Class 21: The Encouragement Place (Part 3)
Today, we are going to continue our study from Letters to Young Black Men titled, “The Encouragement Place” (Part 3).
As we begin this lesson, consider these words from C.S. Lewis: “The perfect church service,would be one we were almost unaware of. Our attention would have been on God.”
In our previous class, we looked at the biblical basis for four reasons why we ought to attend church — (1) Because we are commanded to by God, (2) Because doing so will build up and strengthen our faith, (3) Because it gives us the opportunity and privilege to worship and serve God, and (4) Because it gives us the joy and privilege to exhort others and to be exhorted ourselves.
Let’s begin by reading the portion from Letters to Young Black Men that deals with the final part of this chapter which we will look at today:
When I discuss attending church, I am not talking about going to just any church. Everything that has church on its sign is not necessarily a church. But I don’t have to tell you that. When you look for a church, look for these things:
A. Is the pastor a born-again Christian himself? (I know that may sound strange, but you’ll be surprised.)
B. Are the pastor and teachers preaching and teaching from the Bible as it is written?
C. Does the pastor and church believe and stand on the essentials of the Christian faith? (1) The Virgin Birth of Jesus Christ (2) The Deity of Jesus Christ (that Jesus Christ is God) (3) The Resurrection of Jesus Christ (4) The Second Coming of Jesus Christ (5) and the Infallibility of the Scriptures (that the Bible is truly God’s Word without error).
D. Is it a church that carries out the “Great Commission”? (i.e., tells others about Jesus Christ).
E. No church will be perfect. (And, as they say, if you find the perfect church, once you join it, it won’t be perfect anymore.) No, there is no such thing as a perfect church. But the leaders and people ought to strive by the grace of God to live according to the Bible.
Now, please pull out your printed study guide or your digital study guide as we begin this lesson.
Now that we have determined the necessity of consistently attending a church, quickly note the five things to look for in a church.
- The pastor must be born-again. Paul told the Corinthian believers in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.” Your pastor must be wholeheartedly following Jesus Christ himself or else He will lead you and the church astray.
- The Bible must be preached and taught as it is written. Second Timothy 3:16 says, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” The Bible ought to be the final authority in whatever church you choose to join. No other teaching, no matter how profound or practical, should be placed above the teaching of God’s Holy Word. Be sure to study the Scriptures daily and ask God to give you an understanding of it so that you can know what should be taught in a church setting.
- The church must believe the essentials of the Christian faith. While no two churches will be exactly the same, every true church of the Lord Jesus Christ will hold to these five essentials: (1) The Virgin Birth of Jesus Christ (2) The Deity of Jesus Christ (that Jesus Christ is God) (3) The Resurrection of Jesus Christ (4) The Second Coming of Jesus Christ (5) and the Infallibility of the Scriptures (that the Bible is truly God’s Word without error). Make sure that the church you choose to regularly attend believes these basic principles.
- The church must carry out the Great Commission. In Matthew 28:19-20, Jesus Christ commanded, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” A church is not fulfilling its mission if it is not engaged in the Great Commission.The core purpose of the church is to help the members know Jesus so they can go out and make Him known. Many churches have lost sight of this vision and simply exist to keep the membership comfortable and content. Be sure the church you join has a passion to reach this lost world for Christ. If you are already in a church and sense it has settled for this “sit back and relax” mentality, be the one to stand up and encourage renewed work for God’s purposes.
- The leaders and the people must strive to live according to the Bible. The church you attend should not have a lax attitude toward obeying God’s word. Both the preacher and the people should be encouraging one another to stay on the straight and narrow path of dedication to God. Hebrews 10:23-24 says, “Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works.”
Now, Just Do It.
Here are four things you should do when you visit the house of God.
- Go with the right attitude.
- Go with a humble spirit.
- Go with a praying heart.
- Go to worship God and give Him the glory.
The act of attending church brings glory to the Father and allows us to share in our worship of Him with fellow brothers and sisters. Contrary to popular opinion, church is not about us. It is solely about God and what He desires. Thus, when we sing praises to His name, we do so to worship the King of kings. When we listen to a sermon, we do so to learn more about the beautiful character of our Heavenly Father so that we can make Him known in this lost and hurting world. When we pray, we do so because our Lord desires an intimate relationship with His children, and personal communication is a key way to accomplish this. If you find yourself complaining about the style of music sung, the message of the sermon given, or the length of the prayer proclaimed, you may need to question who you seek to please by attending church.