Sunday, September 21, 2008

On Choosing a Church (by Craig Taylor)

Craig Taylor has moved to Newcastle and has to find a local church:

He sets out his criteria wisely in order of priority:
Firstly "Does it preach and teach the Gospel?" (That is all the core theology that can not be compromised eg. penal substitution) This is the one question that if answered "no" then it is straight off the list of possible churches.
Secondly "Where does it's theology stand?" Do I disagree with some of it's views on the bigger doctrines that would make it hard to worship,serve and be fed by the sermons.
Thirdly "Are there opportunities for me to serve the church?" along with "How does it try to do community discipleship and being a missional church?"


  1. Surely up there in the first category there should be 'does it live and breathe the gospel as well as just teach it?', I guess that's what some people mean by teach but some churches do simply teach and there is no sense of there being a living, breathing gospel community, those are churches to be cautious of, it's good to be cautious of ending up fat intellectually, knowing lots but not being in a community where you live the gospel and love Jesus with each other. Simply sitting in chairs hearing stuff won't do it. Asking the question of the church you are trying to choose, "is this is a place where the gospel is really lived out, where people love and encourage each other because of the truth?" is way way more important than the secondary issues stuff...

    All that might be what someone means by a gospel teaching church but I think there needs to be clarification on that score, as too many evangelical churches simply allow sitting comfortably in a chair, or experience driven church whether that experience is an amazing preach or amazing time of worship. I'm sure choosing a church involves some elements of that but if there isn't a community of people loving each other and considering others interests better than there own, then there isn't much Jesus going on... (Phil 2 etc)

    Sorry to rant a bit :)

  2. thanks, yeh that's a fair point. I guess you could argue that if it's not living it then it's not actually really teaching the gospel.

  3. "How does it try to do community discipleship and being a missional church?"

    Ok, but...

    Let's distinguish between these two questions:

    a. What would I really like the church I am a part of to be?


    b. What are my criterion for choosing a church in this new place I'm coming to live?

    The lsit for b. is much shorter and slightly less idealistic, surely. For me, community discipleship, really great at missional stuff, comes in a. but is not an essential for b. Lots of the community stuff 'we-who-have-read-Tim-Chester' hold dear (I include mtself in this group) simnply isn't out there in many many otherwise faithful churches. We can end up being too picky, too snobby, and alone and/or grumpy.

    So, it is a part of what a church should be, and it is a part of where we'd like to see all of our churches go, but it oughtn't to be a necessary de-marker of fellowship.

  4. So, it's similar with the 'does it live and breathe...' stuff surely. Depending on how one interprets that question, that could get pretty close to asking 'is this church nigh-on perfect?' I'm not suggesting that's what Kath means, but it could be read and applied that way by others.

    That's not to say that we shouldd gladly attend the church were the bible is taught but flagrant unrepentant disobedience is rife. But that's quite a way off from having a too high expectation for how far people are on, or how, much of all the lovely stuff we might be into the church is even up to speed on.

  5. I guess I want to say, out of love for church I want to approach things idealistically, but also realistically... so I will commit quickly to a church here without looking around too much, and when I commit I mean really commit to loving the people...

    Because I love what the Bible says of church I'm going with optimism and high expectation.

  6. As Bonhoeffer puts it

    "The idea of church is great, the experience of church is hard"

    Even one that looks 'ideal' at the start is full of people who will sin against one another, led by leaders who will do so failingly...

  7. I guess I just want to see more thought about whether we as church are living out the reality of God together, and that we understand that is expressed in a whole load of different ways, not just using the buzz word of missional.

    I'm interpreting faithful church to be one that is loving each other well because of the gospel and is hearing that gospel each week, not whether it knows it's being missional community. The faithful churches Pete talks about probably are doing that, ie a small church my brother used to go to is faithful, because it held to truth and you could see that wonderfully lived out in how they related to each other... They were doing missional community long before anyone labelled it as such... Which is where the labels can become unhelpful as we look for the label rather than the reality.

    And yep we do all this, deeply deeply knowing we are never going to find the ideal, and so we think, is this church loving the Bible and wanting to live under it's authority?, is that being vaguely worked out in peoples lives?, is it near me?, brilliant, lets go and be part of the mess of each others lives and see what God can do in that mess. Have I oversimplified this? Well possibly!

    I love Bonheoffers book Life Together, he pretty much says we have to become disillusioned with church and each other, we have to smash our visionary dreams of church (be they about creating the perfect missional community, or the best preaching teaching ministry in the land) and deal with the reality that we are all broken sinners coming together because of Jesus and the wonder of the cross.

  8. I suppose I should clarify my post a little, so firstly on the first subject of the Gospel I agree totally about living and breathing it and should probably have defined that, as though living and breathing is a way I believe in which the gospel is taught just saying teach is easily misunderstood.

    The questions are not simply yes and no questions where if it's a no I would not go, but more questions to consider and and be thought about when choosing a church. It is certainly not supposed to be an idealistic search but I do have aspects of church that I want to strive for alongside other Christians when possible.