For New Christians
step #7 - Christian & Church Fellowship
ANSWERS TO MOST ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT GOING TO CHURCH
Relationships with "old friends" and "Christian Friends"?
Can You find the "Right" or "Perfect" Church?
The Purposes of the local Church?
What Church should you attend?
Do I need a Christian Mentor?
What are you looking for?
It could happen to You?
What is the Church?
A ENCOURAGEING WORD!
Have you recently come to Christ as your Savior? If so, it is important for you to start your Christian life right. Now that you have new life, you need to grow; for growth is as important as birth. What a tragedy it would be if a tiny baby were to remain small all of his life. But it would be equally tragic if you had been born again but never would grow spiritually.
These steps for the new Christian do not constitute a magical formula. But they are derived from God’s Word and have been successfully practiced by mature Christians for generations.
If you take these first steps on the road to heaven, you’ll find the journey to be a challenge and a blessing. But more than that, your first steps will not be your last. God bless you as you step out for Him.
Soon after you trust Christ as Savior, you’ll want to become part of a dynamic church. Not only will this help you make Christian friends, but it will help you grow by leaps and bounds in your new Christian faith.
A lot people identify themselves with a particular church, but they never seem to be able to get out of bed to attend. You’ve heard about old Joe. He’s a regular churchgoer; he never misses Easter and Christmas services. And that’s the kind of attitude toward church attendance many people have today. That is true of how I was raised, we never missed Easter and Christmas, but forgot about God the other 363 days of the year.
Why is it so important to become a part of a good church?
There are many reasons. One is to worship God, to honor Him and His Word. The Bible cautions us not to fail to assemble together with other believers. “Not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:25). The church in the first century, according to the Book of Acts, met together constantly. They praised God; they worshiped Him, and they learned about Him together.
A church exists for the double purpose of gathering in and sending out.
When we gather together in the church, we are blessed. But we don’t go for a blessing. We go because we have a sense of calling, a sense of duty, a sense of need for God and for others who have trusted Christ.
While we are in the church, our spiritual batteries are recharged so that we can be sent into the world to let our lights shine before men.
Someone will say, “I don’t go to church because there are too many hypocrites there.” If the church were perfect, you and I couldn’t get in. The church is not going to be like heaven, but then nothing on earth ever will be.
But the true believers make up Christ’s church. He is the head of the church. The church is His body. “And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.” (Ephesians 1:22-23).
And when we attend a local church, we know that the people there are not perfect; but they are forgiven, and that’s important.
What kind of church should you attend?
Here’s a simple rule. Look for a church where the Bible is treated as God’s Word-His authoritative Word-where people express a loving concern for those who are still lost in their sins and where the people worship God with deep respect.
I would avoid a church where you do not need a Bible during the whole service, where you never hear the name of Jesus Christ elevated and where no concern for lost sinners is ever expressed.
After coming to Christ as Savior, as soon as you can, find a good Bible-believing church and become active in it. Do not delay. It’s easy to lose interest in the church if you have never made an investment in it. Finding a church is an important step for the new Christian. Visit and talk to your Pastor and ask questions and get involved.
Guaranteed the Pastor will find a place for you. One thing I have learned over the years as you step out and trust God and out of your comfort zone. You will be pleasantly surprised what God will do as you rely on Him and not yourself. I dare say you will be shocked in a good way. That is absolutely my personal testimony.
As you interlock with a Church family and grow together, I guarantee God will use you, no matter what you have done in the past. Join a good caring and nurturing Church and be obedient to God. God will lead in directions out of your comfort zones, but sit back and watch God work. All He asks that you be available and put Him first. ABSOLUTELY!!!
When I became a Christian at 23, I knew my life would be different — but I didn’t know I’d experience such . . . awkwardness. It’s funny to look back on now, but those first times going to Church can be really uncomfortable at times — and those of us who are Christians might do well to keep that in mind.
Hebrews 10:24-25 reads, "And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another …"
Although the word "church" is not in the verses quoted, the context of the passage indicates the writer is indeed making a reference to church. While the Hebrews passage above reminds Christians to make sure they gather together regularly, new Christians and even long time believers may find themselves confused about finding the "right" church. Here are some helpful suggestions for choosing a Christian church.
What is the Church?
Before we get into specific suggestions for finding a church, it will help to look at two common Christian distinctions of the word. The Christian church is both visible (local) and invisible (universal). The visible church consists of physical gatherings, usually in church buildings, while the invisible church consists of Christians throughout the ages. The invisible or universal church is one, while visible local churches are many.
Every Christian is a member of the universal church because by definition Christians are believers in Christ. Therefore, they are members of His body – the church. The Bible, in fact, offers a number of images of the church such as calling it the "body of Christ": "Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it" (1 Corinthians 12:27). Christ is the head of the church (Ephesians 4:15; 5:23). While the visible and local church consists of organizations or institutions, the invisible and universal church consists of all Christians united under Christ. You belong to a huge big family of God!
