We need to join a church that suits our needs.
That can best help us on our journey of faith.
That can offer us the opportunity to
grow our belief in God.
Before reading this particular article, please note that a lot of it is based on my knowledge, experience and evaluations. As real as the events – experienced in fellowships/ communities of faith over the years – were to me, they can only be hearsay at best to you. My primary aim, in this website, is to just guide you in your own search for faith and belief. So … please read on with an open mind.
(I am from a senior auditing background and the majority of my advisory team are Christian clergy. To glimpse the ‘who’, ‘how’ and ‘why’ of this website please click here.)
Bear in mind the fellowship of faith that suits us now may not suit us at a later time. I, for example, have been ‘led’ through different areas of the greater Christian Church as the years have passed. They all proved to be beneficial to me in their own ways. No matter what area of the greater Church we choose, our lives should still be changed for the better, especially in that area of ‘building belief and faith’. And that is the underlying theme of this website.
Christian denominations and the way they relate to each other do vary from country to country to some extent. Therefore it is not possible to provide a complete and exact listing to guide all readers, across the world, in choosing a church. Be aware that many if not most denominations, to varying degrees, consider themselves superior to others. We cannot completely take human nature out the Church! And of course each denomination has its own reasons for believing why it is superior.
2. MAKING THE DECISION
That all said, our chosen church can and will have an impact on our faith journey.
And I do consider most Christian denominations have elements that make them more suitable than others for each of us. That particularly applies when taking our individual personalities, positions of faith journey (e.g. beginner Christian) and environmental backgrounds into account.
What follows is a brief overview of available church options, based on my experience of fellowship within them, and how they may be grouped for selection. Note that not all churches openly refer to themselves within these categories. Many churches have websites and these can be accessed to gain some understanding of their approach. Their placement within the greater Christian Church (as in my categories below) should also become obvious after one or two attendances of their services.
I do have one major prerequisite to offer you, the reader, in search of an appropriate church. I would hope that any church selected should hold to the “Essential Christian Beliefs” as presented in the website’s final section’s first article, “Christianity explained”. It is only a small sub-section (Heading 2) to read in that article, so I recommend it to you before going in search of the church that is ideal for you.
Finally, I state that the choice of a fellowship of faith, i.e. a church, is an issue for God and each of us. There are many Christian denominations/ church groupings, each with different approaches and points of view. Although it might look a bit foreign to a beginner Christian, I suggest you the reader pray for guidance on this matter of choice.
2. TRADITIONAL PROTESTANT AND CATHOLIC CHURCHES
Traditional/ mainline Protestant, together with Catholic, churches are included in this grouping. These churches, by and large, present moderate Christian views to their congregations. Catholics have a little extra doctrine and sacraments than do Protestants. It is related to the way beliefs, and services, are presented and conceptualised there. But that does not create any conflict between these two major areas of the Church.
Membership in the vast majority of these churches, by and large, provides an exposure to: balanced Christian theology; an understanding of faith and its outcomes within Christian life; some evidence of God’s presence in that setting; a good proportion of caring supportive Christians in their congregations.
2.1 Avoid ‘liberal’ Protestant churches
However, bear in mind that a very small minority of traditional/ mainline Protestant churches hold very liberal views on the Christian New Testament (Jesus bits of the Bible). As such I advise against joining those particular churches for that reason. I do not see much point at all with strong Christian liberalism. That can include having Christian beliefs diluted to a point where even spirituality itself may not have a place.
I am absolutely confident that any rational thinker can ‘largely’ accept New Testament (NT) events, as written. My opinion is based on available secular (non Christian) historical information together with my own personal experiences in the Church – that are in fact accessible to anyone else.
Although there is no need to ‘water down’ the NT, there is a need to hold individual verses in the context of the bigger NT picture, i.e. balanced theology. And traditional/ mainline Protestant churches generally offer this view. This also applies to Catholic churches.
2.2 Will it suit you?
I believe people who like to make their own decisions on faith, after analysing facts presented to them from their church, should feel comfortable within traditional Protestant and Catholic churches. For example they do not generally hold fundamentalist views on the pre-Jesus, Old Testament (OT). And, they are generally more accepting of modern scientific theories such as the ‘Big Bang’ and evolution. They do not consider such theories conflict at all with their theology, or faith for that matter.
But their theologians undeniably accept that solid links of wisdom exist between the two sections of the Bible. God did ensure that the NT was built on the foundations of the OT.
2.3 Types of services offered
Services in traditional churches (incl Catholic) are usually formalised and follow established rituals, i.e. spontaneity is limited throughout services. Therefore, services are often limited in their passion and excitement.
Note however, that some of these traditional Protestant and Catholic churches do offer services relative to the Charismatic movement and these are discussed later in this article. Those particular churches generally deliver a bit more ‘energy’ and emotion in their related services. God’s presence is certainly more obvious in these types of services as well. The next article in this section of the website, “Experiencing the Holy Spirit” expands on that aspect. Remember though it can take a few enquiries to locate traditional/ mainline churches that offer these so-called “Charismatic” services in your area, i.e. locally.
3. EVANGELICAL PROTESTANT CHURCHES
Evangelical Protestant churches, particularly those founded in later times, are more upbeat than most traditional/ mainline churches. They are very positive advocates for Christianity. My understanding is that the founding evangelical churches in the USA actually broke away from traditional Protestant churches in the late nineteenth century.
