September 21, 2011

The One About Visiting Churches

I need to start by saying that everything I'm about to say is my own impression. I'm not trying to make any statement about the people who attend these churches. Just to be clear.

One of the problems about visiting churches is making sure you've given yourself enough time to really get a "feel" for it. That's why we have visited several churches multiple times, even when the first time we weren't really impressed.

And yes, I believe "impressed" is the right word, if you let me give it some context. I don't mean "impressed" as in studio-quality musicians, concert-esque atmosphere or any other tricks or gimmicks. I mean, we were looking for an obvious love for the community, genuine, dynamic worship, and above all, solid biblical teaching. Ultimately, of course, it's a matter of where the Holy Spirit leads you, but most or all of those elements are usually present.

Yes, we have high standards. I mean, this is our church family we're talking about.

I was blessed to grow up in a church like that. And in Georgia, we found a church like that thanks to a good friend.

Here, so far, it's been a bit more difficult to come by.

All the churches we've visited have had two things in common. First, they were very, very friendly. But that's pretty typical for El Paso. Everyone we've met has been open and welcoming.

The other thing is, they've all had very, very shallow teaching. And that's a big problem for us.

There was nothing specifically offensive in any of the messages we heard. Except for the fact that most of them had big gaping holes. Lots of half-truths and glossed-over explanations. Anything that might be the slightest bit uncomfortable is ignored.

I know it's popular in certain evangelical movements now to remove words like "sin," "Hell," "judgment," "lost,""sanctification," and other "harsh" words from the church lexicon. But it's not only wrong, it's dangerous. It's like being afraid to wake someone up because you know they'll be disgruntled - even though the roof is burning over their heads. And you can tell that most of the churches we visited follow this model.

Jesus doesn't save you from your sin, apparently. He "brings you out of bad situations." He "helps you with your character flaws." "He "empowers you to break bad habits." At least, that's what the churches we have visited have said.

I can say with certainty that a member of any Christian cult - any cult group that claims the foundations of Christianity but does not actually contain the true Gospel - could sit through any of those services and walk away unblushingly.

That, my friends, is wrong. Very, very wrong.

I understand, churches want people in church. They want people to come and be healed, see their families restored, see the communities thrive. Those are good things, and should be part of any church body. But that's not why Jesus created the Church.

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" And they said, "Some say John the Baptist; others, Elijah; still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets."
"But you," He asked them, "who do you say that I am?"
Simon Peter answered, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God!"
And Jesus responded, "Simon son of Jonah, you are blessed because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, a pebble, and on this bedrock I will build My church, and the forces of Hades will not overpower it."

There's a lot to get into in that brief passage, but quickly: Jesus told us both why and how He established His Church. Jesus asked Peter who Peter thought He truly was. Peter answered (by revelation from the Holy Spirit) that Jesus was the Messiah. Jesus said that on that foundation, that He was the Messiah as testified by Peter, He would build His church (not on Peter himself), and the forces of Hades (or Hell, or Satan) would never overcome it.

[insert side reference about how the Church Jesus established has never since vanished from the earth or gone into apostasy, a broader topic for another time.]

The Church wasn't established to give people "their best lives now" (and if it was, judging by the lives of the Apostles, it failed miserably - see Heb. 11:35-40). Jesus established the Church so that the Church would be empowered to tell the world who He was: the Messiah, and why he came: "She will give birth to a son, and you are to name Him Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins." (Matthew 1:21; also see Acts 2)

That's what we're still looking for. A place that loves people by speaking the truth. For us, that's worth waiting for.

10 comments:

  1. I totally understand... it took us 6mo to find our church home in Maryland and 4mo here... it's crazy how churches are "glossing over" the Bible!

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  2. My husband and I are in the middle of searching for the right church for us. I can totally understand. We've been looking for a few months already and having Harper makes it a little bit tougher but we're still looking.

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  3. I hope you find your church home soon. What church did you go to here in Georgia?

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  4. I'm right there with you. The chaplaincy is a microcosim of the American culture and it is drowning in "feel-good-Christianity". At least my husband gets to preach now so it's better but lately I am dying to escape to a church that has more meat and less milk. But this is where God has put us so... (sigh) Perseverance! Here's where I would go if was in your shoes. http://www.ctkpca.com/

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  5. Oh I know how frustrating it is! Keep looking, God is faithful. He has a plan. It could be that He is preparing the way for you by teaching you patience and sharpening your eyes and ears a bit. I do hope you find something very soon though.

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  6. Are there any PCA churches in El Paso? We're Presbyterian now. The theology is deep. I'm sure you'll be so thankful when you finally find a great church.

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  7. Have you tried Cielo Vista Church on Montana?

    We never found a church in WA that we liked, at all. But we absolutely adore attending CVC here in El Paso! It is spectacular.

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  8. I have lived here for a total of 5 years and I still have not found a "home" church.

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