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Quotage on discernment.

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.

Bruce Charton

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.


  1. Bruce Charlton

    Just to clarify, I *first* went to the ‘converged’ Anglican church on the (70 year old!) advice of CS Lewis who recommended that a new Christian attend the nearest church of his birth-denomination… Times change.

    I still support the second Anglican, and real Christian church (as do family members – FYI it is this one https://www.church.org.uk/ ).

    But I don’t find evangelical/ modern language/ worship song services to be helpful (I’ve attended them scores of times to check this out), and I am unfortunately too antisocial to want the communal side of membership (also my health is chronically poor, making travel and regular responsibilities uncertain).

  2. pukeko Author

    If I understand the second Anglican Church, it is the old Anglican church: the modern established church is a church in name only, and the apostolic tradition continues via the mission field.

    Among the Presbyterians, the same thing happened with the Scottish Kirk.

    I agree with your stance. One difference: I like evangelical services. What I hate is the hand of friendship turning into hugs. When that happens, I want to run and hide.

  3. Hearthrose

    Love the quote.

    I don’t know how much choice you have locally, but here a very good way to start searching is to check the websites for the statements of faith and a few archived sermons. Narrow the list, then it’s time to go visiting, prayerfully. Lots of prayer. When we pray in God’s will, He’s swift to answer – and it is known that He wants you in a good church.

    I found the style of my church a bit much at first, and it’s still too loud, but I also found much to learn – they (we) might be crazy, but the worship, commitment to Christ, and love are all solid. Inside stuff > outside stuff. I’ve been challenged and humbled many a time. Good stuff.

  4. pukeko Author

    Update: the old church has realized that when the minister left that something fell over. They are reconfiguring the leadership, knowing that it is not a “Presbyterian” congregation despite being affiliated with the PCANZ. My friends say watch this space: things are changing.

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