Question: I know what a true church is, but have not been able to find one in my area. I have been listening to sermons online, but this is no long term solution for my spiritual needs. What am I suppose to do?
Answer: Your predicament is a very serious one and, as such, I will offer the only scriptural options you have. There are four:
Compromise – Are you sure there is not a true church in your area? I too have a very strict definition of what a true church is, but let’s make sure that we are not being overly narrow.
Is there a church in which the true gospel is preached, in which the sacraments are rightly administered, and in which discipline is faithfully exercised? If so, then you might need to compromise on finer (i.e., non-essential) points of doctrine and join this local assembly.
Reformation – Joining a less-than-perfect-but-still-valid church will not only benefit you, but it might eventually prove beneficial to the entire congregation. More specifically, your presence in that church might be used by God to reform it according to scripture.
Do not walk in announcing, “I am going to fix this church” and do not sneak in with any secret agenda. Rather, simply show yourself happy to be there, always willing to serve, and humble in your convictions.
After you have earned the trust of others, they may begin to look to you for leadership. If this happens, then go ahead and lead them into a more biblical direction. Do also be warned: Most reformers experience fierce opposition and persecution.
Missions – If none of the churches in your area are essentially orthodox or possible prospects for gradual reformation from within, then you may consider the possibility of planting a new church.
The first step in this would be to count the costs. I myself was involved in church planting for about four years and can tell you that it is not easy. It consumes a lot of time, costs a lot of money, and causes many a heartache.
The second thing you will need to do is to find a few “core families” who share your desire for a new church, who basically agree on doctrine, and who are willing to make the long-term commitment.
Finally, you will eventually need to seek outside help. Oversight is essential in missions and the earlier you find it, the better.
Relocation – While this may initially sound like the least realistic option, it is actually a lot easier than the previous three I mentioned. Why live in a place where God is not working? How did you end up living there in the first place?
Maybe it’s not your fault. Maybe you were born into a spiritual wasteland. If so, then why not simply find a better place to call home? The Bible is filled with examples of people relocating for spiritual reasons.
On the other hand, maybe it is your fault. Did you move into that area in haste or against sound counsel? Did you just follow the job or the money? If so, then your first business with God is probably repentance and full repentance may very well involve relocation. This becomes all the more urgent if you have children at home.
In conclusion, let me acknowledge that none of the options stated above are simple or easy. They all call for some serious sacrifice on your part. More than that, these options may raise more questions in your mind than you had when you submitted your question. So let me encourage you to close:
Rest assured, my friend, God knows exactly where you are at the present and exactly where he wants you in the future. He has also promised that if you seek his kingdom as your first priority, he will graciously provide for all your lesser needs (and yes, that would include employment, housing, moving costs, helping hands, etc.).
“Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” (Mathew 6:33).