Skip to content

Notes on looking for a Biblical Church


Today begins an 11 part series on our search for a church.  It is really long, so I have broken it up into smaller sections to make it easier to read.  One will be posted every day.   I will post the whole thing as one long post at the end of this series if you want to have it as one text.  I hope this will provoke some deep thought about your own church experiences and maybe about where you attend now , examining how that lines up with Scripture.


Notes on Looking for a Biblical Church
Jim Poelstra

For about 4 years we have been looking for a church.  Lest you think we are one of the those who have the American Christian disease of consumer mentality, I want to clarify that statement by saying we are looking for a Biblical church, with Biblical leadership, resulting in Biblical services and Biblical outreach.  I have often lamented to my wife, “Why is this so hard?  Why is it so hard to find a church that is based on the Bible and the principles set out there? I know there are no perfect churches but, come on, can’t we even get somewhere at least near the ballpark?”  One would think that a church where the Bible is the only place that leadership would look to start and run a church would be plentiful.

Well, I can say that they are indeed hard to find.  We have been to many churches over the last 40 years, and found that either they are “seeker” consumer oriented and have fallen down the black hole of image management and hyped services, or have a one string guitar with one message to the exclusion to most other Biblical messages, with the attitude, “We have the truth and you don’t”.  We have not attended all the churches in our area, but from looking at a lot of their websites, there seems to be extremes with nothing like the simple organism Jesus started and nurtured in the book of Acts.

To be truthful, I was kind of in despair, that we would ever find a church that simply followed Scripture in preaching and practice, and wondered what major Biblical criteria we would have to give up in order to commit to a particular church.  If you read a church’s statement of faith, you can learn a lot about where the church is going.  One thing that stands out is how high (or low) they esteem the Bible.  But even that can be deceiving.  A church (or person for that matter) can say they hold the Bible as the only source for truth, faith and practice, but then you observe their preaching and actions and it just doesn’t line up.  There seems to be a lot of the world’s philosophy creeping in, so that what they say and what they do are two different things.

It isn’t like we are looking for a certain car and liked this color on that one and those seats and that stereo and the gas mileage from another one, and are now trying to find a car with all these traits.  It was like we saw so many things that did not line up with Scripture, either directly by edict or indirectly by inference or character, that the positive things got overshadowed.

So I made a list of what we are looking for in church.  I took notes during and after visiting these churches and most of these came out of negative things we saw.  These are in no any particular order of importance, just how they are listed in my notebook.

  1. Spirit-led worship, where Jesus is lifted up, not people or the church.

So many times, regardless of what’s said before or during a worship time, it becomes obvious that there are many different reasons the musicians are on stage.  For any singer or musician, ego can be a huge problem, and if not stamped down consciously and intentionally, will become obvious for all to see.  The Biblical principle is the worship leaders (and instrumentalists) are to fade into the background and be loathe to stand out and in the way of those they are trying to lead into the Presence of Almighty God.  This includes how they dress, movement and voice that distracts anyone who has come to see Jesus.  I read recently that they are to be so much in the background that the next day, you couldn’t remember who was on stage.   That probably won’t happen, but it’s a goal to reach for.

Song choices today seem to be all about the unholy trinity of I, Me and My, with little concentration to lift up and glorify Jesus, the One who died for me.  It’s all about my problems, my benefits and my past/present/future and not about the One Who is taking me there.  I go to church to worship God/Jesus, to have Him lifted up in my heart to His rightful position. That’s the Biblical model.  That’s what we will be doing in Heaven for eons of time.

I’m looking for a church where it is evident that the worship leaders are up there because God has called them to be up there, that they are meek and humble about their gifts, and are perfectly willing to be in the background while Jesus gets all the glory and praise.  They choose songs that glorify Christ and Him alone, lift Him up for us to worship and adore, songs that are chosen because of their content, not their beat or likeable tune, not because they have been written and promoted by the latest Christian superstar.  Spirit-led worship can only happen in this atmosphere, where the Holy Spirit does not have to compete with man’s ego for the center of attention.  Here there is freedom for the worshipper to concentrate on their Savior without the distractions of catchy tunes and antics on stage, including cool guitar riffs and amazing vocalization, with spot lights in all the right places, emphasizing those leading.  How about a spot light on Jesus and the cross only, not actually but mentally?

Also, Spirit led worship means that there is no hype to whoop up the crowd to sing louder or raise their hands or even stand.  The backup music is at a level that it does not compete with the words, nor raise false emotion with the sound level.  They are up there to accompany us, the choir, and if we can’t hear each other, only them, then this purpose is defeated and it becomes about the band and not us who are being led.   In a worship setting, crowd mentality is so easily manipulated, and afterwards, people said they worshipped, but often, I wonder, was it worship or something else?

I read recently that volume is a cheap trick to raise the energy level of a room.  Was all that hand raising, and swaying and singing loud really Holy Spirit inspired, that He bubbled up inside the person (a whole crowd?) and caused them to give their all in worship of Almighty God?  Or was it hype and manipulation of emotions, that they would do the same thing at the next rock concert?  Because if you look at the crowds at a secular concert on YouTube, it’s hard to tell the difference between that and last Sunday’s worship service.  And it’s a lot of the same people….

Too many churches use amazing worship services (exact words used in print) as a primary means of growing a church, with the secondary intent of connecting with God.  Shame on them, to use something so holy and intimate like worship as a marketing tool.  I’m looking for a church where there is no glitz nor glam to the gathering of the saints, just sincere broken people lifting up their hearts in praise to their Savior.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: