The Search for a Church

Right after entering this new season of my life, I started my journey of looking for a church. Why the change? After all, I seemed to come across as being really ‘pleased’ with my decision of not belonging to one for quite some time.

In fact, I have heard that there were some people that that I know were irate about what I wrote on this blog previously, saying that I will stumble well-meaning Christians not to attend church, and one even saying that ‘I am not Christian’ :)

Well, I stated it quite clearly in my past post is that have expectations of what a church should be like, I don’t want to waste my time attending any church thinking that I am safe or godly being in a place that is not right. We don’t just go to church for friendships (fellowship), and no one is guaranteed a place in heaven just by attending church faithfully on Sundays. Especially when there is no true allegiance to God, or genuine heart transformation, or a discipline to walk with God daily.

There has to be a confirmation from God that a particular church is where He wants me to be, as I am not willing to settle for any less.

 

What are the factors important for you in a church?

Recently I chanced upon a post from a Christian author who did a survey of this question, ‘If you were searching for a new church today, what are the factors that will be very important to you?’

Sharing some of the answers that he got,

1. Truth being preached

2. Safe place for my kids

3. There has to be prophetic worship, prophetic ministry, anointed prophetic word-centred preaching, prayer and prayer ministry and outward vision

4. Fellowship-worship-Doctrinally Pure-and a leadership that is not afraid of the spiritual gifting that God puts in people

5. Friendships

6. Pastor that know God’s heart and can lead and teach accordingly

7. More God, less talk of people

8. Manifest presence of God

9. None of the above: only whether or not I am called to be there

According to the writer, point 9, is the correct answer, although I would be ideal if all 1-9 points were fulfilled, although I would think the majority of churches in Singapore fulfill points 1, 2, 5, 6, while point 8 is subjective. Really subjective.

Before I go on, I would like to address that by no means this is a post to show that ‘my church is better than yours’, and that I take pride in my ‘knowledge.’

At the risk of sounding arrogant, I have to agree that I do know more than the average Christian as I take the time to read, research and search through the Bible. And pray daily that I will grow in the spirit of wisdom and revelation of the knowledge of God, and that I may know what is the hope of God’s calling on my life (Ephesians 1:17-18).

I pray the same for you too, dear readers, that you will be a good berean to search out the word of God (Acts 17:11) and that your eyes of understanding will be enlightened to God’s will and His calling on your life.

All I hope by writing this post, with sharing my take and experience of my own search, that might provide some additional insight into your own search for a church.

 

Have We Started asking God what He wants us to do in Churches? 

Here is something biblical that most of the people surveyed here didn’t include it in as one of the factors, which are actual words from Jesus, nonetheless,

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which was also from Matthew 21:13, and this verse in Isaiah;

Even them I will bring to My holy mountain, And make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices Will be accepted on My altar; For My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.” – Isaiah 56:7

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What is it about prayer meetings or gatherings, that Christians tend to shun it or take it as last priority? Thinking that it’s embarrassing to have to pray out loud in front of people or that it not for me.

Most of us know what we want when it comes to the churches that we select. However, what we deem important for majority of church goers, similar to what is written from the will on God? (To know the will of God, spend time in the bible).

Btw, it is not a case of me vs them, as I am now an officially a church goer, since a month ago.

 

My Priorities in Selecting a Church?

In an ideal world, it will be great if all churches fulfill all points 1-9. And rather enthusiastically, I will share that the new church that I have started attending fulfills all points 1 – 9, including the one about prayer that I brought up.

The church leaders are focused on making their church ‘A House of Prayer’ by having intercessionary prayer gatherings twice-thrice a week for 2-3 hours. It was through their prayer meetings that I discovered this church, which I have started attending regularly.

I am still discovering more about point 5 so far, after all, friendships are build over time. But as I have encountered so far, the people in this church are genuine and warm-hearted, especially the leadership.

