You know you’ve made them. We’ve all made them.
Some decisions are bad by virtue of their nature (e.g. deciding to sin); others prove to be bad by virtue of their consequences. The biggest mistake I ever made falls into this second category.
There was a point in my life where as the spiritual head of the home I needed to decide which church our family would join. A number of options lay before us, and we visited most of them. There was one option I intentionally wrote off the list because it didn’t meet my music preferences and the people there were… well… stuck in the past. In the end we chose a church based on its friendly atmosphere, music style, and because I felt one of the leaders would be a good mentor. The preaching was not on the “pro” side of the list.
That was a huge mistake.
Now don’t get me wrong. We loved the people we got to know. I enjoyed the music. I had great ministry opportunities. The leader mentored and encouraged me and taught me valuable lessons.
But I didn’t realize that in the midst of it all we were not growing in healthy ways. Of course, we didn’t realize it at the time. We felt good about our spiritual maturity. At least I did.
And then it happened. We moved and joined another church that has a long history of good, solid, faithful expository preaching. Some might even say this church was stuck in the past in almost every way.
We felt the difference almost immediately. It’s hard to describe, but it felt like we were shriveled plants transplanted among thriving plants, and for the first time we realized how backwards our thinking really was.
As time passed I realized that I had sacrificed our spiritual health on the altar of my preferences. As the spiritual leader, I was responsible for that.
As Voddie Baucham would say, “if you can’t say ‘amen’, you oughta say ‘ouch’.”
I’m Not Alone
It’s been many years since then (can a 32-year old say that?), and I’ve realized this is one of the most common and yet serious mistakes Christians make. We frequently make significant decisions in life with no or very little regard for how it will affect us spiritually.
Moving for a great job opportunity or to move closer to family are just two situations in which Christians rarely ask, “Where will we go to church?” It’s an afterthought. You often hear them say months down the road, “Well, we still haven’t found a church we like yet.”
It doesn’t sound serious, but it is.
When God redeems a person, He immediately places them in the body of Christ. That is to say, He puts them in an organic relationship whereby they need other believers to sustain and grow their spiritual lives. More than that, the body needs them to be healthy (see Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12). As children of God, we join a family where our relationship to our Father is dramatically and intimately affected by our relationship to our brothers and sisters. That may not be the case in our physical family, but it is in our spiritual family.
I have never come across a spiritually healthy and mature believer who was disconnected from the local church. Never.
You may think you’re an exception to the rule, but go back to my diseased plant illustration. When you’re on your own, you don’t know how sick you are because you don’ t know what true health looks like. Lone Christians have a self-created definition of spiritual health. It certainly doesn’t come from the Bible.
But let’s say you’re not a lone Christian. Let’s say you’re involved in a church, serving, giving, fellowshipping, and even learning. The tragedy is there are many sickly churches out there full of sickly Christians. Oh, they don’t look sickly. There’s a lot of activity, events, excitement, loud music, and relationship building. But they are sickly because they lack the only sustaining and nutrient-rich resource available–a consistent diet of God’s Word carefully exposited and laid to bear on the people.
There are two simple questions you can ask to determine if the preaching you’re exposed to is nutrient-rich:
- Does the sermon outline and major points rise out of the text, or does the sermon fall back on the text for supporting its point?
- Did the sermon take me back to the text’s biblical, historical, and redemptive context for understanding, and bring me forward for its significance? Or was the text quoted simply to support the point of the sermon?
Those two questions will help discern whether you’re being fed the living and active Word, or someone’s current topical interests.
What’s the point? Your spiritual health matters. Spiritual health is not determined by involvement, excitement, or relationships. It really comes down to the spiritual food you receive. A church can say whatever they want regarding their view of Scripture. No church ever says they have a low view of God’s Word. But you will be able to determine their view of Scripture by their teaching, their leadership structure, their philosophy of ministry, and more.
Don’t make the mistake of choosing a church based on superficial factors. Don’t make the mistake of going where there is excitement and activity and heart-warming sermons, but not in-depth teaching that raises you to higher levels of worship.
Choose carefully. Choose wisely. Don’t make the mistake I made.