Are all churches equally good? God calls us from every walk of life, and people in various denominations love Him, so does it really matter where we go on Sunday morning?
“One Lord, one faith, one baptism.” (Ephesians 4:5)
While there is only one body of Christ—those who are born again of the Spirit of God—and God calls us to Himself regardless of where He finds us, it does matter where you go to church. This is because the place you go every Sunday will influence how much of God’s Word you are exposed to, how accurately the teaching reflects the Bible, and whether you are taught only what the Bible teaches or extras that people have made up over the years. In other words, it will either help you grow in your knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, as God instructs us to, or hinder you.
The biggest obstacle that keeps many people from finding a church that faithfully represents God’s Word is their background. Being taught from childhood on that turning away from a particular church will damn you is a significant deterrent to finding a good church. Yet we need to understand that, difficult as it is to accept, not everything various denominations say is true. Merely claiming you will go to hell if you turn away from a particular religion does not mean you actually will. You have to look at what the religion stands for; what it teaches. If it teaches differently than what the Bible teaches, it does not speak for God and has lost any Biblical authority, notwithstanding misinterpreted Bible verses used to back its claims.
In 2 Timothy 2:13 the apostle Paul tells Timothy to, “Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard…” We are to hold fast to the clear teaching of Scripture. While Catholicism is not the only denomination guilty of misrepresentation, let’s discuss the verse “…You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church…” (Matthew 16:18) used to claim legitimacy. The Bible was not written in English, so we need to consider the meaning of the words in the original Greek. The two important words in this passage are those translated “Peter” and “rock.” The word used for “Peter” means “little piece of rock or chip” as in “chip off of the old block.” The word “rock” is “boulder or huge, massive rock.” Peter had just acknowledged that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God, and Jesus was saying that Peter evidenced a little bit of the kind of true, strong, boulder-like faith that He would build His church on. It is not a validation of the claim of Catholicism as the legitimate church authorized by Christ.
Besides misrepresenting God’s Word, some churches add to what the Bible says. It is a human tendency to embellish what God says; somehow we seem to want to add our own two-cents’ worth. The Jews in the Old Testament did it; in addition to the revealed Law God had given, their leaders added a multitude of additional rules and regulations. Unfortunately some churches these days have done the same. Jesus condemned it in the Jews, and we are not to do this either. Revelation 22:18-19 specifically refers to the content of Revelation, but it is reflective of how God feels when we alter His Word: “For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part form the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.”
Misrepresenting or altering God’s Word aren’t the only things churches can be guilty of. Some churches do not seem to distort the Bible; unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be much of the Bible message preached either, even if they do officially read some verses during their services. 2 Timothy 3:5 speaks of people “having a form of godliness but denying its power;” we are instructed “from such people turn away!” You should be able to summarize what the message was about after listening for twenty minutes or more. If you can’t, chances are you’re in a church that clings externally to an appearance of Christianity, but isn’t actually teaching you what God says.
It is very important that as we start to understand who God is and what He teaches we find a church that clearly teaches His Word without misrepresenting it, or adding to or omitting from it. Humans demand loyalty, but it is God and His teaching we are to cling to. Jesus’ disciples were beaten for teaching about Jesus and commanded never to speak in His name again and Peter answered,“We ought to obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29b) This is our example. It is God who created us, it is God who redeemed us; He is the One we owe obedience to.
Thank You for the simple truth of what You say in Your Word. Help us overcome any hesitancy we may have and find a local church that faithfully teaches the Bible so we can grow in our knowledge of You. Impress on us how important this is, and reassure us that rejecting You, not a particular church body, is what damns people. Amen.