A few years ago, my daughter Erica went to church by herself for the first time. She’d just started at Georgia State University and went to visit a church where I knew the pastor.
Since then, she’s married Austin and they’ve moved to a different part of Atlanta and had to find a new church. Again. Lucky for them, I knew a few good options. But not everyone’s dad is a pastor or knows what are the faithful, biblical churches in a given area.
Chances are slim in our transient modern era that an adult Christian will never have to search for a church. Finding a faithful preacher of God’s Word is the key to finding a good church. Brilliant music, kid’s programs and facility won’t cut it if you aren’t fed God’s Word.
And in a season of our culture where we tend to base our decisions on how we feel, I hope this post will challenge you to think about this important issue.
This struck home to me re-reading some posts from one of my favorite blogs – I’m Speaking Truth– written and moderated by a good friend (who blogged anonymously from 2008-2012 so as not to suffer threats to his life and family). IST exposed false teachers. He tried to get people to leave what he calls “pulpit pimps” and the “clubs” for the sake of saving their souls. He names names and says things only a man who was ‘come off the plantation’ could say. He’s still one of my heroes.
Highly recommended reading, especially for my evangelical Anglo brothers and sisters who don’t get out of their theological circles much.
Resources for Finding a (True) Church and a (Reliable) Pastor
So how should one go about finding a true church and a faithful pastor? You shouldn’t just follow the crowd, only take your friend’s advice or pick a church off of an internet list. Listen discerningly to sermons and examine church government and ask about accountability for the pastor(s) and leaders. But let’s focus on the sermon. Here are three clues to help discern.
Clue #1 – Are the sermons from the Bible? Sermons should be from a specific text – a big chunk of Scripture – not just picked out verses that seems to prove a point. If there is a lot of opinion, take note.
And yes, this will require that you, as a Christian, actually read and learn the Bible for yourself. Be a student of Scripture as a disciple of Jesus.
Clue #2 – Does the sermon link to the work of Jesus? Christ Jesus is the central figure of the entire story of the Bible, so if he gets left out or just tacked on, take note.
In one sense, the redeeming, saving work of Jesus IS the message of the Bible. It is essential IN EVERY SERMON. Even sermons preached to Christians. Why? God saves sinners and grows up sinners into mature disciples by faith in the work of Jesus through the Holy Spirit convicting us of our need to change and convincing us the truth and depth of our dependence on Jesus. A sermon without Jesus is an empty shell.
Good sermons talk about both sin and God’s solution. Both the law and grace.
Clue #3 – If the preacher or you personally are the focus of how you feel or think after the sermon, take note.
Two common heresies run rampant in the church today. Moralistic, therapeutic deism (Wikipedia’s page is a good place to start as is Al Mohler’s post here) is super common, as is the Prosperity Gospel (the major topic of I’m Speaking Truth mentioned above.)
Notice, what I did not say.It’s hard but important work to find a true church and a reliable pastor. The church you choose will deeply impact your life. Choose wisely.