TRYING TO FIND THERIGHTCHURCH
T. PIERCE BROWN
The average religious person, when he decides to become active in religious matters, will look for a church to join. He will like for it to have a preacher who suits his tastes, a fellowship that more or less satisfies his needs or wants, a type of worship he likes, a building in which he feels comfortable, and a doctrinal position with which he does not disagree too strongly.
We have no doubt that a large number of those on the roll books of most local churches of Christ have undergone the same process. But we want to make a statement that may be shocking to many. That is: One cannot become a member of the Lord’s Church that way!
I am for “friendship evangelism.” I teach it, and doubt that any other kind is very effective. But I am also sure that the usual approach is dangerous, and may be destructive to the process of real conversion. This is what I mean by “the usual approach.” You make friends with a person and get him to have confidence in you. Then you say, “I would like for you to come to our services. I believe you will like our preacher. He is a fine speaker. He preaches in a positive, interesting, relevant manner, speaking to your needs. The people there are the nicest, friendliest you will ever meet. The worship is reverent, yet not so solemn you cannot smile and be happy.”
The thing that makes the situation so potentially dangerous is that each of these things is good, and probably most congregations would be far better if they had them! But the person who makes his religious decisions in terms of these cannot thus become a Christian! He can “get baptized,” get his name on the church roll, become a song leader, teacher, deacon, maybe even an elder and a preacher, but he cannot thus become a Christian!
Why not? For the simple, yet profound reason that Jesus said that for a person to follow Him, one must deny himself. The person who is taught to take his every religious action in terms of what satisfies his desires, pleasures or wishes is not denying self! In fact, that is the primary difference in the church of the Lord and every other religious group on the face of the earth. The Lord’s church exists only by the authority of Jesus. None other does! The Lord’s church functions only by the authority of Jesus. None other does!
So it must follow that any person whose actions are determined by his wants or feelings rather than by what Jesus authorizes cannot thus become a Christian. That is true even if his actions are those which are commanded by Jesus! A person may be immersed in water because his mother wanted him to, or because the church of his choice taught that it should be done (it was a “church ordinance”), but his baptism would be invalid even if it were immersion in water, and somebody mentioned “remission of sins” in conjunction with it. We have quoted, “In vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Mt. 15:9) without always realizing that a doctrine may be a commandment of man, even if it is outwardly what Jesus said!
A man might take what he calls “The Lord’s Supper” or “The Sacrament” on the first day of every week because his church authorizes it, and be no better off than one who took it quarterly for the same reason. A man who does not use a mechanical instrument of music in worship merely because he thinks singing is prettier without it, or because “his church” does not believe in it is no better off than the man who does use it. A movie actor who does not drink or dance because “his church does not believe in it” is already in apostasy, whether he espouses tongue speaking or not. If the foundation is wrong, the house can never be built right, no matter what is in it!
When one decides that all he does in word or deed will be by the authority of the Lord (Col. 2:17), he does not need to worry about finding the right church. The Lord will add him to it when he obeys the gospel from the heart (Rom.6:17-18) without his searching any more (Acts2:47).
T. Pierce Brown
1068 Mitchell Ave.
Cookeville, TN. 38501
Phone: (615) 528-3600