The Purposes of the Church?
God's church has many purposes such as evangelism, edification, worship and social concern. To evangelize means to tell others the Good News (Gospel) of Jesus Christ and what He has done. Matthew 28:19 provides the mandate to spread the gospel. This means that every church needs to be involved in some form of evangelism, reaching out to non-Christians with the truth of Christ.
The church is also to edify Christians. To edify means to build up, equip, improve, encourage or support. Gathering together with other believers, as in attending church, is one important way to be edified as a Christian. We can also be edified by teachings in a sermon, Bible study or small group. There are other ways the church provides edification, but the point is that another purpose or role of the church is to edify.
Worship is also a key function of the church. It is where we gather with other Christians and worship God. This does not mean that a church building is the only place we can worship (it's not), but it is something the church is to do regularly. Although different Christian churches have different forms of worship styles or music, the purpose is to worship God, not to entertain or amuse the congregation.
Another purpose of the church is social concern. This means we are not just to gather together on an intellectual level, spend all our time in worship or evangelize without human concern. While evangelism, edification, and worship are important in the life of any church, it's also important to go out into the world and do something positive to help others just as Christ called us to do.
For instance in one of my favorite verses, Matthew 25:35-36: “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”
Social concern was a key part of the early Christian church and has continued to be a central component of Christianity.
Can You Find the "Right" Church? - What church should you attend?
Keeping in mind the purposes of the church, we're now ready to get into some specifics about finding a church.
Sometimes Christians spend a lot of time trying to find just the "right" church. Unfortunately, this method is rarely successful. Instead of concentrating on finding the "right" church for you, concentrate on finding a church that honors God's truths as expressed in the Bible and throughout the history of the church.
One thing to keep in mind is what a particular church believes and teaches. We might call this "doctrine." While Christian traditions have room for a variety of expressions of church and worship, for instance, all Christian churches throughout the centuries adhere to a core of essential beliefs about God, Christ, humanity, salvation, etc.
1. Have a clear idea of what kind of teaching you want. Christianity consists of numerous denominations and some primary traditions. Knowing what you are looking for is important. Although Christians are united on essentials such as the deity of Christ, there is a lot of room for diversity on secondary issues, meaning differing approaches and interpretations of Bible prophecy, varying means of baptism, differences regarding the details of the observation of communion, etc. There are also varying forms of church government.
2. Inquire about religious affiliations. Is the church you are considering part of a denomination? Is it independent and self-governing? Is it associated with any particular organizations? Asking these kinds of questions may help you learn more about the church you are considering.
3. Ask for a doctrinal statement. This may also be called a statement of faith. In short, a doctrinal statement should list essentials that the church believes.
4. If you are considering a particular denomination, you should check out their web site, both for the denomination and, if they have one, the specific church you have in mind.
The Perfect Church?
Haven't you found the perfect church? You won't. Every visible and local church consists of a mixture of members, all of whom are flawed to one extent or another. Even though you will not find a perfect church, do your best to find a solid church that honors the Bible and the essential beliefs of Christianity. As you search for a church, remember to pray for God's guidance, too.
Determine What You're Looking For
Solid biblical teaching is a must when deciding which church to attend. After that, consider what other characteristics you're looking for in a church or other spiritual community (check all that apply):
___ positive spiritual, moral and social training for my child
___ a broader network of potential friends in my community
___ local resources to strengthen my marriage
___ local resources to enrich our family
___ pastoral encouragement and support
___ opportunities for service
What else are you looking for?
What would you say are the two most important things you're looking for?
Decide What Options to Pursue.
Do you have a strong preference for a particular size of church? If you decide to attend a large congregation, you'll find a wide variety of family-friendly resources. If you'd rather attend a smaller church, you'll still enjoy a number of benefits.
Are you ready to look for a list of specific churches near your home? You'll find a wide assortment listed online. Prayerfully select three or four to visit. Set up a rotating schedule that will allow you to visit each church twice over the next two months. Call ahead to confirm what time each church holds services or check on the Church websites if they have one. On your first visit, be sure to fill out a visitor's card. Request information about the church's programs. Pick up a welcome packet of information, if offered.
After visiting several churches near your home, review your list of wishes and your preferences. If you have a family involve the them in the discussions to determine whether you want to continue attending one of the churches you've visited. If not, repeat the step above with a new list of three or four other churches near your home.
If you are like me new experiences are daunting. Finding and going to a new environment as a caring Church is nerve wrecking and scary. Everything is so new. The Christian lingo, finding scripture verses when asked, someone asking you to pray, afraid to say something wrong and seeing other so comfortable in their God experience.
