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Assuming that one believes in an almighty Lord, why should one choose a particular Christian congregation or denomination?

For example, why should one choose to serve God by helping the poor through the Salvation Army instead of doing so through the Opus Dei, or through Baptists, or through the Catholics?

As long as one lives in a moral fashion, why would God care that our money, faith, efforts and time go through a particular human congregation or another?

It seems to me that there is no particular reason for preferring one denomination over another, and most of them are quite similar, so maybe it's also OK to choose any church to be saved.

To be more specific, I don't care why I should choose denomination or congregation A over B, but why I should choose one at all.

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The only reason it's necessary to choose one is because we can't just go to church in general; we can only attend one specific church on a given day. –  Bruce Alderman Sep 7 '11 at 14:47
    
As it stands, this question is a good question at the core, but the way that it is presented makes it seem as if you don't truly want an answer but only to provoke discussion and debate. As such, if you can edit this and make it more neutral, it'd be a good question. –  El'endia Starman Sep 19 '11 at 22:13
    
This question could use a bit of clean up. It is necessary to state assumptions, it is assumed on this site that answers are to come from a Christian perspective. Next, there are really two entirely different questions here, 1) what is the point of church at all and 2) what criteria should be used to pick a specific church. Right now, even the disclaimer at the end does not serve to unravel these two questions that have both been posed and scrambled in the body. Lastly it also mixes in the issue of whether church attendance is related to salvation. Please pick one direction here. –  Caleb Sep 19 '11 at 22:16

6 Answers 6

up vote 7 down vote accepted

To be honest, you have a good point.

We're all here for the same reason, to glorify God and rejoice in his Son, our savior. For most intents and purposes, any denomination of Christianity will get you that much.

As far as being part of a body of Christians at all, I believe this to be essential. Time alone is also necessary, but good Christian fellowship can go a long way; there are those to help you in your walk with faith, those to keep you on your walk, those to share your experiences with, and those to encourage you. This site could even be called a good site for Christian fellowship. The body of Christ is ever growing, and can a finger or a toe be a part of the body if it doesn't want anything to do with the rest of the fingers or toes, or they eyes or the nose?

As far as picking a denomination, this often happens because of very small, specific beliefs. I (being a Lutheran) selected my denomination because of how closely they keep to the original translation of the Bible (every pastor must learn Greek and Hebrew, and they cite the original languages often) and because of their focus on Grace Alone, Faith Alone, Scripture Alone. I needed to be constantly reminded of the fact that nothing I do can get me to heaven, and that God is the only one that has the ability to save me, and I need to take every chance I get to further my relationship with Him.

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Ive been asking that question for years..personally i believe in god not so much man,the bible is the foundation of all christain denominations each has built on the word of god [yes written by man but thats a another debate] which is solid foundation in itself for anyone to build on yet man has created different "buildings" so to speak with house rules some share the same rules plus have different rules to give their denomination an identity yet the bible is the back bone which if one believes in god one must also obey the word of god..the bible...go forth and apply the word of god to your life without the misinterpretations or fear of having too weather you have faith in god or not..no man can tell you weather of not your going to heaven or if you need to be saved or if the life your living is sinful, join a denomination but dont let that take away your identity or freedom of choice as some denominations will do that for you on gods behalf...Love god with heart and soul and treat each other as one would themselves when judgement day takes place we will all be exposed/naked judged individually not as a group..and if its all a lie? at least a productive and love filled caring life on earth was achieved so weather or not one believes in god i strongly believe the bible values are more important then any denomination can add...personal opinion only if one wishes to discuss further feel free too

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Welcome to the site. We encourage participation here by any and all, according to the quality and content standards. This answer will be much better if you can re-word it to be less pastoral and more objective to a Christian context, and use some clearer punctuation. –  Matt Jan 16 '13 at 3:54

In the same way that everyone needs food to survive but we all have different culinary tastes and therefore might prefer different restaurants, the range of congregations provides a choice of styles and philosophies. There's more than a difference in style, just as one restaurant might only serve organic food and another may be strictly vegetarian - different churches may have slightly different belief sets. The analogy continues with dress code and etiquette, opening times, and much more.

The point is, all these differences are secondary to the central aims of receiving nourishment and contributing to the establishment and that all churches are working towards the same objectives. And of course, at the risk of stretching the analogy too far, there are some restaurants with poor hygiene that sell food that can kill you, just as there are some groups that may appear Christian but on further examination offer a contaminated version of the Truth.

One final vaguely food related sentence: sorry if this answer is a bit cheesy, but I think it's a good analogy.

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There are a variety of reasons to choose (or not choose) a specific particular denomination or congregation over another.

Why Go?

Now, the reason to choose one at all is because it's generally considered important in Scripture and Christian practice to gather together with other Christians, and you have to choose some venue to do that, even if your criterion for deciding which one is just "it was closest to my house, and I deliberately don't care what denomination it is." I'm not going to answer more in depth "Why would I go to a church at all," that seems like a different question to me.

