“Why are there so many different churches?”…one may ask. Have you ever heard someone ask, “What religion are you?” or “What denomination are you?” Well, in all honesty, questions like these, though they may be sincere, bother me to some degree. Perhaps there are many reasons why people choose certain denominations (I am sticking with the concept of Christianity here) and, perhaps, many different reasons people decide to go to church. I cannot say what these reasons are, necessarily, but here I wish to challenge you on your view of Church. Of course, I am taking a view that sees Christianity as the truth, which I do believe, and for good reason.
No matter what the name of any given church may be, it is not possible to know if it belongs to Him (Christ) or not without going there and finding out. However, in my opinion, the name is your first clue. What’s in a name? Maybe a lot, maybe nothing. There are Methodist Churches, Catholic Churches, Lutheran Churches, Seventh Day Adventists Churches, Presbyterian Churches, Churches of Christ, Churches of God, Mormon Churches…and on and on and on some more. Wow.
My hope is that when you first decide to go to church, you are going for the right reason(s). If you have not accepted Christ as your savior, I hope you are going because you are looking for Him. You want to learn. You are concerned for your soul. If you have already accepted Christ as your savior, I hope you are going because you want to. You are looking to encourage someone, you want to sing and pray with other Christians. You need Christian friends. So then, we already see a pattern here, which is Christ focused. We should see this now, and have not even opened the Bible.
Once you are there, it takes some common sense, sincerity, honesty and perhaps effort all together with a desire to know the truth and earnestly seek out our Lord to discern whether or not the church you are at is His Church. Every Church organization will likely be friendly, everyone will try to get you to join, to get you involved. They are all alike in this respect, which is okay. The problem is, though, you have to be on your guard about the truth. Don’t be seduced by what may seem exciting and new. Being uplifted is certainly a good thing, but you must always use reason, good reason based on knowledge that is not false when accepting a church as the “right one”.
Consider the following New Testament passage: “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Matthew Chapter 17, ver 13-14
It may take time to know the truth about any given church, and that is okay. The most important thing is that you, the seeker of God, are sincere and are taking action to find the answers. Matthew Ch 6 ver 33: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” and Matthew Ch 7 ver 7: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”.
Let us ask ourselves, then, “What is the Church?”. Well, for starters, its not a building and its not a place. The church in reality, in context of the New Testament, is the group of believers. That is, it is you and me and him and her that is the church. When you accept Christ as your savior, you become a member of the Church. This does not mean you fill out a membership form at the local community church. This does not mean you now have to go through a series of Bible study pamphlets and it doesn’t mean you get grounded if you miss a bible study or worship service (by the way, worship is another issue I will not get into right now). The Lord knows who belong to him: II Timothy Ch2 ver 19: “Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.”
The Lord then knows who you are and whether you are His or whether you will be His. You will never fool the Almighty God. Because he knows us, he also understands. Are you a lost soul because you are involved with a “Church” that is not truly God’s Church? I say NO! This is not without condition however. I believe that if you continue to earnestly seek out the truth, the answers will come. If you belong to the Lord, you will therefore correct your mistakes as you learn. In this case, if you learn that you are involved with the wrong group, then your primary option is to repent, that is to make it right. People may find the Lord, but be in the wrong place. The answer is to simply redirect ones path towards the truth. John Ch8 ver 8-18: “8 Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” 9 Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. 11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves. 12 I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. 15 “If you love me, you will obey what I command. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever– 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”
So then, the name of the church is your first clue, but that does not mean saved people are not in those organizations. Saved people will eventually find the truth though and will make it right, hopefully. Consider then, if you have accepted Christ as your savior, who was it that you accepted? Now that you are a Christian, are you a Catholic? are you a Methodist? What are you? I challenge you to cast off these labels. If you accepted Christ, you were baptized into his name and no one else. It is the living God himself who will raise you up from death, not the church organization. Are you listening? The Living God! The almighty God!..The Creator. Listen what the Apostle Paul said: 1 Corinthians Ch 1 ver 10-17: “10 I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought. 11 My brothers, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. 12 What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas “; still another, “I follow Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul? 14 I am thankful that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so no one can say that you were baptized into my name. 16 (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else.) 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel–not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.”.