You can let it be overwhelming, or you can chose to remember everyone in that caring Church has gone through the same thing at some point. Your brothers and sisters are there to help care and nurture you, not to be critical or judge you. I repeat every Christian has gone through what you are going through. That is the time God can use you the most as you might know the ins and outs of the Christian ways, but you 100% have to rely on God’s Holy Spirit to help you and not just go through the Christian motions as some older Christians can fall prey to.
If it is time for you to begin a new spiritual journey in a healthy church environment. Once you decide to join the church you've been attending, plant your family's roots deeply into it.
Make a commitment to your church. Speak well of your church. Find a way to serve within your church. Give financially to support its programs. Meet the physical needs of others. Show hospitality to others.
Let us know what you decide. We'd love to hear your story!
Connect with us with what you decided here.
Leaving your church under bad circumstances can lead to the temptation to abandon church entirely. Here's what a prominent Christians have had to say about spiritual drifting:
"Maybe if you have money, health and a busy schedule, you don't feel the need to fellowship with other Christians. But when the storms of life hit — and they will — suddenly you'll find nobody's there. If you remain shallow in your relationship to your local church, you will lose out on the support of other Christians when you need it most." — Luis Palau
Quenching your spiritual drought
"Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink." (John 7:37).
It Could Happen to You!
A lot of Christians we get emails from have made a commitment to Jesus Christ, and say that commitment is still important to them, but they have struggled with faith or relational issues and therefore quit going to church.
Like a safe harbor, local churches can be a second home for many people.
Problems can arise when you and I are, unsure of where we fit in a local church. Confused or overwhelmed by church expectations. Rejected, humiliated, or hurt by someone in the church. If you're still struggling with a bad church experience, you're not alone. The good news, it's possible for you to make a healthy recovery.
List the ways you've been wounded by others. Write down who hurt you and how. Describe any times you've been confused or overwhelmed while attending a particular church. Describe any times you wondered how you fit in a local church.
Study what the Bible teaches about experiencing God's forgiveness and forgiving others. Read the story of Joseph and his brothers in Genesis 39-45. If you have an opportunity, look up verses on "Forgive" (and related words) in a Bible concordance. In your journal, make a list of what you learn.
Pray about what you've learned about forgiveness. Ask God to make each truth real in your own experience.
Identify who you need to meet with to ask for forgiveness for the wrongs you have done. Pray ahead of time that they will graciously forgive you. If a lot of time has passed, it's even okay to pray that they've forgotten what you did.
Identify who has wronged you. Tell the Lord how badly you were hurt. Thank God for understanding how you were wounded. Ask Him to give you the ability to forgive each person in your heart, no matter what they did, even if they never apologize to you. Identify the individual(s) you can't seem to forgive. Do you need to meet with that person and a third party to seek repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation? If so, who could you ask to serve as that third party? A Christian counselor? Your pastor? Another godly older friend?
Would encourage anyone that has been hurt by someone in the Church to try and resolve the problem. Leaving a Church for the above reasons is not good and only causes resentment and bitterness. Only as the last solution and lots of prayer start the process of finding a new, healthy church home.
Navigating relationships with your “old friends.”
It’s tricky, figuring out the implications of your new life on your old friendships. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! You’re no longer the person you had been. As God reorients your desires, the friends who knew you before might be thrown off when you don’t want to do that thing you guys always did together. Where does that leave your friendship?
In my case, I didn’t hide my new faith, but I didn’t advertise it either. My friends knew I went to church, but I don’t think they realized the implications of my faith and the depth to which it transformed my motivations, thoughts, actions and my life.
Friendships will change because you do. That doesn’t mean you throw away all of your “old” friends. It might be messy and uncomfortable at times, but there’s a way to maneuver through those changes well truthfully, lovingly, and gracefully. Realizing how different your life is and will be. This has two sides. Both deal with the struggle to let go of your old self and accept the new.
As you come into a truer understanding of the gospel, things you once cared so deeply about will start to seem petty or superficial or . . . wrong. So, yes, it can be uncomfortable and messy and confusing to wrestle with such intense inner change — especially when it has so many outward consequences. But it’s worth it to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called.”
Make Christian Friends
Someone has said that the ornaments of a house are the friends who frequent it. After you become a Christian, you may find a need for some new friends. Don’t totally abandon your old friends. You’ll want to witness to them about your new faith in Christ.
But when you become a new creation in Christ Jesus, when old things pass away and all things become new-you may experience a sudden coolness on the part of your old friends, and many of them will likely abandon you.
Make sure you choose your new friends carefully. And be sure that they are not like your old friends who may have turned away.
Proverbs 4:14,15 tells us: “Do not set foot on the path of the wicked or walk in the way of evildoers. Avoid it, do not travel on it; turn from it and go on your way.”
Your new friends will establish a setting in which you will build your new life. Make sure it is a righteous setting.
