Does It Matter What Church I Go To?

Our world is very confused about religion these days. It’s easy to understand why: it’s become “all about me” and what I want. Ask someone about why they go here or there for church and you’ll get different answers. It’s what fits my “lifestyle”. It’s about what speaker appeals to me. About what worship services are like. About whether there are people your age or not. But little if any reference to the truth or what God commands. This leaves most thinking that where you go to church has everything to do with what I like or don’t like, because it really doesn’t matter. But it does matter.

It matters, because not every “church” is the Lord’s church. Claiming things doesn’t make them so. The Lord has described His church and when one reads Acts 2 a few fundamental things become pretty clear. Forgiveness of sins happens at baptism, forgiveness of sins is the essence of being saved, being saved is the requirement to being added to the Lord’s church. Thus, not every group that claims to be the Lord’s church are the Lord’s church. So, it matters, because you may not really be going to church at all.

It matters, also, because not every “church” worships God as God has commanded. Let me use an Old Testament example (an appropriate approach for learning—1 Cor. 10:11), King Jeroboam (1 Kings 12) was Jewish (therefore, part of God’s people) and he worshipped the God of Israel (good), but he did so through idols, through a different priesthood, with different holy days, and in different places than required. These differences were know in the rest of the Old Testament history as the “sins of Jeroboam”. Some groups that have actually been saved (are God’s people), are worshipping the Lord (as they should), but are nevertheless not worshipping the Lord as He has commanded (like Jeroboam). Some churches use musical instruments (see Eph. 5:19), let women lead in mixed worship (see 1 Cor. 14:34), or fail to partake of communion weekly (see Acts 20:7). Pleasing worship makes a difference to God, and it should also make a difference to us. Should a Christian worship like a modern Jeroboam? It matters to God.

It matters, lastly, because God intends to take only His church to Heaven. Jesus said, (Matthew 7:13, 14) ““Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” It matters if you want to get to Heaven.

Rather than attending the church of your choice, why not worship with the church of Christ’s choice?

Advertisements

About parklinscomb

I'm a minister for the church of Christ in Manchester NH where I've worked since the 1970's. I'm a big fan of my family, archaeology, the Bible, the Lord's church, and Gander Brook Christian Camp.
This entry was posted in Bible commentary, Christianity, Church Growth, New Testament and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

39 Responses to Does It Matter What Church I Go To?

  1. Jamie Carter says:

    The Samaritans weren’t very different, they worshiped God on a whole other mountain in a whole other temple. Yet Jesus told the woman at the well that a time was coming when people wouldn’t worship like that – but in Spirit and in truth. Somehow Christians have taken a page out of the pharisees’ book, and turned the New Testament teachings into a series of laws they require everyone to obey. But that’s not the spirit of Scripture that Jesus promised us would lead us in the way – but that of the Holy Spirit. He gives gifts as he wills, to men and women alike to strengthen the whole body of his church. Each of us have different parts to play. That means that even women can play a part in teaching in mixed gender groups as we are no longer first century Jews and Gentiles; but a faith community of brothers and sisters in a world striving for equality.

    • parklinscomb says:

      Respectfully, are you saying that “The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says. If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church.” 1 Corinthians 14:34, 35 (NAS95); and “A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.” 1 Timothy 2:11-14 (NAS95) don’t apply to the New Testament church? I didn’t notice a time or era limit in the texts or contexts. Could you explain?

      • Jamie Carter says:

        For the same reason 1 Corinthians 11’s first half doesn’t apply. They’re culturally-anchored teachings, to keep women from the various cults who were priestesses from teaching false doctrines until they had correctly learned and understood Christian teachings. Same thing happens even these days, when a preacher switches denominations, he doesn’t just preach out of his old denomination’s text-book, but he’s silent, learning what to say, and then he teaches it.

      • parklinscomb says:

        There are a couple things to note in connection with your suggested understanding of these passages. First, if Paul intended to exclude pagan priestesses from speaking publicly, why not mention the pagan priests (men), too? Why didn’t he specify pagan priestesses. The way he expresses it twice restricts Jewish women as well as pagan priestesses. Second, Paul says women should speak in public mixed gender assemblies as the Law also says. This refers to the Genesis account of the curse upon Eve for her part in the first sin in which women were both to submit to men and suffer pain in childbirth. This command to submit is no more limited to time or eras than pain in childbirth. Third, while the wearing of a covering on the head of a woman was indeed cultural, it is on the basis of statements made in the context. The section of 1 Cor. 11 which sets out the divine order (God over Christ and man over woman) is absolutely timeless–not as superior or inferior beings (God and Christ are equal, see Php. 2:5ff) but as roles that need to be fulfilled. All these things considered, your suggested understandings of these passages do not seem to be founded on the text, God’s principles, or even good history.

