…. they were unschooled, ordinary men …. they had been with Jesus …. the crippled man healed standing with them – Acts 4:13,14
Dear bro Bao 寶弟兄,
Its great to see you regularly coming to church and home group, and getting to know new friends, that’s wonderful 🙂 Happy for you.
Heard that a good friend of yours has invited you to join his church. I guess you probably feel torn between loyalty to your friend and continuing to worship in the church you are attending. Maybe … it may be good to visit your friend’s church once, and see what it is like. That may also give you an opportunity to see what church is like somewhere else. We can always learn from others.
No church is perfect though. Someone once said that if we find a perfect church, after we join in … our imperfections will make the church imperfect 🙂
Just maybe …. after visiting your friend’s church you may like it.
So how do we decide which church to go to ?
Besides praying to God to lead us, here’s some thoughts:
In the Gospels, Jesus taught on the Kingdom of God, rather than the church. Jesus spoke about the Kingdom of God many times, he only used the word ‘church’ twice. Hence, its always good to keep the big picture, i.e. His Kingdom come, His Will be done.
Presence of Jesus & God’s word
A church will have the presence of Jesus present, and tangible fruit of God working and God answering prayer.
God’s word and the good news of Jesus and his kingdom is shared, taught and lived out.
Matthew 18:19-20 (NIV)
“Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”
The Greek word for ‘agree‘ in this verse is symphōneō,
to be harmonious (Strong), … from which the English word ‘symphony’ is derived from,
A harmonious expression of love, through diversity & variety.
It is interesting to note that church is not a building, but a gathering of God’s people in as small a group as 2 or 3. Its not a location, but a gathering in agreement.
When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.
… And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit … (Acts 2:1,4 NKJV)
The presence of Jesus implies:
* Knowing Him is the passion.
* His Word is the foundation.
* His Spirit is the inspiration.
* His power is the restoration of lives.
* His character is the fruit.
* His kingdom come, His will be done is the prayer
* His love, mercy & compassion is the service.
* Making Him known is the vision.
* Making disciples is the call.
* Lives transformed by His Spirit & Word.
* The fruit of the Spirit & the fruit of wisdom is the way of life & relationships (Galatians 5:22,23, James 3:17,18)
* He is the head of the church, in all things He takes preeminence (Colossians 1:18)
* The service/ministry, activities, worship, & sermon message
is focused & centered on Jesus.
Revelations 19:10 (KJV, NIV)
.. worship God.
For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.
.. Worship God!
The Spirit of prophecy tells the truth about Jesus.
Colossians 1:18 (NIV)
And he is the head of the body, the church; …
1 Corinthians 3:11 (NIV)
11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.
Presence of the Father’s love in a caring community, family
1 John 4:8 (NIV)
Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.
John 13:35 (NIV)
By this everyone will know that you are my disciples,
if you love one another.
1 Corinthians 13:2 (MSG)
If I speak God’s Word with power,
revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day,
and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps,
but I don’t love,
The hallmark of followers/disciples of Jesus
is not … great knowledge … or great faith,
its great love for one another.
A church is a loving community, a caring family of honor, respect & integrity, which reflects God the Father. A people who genuinely care about others,
Philippians 2:2-4 (NIV, MSG)
2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.
Agree with each other, love each other
being one in spirit and of one mind.
… in humility value others above yourselves
lend a helping hand.
In life, all of us go through ups and downs, and at various times we need … an encouraging word … a listening ear … a warm touch, a hug … an honest, earnest prayer … a practical helping hand … a cup of water … a family we can always run to.
Matthew 10:42 (NASB)
And whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you, he shall not lose his reward.
Do we feel part of a loving, caring, supportive and patient family ?
Are others who may be ‘different‘ welcomed and honored at church?
Are new people coming to know Jesus through the people of the church?
Do the people in the church care, and are concerned
for those inside, and also others outside the church?
Galatians 3:8,9 (NLT)
8 What’s more, the Scriptures looked forward to this time when God would declare the Gentiles to be righteous because of their faith. God proclaimed this good news to Abraham long ago when he said,
“All nations will be blessed through you.”
9 So all who put their faith in Christ share the same blessing Abraham received because of his faith.
Presence of the fruit of the Holy Spirit
Are we growing and bearing fruit ?
After attending a church for sometime, what is the fruit of the church’s ministry in our life ?
Are we praying to God more ?
Are we reading God’s Word more and knowing Him more ?
Is the fruit of the Spirit growing in our life ?
Are we enjoying our walk with Jesus ?
Are we more grateful for what Jesus has done ?
Are we growing and changing to be more like Jesus ?
