Picking the Right Church

(How do you know?)

United Presbyterian Church in Reedsport, OR

There are many reasons a person goes to church for the first time, but how do you know which one is right for you, especially in lieu of the great number of different denominations?

A large part of that question concerns your personality—what you like, what you expect.  Some people like glitz and glamour, loud music and show—the underlying feeling is that if they have money, God must be blessing them.  If you’re that type of person, you need a Pentecostal, Charismatic or independent church. 

However, size and money are not necessarily signs of God’s involvement.  For example, the mainline churches such as the Presbyterians, Methodists, Lutherans and a handful of others, normally don’t do loud and raucous services, but are deeply committed to doing God’s work in the world—quietly—and without drawing attention to themselves. Often the only way is to attend and either be turned on or off by what happens. If turned off, that doesn’t mean Christianity is wrong or bad; it merely means that that particular church or denomination is not for you.  Believe me, there are some strange denominations out there that range from snake handlers to “holy rollers.”  There are denominations that don’t believe in doctors, don’t believe in modern conveniences (such as the Amish), and those that believe in prosperity through God—a false, but very popular doctrine.  There are also some off-shoots of Christianity, such as the Jehovah Witnesses and Mormons, who have their own particular bias and slant on the ancient faith; they also believe that they are the only way to eternity.

Every faith has radicals at both ends of the spectrum, including Christianity.  Christianity tends to be divided by several divisions, such as the manner of baptism—full emersion or sprinkling.  (Personally, I don’t think God cares.)

Another difference is “speaking in tongues,” which some churches believe is mandatory and indicative of the presence of the Holy Spirit, while others think it's a gross misrepresentation. Some churches believe the Bible the inerrant word of God, while others believe it to be an inspired book of God as told my men and women who walked close to God, but who, like you and I, were also subject to their interpretation. 

Some denominations take a radical stance on abortion—that it’s a form of murder.  Other denomination believe that it should be the very last choice, but is OK in some instances—such as when it puts the mother’s life in danger—but never as a birth control method.  Some denominations believe that homosexuality is a gross sin, while others believe that homosexuality is merely the way in which God formed those particular individuals.  The Bible itself is quite clear on the subject...and yet 1 Samuel 18 cannot be construed in any way other than as a homosexual attraction between Jonathan and David who, according to Judaism, was God’s favorite.  (Note: it’s not clear how David responds. Click here for the text.)

The only aspect of Christianity that nearly all denominations seem to agree on is this: Jesus was the Son of God.  After that, all agreement seems to fade away.  For example, some say that as long as you believe in Jesus, you’re “Saved!”  Others say, “No!  Belief is only the start; that if you truly believe, then you become a doer.”  Both viewpoints are Biblical, which harkens back to whether or not the Bible is “inerrant” or “inspired.”  Me?  I believe that when we begin to believe we begin to behave differently.  We still fall far short of perfection, but we continue to improve in our behavior and in our treatment of other people and our world.  Belief tends to make us want to do and be better.

In my mind Christianity is predominantly about making the world a better place with God as your partner, guiding and steering in an unobtrusive manner that allows you to make all the choices—the first choice being that you want know God better and to have Him lead you.  (It may take a long time to arrive at that decision.) Everything else is personal, such as your world or political view.  (Christians are republicans, democrats and independants; that’s a personal choice with one tending to be liberal, the other tending to be conservative, which again, is dependent on who YOU are.)

My belief is this: God loves us all, regardless of race or religion.  We do the best we can with what we know.

So, how do you know what church is right for you?  Jesus said that, “By their fruits you shall know them.”  That’s the only way we can...and by your gut feeling.  Judge by their fruits—what they do and how they act, not by the doctrine they spout. If they put down other churches and denominations, run. If they are always asking for money, run.  If you feel uneasy, run.  But, on the other hand, if a church feels right for you, stay with them.  If you notice inconsistencies, such as it’s OK to do wrong because you’re doing it for God, then run (both ISIS and al Qaeda operate this way.  A Christian example would be those who bomb abortion clinics. Two wrongs never make a right.)

I hope this helps in any decisions you might have.  I’m always here and I answer friendly or questioning emails.  You can make an appointment or just drop in if you’re in Reedsport, OR. I'm the pastor of the Presbyterian Church  Or, you can email me simply by clicking here.  


1 Samuel 18—Jonathan’s Covenant with David

1. When David had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was bound to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. 2. Saul took him that day and would not let him return to his father’s house. 3. Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul. 4. Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that he was wearing, and gave it to David, and his armor, and even his sword and his bow and his belt. 5. David went out and was successful wherever Saul sent him; as a result, Saul set him over the army. And all the people, even the servants of Saul, approved.

(Explanation of who is who:  David is a young boy who killed a giant with a slingshot.  Saul is the king.  Jonathan is the son of king Saul.  In time David becomes the king.)