“A Church That Fits”
by Jack Cottrell (Notes) on Friday, November 27, 2009 at 12:51pm
HERE’S A RECENT REQUEST: I’d like your comments on the following: “Find a church that fits. Do not go into Christ’s Church and expect to change it to fit you. People of faith need others of like faith to worship with in order to grow and seek a relationship with God. Find a church that fits, so together you can better seek God’s purpose for your life.” This was written in a church’s newsletter, and it has caused quite an uproar.
MY REPLY: This statement is ambiguous because it can be taken in different ways. It calls to mind the familiar distinction between “matters of faith (or essentials)” and “matters of opinion.” If the writer of the statement is talking about matters of opinion, i.e., items for which there is no Biblical affirmation or mandate, the statement has some validity. If the cultural flavor of a local congregation is not to your liking but is satisfactory to its current members, you have no right to challenge its practices with a divisive attitude just to try to bring it into conformity with your opinions. This can apply to the music issue. If a particular congregation is happy with its style of music and does not want to change, and you do not like that music style, then it would indeed be best to “find a church that fits” your preferences in that area.
The biggest problem with this approach, though, is those situations where there is no alternative within a reasonable distance. Sometimes, in general areas where only one faithful New Testament congregation exists, a family may be required to drive a considerable distance in order to accommodate their preferences; and in some cases there may be nothing really available. The temptation in such an instance is to begin attending a denominational church congregation, one that teaches false doctrine but has the preferred music style. I have two comments about this kind of situation. First, it is better to endure bad music than to support false doctrine. Second, there is no excuse for the leadership of any congregation to ignore the preferences of some in the congregation if some kind of compromise can possibly be reached.
But there is another way to take the original statement above. It is possible that its author is speaking not of matters of opinion, but matters of faith, i.e., doctrinal affirmations of Scripture. This interpretation is suggested by the reference to “others of like faith.” If this is the intention of the statement, then I seriously object to its relativistic or pluralistic implications. In this case it would be implying that “one church (or denomination, or faith) is as good as another,” and that we should not desire that any of them should change. We should just join the one that is closest to our own beliefs and not be judgmental about any others. This I cannot accept.
In “matters of faith and practice,” the acceptability of a church or congregation is not determined by whether or not it FITS ME, but whether or not it “fits” or measures up to the teachings of the Bible, the Word of God. A church that does not “fit” the Biblical pattern does not really “fit” any human being. What should be “causing an uproar” among us is the fact that so many of our preachers and teachers and scholars have become so indifferent toward sound doctrine that they are almost completely tolerant of any sincere belief, no matter how unbiblical.