The Retailer, Restaurant, and Church of Who’s Choice?
A woman goes shopping. It has been a long, difficult week and it’s time for some “retail therapy.” She has combed through the sales flyers, clipped the coupons, and compared countless products. Out of the hundreds of stores in the city, she has sifted through and carefully chosen only the few that offer the styles, colors, and prices that she most desires, and is therefore willing to spend her precious time and personal resources on. After all, it is her own hard-earned money and time off that she is about to sacrifice, and so it should be her choice as to exactly which stores she will spend both in. Hence, out of the hundreds of choices available, it is only to these select few stores that she will go, as they are the ones most likely to offer what she wants…
A husband decides to take his wife out to celebrate a particularly meaningful event in their lives. Everything must be just right. And so, despite the fact that there’s a ‘restaurant on every corner’ in the city, after some in-depth research he carefully selects the restaurant he most desires for this occasion; the one with just the right atmosphere, location, personnel, cuisine choices and menu options. After all, it’s their special occasion, their personal investment, and therefore, their choice – and no one else’s. And certainly no one in their right mind would argue that.
But what about worship service and church attendance? Do the same rules of personal selection still apply? We’ve all heard the promotion to, “Attend the church of your choice,” but how biblically valid before God is that, really? Well, that depends on whom one is out to please; on whom one is most focused on fulfilling the desires of; and on whom we truly wish to worship and why.
After all, there are many – maybe even hundreds of – different ‘churches’ in most of our major metropolitan areas; churches, like competing stores and restaurants, all of which offer different and varied environments, doctrines, methods and services. And consequently, many people constantly go “church-shopping,” seeking just the right one to fit their particular wants, needs, whims and desires of the moment. But let’s suppose for just a moment that a person had actually fallen so truly and deeply in love with the Lord Jesus Christ for His selfless sacrifice on their behalf, that they were therefore only interested in pleasing Him with their worship – instead of themselves. Because of their deep and abiding love for Christ they would seek to do His will alone, and keep His commandments only, instead of seeking to selfishly fulfill their own desires (Jn. 14:15). To which church would this type of person go and belong – and why?
* To begin with, accepting and respecting God’s word as His unchanging and eternal truth (Ps. 19:7-11; 119:89; Jn. 8:31-32; 17:17) they would diligently search the Scriptures (Acts 17:11) in an effort to identify, seek, and find Christ’s church from in amongst all the others: the one He promised to build – the one He began on the Day of Pentecost through the apostle Peter’s opening it up just as He had promised (Matt. 16:18-19; Acts 2:37-47); the one He purchased with His own blood (Acts 20:28); His one bride/church that wears, and is identified by His holy name and His alone (Acts 4:12; Ro. 16:16).
* They would definitely not stop for more than a quick visit at any church that taught a different gospel, other than the one delivered in the first century as recorded on the pages of the New Testament (Rom. 16:17-18; Gal. 1:6-10; II Jn. 6-11). This would include immediately vacating any assembly that taught a different gospel plan of salvation other than the one seen in Scripture (a different one such as saying a prayer to be saved which is never found in any example of New Testament conversion to Christ); any church that taught salvation by some man-made method that didn’t include the obedience of faith or obeying the gospel (Rom. 1:5, 16:26; II Thess. 1:7-9) through water baptism, as an essential element specifically for the forgiveness of sins and placing a person in Christ’s body which is His church (Matt. 28:18-20; Mk. 16:15-16; Jn. 3:3-5; Acts 2:37-47, 10:47-48, 22:16; Ro 6:1-4; Gal. 3:26-27; Eph. 1:22-23, 4:4-6; I Ptr. 3:21).
* In seeking Christ’s church as established, experienced, and explored in Scripture, they would search relentlessly until they found one that was wholeheartedly devoted to keeping and never tampering with the apostles’ doctrine in all things (Acts 2:42; I Cor. 4:6; II Cor. 4:1-6), realizing that the things written by the apostles were the very commandments of the Lord God Himself (I Cor. 14:33-37; I Thess. 4:1-8; II Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Ptr. 1:16-2:3, 3:1-3).
* They would not stay with any church which was either named after, or followed after, the teachings of any human being – of anyone other than Christ Himself – realizing that such division is sinful and completely contrary to the commandments and desires of God in Scripture (Lk. 6:46-49; Jn. 17:20-24; I Cor. 1:10).
