“I actually wanted to thank you soooo much for writing what God inspires to write because no matter what it is, I always learn something. In your latest blog, I was hit in the face with the fact that I have been out of God’s will. During boot camp, I attended three different Christian churches and was sorely disappointed. Now I am at ‘A’ School and haven’t been to church or any fellowship for almost 2 months. I thought it was because I’m just picky and that any military base church will be like that watered-down one at boot camp. But now I realize that I am just feeling sorry for myself, and being lazy. It’s my first time away from home and all I want is home. I miss my family, friends, and church. I need to actually go out there and find a new fellowship. Hard as it is to accept, it’s what I need to do.”
It’s encouraging to hear that you’re taking some valuable stuff away from the blog. Let me thank you for two things: one, for reading, and two, for serving your country. Those of us who enjoy our freedom owe you and others like you a debt of gratitude. I’m thankful for committed servicemen and women who ensure liberty here in America, granting us the freedom to choose where to worship. We really can’t take that opportunity for granted!
I understand your longing for home. It’s difficult to be in a new, challenging environment and not have the familiar pillars of support that we’ve grown accustomed to. But that’s the beauty of God’s church. It looks and feels a little different from place to place, but when we’re born anew into God’s family, we get to discover brothers and sisters everywhere we go. His design is for us to find that “home” wherever we travel, as we encounter others in His Body.
You seem to understand the need to not rest on your laurels and stay disconnected because of previous disappointment. That’s a good realization. Hebrews 10:25 speaks of “not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” I totally identify with your frustrations—shopping around for a church can be a drag… especially if your church back home was particularly good. Nonetheless, God wants us to find a home “base” and get connected. It’s not about putting your name on the “church roll”; it’s about getting in some consistent relationship and growing together in the Word and in service/ministry.
You don’t have to settle for a church that falls below standard. In fact, I think identifying with the wrong kind of church might be just as antithetical to God’s will as not plugging into one. So, if you haven’t found one up to par, keep searching! BUT, when you find it, get on board and serve. A popular Christian leader says, “If you don’t serve, you don’t stick.”
Here are some characteristics to look for in a local church home:
1) Built on the Rock. Paul gives us the starting point in1 Corinthians 3:11: “For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.” Watch out for churches that honor men more than they honor the Lord.
2) Great Commission-Minded. Jesus left us (collectively, the universal church) this command: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Local church bodies need to be serious about this. It’s a non-negotiable for Jesus… should be for you, too.
3) Commitment to the Word. Find a church where “theology” is not a rare word. 2 Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” The Bible is our source of absolute truth. A church that’s not interested in the Word is not interested in truth.
4) Sound Leadership. Paul called for leaders to model righteousness for the body: “Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you.” A wise pastor once told me, “Be careful who you hitch your wagon to.” Good counsel. Look for a pastor who humbly wants to be like Jesus, that is to say, a servant.
5) A Culture of Community and Prayer. The people in the church you call home should have well-worn knees. Prayer is a defining characteristic of a church body who love God and each other. It’s in your best interest to be surrounded by those who will pray for you at the drop of a hat.
These are some general things to keep in mind as you search. Remember, no church is perfect. The biggest problem with churches is, they’re full of people; the best thing about people is, they can be redeemed. When many think of the church, they think of strife and personalities and bickering. When God thinks of the church, He thinks of His beautiful Bride. She may not always appear that way to us, but if we recognize that we each play a part in this amazing institution, with God’s help, she will grow in loveliness.
“…just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.” (Ephesians 5:25-27)
For anyone interested in how to find God’s will, check out my previous blog post: DESTINY AND DESIRE