"A church is worth joining if the message emphasized is God's love for sinners in Christ rather than a sinner's love for God by commitment."
Church With a Red Door
These are frustrating times in the Body of Christ because finding a church worth joining has become a daunting task. Not only do our brothers and sisters in Christ have to worry about the soteriology being embraced by various congregations, but they have to concern themselves with whether or not to sign a membership covenant.
Recently, Wade Burleson, our EChurch pastor, published a post that we believe you will find encouraging, and we are sharing it here with Wade's blessing.
The #1 Thing to Look for When Joining a Church (link)
I am often asked, "What's the best way to know whether or not a church is worth joining?"
My answer often surprises people. The measure of the greatness of a church is not seen in the size of the church, nor the missions emphasis, nor the children's or youth programs, nor the style of worship.
Nope. Not at all.
Neither is it measured by the kind of church governance (e.g. elders, congregational, etc.) nor by the relevant ways the church seeks to make an impact in the community.
A church is worth joining if the message emphasized is God's love for sinners in Christ rather than a sinner's love for God by commitment.
Think about that for a moment.
If a person's love for God is always emphasized to the neglect of God's love for persons; or if one is constantly challenged to be "fully devoted to God" rather than the glorious gospel of "God being fully devoted" to His people in Jesus Christ, or if a person's love for God is always questioned and compared to another person's love for God (especially those who lead) through a verbal "measuring of each other's personal holiness," then you should put on those proverbial sneakers and run from that church as fast as possible.
Church leaders who feel it their duty to "get people to love God more" by controlling the movies they see or the books they read or the tertiary doctrines they believe is church leadership that has gone astray. When there is more of an emphasis on the covenant you sign to join a church than the covenant God sealed when He gave you His Son, then you've entered a land of law, not liberty.
In the New Testament, the emphasis is always about God's love for sinners in Christ. When sinners are captivated and overwhelmed by the unconditional, eternal, and transformational love of God in Jesus Christ, we sinners come to a place of personal liberty to "love others as Christ loves us."
Listen to John in I John 4:7-11:
7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9 By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we love God, but that He loves us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loves us, we also ought to love one another.
The above passage contains an inviolable principle of relationships that many churches miss.
We are only at liberty to love other people as Christ loves us when the emphasis of gospel preaching is about God's love for us in Christ.
So next time you consider a church home, listen closely to the words of the person on the platform. Those who spend more time controlling and directing the conduct of the people than championing and declaring the love of God toward people in Christ are showing tell-tale signs of a pervasive belief in their "spiritual authority" over people rather than their "gifted service" to people.
The Truth will set you free.