The Marks of YOUR Church

People choose to change churches for many reasons.  Moving to a new city often forces them to select a new church.  With the unstable nature of our world, the changing doctrine or structure of churches often causes people to leave and seek a new church.  In these times, Christians may seek guidance in how they ought to choose which church to join.  What characteristics ought a believer search for in their desire to find a new church?
The factors people take into consideration number in the hundreds.  Most of these factors indicate some valid point of concern.  However, Christians ought to investigate and wrestle with the issue of which factors are most important in the decision.  Historically, there are three factors that Christians have concluded rank highest in the choice of a church home.  No Christian should consider joining a church where these three characteristics are not plainly evident.
Coming to the place of first importance, the mark here would find nearly unanimous acceptance.  This mark is the pure preaching of the Word of God.  We look here to Acts 2:42, “And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine.”  Without this mark, the organization has no business calling itself a church of Jesus Christ.
Christians must notice what this mark does not mean.  It does not mean that the sermon is enjoyable, that the pastor tells good jokes, that the sermon holds your attention, that the sermon doesn’t last too long, or worse, that the sermon doesn’t interrupt one’s nap.  Whether you like loud preaching or not misses the point of this mark.  Style remains secondary to content.  The question to face is whether the sermon expounds upon the text of scripture.
This question cannot be answered positively by using a text to springboard into a diatribe on some hot-button issue of the pastor.  Neither is this mark fulfilled by a cobbling together of texts ripped from their context and hung together on a flimsy line of superficial word studies.  Such sermons are pearls connected by a spider’s line, totally demolished at the slightest inquiry.
The pure preaching of the Word of God demands a careful analysis of scripture within its context.  The old adage “a text without context is a pretext” proves infinitely true when applied to the Holy Scriptures.  Lazy preachers use quaint moralisms to placate their listener instead of being diligent shepherds who labor hard to feed their flocks well.  All too often, Christians can become satisfied with a steady diet of cotton-candy instead of a well-balanced diet of meat and vegetables.  The former produces obese couch potatoes; the latter produces healthy warriors.
In second place, we find the due administration of the sacraments.  Again, most people would not have placed this factor even at the bottom of their lists.  Yet, Christians should remember that the sacraments were not peripheral teachings of some erstwhile apostle, but institutions of our Lord Jesus himself.  While baptism remains a normally circumstantial event, the Lord’s Supper demands planning and preparation.  How often a church celebrates this sacrament indicates the seriousness with which the church takes all of our Lord’s commands.  A Christian should ask himself, how long has it been since this church celebrated the Lord’s Supper.  Too often, the answer is shocking.  In modern thought, the Lord’s Supper no longer holds a regular appointment in churches.  It is done, rather, whenever the mood strikes someone.  As Christians have a scheduled appointment with our Lord on His Day, they should retain a scheduled appointment to the Lord’s Table.  Laying aside the question of frequency, at a minimum there ought to be a regular schedule of celebration of the Lord’s Supper.
At third place, we have the mark of proper exercise of church discipline.  This factor may surprise many believers.  Some may not consider it a proper factor at all.  Most Christians do not have this on their list when making this decision.  The complete absence of discipline in churches today demonstrates how unimportant most believers consider it to be.  Spiritually, however, it is third in importance.
Discipline means more than removing people from the church.  The church’s chief method of discipline comes in the involvement of the church leadership in the lives of the members of the church.  The chief source of this involvement comes in the relationship between the pastor and the congregation.
Discipline requires a serious recognition of the continuing presence and influence of sin within the heart of every member of the church.  From pastor to Pre-K, all people suffer the influence of sin.  Sin continually seduces people in believing that they are not sinners.  Reminding people of their sin remains a chief responsibility of the church.  
There ought to be an undercurrent within the church that recognizes that all people are sinners and thus fall under conviction.  If you can sit under the teaching of a pastor for a whole year, semester, quarter, or even month without becoming convicted of some sin in your life, this indicates that there is a lack of discipline within the church.  A church that regularly reminds people of their sinful hearts exercises discipline well.
Because the pure preaching of the word forms the sine qua non (“without which there is nothing” or absolute necessity) of the Christian church, Covenant Presbyterian Church has inaugurated a new section of its website called simply, “Doctrine.”  Within this section, we intend to post innovative and provocative articles to continue to say the same old truths of God’s Word to the modern world.  Our desire is not to say anything new, but to say the same thing Christians have said for millennia to the contemporary culture.  God’s Word never changes, but its everlasting message applies as much to us in the twenty-first century as it did in the first.
What you find in our new “Doctrine” section may shock and surprise you.  It may challenge your preconceptions.  You might even find it offensive.  Our goal is not to surprise, shock or offend any.  Rather, we merely repeat what God had taught in His Word.  We welcome any feedback on these articles, especially those who can document from Scripture where we have erred.  We make no claim to superiority, but admit that we can possess as many blind spots as our brothers.  However, we assert that the claims we make within this section constitute the most coherent and consistent interpretation and application of Scripture.  We invite you to browse our website and pray that through it, God would by His grace illumine your heart with the true light of His Word.

Service Times

Sunday School: 10:00am
Living Christian in an Unchristian World

Morning Worship: 11:00am
John

Evening Worship: 6:00pm
Ecclesiastes

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Covenant Presbyterian Church
100 Jefferson St.
Natchitoches, LA 71457
(318) 356-0307
mail@cpcnatchitoches.org

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