How hard can it be to search for a new church? My wife and I live in one of the largest metropolitan areas in the United States. Surely, we can find a community of God’s people who are committed to worshiping and following him while standing upon his inerrant word. My brother-in-law and his wife are in the same boat as us. We enjoyed a simple dinner together over the weekend. During our time together, the subject of looking for a church came up during our conversation. My brother-in-law and I acknowledged the desert-like conditions for church searching here in Southern California. In fact, I discovered this a few years back after leaving my previous worship community.
Frankly, there is too much “spiritual” niceness in this town. Because some pastors harbor fear over how the surrounding community or culture will perceive or receive them, they dilute the gospel message in order to avoid rocking the boat. It is true that some pastors/shepherds have grown tired of the controversy surrounding same-sex marriage, homosexuality, religious liberty, the inerrancy of Scripture, evolution vs creation and so forth. None of these topics are going away any time soon. The average churchgoer would love for that to be the case, but reality is reality. The fight to preserve religious liberty is alive and well in the United States.
I am not saying that pastors must politicize the pulpit. What I am saying is that they should not shy away from clearly defining God’s truth in relation to marriage, homosexuality, religious liberty, evolution and creation, the inerrancy of Scripture, and on and on. If the body of Christ capitulates to the surrounding culture on any of these issues, then Christ died in vain. The very existence of the church becomes an insult about Jesus’ earthly ministry. This renders the Great Commission meaningless in all of its aspects. Sunday, church services soon devolve into glorified, social events with spiritual activities thrown in for good measure. How would that be any different than taking a yoga class?
Proclaiming the gospel must be the focus of any church, its leaders, and its congregants. The apostle Paul describes it as “…the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes [because] in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith” (Romans 1:16-17, ESV). In this passage, there is hope for transformation. Paul takes the next seven to eight chapters of Romans to develop that one idea into the most profound teaching on the reality of salvation. Churches must be clear regarding the gospel message. They exist because of it not in spite of it. Again, the apostle Paul raises this point in his letter to the Ephesians by explaining to them that the church displays the manifold wisdom of God throughout all of creation (Ephesians 3:6-7, 10, ESV).
Let me end with the beginning. Is it hard to find a church in Southern California? That is an easy answer: no. If someone asks me about the difficulty or ease in finding a gospel-centered church, then I would say that this is an immense challenge. It is much easier to give into the peer pressure rather than standing firm for God and his word. The consequences are real. Some will enjoy our scent while others will find us repugnant (2 Corinthians 2:15-16, ESV). It is time for God’s people to wake up. It is time for us to open our eyes. We must be willing to look and sound foolish in the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:18, ESV).