It’s rather interesting to me and yet, confusing at the same time how we seem to choose the “appropriate” church to attend. Maybe we go because the speaker is a great orator. Maybe we go because we particularly like the people there. Maybe it’s because the refreshments are the tastiest in town. Maybe it is a large church that allows you to be somewhat anonymous. Maybe it’s small enough to facilitate intimacy and accountability. Or perhaps it is because the building is so beautiful, or that church has an amazing children’s program.
Not to categorically discount those traits but I have to ask, “In selecting a church to attend, is it at all important to understand their particular beliefs?” These beliefs are their “teachings,” what have been historically referred to as dogma, dogmatics, or simply just doctrine. In essence, it is their understanding of truth.
The dogmatics of a churches’ faith are those beliefs regarding God, Jesus, mankind, the Bible, salvation, and life, among other things, which they hold to be incontrovertibly true, and serve to define themselves as a particular people group of faith. It is their worldview, their creed, or statement of faith by which they seek to govern their lives. Should these be important in selecting an appropriate place of worship? After all, how much should doctrine matter?
Many authors of the New Testament thought quite highly of doctrine and its importance. Paul exhorts Titus, which is a directive to all pastors, “to speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1). Titus is a pastor whose sacred trust is to preach the truth of God’s Word. In fact, I would say that doctrine is not merely one of the considerations of church selection, but it is one of the highest. Yet, do we really care what the beliefs are of a church where we elect to go? Do we even know what the Statement of Faith is of our own church?
I for one would want to know the perceived nature and person of the God that church is worshipping, that He is indeed Trinitarian, loving, pure, always-having-been-God (the Trinitarian God never was a man, though through the incarnation of Christ, God the Son, Jesus, became the God-Man), that He is three persons in the Trinity rather than nine. I would think it is of the utmost importance to know that their god is not a tree or a pretzel. I would like to know that they preach the sinfulness of mankind, and the redemption solely through the work of Christ.
Is it the right God? The right Christ? The right way of salvation? The correct view of man and sin? The right Bible? After all, eternity is on the line here.
It seems like something has happened over the last couple of hundred years while the church slept, the dogma got out. Our churches stopped focusing on God’s Truth and concentrated on man’s wants and trivialities. Paul cautions Timothy regarding this in both of his letters to him. 1 Timothy 4:1 says, “But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons.” And again in 2 Timothy 4:3, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires.” Paul is cautioning that the people themselves will “fill the pulpit” with people who will say what they want to hear, rather than God’s Truth.
Any church that is on the up and up should be transparent enough to communicate up front what they believe in, and they should be able to root those beliefs in the pages of Scripture – The Bible! Make no mistake about it; any pastor, or church that is not preaching sound doctrine, is a major concern.
Remember! When selecting a church to care for your soul – doctrine matters!