Today, many look at the church building as "the Church." Actually, that is not true. Church in Greek means, "the called out ones or an assembly." The Church is not actually the building, but the people in the building. The Church is actually the body of Christ, or the followers of Jesus Christ, Christ being the head of that Church. There are two things about the Church we must understand: there's the universal church which is made up of all people who have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and then there is the local church which is made up of the local believers who worship in church buildings. The local church is made up of different denominations such as Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist, Catholic, Presbyterian, Church of God, and many more. The members of the universal church should be involved in the local church.
In 1 Corinthians 12 Paul talks about the unity and the diversity of the church. People in the church are all different and have been given different spiritual gifts. God has placed in the church prophets, apostles, teachers, persons of healing, servants, and those that disciple us. Chapter 13 goes on to say that with all these gifts there must be love. Without love in the church, none of the gifts matter.
The first church started in the book of Acts chapter 2. Although we think of the church in different ways, the first church was simple. It involved believers in Jesus Christ who devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching, the breaking of bread (communion), prayer, and fellowship. These believers gave away their possessions to help the needy, they continued to meet together, they praised God and enjoyed the favor of all people. While the church in those days was in houses, the book of Acts says that the Lord added to their number daily those being saved.
So what happened, many may say. There are churches today still operating with these same principles. However, in the day of post-modernism, there are churches that have decided that truth is relative and that biblical truth is relative. Although there are many churches that are abiding by Biblical principles, many have bowed to the post-modern movement. Because of this, the church today may not look like the church in the book of Acts.
John MacArthur says, "The church should not be a place where the primary message is, 'We're a nice place; you'll like us.'" Instead it should be, "This is a Holy place where sin is despised." Some evangelical churches today have softened down the core message of the Bible in an attempt to bring people to church. These seeker-friendly churches have stopped talking about the fear of God, Hell, prophecy, the need of a Savior and how God will judge His people. They have become more man-centered instead of Christ-centered. They have opted for the teaching of grace and/or self improvement. We have a church that is beginning to look a lot like the world we live in. Although I am not sure that is all bad, it's of concern when we have a church that uses methods that do not allow for the full teaching of the gospel. The biggest teaching areas avoided are sin and and how it should be confronted. There is the assumption that all people understand their sinfulness and addressing it sends the message of condemnation. However, when a church chooses to confront sin, like Jesus did, it does not mean it's an unloving church or it's a condemning church. Actually, there's no greater love than telling someone where they stand before God. We as a church should not tell someone in a condemning way, yet we must teach that as a people without Christ we are condemned already. (John 3)
Churches will have worship bands, loud music, soft music, some will dress up, and some will dress down. In some you will kneel and in some you will raise your hands. However, in all churches one thing that must not change is the apostles' teachings. The teaching of the Bible is a must in all churches. Although story telling can occur to make the message more relevant, it must be supported with expository teaching and keeping to the text and message of the Bible. The Bible is all we need to equip us for life and faith. This is the biggest reason you must find a church that teaches the Bible.
My hope for you is that first, you go to church, that you find a church that preaches the Word of God and is not just a cool church, one that just teaches self help/quality of life or one that makes you feel good. The church should not be about the music, nor about good story telling that is not supported with scripture. It should be about the teaching of the gospel, about people that love God, love Jesus Christ, and each other. Mostly, find a church that is willing to teach all aspects of the Bible. This teaching is what convicts us and allows us to understand God and how He wants us to live. We have to remember that God is not about a feeling. God is about believing. And for us to believe anything, it must be sound in doctrine, of proper teaching, so we do not believe what is false. The Bible even tells us to look out for false teachers (2 Timothy 4:2-4). Lastly, we should remember that church is not about us, but about Christ. The Church is still full of sinful people who are being sanctified by God's pure grace. And most of all, the church is a place where we know we can be loved by all believers and by Christ.