A rare thing for the leadership to know who are the people who attend their churches these days, notably in the sea of bigger or mega churches where some of the Pastors don’t even know who attends their churches, and tend to be very concerned about the tithe that are brought into the church by the members.

When I found out from the one of the Pastors, that the mission of the church is to help people to love God wholeheartedly and seek Him fervently, my heart leaped, as this was fully in line with my spiritual walk with God. There is also an on-going focus to prepare the church to be an end-times church, so there are often very convicting sermons preached about how to prepare for Jesus’ coming for the church.

At the last church service, the Senior Pastor continued on his series on the Sermon of the Mount, a study into what it meant by ‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God’ (Matthew 5:8). Towards the end of the sermon, he called for people to come up to the front and kneel with him, to re-affirm our commitment to God. All of the 40+ people seated, came up to kneel together with the Pastor in front and there was not dry eye left in the room!

Interestingly, there is no children’s ministry for this church yet, as the congregation is really small (40 going on to 50 people now, like a big cell group!). But K didn’t complaint even when he had to sit next to me for that 2.5 hours during church service. He even wants to go back regularly, as he said he felt Jesus’ presence strongly during their service.

I have learnt never to underestimate a child when it comes to spiritual things, often their faith and belief will astound an adult.  A child can know the truth and difference sometimes better than an adult, when it comes to the manifest presence of God!

So for sure, this is not a place for people who ‘play church‘ :P. So don’t contact me out of curiosity what church is this, rather, do feel free to drop me a note if you are in search for a church and are keen to visit this church.

 

Prayer or Worship?

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What I have experienced in this church, is that I get plenty of goosebumps all over during their no-frills worship session, just with 1 worship leader with his guitar and two other members playing the electronic keyboard and a set of drums. It’s more than just a worship leader being anointed to lead in worship, it is the strong presence of the Holy Spirit in the place which cannot be denied!

It’s confirmation for me, that a church does not need ‘super-star’ worship leaders with great voices, a choir, or even lighting effects. It is very bright in the room all the time, but I felt a deep sense of reverence for God and extremely humbled in the church, to a point that I am compelled to take off my shoes and knee down during worship.

I have consistently experienced the same in this church during the prayer meetings.

I would attribute to the church’s focus on prayer, as one of the main key factors to usher the presence of God very strongly in their midst.

Revival is surely in this house of prayer!

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Here are some controversial insights from John Burton about worship and prayer that I fully agree with;

‘Today’s pop worship culture better take notice. The incense, the worship is holy. It’s for God. It’s not to enhance our personal experience! It is not perfume for us, it’s incense for God! 

I’ve become increasingly grieved at how popular worship events can draw thousands while prayer meetings draw few. The call to prayer is rejected. 

Even more disturbing is how easy it is for people to blend in, raise their hands, dance at the altar and enjoy even truly anointed musical worship – while not legitimately worshiping at all and not being grieved over their immaturity, sin and lack of radical commitment to the cross of Christ. They celebrate some presumed freedom while not being locked in as prayer-driven people, broken and fervent warriors. No sacrifice. No surrender. Just a pursuit of a personal supernatural experience. I’m becoming more convinced than ever that many of these supernatural experiences are certainly supernatural, but not holy.’ 

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Be prepared to see things differently as you read more from here.

Are we in dire need for revival in Christian-dom as a whole? I believe so. And I think spiritual revival in churches will be ignited when churches have a strong focus on being Houses of PRAYER.

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Exit Mediocrity

After my birthday this year, it finally dawned on me that I have barely a couple of years before hitting middle-aged.

My child and family is one of my key priorities. While work may be important to put food on the table, but it is secondary to these other priorities.

So what else gives meaning to a life of a Christian woman?

