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Attend the Church of Your Choice

Often times the appeal is made for men to attend the church of their choice. While we certainly appreciate the noble sentiment behind this appeal, we deny that such is in harmony with the Word of God. What does the Bible say about attending the church of your choice?

The Bible gives us some choices that we can make. We are to choose life over death (Deuteronomy 30:19), choose whether or not we will serve the Lord (Joshua 24:15), choose the fear of the Lord (Proverbs 1:29), choose our friends (Proverbs 12:26), and choose what pleases the Lord (Isaiah 56:4). The Bible says nothing about choosing the church we will attend.

For one thing, the Bible states that Jesus only built one church. “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). Notice that the words “church” and “it” indicate that what Jesus would build would be singular in nature. There was only one church in the first century; thus there was no choice.

Secondly, becoming a member of the church is not a matter of choice. It is something that happens to us when we choose to be saved. “…and the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47). The church is the body of saved people. The moment we are saved we are made a part of that body. The religious world teaches that once we have been saved, we should find a church and join it. However, the Bible teaches that the very act that saves us automatically puts us in the church. The Bible says nothing about joining “the church of your choice” because no such choice is offered in the Bible. There was, and is, only one church.

The appeal to attend the church of our choice is contrary to the Bible’s plan for unity among believers. The religious world is full of different churches teaching different and conflicting doctrines. Some churches want to overcome these differences by simply overlooking them. With an attitude of “you believe what you believe, and I’ll believe what I believe,” we are told to embrace and celebrate our doctrinal differences. We are to recognize one another as brethren, while respecting our differences. This kind of unity is based upon doctrinal compromise, which is not the unity that is prescribed in the New Testament.

Jesus prayed that believers would be united as one upon the word of the apostles (i.e., upon doctrinal matters). “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me” (John 17:20-21).

Paul urged believers to be one. “Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1 Corinthians 1:10). When it comes to matters of doctrine, we are to speak the same thing, and be perfectly joined together in the same mind and judgment. We are not to be divided doctrinally.

In Ephesians 4:3-6, Paul set forth the grounds for the unity of the Spirit: “Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” The seven “one’s” of this passage are non-negotiable. There must be agreement in these seven areas in order for believers to have the unity of the Spirit. Unity that is achieved by compromising one or more of these areas is not the kind of unity that pleases the Lord.

Among the seven “one’s” is the “one body.” As we have already pointed out, the church is the body of saved people (Ephesians 1:22-23). So again, the Bible shows that in the first century there was only one church.

Another of these “one’s” is the “one faith.” The word “faith” is used in the New Testament as both a verb and a noun. As a verb, it is the act of believing. As a noun, it is that which is believed. It is used in this passage as a noun, signifying the body of doctrine that is to be believed and accepted by Christians. Denominationalism unashamedly admits to having different faiths. There is a Catholic faith (doctrine), a Baptist faith (doctrine), a Methodist faith (doctrine), a Pentecostal faith (doctrine), etc. This was not the case in the first century. Paul said that he preached the same thing in every church. “For this reason I have sent Timothy to you, who is my beloved and faithful son in the Lord, who will remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach everywhere in every church” (1 Corinthians 4:17). Paul could not do that today. Churches in every community have different teachings on significant subjects like baptism, the Lord’s Supper, women preachers, speaking in tongues, the Godhead, the authority of traditions, prayer, the rapture and the thousand year reign of Christ. Paul could not speak the same thing in every church today because no one can.

In short, there is no Scriptural ground for doctrinal division among believers. The Bible tells us what to do with those with whom we have doctrinal differences:

“Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds” (2 John 9-11).

“If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness… From such withdraw yourself” (1 Timothy 6:3, 5).

“Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them” (Romans 16:17).

“But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:8-9).

We are not allowed to maintain unity and fellowship with those who remain in error. Those who deviate in doctrine have caused division. We cannot overlook one’s doctrinal differences without partaking in his evil deeds. We are not to receive them, withdraw ourselves from them, mark and avoid them because they are accursed. This being the case, we have no grounds upon which to encourage others to go and become a part of them.

We can not agree with the appeal to “attend the church of your choice.” This view may fly in the face of the ecumenical spirit of modern day denominationalism, but it is our conviction that the church that Jesus built in the first century is the only church that the Lord will recognize as His own today. This church can not be found by tracing history, or by a majority vote (i.e., the church with the largest membership), but rather by looking at the pattern of the church that is set forth in the New Testament. Denominations divide believers by subscribing to creeds, councils, catechisms, and conventions. We simply try to follow the teachings of the Bible alone. Until we can find different kinds of churches in the Bible we can not encourage men to attend the church of their choice.