Bible Riches Answers the Mail

Finding a church home
Parable of the Prodigal Son

A question about finding a church home
Grace writes - What is the best way to find a church home?
Rich's reply

Dear Grace,
Thanks for taking the time to ask such an important question. Your concern is something shared by many people.

Finding a church can sometimes be more confusing than finding a place to live or work.

If you come from a church that you loved and just hated to leave, finding one just like it will be virtually impossible. You will end up spiritually frustrated and more confused. Rather, take time to think about your needs and those of your family.

In the paragraphs that follow, I have listed 5 things I believe you should look for in seeking out a church fellowship...

#1- The church must be warm and family centered

  • I’m big into relationships. Christians are meant to be together. In fact, the church is called a body (1 Cor. 12:12ff).
  • This means that the church itself is a living organism. It is not merely an organization where administrative duties and rules are dispatched, but a living entity. This means that the church must have LIFE.
  • When visiting a church, if you sense there is little or no life, then don’t go there. Why would you want to seek the living Jesus among the *dead* (Luke 24:5)?

So, if you want to be alive and growing in your faith in God, look for signs of harmony, unity and excitement about the things of God.

#2- The church must give evidence of God’s presence

  • In John 4:24, Jesus said, “God is Spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”
  • To worship God in spirit is to worship Him with the inner person, the heart and soul.
  • If you truly want to experience God, find a place where you almost always intuitively sense that God is present, and where you are encouraged to stretch spiritually and respond to whatever God may be saying to you.
  • You will know the presence of God. He will confirm it with your spirit (Rom. 8:16).-->

#3- The church must be biblically balanced to teach the truth of the Bible and to model a godly lifestyle

  • Some churches feed their members with heaping platters of heavy duty doctrine and theology.
  • Nothing wrong with that --- just as long as there is ALSO a lively *exercise program* where members can live and DO what they have have been taught. (James 1:22-25)
  • There's nothing worse than being around spiritually fat Christians who live like vacuum cleaners, sucking in all they can but never giving away anything. more-->

#3 continued

  • On the other hand, it isn’t good for a church only to have are a lot of Christians who are spiritually famished because of their constant serving, but are weak, immature and easily led astray because they are void of any solid foundational teaching from the Bible.
  • The writer to the Hebrews said, “you should be teachers by now, but you need someone again to come and teach you the elementary principles from the Bible” (Heb. 5:12).

Bottom line- Find a church where the pastor preaches with passion from the Bible AND where the people serve with passion in the streets and community.-->

#4- The church must have a clear purpose and vision

  • Most churches will have a written statement of their *Purpose* -- probably in a brochure on a table at the front or back of the church.
  • Find out if they do have a purpose. The purpose is saying: “This is why we exist.”
  • Look for evangelism – i.e. reaching others with the gospel. If you cannot find any evidence of this, go somewhere else.

Look for their core values too. Core values are what the church holds to regarding common practices that keep them focused on their purpose.

Churches can say, “We have a purpose,” but if they do not have core values to steer them toward their purpose, then they’re aiming at the wind.

#5- The church must have a vibrant program for youth and children

  • If a church is absent of kids and youth, then it probably is absent of life. Jesus said, “Whoever receives a child in My Name receives Me” (Luke 9:48).
  • The church must be in the process of preparing the next generation for mission, service and spiritual warfare. This cannot occur if there is no growing program for kids and youth.

Dear friend, whether or not you yourself have children, don't ignore this attribute of a *good church* --

  • A strong youth program tells you just as much about the health of a church body as a strong heartbeat tells you about the health of a physical body.-->

In conclusion, remember...

  • Do not look for a perfect church. You won’t find it. There is no such thing. And if you happen to find one, don’t go there because you’ll ruin it.
  • Choose a church that will best help you in your spiritual journey, then COMMIT yourself to that family of believers.
  • A long-term "church-shopper" or "church-hopper" is like a couple living together without the commitment of marriage. Not only is that kind of arrangement contrary to God’s Word, it is a serious deterrent to your growth in the knowledge and love and grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Much Blessings, Rich

    NOTE- To read a *doctrinal study* about locating and recognizing a good church, click HERE 
A question about a parable
L.G. writes - I know both the older brother and the prodigal son are saved, but does the older brother get more rewards in heaven than the prodigal son?-->
  Rich's Reply
L.G.'s question deals with "The Parable of the Prodigal Son" [Lk 15.11-32]. First, I will quote the parable. Then I will reply to L.G.'s question.

