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CRUNCH POINTS: I’ve started a new job and I’m struggling to find a church.

January 2022 | by Jeremy Walker

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We all value biblical advice from our elders, the first ones to whom we turn for counsel. Jeremy Walker outlines the kind of answer he might give to a question received at the chapel door.

In this answer, I presume that the questioner is not a church member; perhaps they are visiting and asking if we might be the church for them!

I wish you had asked me that question before you started your new job. If we are wise Christians, we ought to put first things first. In most contexts – moving home, finding a new job, going to university – that means that the first thing is the care of your soul in a faithful local church.

I appreciate that that’s not always easy, but in some cases, if you can’t find a good church, it might suggest that you shouldn’t take the new job. But that’s like asking for direction and someone saying, ‘I wouldn’t start from here!’ So let’s accept that this is where you are, and start.

Being part of Christ’s church is not just a matter of dropping in on Sunday. All the imagery of our Bibles shows us as one part of an integrated whole, with Christ uniting us all. If you think about the New Testament commandments to God’s people in communion, we cannot ‘one another’ one another without having one another… if you are following me! That means something for the effort that we make and the engagement we pursue.

Under normal circumstances, you are going to struggle to be part of a church whose members you see in passing once or twice a week. That’s why you really want to be in the same community as the other church members, ideally located near and around whatever meeting place you might have.

Even with all the modern communication tools at our disposal, nothing substitutes for face-to-face and heart-to-heart engagement in one another’s lives, in love and with prayer. And how do you invite an unconverted friend to come with you to church an hour away?

If you are prioritising finding a local church, you might want to start with looking for those that know what a church is, one whose faith and life reflects the truth of Scripture. You will never find a perfect church, but it may be that you will have to accept one which does not entirely align with your own convictions and preferences, but where the Word of God is faithfully preached, the ordinances are faithfully observed, and church discipline is faithfully practised. Perhaps you will be able to do good and receive it there. But don’t compromise if your soul’s health is at stake.

If there’s no local option, perhaps someone needs to think about trying to plant a church. If that’s not possible right now, and you choose to travel to find a church, there’s no formula for how far. You need to be a part of the body life of the church, and – if you live at a distance – that’s going to require a significant investment of time and energy for you, and it’s going to require a special effort from the members, too, to embrace you and draw you in.

Can you get to the Lord’s day services and the prayer meeting? Can you extend and receive hospitality, engage in evangelism? If not, you should consider moving closer, or finding another job. After all, what would it profit if you gained the whole world, and lost your own soul?

If you would like an answer to a crunch question, please email [email protected]. We cannot guarantee an answer to every question.

Jeremy Walker, pastor of Maidenbower Baptist Church in Crawley.