Evangelical churches seem to me to have more crisp, clear beliefs that place demands on their fellowships, than do traditional/ mainline churches. They often emphasise the importance of making a clearly defined acceptance of Jesus as our Lord and Saviour; and changing the ways of life for their members’ as a result.
Their services normally offer more intimate connections with God. Prayers within their services sometimes seem to converse with God as a loving friend. Their songs of praise have a similar nature.
3.1 Will it suit you?
Although many evangelical churches hold to similar balanced theological views as found in most traditional Protestant and Catholic churches, others are very ‘fundamentalist’ by nature. I understand that this is more likely in the USA.
Fundamentalist churches, as their name suggests, are very dogmatic with their doctrine and at odds with some modern scientific theory for example. I definitely accept that fundamentalists have a right to their opinions!
These fundamentalist churches do sit well with people who prefer everything to be laid out in so-called “black and white”, with no need for analysis or ‘soul searching’.
3.2 Types of services offered
Evangelical churches, whether fundamentalist or moderate, appeal to people who want to feel good about their Christian faith and be uplifted by their experiences there. This works well for a lot of people after all. I know it does for me.
These churches also place high importance on their Bible-based theology.
Some evangelical churches also have a Charismatic theme (again, more on this element follows, under the next heading).
4. PENTECOSTAL/ CHARISMATIC CHURCHES
Almost all Pentecostal churches are linked to the larger Pentecostal/ Charismatic movement. Pentecostal churches have become particularly prevalent since the 1960s.
Most Pentecostal churches present balanced theology once again to their congregations.
I have lastly added details below about churches in the Charismatic movement.
4.1 Pentecostal churches’ positive spiritual nature
Their services are again emotional, energetic and uplifting.
They are often led by the church leader in a manner that encourages an ‘openness’, within the congregation, to the presence of God, in the person of the Holy Spirit. And I mean in a definite manner that other church groupings do not. Even Charismatic fellowships in Protestant, Catholic and Evangelical churches generally do not do so.
In any case, Pentecostal churches are certainly more likely to centre their services around the Christian spiritual experience, i.e. the direct observation of God’s ‘presence’. As an ex-atheist I understand how non believers might react to such a statement. But when you do deliberately open yourself to actually experience this stuff, you will ask what else can it be there other than the Holy Spirit interacting with the congregation? I add more on this in following articles within this section of the website.
Their Pentecostal outlook, which focuses directly on the Holy Spirit in action, does encourage very strong belief and faith among followers. The emotional and overtly spiritual nature of services may be attractive for some folk, but not for others.
I still really enjoy the company of Pentecostal worshippers when I attend their services.
4.2 Overly spiritual or musical in some Pentecostal churches
But there are some Pentecostal churches where theology is not a focal point at all, i.e. they do go a bit too far in this direction.
They may overly concentrate on experiences of the Spirit at the expense of limiting lessons on the use of faith in life itself, and related Bible teachings. Sometimes too, they overly concentrate on their songs at the expense of again ignoring Bible teachings.
And services like those, can impact on the overall growth of our everyday faith. In the case of churches concentrating heavily on the Holy Spirit, it is unlikely that it will slow our belief in God of course. Clearly because of the Holy Spirit’s more obvious interaction within services etc.
However, I do recognise that many people are ‘wired’ in a way that attracts them to that type of church. Firstly, they enjoy the ‘rush’ of being touched by the Spirit and experiencing him in action there in the service, or being uplifted by singing songs of praise to the Lord. Secondly, not everybody does want to study the Bible in great depth. This often applies to people who have a ‘hands on’ approach to life in general. They may only want to know the essentials. And I guess God knows that, and works around it accordingly.
4.3 Charismatic churches
As mentioned previously, some traditional/ mainline Protestant, evangelical Protestant and Catholic churches provide so-called Charismatic services. That is they too are members of the Pentecostal/ Charismatic movement. These churches offer events relevant to ‘the movement’ but generally operate within the confines of a definite balanced Christian theology.
I spent a number of years in Protestant churches, that were in ‘the movement’. And I witnessed/ experienced the same sort of events that I had in Pentecostal churches. My own belief building in particular went completely ‘gangbusters’ there.
As I have also mentioned elsewhere in this website, from my experiences, a period of fellowship spent within any Pentecostal or so-called Charismatic congregation can be very useful. It can effectively ramp up the growth of our belief which in turn supports the growth of our faith.
The Pentecostal, and other churches that belong to the Pentecostal/ Charismatic movement, provide the opportunity to witness events as they would have occurred in the early Christian Church 2,000 years ago. These events often result from the so-called, “gifts of the Spirit” that manifest themselves within their services. Read about it in the following article.
Please do not rule out the possibility of any of those events detailed above actually happening. I know I did, and I was wrong! I admit it. The following article, in this section of the website, describes the use of these ‘gifts’ and their outcomes.
Before moving on though, I really want to make it clear again that I do not intend to downplay the relevance of traditional/ mainline or evangelical Protestant and Catholic churches, which have no involvement with the Charismatic movement, in these current times. Without doubt, even in this moderate Christian setting, some serious although more subtle belief building stuff can be experienced. And that is further explained later in this section of the website.
But, although not mandatory at all, if you do want access to events and even experiences to build solid belief in God, then the movement is the place for you to worship. The fellowships of faith there should provide you with sound evidence that, when evaluated within the framework offered in this website, will deliver ‘rock-solid’ belief in the Lord. Of course that will come through actually ‘experiencing’ the Holy Spirit for yourself.
Continue to the next article, “Experiencing the Holy Spirit”.
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