Are we more compassionate and caring towards those in need ?
Do we have a desire to share Jesus with others ?
Are we learning to listen to Jesus and be led by Him ?
Are we learning to trust Jesus more ?
Are we helping others ?
Are we leading others to Jesus?
2 Cor 3:2-3 (NIV)
You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone.
You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.
John 15:5 (NIV)
“I am the vine; you are the branches.
If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit;
apart from me you can do nothing.
By abiding in Jesus, we bear His fruit.
There is a huge diversity of natural fruit in the world, some which we have not seen or tasted before. And some like the durian may smell different and look thorny, but inside its full of flavor to some. So is the church. The body of Christ is blessed with diverse ministries and gifts producing a rich bouquet of fruitful blessings to others for the glory of God.
One of my friends once shared that looking for a church, is like looking for a good school for our children, … so that, in the right soil one flourishes in a wholesome well-rounded way.
However, … time at church or christian activities/ministries … is no substitute for our daily time with Jesus.
Yes … when we are growing in the right soil … fruit will naturally soon develop … serving and giving will naturally overflow out of us to the church and the community around, through a heart of gratitude and joy. And out of that, even more fruitfulness.
Church is the presence of imperfect, broken people like you & me, gracious worshipers touched and restored by the grace of God. Imperfect offerings.
Church is about people with a blessed hope, … not a place or a building or a location.
Christ shed His blood for broken people, people with needs … not for a building or an organisation.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened,
and I will give you rest.
(Matthew 11:28 (NIV)
It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.
I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.
(Mark 2:7 NIV)”
Wherever He entered villages, or cities, or countryside, they were laying the sick in the market places, and imploring Him that they might just touch the fringe of His cloak; and as many as touched it were being cured. (Mark 6:56 NASB)
Church is a gathering of imperfect, broken people who desire to touch God’s presence and be restored & transformed by His Spirit & Truth to be more like Jesus, … a sanctuary. In a sense,
Church is like a hospital restoring people in need, … like the good samaritan & innkeeper.
Church is like a school discipling, mentoring others to be more like Jesus, bringing out the best of one another.
Church is like family, … where prodigal sons can return to the love & welcome of the Father, … where lost sheep are found
A loving, caring, serving fellowship where one can be real, … safe to open up and share with others, … lend a helping hand.
Everyone can freely come in, with none out of place or prejudiced; … Everyone reconciled, accepted, loved,
… human walls melt away, relationships restored, reconciled as His love overflows our hearts to bless others.
As demonstrated in Jesus’ life … the woman caught in adultery, …. greedy, cheating, dishonest chief tax collector Zacchaeus, .. the Samaritan woman at the well …. All are invited to partake of the New Covenant in His blood and His Body
… even Judas who later betrayed Jesus , … he was at the last supper,
… all are welcomed to come,
like a city of refuge.
People, gathered with overflowing thankfulness, worshipping the Lord,
honoring His word and His name.
Nations, tongues and tribes.
In the book of Revelation, the Lord asked John to count the number of worshipers in the Temple.
Revelations 11:1 (NLT)
Then I was given a measuring stick, and I was told, “Go and measure the Temple of God and the altar, and count the number of worshipers.
Let’s go to church to worship Him, and offer spiritual sacrifices that please God (1 Peter 2:5)
In reality, the church in the New Testament was also not perfect, … (like most marriages),
When we look at the 12 disciples of Jesus, … there were moments they argued with each other as to ‘who was the greatest‘, … and one of them even betrayed the rest.
In Jesus toughest moment, … they scattered.
Jesus still loved each and every one, … unconditionally.
At the beginning of the church in Acts, there was a couple who lied to the Holy Spirit (Acts 5), and another believer who wanted to buy the power of God from the apostles (Acts 8). Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church dealt with a series of untidy issues in the church. John spoke about a domineering church leader in his third letter.
Though love hurts, … love may end in disappointment,
He has personally been there too.
Let’s keep our eyes on Jesus,
and continue to love, serve & bless others,
Love, bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never gives up on people. It never stops trusting, never loses hope, and never quits
Love: Puts up with anything, Trusts God always, Always looks for the best, Never looks back, But keeps going to the end.
1 Corinthians 13:7 (NASB, ERV, MSG)
Ultimately, may we all … individually grow into people who become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 4:13 NIV)
who bring the ministry of reconciliation —
the presence of Jesus,
the love of the Father,
& the fruit of the Holy Spirit,
into our little part of the world in which we live in everyday.
Be blessed, and be filled with the Holy Spirit.
2 Thessalonians 3:16 (NIV)
Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you.
bro Lim 林弟兄