Selecting a denomination

But then there are a variety of criteria you can use to choose a denomination in general. A congregation is slightly different and I'll get to that next.

A given denomination might have specific theology or practice you like or disagree with. If you are very against the idea of homosexual Christians, for example, you might steer away from denominations that validate that. No denomination is likely to have 100% stuff you agree with, so this is a matter of degree. Do you like everything about the Churches of Christ but think it's silly they don't allow instruments in church music? Well, you'd decide whether that's a dealbreaker for you or not. Do you feel strongly about infant baptism, taking aspirin, divorce, contraception, etc? Well, various denominations are also for or against those things strongly, so you might decide to match up where there's meaningful parts to you. Does a traditional liturgy make you feel warm and fulfilled while singing songs on an overhead and jumping around leaves you cold (or vice versa)? Well, there's churches who practice each of those ways, so you'd probably decide on what you prefer.

And of course there are non-denominations. There are independent churches, though I think in general these still end up having a lot of similarities - are all the "independent Bible churches," if you visit them, more diverse than all the Catholic churches? Not in my experience. But in this case you can effectively skip the denomination phase and go to the congregation selection phase.

Selecting a congregation

When choosing a specific congregation, a given church home can vary more or less from the denomination's main theme. I went to a pretty conservative Epsicopal church for a time, for example. So the specific congregation's character may override the general denominational trends. One Catholic church can have very traditional services and another down the street can have a hippy-guitar-style kind of service. Maybe serving the poor is important to you, and that church downtown has a good soup kitchen ministry but the one closer to you spends the money mostly on youth outreach. So again you're back to some of the theology and practice questions. There are also a host of practical and social reasons. There may not be any churches of a given denomination in your town! Fellowship is one of the goals of a church, so you may attend a congregation because family or friends (or someone who can give you a ride, etc.) do. Praying about it and letting the Spirit help lead you is also recommended.

Choice, A Sticky Wicket

Some people have strong "brand loyalty" - they really identify with one denomination's teaching or one church home and it gives them strength to have a history with them. Some people don't - I am of this stripe. I was raised Methodist and in college was a Presbyterian youth minister, went to Episcopal and Lutheran churches regularly and visited others, so now when I move somewhere I visit churches from the set of denominations I find generally congruent with my understanding of doctrine and preference of practice to find good congregations (More conservative than normal Methodists or Episcopalians or more liberal than normal Lutherans, traditional with a bit of evangelical to them).

I have heard some argue that there is too much choice in churches in America today (similar to the paralyzing and polarizing amount of choice in consumer products). If the capital-C Church of all the believers stratifies into sub-groups that all effectively believe the same, are you missing out on being challenged? Would the church be more functional overall if it had all the types/spiritual gifts represented? Some denominations like the LDS and to a lesser extent the Catholics stress this by saying you really should attend your neighborhood church and not be such a picky shopper, which is a fair point.

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You may find that a particular 'denomination' contains the fullness of truth. It will contain the answers to all your questions and to all the questions you never even thought to ask.

When you find that, you'll find that you are growing closer to Christ and putting on the new man, becoming who you were meant to be and actively seeking the kingdom and the will of God.

This is good, keep it up.

"This, therefore, is, in conclusion, my reason for accepting the religion and not merely the scattered and secular truths out of the religion. I do it because the thing has not merely told this truth or that truth, but has revealed itself as a truth-telling thing. All other philosophers say the things that plainly seem to be true; only this philosophy has again and again said the thing that does not seem to be true, but is true. Alone of all the creeds it is convincing where it is not attractive; it turns out to be right, like my father in the garden"

Orthodoxy, G.K. chesterton

So, it's the philosophy and the creed that you want to hang on to, where you find it is up to you.

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Why should I choose [a congregation] at all? you ask.

Walking in the way of Jesus is not a solitary activity. Christianity is an incarnational practice and religion. The five marks of Christianity (Acts 2:42) are the Word of God, fellowship, service, teaching and learning, and worship. Four of the five are very hard to do alone.

So part of the practice of Christianity is to find some congregation, and walk the way with those folks. Any congregation will do.

People choose A over B based on lots of things. Honestly, most of those reasons are social rather than doctrinal or theological. But four of the five marks of the church are social too.

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What are "the five marks of the church"? –  Mason Wheeler Sep 1 '11 at 18:24
    
Word, fellowship, service, teaching, worship. Like it says in my answer. –  user116 Sep 1 '11 at 18:29
    
+1 dang, my church only has 4 marks (one, holy, catholic and apostolic). –  Peter Turner Sep 1 '11 at 18:36
    
Which four are very hard to do alone? I only see 2 that are... well, 1 that is impossible alone, fellowship. Another, teaching, is also impossible, or hard, depending (teach to whom?). Service? Again, to whom: if to non-Christians, "easy". Well, possible. Word of God... don't know what that exactly means in context. Worship? No other Christians needed. Sometimes even a hindrance. –  Jürgen A. Erhard Sep 1 '11 at 22:36

protected by David Stratton Jan 16 '13 at 3:07

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