7

Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves. – Romans 15:1

For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes. – 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 [Note: Communion, Breaking of Bread, or the Lord’s supper]

Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread [communion, or the Lord’s supper] from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. – Acts 2:46-47a

Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed. – 2 Corinthians 9:6-8 [Note: relates to church giving]

But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men; for they broaden their phylacteries and lengthen the tassels of their garments. They love the place of honor at banquets and the chief seats in the synagogues, and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called Rabbi by men. But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ. But the greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted. – Matthew 23:5-12 [Note: this speaks to establishing titles, such as “Father,” “Reverend”, etc. in the church.]

“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write:

The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the One who walks among the seven golden lampstands, says this:

‘I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent. Yet this you do have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God.’” – Revelation 2:1-7

“And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write:

The first and the last, who was dead, and has come to life, says this:

‘I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich), and the blasphemy by those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death.’” – Revelation 2:8-11

“And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write:

The One who has the sharp two-edged sword says this:

‘I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is; and you hold fast My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days of Antipas, My witness, My faithful one, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. But I have a few things against you, because you have there some who hold the teaching of Balaam, who kept teaching Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit acts of immorality. So you also have some who in the same way hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Therefore repent; or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of My mouth. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, to him I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it.’” – Revelation 2:12-17

“And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write:

The Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet are like burnished bronze, says this:

‘I know your deeds, and your love and faith and service and perseverance, and that your deeds of late are greater than at first. But I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and leads My bond-servants astray so that they commit acts of immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. I gave her time to repent, and she does not want to repent of her immorality. Behold, I will throw her on a bed of sickness, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of her deeds. And I will kill her children with pestilence, and all the churches will know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts; and I will give to each one of you according to your deeds. But I say to you, the rest who are in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not known the deep things of Satan, as they call them—I place no other burden on you. Nevertheless what you have, hold fast until I come. He who overcomes, and he who keeps My deeds until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations; and he shall rule them with a rod of iron, as the vessels of the potter are broken to pieces, as I also have received authority from My Father; and I will give him the morning star. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’” – Revelation 2:18-29

“To the angel of the church in Sardis write:

He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars, says this:

‘I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die; for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God. So remember what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent. Therefore if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you. But you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their garments; and they will walk with Me in white, for they are worthy. He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’” – Revelation 3:1-6

“And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write:

He who is holy, who is true, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, and who shuts and no one opens, says this:

‘I know your deeds. Behold, I have put before you an open door which no one can shut, because you have a little power, and have kept My word, and have not denied My name. Behold, I will cause those of the synagogue of Satan, who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie—I will make them come and bow down at your feet, and make them know that I have loved you. Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. I am coming quickly; hold fast what you have, so that no one will take your crown. He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he will not go out from it anymore; and I will write on him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God, and My new name. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’” – Revelation 3:7-13

“To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:

The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God, says this:

‘I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth. Because you say, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me. He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’” – Revelation 3:14-22

[1] Jackson, Wayne. “Are Preachers To Be Called “Reverend”?” ChristianCourier.com. Access date: April 26, 2020. https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/579-are-preachers-to-be-called-reverend
[2] Jackson, Wayne. “Is Your Worship Becoming Disney Church?” ChristianCourier.com. Access date: February 22, 2021. https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/92-is-your-worship-becoming-disney-church
[3] Jackson, Jason. “What Is a Pastor?” ChristianCourier.com. Access date: March 27, 2021. https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/1178-what-is-a-pastor
[4] Bruce Eubank, Preacher, South Valley Church of Christ, Las Vegas.

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