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Barack Obama and the Search for a Church

One of the surest signs that Easter season is upon us is a dramatic uptick in church shopping.

It only makes sense, when you think about it.

Many people deep down inside know that finding a good church would be good for them and their family.

But kind of like cleaning out the garage, balancing the check book or changing the oil in the car, its one of those things we find ourselves getting to, well, later.

When we aren’t so busy.

Or there isn’t an activity we’ve got to take our kids to.

Or when there isn’t a playoff game we’ve just got to see.

Or when they aren’t showing our favorite episode of “SpongeBob Squarepants” that morning.

But sooner or later, we find the universe aligns and embark on a hunt for a good fellowship.

And if this Easter season has prompted you to start checking out churches, you certainly are in good company.

Obamas seek new church as Easter nears

With Easter four days away, the Great Church Search is on for the Obamas, who are seeking a presidential place of worship in Washington nearly a year after a divisive break from their Chicago church and the incendiary sermons of its controversial pastor.

White House aides and close friends of the family have been quietly checking out D.C. churches on a shortlist – maybe a dozen in all – and attending services, speaking with pastors, reverends and rectors and reporting back to the Obamas,

One of the more frequently asked questions we receive on Scott Richards Live comes from people who,  like the first family, are looking for a new church home.

“What should I look for in a new church?”

Now granted, the Obamas will face a few more challenges than we will in their hunt for a fellowship.

Does the church have room in the parking lot for a presidential motorcade?

Is their convenient seating for the Secret Service detail?

Do the parishioners mind walking through a metal detector on the way to worship?

Makes our experience with church shopping seem pretty simple, doesn’t it?

Two pieces of advice I would offer you as one who has been in a number of different church settings, both personally and professionally.

First – Don’t choose a church because you believe you have found the perfect pastor.

If we aren’t careful we can easily put our faith in someone far less worthy of our trust than Jesus.

And not only will that kind of sanctified idol worship ultimately let us down, it will also set the stage for unrealsitic expectations that will burn out even the most sincere servants of the Lord.

This all to common spiritual flaw is the driving force behind an internet joke that makes the rounds on a regular basis.

The results of a computerized survey indicate the perfect minister preaches exactly fifteen minutes. He condemns sins but never upsets anyone. He works from 8:00 AM until midnight and is also a janitor. He makes $50 a week, wears good clothes, buys good books, drives a good car, and gives about $50 weekly to the poor. He is 28 years old and has preached 30 years. He has a burning desire to work with teenagers and spends all of his time with senior citizens. The perfect minister smiles all the time with a straight face because he has a sense of humor that keeps him seriously dedicated to his work. He makes 15 calls daily on congregation families, shut-ins and the hospitalized, and is always in his office when needed.

If your minister does not measure up, simply send this letter to six other churches that are tired of their minister, too. Then bundle up your minister and send him to the church on the top of the list. In one week, you will receive 1,643 ministers and one of them will be perfect. Have faith in this procedure.

One church broke the chain and got its old minister back in less than three weeks….so don’t break the chain.

So what should we look for in a fellowship worth joining?

The simple answer is this:  Join a church that Jesus would approve of.

“Oh, come on. How can we know the kind of church that would get a thumbs up from the Savior?”

Believe it or not, we do find an example of just such a church described in the book of Revelation.

Consider what the Lord had to say about the fledgling fellowship that had gotten going in the city of Philadelphia in Asia Minor.

And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write,
‘These things says He who is holy, He who is true, “He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens”:  “I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name. (Revelation 3:7-8)

Jesus doesn’t have a single word of correction for this church.


Because they had under their belt three characteristics that we should keep front and center in our hearts and minds as we look for a church.

“A little strength”

The thing that made the church at Philadelphia so pleasing to Jesus wasn’t their property or their programs. They simply relied on the power of God to accomplish the work.

A question we often ask ourselves in our church is simple, but profound.

What are we doing that can only be explained by the power of God’s Spirit working in our midst?

Is the church we are considering Spirit lead and Spirit filled?

If the Holy Spirit were to leave Earth at midnight tonight, how long would it take for this church to know the difference?

Remember, the single greatest evidence that the Holy Spirit is truly at work is the miraculous manifestation of God’s love for one another. (Galatians 5:22-23)

“Have kept My Word”

Jesus also commended them for giving a central place to the teaching of God’s Word – the Bible.

Does the church you are considering teach the entire Bible in a systematic way?

Book by book? Chapter by chapter?

Do you notice that most people who attend not only bring a Bible with them, but that those Bibles are showing serious signs of wear and tear due to constant use?

Do you see that the church isn’t just interested in head knowledge concerning the Bible, but heart knowledge that leads to life changing actions? (James 1:21-26)

“And have not denied My Name”

Who is the focus of the church?

Is it the pastor? A gifted musician?

A historical personality? Or even an approach to ministry?

Or is the church centered on the person of Jesus Christ?

Do the people know Him, love Him and want others to share in that blessing?

The apostle Paul wrote:

For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake.  For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (II Corinthians 4:5-6)

Find a church that follows that pattern and you won’t go wrong!


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