This post continues the series “The Church Hunt”, which began this past week with the question: “Where can I find community?” This series summarizes insights from Rich Lamb’s book Following Jesus in the “Real World” and is based on a handout created by my former InterVarsity supervisor, Chris Swiney.
When searching for a church it is important to find one in which you can enter into and build community with fellow Christians. But this is not the only thing that we should look for when choosing a church. The second question that we must ask is, “Where is Scripture being studied?” Here is what we mean:
Some degree of happy fellowship may exist in a church without a true sense of common convictions and common commitments. Community itself should be based on a corporate life with God, including both prayer and Scripture study. If there is no place in the church where Scripture is being studied in a way that can be transformative, then either you want to start that (if you plan to commit there) or else move. Sermons on Sunday morning may be a part of the corporate Scripture element of the church, but hopefully not the whole thing. Are people willing to spend time to study the Bible? Is the Bible authoritative in people’s lives?
Many churches would like to have Bible study in small groups, Sunday school classes, or at other times. Church leaders are not usually resistant to the idea of Scripture study but often have little idea about how to make it practical and accessible. Often, the limiting factors are time and desire – people don’t value it enough to set aside the time. You don’t need to think of yourself as the solution to the problem, but you can recognize that you may be part of the process. If you desire to introduce your church to transformative Scripture study, then start small and invite people who will be willing to give the time it takes to do it right. Over time this will win a hearing among others as people share about the experience they have.
Ultimately, if there is no hope for common Scripture study in the church you are considering, then what shapes that church is simply the opinion of its members. If the church is not listening to God through his Word as a body, it would be better to keep looking for a church that is.
More than anything I think that this commitment to allow Scripture to guide the church is paramount. Too many churches are led by the visions, plans, desires, or agendas of their pastors and leaders. But churches that truly advance the Gospel and see lasting life change are those which draw their values, mission, and vision from God’s Word itself. While community is great, community bound together by the Gospel is life-giving. Anything less is simply a social club.
So what about your church? Where are there places to study Scripture together with other believers? How is Scripture taught and in what ways are people equipped to study God’s Word?