7/27/16 Gustavo about 50
“How can I find a good church?” a man named Gustavo asked me several times during the course of a 2 hour conversation at the park yesterday. He had welcomed my reaching out to him with a question about eternity and enjoyed talking about religion and his experiences. He seemed to have a fairly strong belief in the Bible as God’s inspired Word and in Jesus as God’s Son, but over the past 5 or 10 years he has been briefly involved with perhaps half a dozen churches, but says he has not found the right church yet. He complained that every time he has prayed to ask God for a church to attend, he has been sent false teachers such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, or prosperity preachers who invited him to their gatherings. Each of these he had been involved with up to a point until he realized what they were teaching was contrary to Scripture, so he left them. He was invited to churches by family members, but their lack of consistency as Christians has turned him off to their churches.
I asked how he evaluates a church. “By how much love I feel when I visit” he said. By this standard I could see why he left several churches after perceived slights. No church is perfect. All have believers (and unbelievers) at different levels of maturity. All have to pay their bills. All are led by people with varying strengths and weaknesses. All are affected by the larger culture around them. If we want to find an excuse not to attend a church, we won’t have to look very far.
But is “love” the right standard to judge a church on? 1 Timothy says “…the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” Could our cultural conception of “love” be one of those myths? Is it more loving for people to make us feel good, to “say what our itching ears want to hear”, or to tell us the truth? Should not the standard for judging a church be on how well it teaches and follows God Word?
And here is where Gustavo’s evaluation broke down. As much as he said he believes the Bible is God’s inspired word, he doesn’t read it for himself. He can’t judge how biblical a church is because he is not constantly renewing his mind with biblical truth. He has substituted a worldly myth for the true meaning of “love”, and judges churches by a standard he knows they won’t be able to keep. Does Gustavo really want a good church, or is he really just looking for a good excuse not to attend?