Experiencing the Truth
- Saturday, August 16, 2008
EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is an excerpt from Experiencing the Truth by Anthony J. Carter (Crossway).
Are you attending the wrong church? This question was the topic of an article in Gospel Today Magazine.1 According to the article, much has been written addressing the absence of men in most churches today. Yet, little attention has been paid to the men who are in church and the reasons why they attend the church they do. There is a nonchalant, almost disinterested quality to the men who are in church. The reason, according to the journalist, is that many of these men are in churches not of their own choosing. Consequently, they may be in the wrong place for the wrong reason. What are these reasons? Topping the journalist’s list:
1. It was the church of your childhood or the church where you first received Christ.
2. It’s where you found the love of your life.
3. It’s conveniently located.
4. The music is good.
5. The pastor is cool.
6. It was recommended by a friend.2
Contrary to what many might think, these are not sufficient grounds for attending a church. The selection of a church home is an important and life-impacting decision. Therefore it should be done soberly, intentionally, and with prayer and counsel. Apparently, the author of the aforementioned article agrees. He offers six answers to the question, what should a man look for when selecting a church?
1. Look for a church where other men are actively involved in the ministry, and not just the men’s ministry.
2. Look for a church where you can find purpose and significance for your life.
3. Look for a church where manhood is celebrated and not desecrated.
4. Look for a church where there is a connection between the pulpit and the pew.
5. Look for a church where opportunities for leadership exist.
6. Look for a church where the needs of the rest of your family are met.3
Honestly, a man could just as well find the above listing fulfilled in a national fraternity or a local golf club. In reading the journalist’s suggestions, one is struck by the accuracy with which he unknowingly demonstrates the malady and even calamity that is the church in general and the predominantly African-American church in particular. In setting forth his suggestions for determining one’s church home, the author prioritizes issues of felt needs and a self-serving agenda. He fails to demonstrate the biblical knowledge and discernment that is needed to inform such an important decision, yet rarely does.
Sadly, there is no mention of the single most important aspect of any decision to attend a church. The first and fundamental question should be: Is the Word of God faithfully and clearly expounded? Closely related to the first question are subsequent important questions: Are the sacraments faithfully administered? Is God the focus of the worship in word and song? Are faithfulness and holiness in life promoted? Ultimately: Are the theology of the pulpit and the practice of pew consistent with biblical, historic, experiential Christianity? These are the questions every Christian should be asking. These are the questions rarely raised in the predominantly African-American church today. These are the questions that precipitate the writing of this book.
The dearth of biblical truth among Christians today is caused by their search for places that serve them and meet their perceived needs rather than places where God is exalted and Christ is trusted because the Word of God is faithfully proclaimed. Yet, it is not only because people are looking for churches that will focus on their perceived felt needs; churches who are advertising themselves as places where people can get whatever they want, when they want it, and how they want it are equally responsible. This has created a chasm between Christianity in predominantly African-American churches and true, biblical Christian experience. Into this chasm we seek to posit historic, Reformed theology.
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