Seeking a Church

by Jefferson David Tant

So, you are moving to a new town, and you have various decisions to make. Where is a nice neighborhood? Are there any houses there that I can afford? Where is the nearest shopping center? How close to my job do I want to live? Is the traffic bad on the route I would choose to go to my job? These and other things must be taken into consideration.

And there is another significant decision to make. That decision concerns the congregation I would like to be a member of. Obviously, there isn’t much of a choice in some locations, as there may be only one Lord’s church in the area. And there are many locations where this is true. But there are other areas where there may be many churches of Christ that would be within a reasonable driving distance. So, what should I look for?

One important consideration is whether the church is faithfully following God’s Word. There are churches of Christ today that use instrumental music in their worship. This is a fairly recent departure, following the split that took place in the late 1800s with the development of missionary societies and instrumental music, resulting in the Christian Church denomination.

Another important matter concerns the church’s involvement in personal evangelism. Back in the days of my grandfather J. D. Tant’s preaching, gospel meetings, often in tents, would sometimes last two weeks or more, and dozens of people were usually baptized. This is no longer true, as our neighbors and other contacts are “too busy” to come to hear the gospel. TV, the internet, and other distractions restrict their “free time.”

Personal evangelism is the key to church growth today, even as it was in the first century. Consider the Great Commission: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:19-20).

So, the apostles were told to go make disciples, baptize them, and then teach them to do what he told the apostles to do — go make disciples and baptize them! Doesn’t that mean that the Great Commission applies to every Christian? Obviously so.

Local congregations should be practicing this. And who should be leading in this? Should it not be the elders, as well as the preacher? Personal evangelism enabled the successful spread of the gospel in the first century. Note what happened after the stoning of Stephen in Acts 7. “Saul was in hearty agreement with putting him to death. And on that day a great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles” (Acts 8:1). Then note Acts 8:4: “Therefore, those who had been scattered went about preaching the word.”

Who was it that went about “preaching the word?” It wasn’t the apostles at that time, as verse 1 states, but the ordinary Christians. They had come from various nations to Jerusalem to observe Pentecost, and, surely, many stayed in Jerusalem for a time after being converted, as they wanted to learn more. The persecution has begun, and it’s time to go home. They were excited about the “Good News,” and they began to share it. Elizabeth talked to her next-door neighbor and her grocery clerk. Jacob spoke to his fellow worker and the blacksmith who made horseshoes for his horse. That’s called “personal evangelism.” The apostles did go out later, but Acts 8:1 says they stayed in Jerusalem for a time.

Now note Paul’s words to the Colossian church: “if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister” (Colossians 1:23). This may have been written some 30 years after Pentecost, and the gospel had already spread to the whole known world in one generation. How was this possible with no fast communication — no telephones, TV, internet, or fast travel? It must have been personal evangelism!

So, if you are looking for a church, seek to find one that is genuinely involved in spreading the gospel. Some churches may stand for truth and will not allow false doctrines or practices, but they are not involved much in personal evangelism. If that is your only choice, be a part of such a church and make yourself an example of someone who spreads the “good news.” Who knows how much your example and encouragement will influence others?

Note what Paul wrote about the Thessalonian church: “You also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith toward God has gone forth, so that we have no need to say anything” (I Thessalonians 1:6-9). That church was very much involved in spreading the gospel.

The church in Roswell, Georgia, where I labored for over 40 years, would have a “Friend Day” a few times a year. An invitation card containing the sermon topic would be printed, and members would use it to invite friends, neighbors, co-workers, etc. As I recall, we always had visitors. I remember one Sunday afternoon, we had 47 visitors in addition to our 120 or so members. That presented opportunities to set up some Bible studies. And you know what Bible studies lead to — people converted to Christ!

Yes, many churches are sound in doctrine, but not as many are truly engaged in personal evangelism. Indeed, elders and preachers should set an example, and individual Christians can help by their example and encouragement.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email