Christian, you must know if you are in a good church!
Read that sentence again.
There are good, Christ-exalting, God-honoring churches and there are false, weak, shepherdless churches. A church that pleases God is one that will grow you in your spiritual walk with Christ. You will find deep fellowship, true spirituality, and joy in abundance. A church that does not please God will stifle your spiritual growth, will lead you to lethargic Christianity, will make excuses for their weak theology, and will be not much better than a nice social club.
So, ask yourself: are you in a good church? Are you sure?
Today, I would like to give you a very specific way you can tell if you are at a good church. Ready?
LOOK TO THE YOUTH MINISTRY
Many people would rather turn a blind eye to youth ministry because teenagers are riff-raff, they are difficult to talk with, they lack any maturity, and they dress and talk weird (some of these are actually true 🙂 ). I think most of the time people don’t want to engage in youth ministry because they think teenagers are some other breed of human and they would rather wait until they are adults to do more than just stare at their immaturity.
Because of this, many church-members and church-leaders hold the youth ministry to a very low standard. They hire a youth “pastor,” who is fresh out of college with no real pastoral experience/training, but likes teenagers because he acts like them himself. In the church leadership’s mind (though they many never actually state it this way), the youth guy is to entertain and, in most cases, just babysit the teenage crowd. And here, my friend, is the problem. A church that hires this kind of “guy” does not value the spiritual life of their youth. And if they don’t value the spiritual life of a teenager, they probably don’t value the spiritual life of the rest of the flock.
This de-valuing will find itself in the church primarily by not preaching from the Bible, programs that promote good deeds but do not stimulate spiritual growth, and be full of a bunch of nice people (including the leadership) who come to church because they “have to,” not because it is a priority or that they need it to grow in their supposed walk with Christ.
All this can be ascertained by looking at the youth ministry of your church. So let me dare you, if you truly want to know what kind of a church you are in (weak or solid), go find out if there is the following:
- Bible Teaching
Charles Spurgeon said: “May I beg you carefully to judge every preacher, not by his gifts, not by his elocutionary powers, not by his status in society, not by the respectability of his congregation, not by the prettiness of his church, but this — DOES HE PREACH THE WORD OF TRUTH, THE GOSPEL OF YOUR SALVATION? If he does, your sitting under his ministry may prove to you the means of begetting faith in you. But if he does not, you cannot expect God’s blessings.”
Spurgeon, as usual, hits a very key point when it comes to evaluating preachers in general. Does the preacher preach the Word? If he is not preaching from the Bible then, “the preacher will reduce his sheep to a weak, vulnerable, and shepherdless flock.”
The same is true for youth ministry. If the man who leads the youth ministry is not committed to teaching his students from the Bible, regardless of the other “cool” youth pastors in other churches who have more lights, a larger budget, and hip clothes and hair, then he is failing in his role as a pastor and will have weak, vulnerable students.
Rather, a youth PASTOR is to fulfill his ministry before God as “a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth” (2 Tim 2:15). This means he must “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction” (2 Tim 4:2).
Friend, is the youth ministry in your church preaching the Word? Has the youth pastor communicated clearly their convictions and concerns that their students will only hear from God when it’s time to instruct them? Is the only non-negotiable in his ministry to teenagers the proclaiming the truth directly from God’s life-changing Word? If so, then you have a solid youth ministry and a solid church because the church leadership, who are excellent shepherds, have intentionally sought after a man who is a pastor and who loves to minister to teenagers. He, like the elders of your church, will preach the Word, popular or not.
Or, are games and fun the driving motivation? Is attracting as many students as possible the overwhelming drive? Is your youth pastor willing to cut the Bible teaching time in order to make every teenager more comfortable? Does the Bible take second place in youth ministry? Is the youth pastor more of a baby-sitter for teenagers than an actual pastor to them? Is edginess and being hip a priority over discipleship? If so, then you have a weak and spiritually shallow youth ministry which is just a symptom of a weak and spiritually shallow church.
2. Biblically-Driven Music
The purpose of musical worship is to “re-present the gospel so as to bring the most glory to God and good to His people. … Unless we make the communication of the gospel the frame and focus of our worship, our ceremonies possess only a form of godliness without the power of God (2 Tim 3:5).”
Simply put: the lyrics of the songs are the most important part, not the music. Yes, there should be music and the music should be done in excellence. But never, never should the musical worship be driven by how fun the song is, how the music feels, how popular the song is, nor how new the song is. The songs chosen must be under the control of the Scriptures, which says the music leader must be under the control of the Scriptures. Hence, the purpose of the music leader is to “magnify the greatness of God in Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit by skillfully combining God’s Word with music, thereby motivating the gathered church to proclaim the gospel, to cherish God’s presence, and to live for God’s glory.”
Music is such a powerful part of learning and understanding truth and should therefore be met with a discerning eye every time it’s employed.
Now ask: is you church’s youth ministry’s music following these two purposes? Does the music leader (teenager or adult) understand the weight of the responsibility they possess, leading people into the truths of God’s Word through the avenue of music? Is the music leader a godly example? If so, then your church probably has a music minister for the main service that has the same leading style, leading the congregation into actual musical worship that engages their minds and their emotions.
Or, is your youth ministry’s music about the lights, the drums, the talent, the charisma, the popular, and the new? Is the music minister known as an excellent musician more than a fellow worshipper? Does the music leader for the youth lack a humble heart and it is more about them then proper musical worship that engages their minds to the truth of God’s Word? If so, then your music ministry in the main service is probably the same: weak, self-focused, theologically and biblically shallow, and emotionally-driven.
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This this not the end of this list, just the end of this blog post. The list will continue in my next post. But for now, ask yourself: how is your youth ministry? Do you know what is going on down there? Because whatever is going on down there is an excellent indication of what is going on corporately.
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 John MacArthur, “Introduction,” in Preaching: How to Preach Biblically (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2005), xviii.
 Bryan Chapell, Christ-Centered Worship (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2009), 126.
 Bob Kauflin, Worship Matters (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2008), 54.