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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?


10 Responses to “Church Hunting”

  • Darrell Says:

    You’ve hit upon my own frustration with looking for a new church. We’re living in a land of dry wells — churches everywhere and Christ-Centered Biblical preaching nowhere to be found.

    After a time the constant disappointment weighs so heavily that one is tempted to give up the struggle altogether. It’s a difficult thing.

  • Josh Cryer Says:

    Maybe you should look into ministry? …seriously. I would agree with you bro…it was hard to find a “well fitting” church, and when Roseann and I were in the Pensacola area – we had the same difficulty as well. Hang in there bro! Keep looking up! It’s great to see that you have a burden for the Word of God being preached!

  • Michael Sallmen Says:

    We may also look for a different church in the Pensacola area. Please let me know how it goes for you. I have some of the same fears that you have already experienced. That’s part of the reason we haven’t started hunting — I wonder whether there is anything satisfactory to be found!

  • Bill Wright Says:

    Well Jamie I will be praying for you in that effort. It is easier to find a job than it is to find a church, in my opinion. Before moving into an area, we investigate church options. If possible we move close to the church so we can be part of the community. Don’t expect too much of pastors, they are only human.

    Some of the best churches that I really loved being in also disappointed me the most in some areas. That’s when it is tempting to compare. But every body of believers has its own pluses and minuses.

    To find out what the teaching is like in a church you can attend there for 2-3 Sundays and listen to recordings/webcasts. If there is nothing good in your town, you might consider moving? That’s why the Pilgrims ended up moving from Holland to here, more or less. They had convictions about what was good for them spiritually…

  • Jonathan Franzone Says:

    I understand your frustrations fully. My wife and I have done the church hunt elsewhere and here in Pensacola and do not envy you in that process. One thing I might suggest though is to focus a little on what God may be trying to teach/show you in this very process. Life is full of lessons that test our faith and the church hunt is definitely a “trying” time. So seek His direction in a) what He wants to show you in this process and b) where He wants you two to go to church. I know that there is a church home out there that God has set aside for your family; it just may take a little while to find it.

  • benH Says:

    You’re leaving Liberty? I myself have gone through the church hunting ordeal recently, and it has not been easy to find a church in 29 palms that i feel at home at. My current church is far from perfect, but I believe it’s where God has led me.

  • Zanzi Says:

    I am an atheist, and proud of it. However, I must say it is really refreshing to hear a christian say this. You have a real good point about english bible translations. A mate of mine is convinced that if the Hebrew version doesn’t match up in places, it’s the KJV that’s right. Huh? But the Hebrew was written first!

    Well done for thinking about your faith rather than blindly following a church.

  • Disciple Says:

    My wife and I struggled with the same thing. Neither one of us were comfortable with the contemporary worship style of the church where we really loved the preaching. But then I realized that those people were actually WORSHIPPING, while SO many of the people in the traditional churches in which I grew up were not engaged at all, including myself. So it became clear to me that we needed to be in a place where the people were participating in worship. My wife was still uncomfortable with it, which made it hard for a little while. But at some point you have to take leadership… God will change her heart if it’s done lovingly and out of conviction.

  • Church Update | The Online Rant Says:

    [...] I updated this blog and I thought I should post a note giving a status. Especially in light of the Church Hunting post that was my last post. My wife and I have found a wonderful church that is the perfect [...]

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