In the odd corners of the internet where I hang out — often called various names — there is a repeated conversation. “Where Can I find a good Church? One that is not converged?”. There are discussions of denominations, the virtues of the Orthodox church, the failure of the Presbyterians, Lutherans, Anglicans and Baptists, and how some Pentecostal churches are falling.
When I moved to Dunedin I went to the nearest Presbyterian church, and stayed there for a decade. Then it fell over. We are looking for a church home. But many have been subverted. Many. Much of the correction and reproof I now get is by messages, emails. Much of the encouragement I get comes the same way.
Ironically, we have a church in Central Otago that we are comfortable with. It is Dunedin, where I live, founded by the Free Church who were being driven from their established congregations, where there are difficulties.
Bruce in this post notes that when he converted (being English) he went to the nearest Anglican Church. Which preached the gospel. But the church next to it — also Anglican — preached an anti gospel.
And thus, we need to discern.
When Christian life is based-upon (rooted-in) at least one, major and defining, act of individual discernment; then this means that individual discernment has greater authority than any specific and actual church.
This is an unavoidable fact (under modern conditions), and not an assertion.
And as such, it seems to me that we are all required to use individual discernment in our personal Christian life as much as possible; rather than (as is usual) trying to deny it, and trying to pretend that we are merely living in obedience to external authority.
To put it another way, and despite the many pitfalls and dangers of this path; modern Christians ought-to-be explicit that their primary beliefs derive from a direct relationship with God; and not, therefore, from obedience to any particular institution, denomination, Church.
Of course, developing individual discernment in relation to any specific issue takes time and effort; therefore it is an ongoing process, never completed. And in the meantime we will probably want to make a discernment that ‘X’ (e.g. a church, a pastor, an author…) is a reasonable source of guidance which we will obey (passively, as it were) for the time-being.
But eventually, Modern Man seems to be called to a Christian faith in which the goal is to test and discern each element for our-selves. And a specific, actual, church or Christian group may help this process – may help it a lot. On the other hand, as with the church I first joined, an actual church may confuse, mislead and corrupt the Christian.
Much depends on local conditions.
What matters is the local conditions, not the denominational label. All denominations are being attacked and subverted. This requires discernment. Discernment requires prayer, and being deeply grounded in the Word of God. For the false will look good. Let us all test every preacher, every word, and every spirit. For in times of crisis, it is important to with Christ to stand.