I chanced upon this video from Francis Chan, a Christian Evangelist and Author, which succinctly communicates an analogy that demonstrates my attitude towards a life of a Christian in general. Sharing these quotes from a 4 minute extract of his sermon,

“The Bible teaches that what I do during this little red part (ie. my life on earth) determines how I am going to exist for millions and millions and millions of years forever (eternity). So why would I spend this little red part trying to make myself as comfortable as possible, enjoying myself as much as I can. Paul (the Apostle) says I am going to live my life for this mission, I am going to spend my life, invest my life for this moment when I cross that finish line. See, I am going to forget about all these stuff I am going to enjoy, I am going to be a runner, just looking at that moment when I face God, because when I face Him (pointing to the red part), I don’t get this chance over again. We get one chance at this life on earth. And it can end at any second for any of us. We got one chance at this, and then it comes eternity.”  

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If a Christian thinks that by having a comfortable life, with a beautiful home, successful career, having to take vacations whenever and wherever, enjoying material wants and experiences without having to worry about finances, and having amassed enough money for retirement. While, possibly doing evangelism when it is convenient, is depiction of a successful Christian life…

Then, mediocrity will likely be the path he/she will take as a Christian.

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Here’s a good sermon to read from AW Tozer (1897 – 1963), could get offensive for some people, but it does put a mediocre Christian life into perspective;

‘Now, does that describe you? You’re a believer, you’re saved; you know that but you’re ordinary and have no outstanding abilities or qualities; not distinguished by spiritual superiority at all; just following the customary ways of the church. Now, I leave it you whether it describes you or not, but I have observed a lot and I do observe that as well as pray and I find that most Christians are mediocre. 

Now is thus the best Christ offers to us, my friends? Is this mediocre, undistinguished, half-way-up-the peak business, is this the best that the Lord offers? I do not think so; it’s our own fault…

When there’s a sermon preached or a book read the gist of which is ‘take thy cross and follow, go on unto perfection’ why, people begin to ask questions and bargain with God. They say, “What will it cost? What will it cost me to be that kind of Christian? What will it cost me in time? You know I don’t have much time. Will it cost me in money? You know I have a family. What will it cost me in labor? You know that I work hard. What will it cost me in relationships? I don’t want to give up my friends.” As soon as you hear a man, looking in the face of Jesus Christ and saying, “Master, I’d like to follow you all the way but it’s too costly.” You have a poor, mediocre wretch on your hands!”

It has been more than 50 years, but I don’t think much has changed in the Christian world. Mediocrity seems to be commonplace.

I am determined to leave this mediocrity in my Christian walk. But like what Tozer mentioned in his sermon, it does come with a cost, cost of not being convenient, uncomfortable, isn’t safe and often it isn’t that popular either.

So what’s in it for anyone to be a Christian?

The perception you will have, will be hardly anything, especially if you think this life on earth is all there is. If so, I sympathise with the state of how life is for most of us, no matter how much possessions we have, or how happy a family we have now, we are all stuck in a rut of mediocrity.

Instead of being stuck in this rut of life, you could be blazing a trail where no ruts will exist, a path that God has uniquely created for you. Only you are made and qualified for this unique purpose, and likely you are the only one who can fulfill it.

Do you know what is your purpose in life – a special assignment that is assigned to you by God? I am not surprised if 90% of people reading this, are still discovering answer to your purpose, even if you are a Christian.

So what will it take for you to break out of mediocrity and this rut of life? Isn’t it time to find out what’s the unique path in life that God has created for you to take?

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Incidentally, there will be a Christian apologetics conference held at Covenant EFC Woodlands on the 5-6 Dec 2014 on the topic of ‘What does it mean to be Human?’, one of the key speakers is Os Guinness, the author of ‘The Call’.

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‘The Call’ is a classic that centers on understanding what it means to be called by God.  Os throws out the modern notions of calling as merely fulfilling an obligation or living out an occupation. This is not a “how-to” book that will help readers find our true calling from God, but instead, a calling is an experience of understanding God’s purpose for life and living that life in the will and drive of Christ.  We are called “to be” more than we are called “to do.”  Our calling is about who we are, not about what we do. Although the ‘doing’ will flow out of a true understanding of who we are.  “The Call” gives a clear guide to understanding this call from God, and practical steps to living it out both in being and in doing.

