Standing in the arrivals hall at O’Hare Airport, Chicago, some time back, waiting for what seemed like an interminable amount of time for new friends to come through the customs, I got into an interesting conversation with a mother about her children. We hear of many leaving the church relinquishing the Christian faith passed down the family generations, and yet here was a lady concerned in her own way to reverse the trend. She understood that if you cease to teach your children Christianity, you don’t teach them nothing, but leave them vulnerable to accepting everything. Her solution, rightly so, was to get back to church, taking her children with her. I was delighted, and pray that in days to come there will be many more with her sense.
There are three practical things you’ll need to follow this lady’s example:
- Directions to a church.
- An idea of the truth that is taught there.
- An insight into the life the church members seek to live.
But do bear in mind one essential principle: The best searches for a church are a search for God, and the churches most worthy of being searched for are those which point to him. God intends these two searches to be so intertwined that we may say, “What God has joined together, let no man put asunder.” The search for a church may appear so much easier than a search for God, yet the one search can help with the other. Note some of the connections.
First Connection: The Church existed before your search began.
Our particular church family has been worshipping and serving in Grand Rapids since 1890. Evidently our church was in existence before anyone alive today began searching for her.
God has been existent so much longer. Since he is eternal he’s been around through all the days and years of your disinterest in him (ours too), as well as through the fledgling moments of your curiosity and of your pondering of his existence and interest in you. He welcomes and encourages your search!
Second Connection: The Church was reaching out before your search began.
The church, it is said, is the only institution which exists for the sake of its non-members. In her reaching out she does but reflect the lead God has taken and the example he has shown in making his overtures toward us.
God’s reached out to the human race ever since we first turned from him in the days of Adam. In the face of our offense he first sent us his prophets. They promised a Mediator who could reconcile us to him. Then he sent us his Son to be that Mediator. In him and his self-sacrifice were summed up all God’s desires for our return. Evidently, God’s search for us began long before our search for him.
Third Connection: The church makes it free for you to attend.
There are no snags in our invitation, no scams, unavoidable costs, small print, or official dress code. The cost of your admission is covered entirely by the church. How could it be otherwise? For we’ve learned that the profound cost of our admission into a relationship with God has been paid in full by the Lord Jesus.
We’ve found that our sins which number more than we know and are more egregious to God than we can understand have been settled in full by Jesus’ death. This voluntary submission pays the penalty of God’s broken law. His shed blood covers our sins and turns away God’s just anger against us. In Jesus’ bodily resurrection we are assured that God the Father has accepted the sacrifice of his Son on behalf of sinners. The transaction is done! God’s desire to enter into relationship with us has been matched in the work of Jesus by his ability to do so!
Fourth Connection: We come to Church as we are.
Don’t try and get your life right before coming. You can’t do it anymore than we could. Don’t wait to save up for better clothes, for God’s interested in your heart not your dress code. All you need do is step through the doorway, trusting God to bless your search for him.
We come to God the same way as we come to church. He’s provided the door of entrance into a relationship with him. “I am the door,” Jesus said, “if anyone enter in he will be saved” (John 10:9). The relationship is entered into through faith. Faith is a resting in Jesus for personal forgiveness and acceptance by God.
Fifth Connection: Entering into the Church opens up all sorts of new experiences for you.
There’s the opportunity to learn about God, to understand what it means to worship as the fulfillment of your existence, to get acquainted with a new circle of friends, and to serve God with them in meaningful ways.
That’s what coming to Christ is like. Upon turning to God through Jesus you’ll enter into a new life and possess a new standing before God. The Bible describes those who come to Christ as God’s sons, daughters, or children. In God’s family we learn the length, breadth, and height of his love for us, and in the process mature in our response of worship, love, and gratitude. What we learn in this life is a prelude to the fulfillment of our fellowship with God in the next.
All to say, then, that a relationship to the church is a wonderful blessing in life, but best of all is a relationship with God. We can tell you the way to our church, the truth we teach, and the life we seek to live, but only Jesus can lead you to fellowship with God and to heaven. He, do recall, is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). Writes the chorus: “Without the Way there is no going; without the Truth there is no knowing; without the Life there is no knowing. I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. That’s what Jesus said.”
Look solely for a church and that’s all you’ll likely get; but look for a relationship with God and he’ll lead you to so much more beside. May the church you arrive at teach you that! If it doesn’t, keep searching. We’ll help if we can.
In Christ’s service,