A misunderstood pursuit
There’s a growing desire amongst Christians today to find a church that ‘fits’.
Unfortunately, this search is often mischaracterised as a shallow, vain, or even unbiblical pursuit. Selfish and petty motives are suspected. Leaving is often followed by a rolling of eyes followed by the exasperated line, “More Christians wanting the ‘perfect’ church!”
Not all Christians are justified in this quest. Some have been guilty of flitting from place to place simply because the music is too loud, the coffee isn’t quite right, or they’re not being tickled where they itch.
My experience, and many of those I know in Australia, however, show there’s another side of the coin.
For years, I encountered people at a loss with what to do about church, including members of a house church I attended. These weren’t people who bagged on their churches or held grudges; they simply wanted a place to genuinely love God and others.
This shouldn’t seem like too hard of an ask these days, especially when Australian Pentecostal churches abound. Many of these places are busy share inspiring messages and promote exciting visions.
So why are good Christians leaving?
A biblical model of church?
While there may not be a ‘one size fits all’ reason, the problem often springs from moving away from a biblical church model and unhelpful cultural additions.
The Acts church model and epistles show preaching was originally designed to encourage close following after God. Fellowship meant meaningfully supporting fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, and mutual participation was expected and encouraged. Church meetings were to be orderly and in reverence of a holy God who desired sincerity and devotion.
While there’s nothing wrong with culture, certain influences haven’t done the above model any favours. Entertainments in the form of dazzling places of worship and fun events have proven especially damaging. Instead of being spiritually challenged and built up, congregations are becoming distracted by being made to feel good about themselves and their lives for no particular purpose.
Humanistic messages and big personalities promote grand visions of big numbers (money and members) and bigger buildings, while imitating Christ’s selflessness, humility and sobriety take a back seat. Local community service gets neglected along with fundamental gospel truths. Grace is distorted as license to sin and an excuse not to daily die to self, evangelism ignored, and Jesus and scripture mentioned less and less.
A perfect fit
The reality that true Christians will only ‘fit’ in the ‘perfect’ church should hardly surprise us. God has always desired a perfect church, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew chapter 5, verse 48).
So… what is a perfect church?
Like a perfectly justified albeit human Christian, a perfect church relies on the grace and truth of God to sincerely worship, serve, and love Jesus. This was best seen in the Acts church model. The formula was simple but powerful, “…they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Acts chapter 2, verse 42).
The effects were equally as noticeable, “Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done… Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. So continuing daily… praising God… And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.” (Acts chapter 2, verse 43-47).
Christian gatherings during that time fed the poor, supported members, preached the gospel, and glorified God. Reverence, faith, selflessness, power, praise, and salvations were the hallmarks of this ‘perfect’ early church.
Getting back on track
Even if you disagree with my assessment of the cause of the church’s current challenges, it’s likely either yourself or someone you know has experienced a little of the church’s misplaced focus. Biblical teaching, a holy fear of God, selfless relationships, and works of faith are how churches can get back on track.
Whether there’s two or three, a home church, or large meeting, it’s actually not hard to find a perfect church. A few likeminded believers are all that’s needed. Churches struggling with their values don’t need to despair or be torn down either.
Changing focus is as easy as it ever was and usually works best by simplifying things.
As Christ is put back in the centre of each church, the Holy Spirit will prompt ministers and members alike to be rid of whatever isn’t helpful in their worship. Starting with Christ will ensure that readjustments are done positively while also in love and truth.
In the end, the question each church needs to ask itself is simple: at the end of life, what value will Christ place upon everything they met for and did in His name? If it can pass the test of why God had His people meet in the New Testament, then it will likely pass the final judgment. It will also likely pass the test of its present members’ judgments who seek exactly what God pursues: the perfect church.
Tim lives on the Gold Coast in Queensland. He has a Graduate Associate of Theology degree, taught in Christian education for over six years, and is currently studying a Masters of Divinity in theology at Liberty University online. He enjoys Christian devotional writing, tennis, and spending time with family and friends.
Tim Price’s previous articles may be viewed at