Even those of us with years of experience under our belt can find ourselves embroiled in discomforting scenarios when we fail to discern divine signals and stray from the right path. I wish to inspire each of you with my own experience, one that I know many others have shared.
As the leader of the Tribe of Christians, a ministry with international reach, my family and I are committed to maintaining active engagement with a local church. This devotion mirrors Paul's teachings in Hebrews 10:24-25, advocating steadfast communal worship and fellowship, urging us to persistently uplift each other as we anticipate the Day of the Lord. This principle reverberates in various biblical texts such as Colossians 3:16, Ephesians 4:11-13, Acts 2:42, Matthew 6:33, James 1:22, and 2 Timothy 4:2.
These passages collectively reinforce the importance of local fellowship, nudging us to seek a congregation that preaches the Word of God authentically, with integrity and without omission or addition. A congregation that stands against sin, fosters unity, and is committed to community outreach missions.
My journey begins with my wife extolling the virtues of a local church. Despite her fervent approval, I hesitated due to its resemblances with the corporate structures of Elevation and Hillsong-style churches. Instead, I was drawn to a smaller, community-oriented church, a choice I would soon regret.
This modest church, located on the city's outskirts, initially seemed to embody all the commendable qualities of a church. I overlooked, or perhaps ignored, several cautionary signals, attributing good intentions to this community.
The church was notably involved in community service and had a pressing need for a worship pastor, a role I gladly assumed. The congregation of around 20 families appeared to be dedicated to each other and their community.
However, amidst this veneer of harmony, disquieting signs began to surface. The pastor's sermons veered off track, becoming a mosaic of personal beliefs rather than grounded biblical teachings. Gossip proliferated, accountability faded, and misplaced priorities became evident. Recognizing these indicators, I relinquished my role and distanced myself from the congregation.
Two months later, the church was engulfed in a tempest of accusations and inflamed emotions from its leadership. Despite our attempts to diffuse the situation with love and encouragement, we were met with hostility. With the grave realization that we had made a serious error, we decided to part ways with the church.
This experience isn't exclusive to me. Many share similar heart-wrenching encounters with their churches, leading them to forsake their spiritual communities. It's a stark reminder that no church is perfect; we're all sinners in a ceaseless quest to mature in our relationship with Christ and each other.
Recently, I visited the church my wife initially recommended, where I was met with a powerful sermon against prosperity gospel churches and advocating resilience. It was a bittersweet moment of recognizing my misjudgment. Everything could have been sidestepped had I heeded my wife's recommendation and kept an open mind.
The pivotal lesson from this narrative is a call to remain steadfast in our quest for a suitable spiritual home. Regardless of the hurdles we encounter, Proverbs 3:5-6 reminds us to "Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight." In other words, we should always heed the Holy Spirit's guidance and avoid drawing premature conclusions.
Just as the Apostle Paul reminded us in Galatians 6:9, "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." This encourages us to stay determined, never to abandon our spiritual journey.
In our walk of faith, acknowledging the warning signs is crucial, just as Jesus teaches us in Matthew 7:15-20 to "Watch out for false prophets... By their fruit, you will recognize them." Furthermore, James 1:12 provides solace, "Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him."
Therefore, persist in your spiritual pursuits, heed the divine signs, and never give up. Remember, in every trial, there's a purpose and, in every stumble, a lesson to draw us closer to our Creator.