Read about more on the book, ‘The Call’.

There will be special price discounts if the tickets of this conference are purchased before 1 Nov, at an early bird price of $50 per person. To read more about the speakers, and to find out more about the purchase of conference tickets here

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Not Just a Book on the Shelf + Giveaway!

How would you like reading 14 non-fiction books in 30 days?

Attempts like that should only be done when you are an ‘accomplished’ speed reader, or if you are really passionate about the subject matters discussed in these books.

Non-fiction books can seem dull for some, however, when the subject matters from these books are expounded from concepts from a book that I have great interest in, the Bible. I can tell you that these 14 books barely skim the surface of the treasures of wisdom and knowledge that has been unearthed from the pages of the Bible.

The rule of thumb that I follow with reading from Christian books, is that anything that are found in the books with discrepancy to the Bible, I will ‘throw it out of the window’. The Bible is the only authoritative book concerning God and His decrees for mankind, and nothing needs to be added or taken away from its pages.

Here’s a useful link on How to Read and select a Christian book.

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My journey with the Bible, has gotten even more exciting since I started reading it 10 years ago, and I am still learning more and more from it everyday.

My experience with this book started out with fear and intimidation. It was just too many words written in old English that seemed too complex to comprehend, from the first time I held on to it. It progressed to a stage where I read it like a storybook. Then, I started learning how to use concordances, to understand the meaning of words in its context in Greek or Hebrew.

In these recent years, I am back to the basic, the simplest and more effective way to read the bible; with the help from the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is probably the most neglected person of the Trinity, often he gets neglected and is not being expounded upon from the pulpits of churches. But he is just as important as God and Jesus Christ, read here for more on the Holy Spirit.

The Bible is more than just another book with lots of historical accounts (some might even say myths), others say that it is ‘magical’ and mysterious. Some believe that they will never understand the bible, so they will only read sections that have been spoken about in their church sermons, and will go with their Pastor’s or Preacher’s interpretation of the passages.

The Protestant Bible (note that the Protestant Bible and Catholic Bible are quite different from one another) contains sixty-six books, and it was written by some forty different authors over a 1600 year period in 3 different languages. The authors varied from kings to tentmakers and they were very varied culturally and geographically across different counties. The Bible is completely unified without internal contradictions with all the variables above, prove to the validity to what Bible says and could not have been simply thought out by men alone.

I have come to realise that one cannot grow or mature in their spiritual walk with God, unless they take this responsibility upon themselves to learn about their relationship with God, apart from just attending church services on Sundays. One needs to read the bible daily, pray (often not enough) and surround themselves with Christian literature.

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If you are a Christian and you are serious about building a strong spiritual walk with God, it’s time to start setting aside time to read the bible daily.

Start with a verse, then reading the verse in context of the sentence, then expound it to the full chapter where the verse is. When you are ready to for more, I would recommend reading all the 66 books in the bible at your own pace.

Here are some useful devotionals online that can help you get started with this daily devotional discipline,

- Crosswalk Devotionals

- Our Daily Bread

Before preparing to read the bible, here are some useful tips.

Diligence and Discipline are part and parcel of a serious Christian walk. So if you are a Christian, get out of your lethargy and be a profitable child of God!

 

Giveaway : I will be giving away 1 copy of the ‘The Word of Promise’ Audio Bible worth USD $39.99. It can be downloaded on an iPad, Google Devices or Android devices, so all you need to do is to leave your name and email address in a comment below and I will do a random pick for the giveaway winner. 

The Word of Promise Audio bible is a multi-voiced, scripted dramatization of the New King James Version (NKJV) and features a star-studded cast of over 600 actors, original music score composed and conducted by prolific Italian composer Stefano Mainetti.

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An update on the giveaway winner of a Christianbook.com USD$20 book e-voucher from the last post, 

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Congrats Ling Siew! I will be contacting you soon to send you the e-voucher.

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