* They would not worship anywhere where instruments of music were used in any setting to praise God, realizing that God told us a grand total of nine times in the New Testament exactly the type of worship music He wants, prefers, and desires – always vocal, never instrumental ever, at all (Matt. 26:30; Mk. 14:26; Acts 16:25; Ro. 15:9; I Cor. 14:15; Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16; Hebs. 2:12, 13:15; Jms. 5:13).
* Neither would they worship for one minute where women were serving as “pastors,” “preachers,” prayer, song, or worship leaders – no matter how perfectly or perhaps even far better than men they may have performed these tasks (I Cor. 14:33-37; I Tim. 2:11-15).
These people would realize that it was God, through the Lord Jesus Christ, who made the ultimate investment and sacrifice for the church (Eph. 3:8-12). They would appreciate the fact that since Jesus Christ was willing to leave heaven and equality with God behind in order to come, and suffer, and sacrifice, and pay the price for the church, that it is He (Phil. 2:1-8; Ro. 5:1-11) who gets to choose the church, the doctrine, and the practices and worship styles that He wants those who love Him to attend and participate in. Like the wife who would certainly not refuse but instead appreciate her husband’s hard-sought and carefully selected restaurant for their special celebration, those who sincerely appreciate the love and blood-sacrifice that Jesus paid for His church (Acts 20:28) would certainly not refuse His choice of location and activities for each Sunday’s special celebration of worship to Him either. Because they love the Lord their God with all their hearts, souls, minds, and strength, they would be concerned only with doing His will instead of their own or anybody else’s (Matt. 7:21-27, 10:32-39; Gal. 2:20), and with being members of His church (Ro. 16:16) far above and beyond any other petty preferences or personal concerns. Their hearts’ desire would be to “Attend the church of God’s choice;” the one seen in His holy word from Acts two forward, centuries before any man-made and therefore man-honoring denominations and denominational doctrines ever came into existence. These would therefore, be exactly the kind of worshippers the Father Himself is constantly seeking (Jn. 4:23-24).
Those, on the other hand, who are less concerned with what God has clearly stated He wants them to do than with fulfilling their own desires, let’s say, for things such as entertainment, would have no problem attending where there’s instrumental music and drama skits – as opposed to the acappella music and full gospel preaching like the church we see in Scripture had. Those men and/or women who wish to see and hear women leading in the public worship assembly in order to promote whatever personal agenda they may have, instead of honoring God’s stated desires, requirements, and restrictions regarding such, would have no problem attending – and fully justifying said attendance – where these biblically-forbidden, age-old pagan practices relentlessly rage on. In like manner, those who want only ear-tickling, non-challenging sermons instead of the full and life-changing, unadulterated counsel of almighty God taught, will also attend where they can get what they prefer instead of what God does (II Tim. 3:12-4:4; Acts 20:26-27). While many other examples could be cited, these should suffice; just as Matt. 15:7-9 and Mk. 7:5-13 should suffice to show that all such personally preferred, biblically condemned doctrines, practices, and preferences of men, result only in vain, useless, unacceptable and pointless worship. This is because such is man-centered instead of God-centered; it is man-promoting instead of God-promoting; it is man-honoring instead of God-honoring. And quite frankly, God doesn’t deal with those who do that in the fashion they’d prefer (Matt. 22 + 23).
When one truly loves and appreciates what God has done for them in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, their love-response will be one of humble submission and awe-inspired obedience to His desires instead of their own. They will search the scriptures carefully to discover which church He promised, purchased, and established, and wants them to attend to celebrate and honor Him. (It’s the same church He Himself personally places them in upon their “by faith water baptism into Christ, specifically for the forgiveness of their sins” – See: Acts 2:37-47; Gal. 3:26-27; Col. 1:13-2:23). They will explore the pattern and practices (II Tim. 1:13) of that church seen in Scripture right down to the name which it honors and is described by, and will not settle for anything else. How could they? After all, these sincere seekers fully understand that worship is not at all about them, but all about Him! They will “Attend the church of God’s choice” as seen in Scripture, instead of attending “the church of their choice” and living in error. Doctrine matters! Obedience matters! What kind of worshipper do you want to be? Attend the church of God’s choice! Seek it out in God’s word today! Don’t settle for anything less! “…The churches of Christ greet you” (Ro. 16:16).