There’s a wonderful gospel song that proclaims, “God’s building a church!” Yes, He certainly is. And YOU are a vital part of what He is doing. But are you in the right church?
Fortunately or unfortunately, the church is made up of people. Broken, hurting, sinful people. The cliché is true: God’s church is a hospital for sinners, not a showcase for saints. Tweet that.
If you’re looking for the perfect church, you’ll have to wait until heaven. When all God’s children are gathered around His throne there won’t be any denominations or brands, any races, any theological differences, or anything else that divides. We will all be enraptured by His glory and grace, and lose sight of everything else including our differences.
Until then, we must use wisdom and godly discernment in knowing which church is to be our home. There are some churches where deadly viruses such as legalism, false teaching, or religious abuse make growing in grace all but impossible. Some people are church hoppers: something happens they don’t like, and they leave. Others stay in an unhealthy or destructive church out of a false sense of loyalty. Neither is God’s plan.
I learned the hard way that it’s God who plants you in a church, not another human being. He does it for three reasons:
- To grow you. Being with other Christians sharpens you, encourages you, and helps you become the person God needs you to be.
- To bless others. God brings others into your life, in part, for you to bless. Leading you to minister to others in a community of faith is part of how He does that.
- To expand His Kingdom. Committed followers of Jesus, banded together, can do much more than any one person alone. Each group of believers has a particular job in their town, in their region, and in the world.
So how do you know if you’re in the church that God wants you in? Sometimes it’s simply a knowing in your soul. But here are some elements that are present in a healthy church where God is present:
- The Bible is honored and taught. The Bible is respected as the Word of God, and its teachings are respected as relevant for today. Preaching and teaching in the church are based on the Bible. Members of the church are helped to know, understand, and apply the Bible in their lives.
- God is worshiped. That may seem automatic, but it’s not. Some churches present lively entertainment, but God’s presence is not sought. God will show up when His children seek HIM, not a social experience. When God shows up there’s a sense of aliveness that you can feel.
- People are growing. God takes each of us as we are, but He works in our lives to change us to be more, to transform us into His likeness. A healthy church fosters that same process: sinners are welcomed, and then helped to grow into healthy followers of Jesus.
- Outward focused. Helping those inside the church is good, but it’s not enough. God’s Kingdom by nature is expanding. A healthy church has a sense of mission, reaching beyond their 4 walls to bring God’s Kingdom to others in their town, region, or the world. (See Matthew 28:19,20)
- Free of toxic religion. Authoritarian control, severe legalism, cheap grace – these are a few symptoms of ungodly spirituality. A healthy church fosters the same response the Holy Spirit does: people are challenged but not beaten up, convicted but not condemned.
There are different brands of Christian expression, different groups of God’s children gathering together to grow and to advance His Kingdom. Jesus’ desire is that all of His children grow closer together in becoming one body. (John 17:22,23)
I pray you are planted in a growing, healthy church. If not, don’t let other people’s opinion stop you from prayerfully searching for the place God wants you to grow and thrive.
Your Turn: What do you look for in a healthy church? Do you believe God has planted you in a church? Leave a comment below.
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- Not every church is healthy. Here’s what a healthy church looks like. Tweet that.
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