The Beginning

While we’re thinking of a new church year – a new start – it is helpful to rethink, one more time, why we do what we do in our lives, and especially in our church lives. A beginning sets the tone of progress; the basics. Let’s start with a solid base. What’s our attitude? Why do we go to church? How do people choose which church to attend? In church development classes, we learn that there are four good reasons why people change/choose a certain church:
Theology: The doctrine of a church plays a great role, especially in terms of liberal vs. conservative doctrines and their applications, because this affects your whole spiritual life. Sound doctrine and Christ-centered Biblical teaching is crucial for us.

Fellowship: There are people who deliberately choose to attend churches that have strong social gatherings, community understanding, caring and helping members, and frequent socializing. As a matter of fact there are churches that are so good at fellowship that they attract many friends and introduce Jesus Christ to them.

Mission/Outreach: There are people who seriously commit themselves to a particular mission project and choose to be a part of it. They look for a church that initiates or supports these mission projects. When the church pastor or the lay leaders are gifted in evangelism, the whole church direction may be mission and outreach.

Pastor: Fortunately or unfortunately, people choose churches because of the pastor, too. They like or dislike the pastor, his sermons, his caring spirit, his leadership etc., and they make their decision on that basis.

As an ethnic church, I can add one more criteria, which is ethnicity. How much Armenian culture (in our case) do we have in this church? For many centuries the church has been a safe haven to keep the nationality and the culture of its people alive. For many Armenians this is extremely important. For others this is strange
thinking for church growth.

The world teaches us to make choices based on our feelings rather than looking for God’s will for us. The world teaches us to customize our orders according to our “needs.” You don’t need to buy a ready-to-go computer; Dell will make one just for you according to your order. You don’t need to buy the entire CD; you can go online and purchase only the songs you like for your iPod.

Sometimes, this mindset affects our church lives and consequently our spiritual lives. We start thinking, I like this part of the sermon (or the church), I dislike the other part, etc., instead of thinking, what is God teaching me? We do learn a lot from the business world on how to run the church and administer our ministries.
But we must always be careful to have the right spirit, the Holy Spirit, who will always be with us and in us to correct us, lead us and empower us to do the will of God. Let’s begin our new year with great Spirit.

Rev. Mgrdich Melkonian,
Senior Pastor, First Armenian Presbyterian Church
Fresno, CA, USA