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September 3, 1997

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"Where Can I Go to Church?"

Recently a VW reader has forsaken and come out of one of the major well-known cults. In the process of it all, we have exchanged a few e-mails. After taking the step, they wrote with more questions, among which was the following, which I think is important for all of us who are true Believers in Christ. So, I'd like to share the question, along with a modified version of my response:

Question:
There is one more thing: Are you saying that I should not go to any church? I feel I need fellowship desparately, and in light of Heb 10:25 and Matt 18:20 I don't feel I am wrong in needing that. I feel I need to worship with others too. But I don't know where to go. If I go to a church that teaches things I don't accept, how can I fellowship and worship with them. 2 Cor 6:14-18. You've pointed out the problems in Christendom before, the dangers growing within the churches. Has any remained fairly clean? Who? Where do I start? I hate the thoughts of jumping from church to church. I'd appreciate your input.

Answer/thoughts:
This is a "tough one" today! Yes, you need fellowship. You need exhortation, teaching and nurturing. You need to exercise your relationship with the Lord by ministering out to others.

But, as you rightly point out 2Cor6:14-18, we cannot fellowship with unbelievers.

One can no longer go by denominational labels. Even when the big labels used to point in certain somewhat "predictable" directions years ago, each individual congregation "tends to" be whatever the pastor is. If you visit this church, and that, as you look for one, you may not discern in one visit what the church is.

Primarily, however, look for one where the pastor teaches "Thus says the Lord." More typically, if you find where the pastor is preaching chapter upon chapter, verse upon verse, line upon line, word upon word. As God's Word says, "For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept, Line upon line, line upon line, Here a little, there a little." (Isa 28:10) And he does so without constantly quoting this commentary or that "great man of God." Paul specifically exhorted Timothy, "Till I come, give attention to reading [Scripture], to exhortation, to doctrine [teaching]...Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine." (1Tim4:13,16)

If the "service" goes on for 50 minutes of friendly lively programs of "worship and fellowship" and then there's a "quick" 10 minutes of jokes and cleverness, and the pastor doesn't even open his Bible, you don't need to bother going back to that place again!!

At this point I made some suggestions of a few "labels" to check out for the U.S. But will not here, because those labels may not aptly apply globally. Also, as I have discovered recently that a local formerly GARBC church has become something else and embraced modern psychology, proving the "spirit" I sensed when I visited the place years ago...not only do the labels not mean much any more. They change.

Also, let me encourage you (dear reader) to not be concerned about the accusations you may receive about "church hopping." Until you find a church that is solid on God's Word, you will NEED TO visit here and there for a while. It will be ESSENTIAL! The beloved apostle wrote, "do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God:"(1Jn4:1) As we have discovered in the past, many in the churches are "changelings" and the true colors are not apparent at the first contact. But many of them will try to hang a guilt trip on you with the "church hopping" label, because they want you to become part of "their" church. Boost those numbers. Get you on their membership roles. Providing offering money. If a church attempts to play on your guilt with those words, it's probably NOT the place you want to settle roots. If they are truly of God, they will understand your need to discern the Lord's will, and to proceed with caution.

Depending on where you live, you may not find any church. There is a person on the VW mailing list with whom I have regular personal fellowship via e-mail, who does not have a church they can go to. And on the other hand, I feel rather blessed, in that there is "a" person I meet with regularly for Bible study. And, I know that there are "home churches" here and there. These kind fulfill the words of Christ "For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them." (Mt18:20)

I know there are others in similar situations. In fact, many on the VW e-mail list fit this catagory. It seems that VW has "attracted" many like this. Many who are "in the process" of coming out of the organized church.(Rev18:4) Thus, a while back, I started trying to make some mailings more "personal" ...as personal as is possible via e-mail where there are hundreds of people who have never met each other face-to-face.

Let us also remember; Abraham did not have a "church" to attend. But he believed God, and it was accounted to him as "righteousness." (Gen15:6) Nor, I'm sure, did Moses...herding those sheep. Sodom and Gomorah did not even have enough righteous in it to save it from destruction. Just Lot and his household. And Jesus said that when He came again, it would be like the "days of Lot."(Lk17:28) The Lord has left "individual" lights here and there,(Mt5:14) to shine in this dark world and apostasy. We can shine because we have "Christ in you"(Col1:27) ...as He is the "Light of the world."(Jn8:12) We may not have the luxury of personal fellowship with other Believers during this time. But we are exhorted to "be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord."(1Cor15:58)

The coming of the Lord is near! Therefore, beloved...Take Courage!

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