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Nov 17 2009

Church Hunting

Jamie Barrows

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(This is a bit of a rant, but I’m frustrated.)

What is wrong with churches these days? Why is it so hard to find a church where the word of God is preached? Has it always been this hard?

Lately I’ve been doing some church shopping with my wife. The reason being that my church isn’t a good fit for both of us. Not because of it’s doctrine or beliefs, but rather because the culture of the church doesn’t quite fit with me and my wife. So we have been shopping around for a church that would be a better fit for both of us. And you would think that the Pensacola area would be a good place to look. It seems like there is a church on every corner.

As we have been searching around I’ve been struck by how little of the Bible is actually preached in most of these churches. It seems like the majority of time preachers are pushing tradition, the latest semi-Christian psychology, or random political hobby horses. Some preachers use the Bible kind of like a good luck charm attached to the message. They read a verse at the beginning and one at the end. Maybe blessing is a better term than “Good Luck Charm,” but the usage is the same. Other preachers barely use the Bible at all. They all use the term “the Bible says” a lot, but they rarely show you where it says it.

I am so frustrated with the whole thing. How can I trust a pastor who preaches that going against church traditions (that is American church traditions) is sin? How can I trust a pastor who preaches that using a non KJV bible is sin? How can I trust a pastor who preaches that a particular music style is sin? There may be good reasons to avoid certain musicians, or to use certain Bible translations. There even are good arguments for preserving certain church traditions. The problem is that most of those arguments are based on opinion. Not on the Bible.

The Bible doesn’t single out any particular translation as being required. How could it single out a specific English translation when English didn’t even exist at the time the Bible was written? And it is totally silent on the issue of music styles. So you can’t make a case for a particular style being sinful if all you are using is the Bible. And when it comes to American church traditions, such as the Altar Call, they were all established within the last 200 years and none of them are commanded in the Bible. So any pastor that preaches these issues, without making it very clear that they are his opinion only, loses all credibility in my eyes.

But it goes even farther than that. Why don’t pastors use the Bible in their messages to back up the sermon points? How can I trust a Pastor who doesn’t? If he doesn’t use the Bible to back up each and every one of his points, how do I know for sure they are true?

I know a lot about the Bible. I grew up in a Christian home, went to a Christian college, and regularly read the Bible. But I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t know everything. So if a Pastor slips something into his message that isn’t in the Bible, I may not catch it. It’s not enough for him to say “the Bible says.” He needs to show me where in the text the content comes from. So that I can see the truth for myself in the context it was written in. Otherwise, the Pastor’s message is no better than that of a motivational speaker at a conference.

And I don’t mean read a verse at the beginning and preach for a half an hour on that one verse. If you can preach for a half hour without using the Bible more than once, then you are NOT preaching from the Bible.

I guess what I’m saying is that I am very frustrated and upset by the way so many churches simply let this stuff slide by. It’s like they don’t care about truth as long as the pastor is an entertaining speaker, or as long as he backs the traditions they like, or as long as the church has all of the programs they want.

So let me tell you what I want.
I want a church that preaches and teaches from the Bible.
I want a pastor that backs up every point using verses from the Bible and takes the time to actually read them. That way I can see them for myself.
I want a pastor that reads the context of the verse so I don’t have to guess or try to quickly skim the passage to know if the verse is being taken out of context.
If the pastor is an entertaining and engaging speaker, that is a bonus, but not strictly necessary. And if the church has a lot of programs, that is also nice. But again, not strictly necessary.

Really, how hard can it be to find a church and other Christians who care about this stuff?