PRAISE & PRAYER PROMPT ••• Many people view church like going to college. Get accepted, study, get involved in extracurricular activities, then get a degree. But just as someone who is enrolling in college has to meet certain requirements, so do some think they need to know the Bible better and “get ready” before they commit to church. But there are several flaws in that line of thinking.
1. Being a Christian isn’t a degree program.
We never “earn” a degree in Bible knowledge. It’s a matter of lifelong learning. I’m convinced that even Billy Graham, who preached to millions around the world, was learning new things in the Bible, even on his deathbed.
Everyone starts at the beginning.
Whenever I remind someone of this, I want to start singing, in my best Julie Andrews voice, “Do-Re-Mi,” which goes, “Let’s start at the very beginning / A very good place to start / When you read you begin with A-be-see / When you sing you begin with do-re-mi.” The problem is my Julie Andrews’ voice is only magnificent in my own imagination… Sigh… but if others could hear what I hear… Oh well… Anyway…
Paul compared new believers to infants, “I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it” (1 Corinthians 3:2a ESV). So it’s okay to start at the beginning and get the basics down before you try to digest more spiritual truths.
3. Everyone is at a different place in their spiritual maturity.
It’s not reasonable to compare the skills of a newborn to that of a 20-year-old. They are at different stages. Neither is it fair to compare newborn to newborn. We all grow differently and we all learn differently as well as at different paces. So don’t worry that you “aren’t there” yet. Comparison is the thief of joy.
While it’s great (and advisable) to have spiritual mentors who are more spiritually mature, it’s not a race or a competition. It’s about developing a deeper relationship with Christ, and again—that’s a lifelong experience.
4. Biblically-solid Christian communities foster growth and encouragement.
Choosing a church that focuses on solid, Biblical teaching is a priority. You don’t attend church to win a popularity contest and it’s not a country club. While you want to know people, make friends, and get involved—the heart of the church should be encouraging spiritual growth for all of their parishioners.
The church should be a safe place of refuge where people can be vulnerable and real with one another.
And most of all, church leadership should be focused on teaching sound, Biblical doctrine. That goes for the pastor as well as anyone in a teaching position.
This is a topic I could spend a day on… the Bible is so specific about it. James 3:1 says, “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness” (ESV). Jesus had even harsher words for those who teach in ways that lead others astray. He said, “It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin” (Luke 17:2 ESV).
As a Christian blog writer and Sunday School teacher myself, I take these admonitions very, very seriously.
5. The church isn’t a museum for saints, but a hospital for sinners.
Finally, I love this quote. This version is attributed to Abigail Van Buren, but there’s another version (hotel instead of museum) that is credited to Saint Augustine.
We don’t go to the doctor when we’re well. Similarly, we don’t go to the Throne of Grace if we’re perfect. We go and bow down at the foot of the cross because we are sinners who desperately need a Savior and Redeemer. We go to church because we need a community of believers who share our faith and love for Jesus.
Jesus said, “Those who well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17b ESV).
I once heard Christian speaker and author Whitney Capps speak and she is a dynamo! But her message was this—there are Biblical reasons to leave a church, but there is no Biblical excuse to not be in church. Trying to do it alone isn’t good enough. While personal Bible study is crucial, we need the fellowship of a Christian community to truly grow in our walk with Jesus.
Today, as you pray, thank Jesus for setting the example of the importance of Christian community and thank Him for being the very cornerstone of our faith. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you choose a church wisely and to find a place that stands firm in the truth of Jesus and the Holy Bible.