The Parable of the Prodigal Son
by the Lord Jesus Christ

1 Jesus said: There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, "Father, give me my share of the estate." So he divided his property between them.

Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living.

After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
  2 When he came to his senses, he said, "How many of my father's hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men."

So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. The son said to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son."
3 But the father said to his servants, "Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found."

So they began to celebrate. Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on.

"Your brother has come," he replied, "and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound."
  4 The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, "Look! All these years I've been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!"

"My son," the father said, "you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found."
Lk 15.11-32

The Parables told by Jesus Christ
Lord Jesus often used parables as a tool for teaching. As utilized by Jesus, a parable is...

  • A fictional story that communicates a spiritual truth
  • An *earthly* story with a *heavenly* meaning.

Some teachers interpret a given parable to make it mean whatever it is they want to teach at that particular moment. I won't comment on that technique except to say that I try very hard NOT to do that.

In my view, the correct way of seeking a given parable's meaning is to study the situation that existed at the time that Lord Jesus told the parable. That is the method I will use in discussing the parable which forms the basis for L.G.'s question.

The Parable of the Prodigal Son
In my view, the younger brother in this parable represents a saved person, whereas the older brother represents a Pharisee-type of person.

Study with me on this ---


To start with, note carefully the context of Luke 15. In verses 1 and 2, the Pharisees and Scribes criticized Jesus by saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” The implication is that the Scribes and Pharisees in their own self-righteousness do not receive or eat with sinners, but Jesus does.

Because of this attitude problem on the part of the Pharisees and Scribes, Jesus launched into a series of parables, one of which is the prodigal son. In my view...

  • The younger brother represents sinners who have come to their senses and turned to God for forgiveness.
  • The older brother represents the Scribes and Pharisees who are too self-righteous to accept sinners, and are so blinded by their own sin that they will not come to the Savior.
  Then all the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to Jesus to hear Him.

And the Pharisees and scribes complained, saying, "This Man receives sinners and eats with them."
Lk 15.1-2

Now, I will show you the major differences between the two brothers.

The younger brother

  • The younger brother *confessed sin* when he said to the Father, “I am no longer worthy."
  • The younger brother asked the Father to *change him* when he said, "Make me like one of your hired servants.”
  [The younger brother told the Father...] "I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants." Lk 15.19

The older brother

  • The older brother relied on his own works and righteousness by saying, "I have been serving you. I never transgressed your commandment."
  • The older brother believed the Father *owed* him both position and priority. Therefore he complained, "You never gave me a young goat..."
  [The older brother told the Father...] "Lo, these many years I have been serving you. I never transgressed your commandment at any time. Yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends." Lk 15.29a


  • The younger brother was guilty of sins of the flesh (behavioral sins).
  • Like the Scribes and Pharisees, the older brother was guilty of sins of the spirit (attitudinal sins, or sins of the heart).
  • The outward actions of the older brother may have been blameless, but his inward attitude was abominable.
  [The LORD said...] The LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart. 1 Sam 16.7b

[Lord Jesus said...] Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. Mt 23.25
It was commendable for the older brother to obey and serve his Father. However, Jesus taught us that the greatest commandments in the Bible are to love God and your neighbor.

The older brother broke both of these commandments. He did not love his father. He resented his father's kindness to his younger brother. He did not love his younger brother who had spent his inheritance and had come home and was given a party (v. 28).

Jesus taught us that on these two commandments hang ALL the law, and ALL that the prophets had depended on. In Christ's eyes, therefore, if you break one of these two commandments, you have broken them all.

So -- in actuality -- the older brother wasn't truly obedient after all, was he?
  [Jesus said...] You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment.

And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.
Mt 22.37-40

As noted earlier, the older brother in this parable represents the Scribes and Pharisees. Would you consider them to be saved? Probably not. Neither, therefore, was the older brother saved.

Now then, back to L.G.'s question about rewards...

  • Will the older brother receive more rewards than the younger? No. Those who rely on their own works won’t receive any rewards at all.
  • But the younger brother -- who represents sinners who come to God in humble, child-like faith -- will receive salvation. And that, beloved, is the greatest reward of all!
  [Jesus said...] I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Mt 5.20

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.
Eph 2.8-9


Site Index

Rich's Archives

E-mail Rich
I WILL reply!