Choose friends who will help you through the ups and downs of your new Christian life. This kind of friend will joyfully sing with you when you are on the mountain top and silently walk beside you through the darkest valley.
Aristotle said: “that a friend is a single soul dwelling in two bodies.”
But Christian friendship goes deeper than that. Two Christian friends have the added advantage of the same Spirit residing in each of them-the Holy Spirit. “And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us” (1 John 3:24). Your new friends can be a blessing and encouragement to you. Their friendship doubles your joy and divides your grief. That is the testimony of many, many Christians.
They can be a support for you; they can share their spiritual wisdom with you. The next best thing to being wise yourself is having a circle of friends who are wise. Ask them to help you understand what you need to know.
They can also help you in many other ways. They can help you find answers to your questions. They can help you in your Bible study. They can assist you in locating a church where you can worship and grow in the Lord.
Making Christian friends is an important step for a new Christian.
But what if you don’t know any Christians?
Take the next step.
Use the guidelines above and take the plunge into looking for a caring Church. Ask questions. Visit the Pastor at the Church or ask for a home visit, which most Pastor’s do on a daily bases. Ask questions about the Church, their outreach program, study groups, etc. YES, it is daunting to walk cold turkey into a Church, but you will feel welcomed immediately in a nurturing Church.
Step Find an Accountability Friend
You increase your ability, stability and responsibility when you increase your sense of accountability to God. One way you can do this is to find another believer who will be your accountability friend.
What is an accountability friend? It is a mature Christian who agrees to disciple you, to help you grow and mature in your new faith in Christ. It is someone who agrees to hold you accountable, someone who will help you carry through on what you determine to do.
If you tell your accountability friend that you are going to have a quiet time every morning for half an hour, he or she will call you later in the day and ask if you did. An accountability friend makes sure that you do all that you told God you would do.
But the accountability street goes both ways. Frequently two people will be accountability friends for each other. They will hold each other up and lift each other up when they need a lift. And if one should fall, the other will help him or her up. There is a striking image of this in Ecclesiastes 4:9-10: “Two are better than one . . . For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up.”
This principle works not only when you take a physical tumble but also when you have a weakness in the spiritual realm. If you have an accountability friend, you know that someone is there for you when you stumble, someone who will help you to keep from falling. For example, if you lose your enthusiasm in your walk with the Lord and become lukewarm, your accountability friend can take you aside and kindly, sincerely warn you that you are in spiritual danger.
An ancient proverb from the Near East says, “A friend is one who warns you.” But an accountability friend, a true friend, never stops with a warning. He will also pray with you, encourage you and guide you back on the right track. That’s what accountability friends are for.
Friends don’t just criticize, they help. A true friend doesn’t sympathize with your weakness; he helps you summon your strength. When you and another Christian make a commitment to be accountable to each other, the best will be brought out in both of you.
Test any advice you receive by comparing it with what the Bible says, and ask God to help you understand whatever “teaching” you receive.
Experience God with Others.
You need to go to Church -- You should attend church regularly so that your faith can be strengthened by the preaching of God's Word, and so you can grow spiritually and be encouraged by the fellowship of other Christians.
Church is where you can go to express your love, faithfulness, and worship to God. Church is where we can learn how to be a Christian, and where the Pastor and spiritual leaders can help you and encourage your faith.
The Bible warns us not to absent ourselves from church attendance, because we need the strength and encouragement it brings. “not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another“ (Hebrews 10:25).
One note on preaching and teaching. Most pastors really pray and seek God's guidance in what to preach. They study really hard and spend a great deal of time in preparing their lessons and messages. It is estimated that most good pastors spend from four to six hours on each message. Being lead of the Lord that come and deliver God's message to the church. However, if church members are not there they do not hear what God has to say to them as a local church.
Most denominations today are losing members. Many believe that one important reason for this is that most of these church have done away with Sunday night services and also Bible study and prayer meeting. The churches that are growing and winning people to Christ are the ones whose members are being faithful in attending all the services.
When you choose not to attend Sunday School, Sunday evening, Bible Study and prayer meeting you in fact are voting to discontinue them. You also are telling your neighbors and others in the church you do not think that these services are important. You miss the opportunity to show your love and dedication to the Lord, by faithful supporting the total ministry of the church.
To be sure, it takes time, effort and expense to attend the services of the church. However, the benefit received will out weight any sacrifice on our part. One verse of Scripture that instructs how dedicated to Lord we should be is found in Romans 12:1-2.
"1.Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.
2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.." (Romans 12:1-2).
The last part of the Lord's instructions to the Disciples in Matt. 28 tells us to teach new converts the Word of God. This done through the ministry of the local church in each of its meetings. Your pastor is faithful in being on duty, prepared to teach and preach God's Word to help you grow in Christ.
Your privilege is to attend and avail yourself of the opportunity.