Thursday, May 21, 2009

Church Shopping?

Currently I’m leading my staff and my deacons through the little book What is a Healthy Church Member? by Thabiti Anyabwile. That book is the follow-up to Mark Dever’s What is a Healthy Church? Together these two short yet insightful reads provide a primer for core principles of ecclesiology. In Dever’s book there are quick tips for how to find a good church (page 79) and I thought a summary here would be helpful.

Dever advises those who are looking for a good church to of course begin with prayer and then to seek counsel from another pastor. I’ll admit that often by the time I first meet those desiring membership they’ve already made up their minds. I try to sit down and discuss membership expectations but I have to wonder if it really gets through when they have already determined they want to join because of social or convenience reasons (which is often the case).

Next Dever reminds people to keep their priorities straight. Is the gospel truly and clearly affirmed, preached, and lived out in the church you’re considering? What is the quality of the preaching? I’m not talking about the preacher’s eloquence, humor, or visual-aids. Good preaching is expositional. It is faithful to the Scripture, personally challenging, and central to the congregation’s life. Does the preaching demonstrate that Scripture- God’s Word- is the highest authority in the church? Other important priorities concern the church’s practice and standards for membership, baptism, the Lord’s Supper, church discipline, and decision-making. Make sure these standards and practices are Biblical- not just pragmatic.

Dever challenges people looking for a good church to ask tough diagnostic questions of the potential church. Would you want to find a spouse who has been brought up under this church’s teaching? What picture of Christianity will your children see in this church- something distinct or something a lot like the world? Would you be happy to invite non-Christians to this church? Would the church be loving, welcoming, and yet clearly present the gospel each Sunday? Is the church a place where you could serve and minister as well?

Geography should be a consideration too. It isn’t just about convenience but you do want to be able to be active and invested in your congregation. You also want to invite neighbors to church with you. Dever’s counsel is not only helpful for those looking for a good church, but is also a good self-diagnostic of the church you currently are a member of. How does your church measure up? How can you be part of a resurgence in your church of healthy Biblical principles?

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