      • Jamie Carter says:

        Who says that just because it isn’t written, that he didn’t say it in their presence? Perhaps he specifically said it, but failed to mention the same rule applied of women, so when somebody asked him he wrote that it did.
        The Law is always short for Law of Moses, i.e. ten commandments and temple worship system laws. There’s no such Law in the Old Testament that says that women must not speak nor is there one that requires the submission of women to their husbands. Though odds are good you’d find such a thing in the Talmud.
        Why is it that the divine order didn’t exist in the OT? Why did it take the NT for Paul to get around to explaining it? It seems rather an odd thing to say about God given that he’s one and the same being as Father and as Christ and as the Holy Spirit who has gone missing from said divine order.

      • parklinscomb says:

        Thanks for thinking this through with me, Jamie. Respectfully, your first point about Paul’s “omission” is speculation. Moreover, it’s hard to believe that he would have made the same omission twice (1 Cor. 14 and 1 Tim. 2). And while it is true that “the Law” refers to Mosaic Law, it is not just the 10 commandments that are referenced. Take for example Matt. 7:12, Matt. 22:40, Luke 16:16, Acts 13:15, and Romans 3:21. “The Law” was short for what many call the Pentateuch and what the Jews call the Torah (i.e., Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy). So, yes, the command of God that women be in submission to men and their husbands is in “the Law” (i.e., Genesis). And finally, yes, the divine order given in 1 Cor. 11 did exist in the OT; Jesus has always been in submission to the Father, and as we see later, the Spirit is in submission to them both (e.g., John 14:26; John 15:26). While God is one, He is also described as three separate entities. This isn’t always easy for the human mind to grasp, but the illustration that works for me is that of marriage in which two have become one.

      • Jamie Carter says:

        Considering all we have of Paul’s teachings, are letters between Paul and various churches, we can’t be entirely certain of what was preached on Sunday if it wasn’t referenced in said letters. Odds are every single iota of Christian teaching was not written down or referred to in such letters. I know that the Didache, for example, was a teaching that didn’t make it into the Bible but was used by the early churches as a stepping stone between Jewish and Gentile Christians and their practices. What do we do with such works? Ignore them as they’re not Biblical? If such a letter contains genuine Christian teachings and we don’t believe in it – then my speculation – that things were taught and not necessarily entered into Biblical record remains to be an extremely likely possibility – in which case we don’t have access to all the instruction that the early believers were given in person by Paul.
        Genesis is regarded as wholly narrative, it’s not like the ten commandments or the instruction Moses gave on the laws of the temple system. There’s a big difference between “One day, God put a Man in the Garden …” and “Thou shalt not …” If you can’t tell the difference between a story and a commandment, then you create laws where none exist. There aren’t any “Thou shalts …” in Genesis 1-3 as it’s a narrative; a description and not a prescription.
        The concerns I have with reading Jesus into God in the Old Testament is that every time God orders a genocide, a plague, or even a battle, Jesus stops being the suffering servant of the New Testament and his voice of compassion is lost by his soverign holiness and all the body count that goes along with it. It’s as odd as using Lord of the Rings to interpret the Hobbit as if Bilbo Baggins were an unchanging being in both stories and was the same from beginning to end. We’re actually quite fortunate that our unchanging God has changed tactics and decided not to genocide us or plague us or raise armies against us into oblivion as he did ages ago. While it is the promise of Revelation, it’s still out of step with the revelation of Jesus as a person distinct from God.

      • parklinscomb says:

        And yet the inspired Paul said, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16, 17, NAS95. And Jesus promised the apostles (and by extension us), “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.” John 16:13, NAS95. While the NT was being written, the church had gifts of prophecy and knowledge, but now we have the completed revelation of God (see 1 Cor. 13:8-10). My short answer with regard to documents like the Didache are that they are interesting but not inspired and authoritative. Just because something was taught doesn’t mean it was truth. Paul wrote extensively about the existence of false prophets even in his own day in the mid first century (e.g., Gal. 1:8,9 to mention only one ref.).

      • And if you view Genesis as strictly narrative, you’ve missed the power of narrative. Paul said, “Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.” 1 Corinthians 10:11, NAS95. The stories of Genesis through Malachi teach by example and occasionally by direct command given to people in the story. As Jesus taught about divorce and remarriage, He cites the first marriage, Adam and Eve, and finds a command in it that must be obeyed. In that sense the story of Adam’s and Eve’s fall teaches and commands something for both men and women.

      • Lastly, the God of the OT is the same God in the NT. Paul urges us to understand the Lord this way, “Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God’s kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off.” Romans 11:22, NAS95. God is both just and merciful all at the same time. His justice is seen in Jesus on the cross taking the punishment that we rightly deserved for our sins (2 Cor. 5:21), but we receive His mercy through Jesus’ substitutionary sacrifice on the cross that satisfies the justice of the Father. Paul puts it this way, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men, but we are made manifest to God; and I hope that we are made manifest also in your consciences.” 2 Corinthians 5:10, 11, NAS95.