What To Look For
“We will not have Jesus Christ at the center of our church services if we do not have his Word at the center. It is the Word of God that brought the Church of God into existence, and it is the ministry of the Word of God that is the wellspring and center of the church’s life. The church in its local manifestation is the group of people who assemble around the ministry of the Word in a particular place. Our weekly meetings are for us to meet one another under the ministry of the Word of God.” (Worship by the Book p. 82). Mark Aston nails the biblical apex of biblical worship, the Word of God.
For many believers finding a local church that complies with this set of principles is often difficult. However, many well-meaning believers do not really know what to look for in a local church. I remember growing up in Mississippi seeing churches on every corner. On any given Sunday, you could attend just about any one of them. You would find a common schedule: Sunday school, fellowship, worship and children's and youth ministries. This trend has even continued into our day and time. These ministries are not bad, but is this what we are to be looking for in a local church? Is the structure of ministries and programs the litmus test for whether we attend or commit ourselves to a local assembly? In our post-Christian culture, we have traded in biblical standards for a consumer’s mentality when looking for a church. If we would look to the Bible as our guide, we would be shocked to see where it places the emphasis.
In Acts 2:42, we are given the components of church worship: devotion to the Word of God, teaching, fellowship, breaking bread, and prayer. There was a great sense of community and belonging centered on the Word of God. Then in Acts 4:31 we find the early church filled with power by the Holy Spirit and they spoke the Word of God with boldness. The Word of God did not only edify this church, but they were filled with power to spread the Word of God. This had a significant impact on Jerusalem. The Pastoral Epistles give us clear instruction about what is to take priority in the church. 1 Tim. 4:13 states, “Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and to teaching.” Paul’s greatest concern was for God’s truth to be kept as the focal point through reading, exhortation, and teaching.
When we assess what is essential in a local church we must ask these questions: Is it biblical? Does it have the Bible at the heart of it? Is it shaped by Biblical truths? Does it have edification and evangelism as its aim? Regardless of the church’s size, color, and programs, we must let the Word of God be our guide in searching for a church.