It happens that sometimes in this life we find ourselves looking for a church. What, exactly, are we looking for? What do we base our search upon?
To begin, let’s make a distinction between what is nice and what is necessary. There are a lot of nice things to find at a church: an active youth group, friendly and welcoming people, a spacious and updated facility, a pastor who keeps everyone awake through the sermon, fantastic musicians, and people who don’t sin. All of these things are nice, but they are not necessary.
The things that are necessary are very few, but very important. The necessary things are the Gospel rightly preached and the Sacraments rightly administered. These two very humbly and easily overlooked things are the most important things in the church. In fact, these two things are the most important things in the entire world.
In the Gospel rightly preach and the sacraments rightly administered the Holy Spirit is present forgiving sins (Mark 16:16; John 20:23; Matthew 26:28), creating faith (Romans 1:16; 10:17), giving out victory over sin, death and the devil (1 John 5:4), and bringing people to the joys of everlasting life (John 3:16).
Our Augsburg Confession says this with marvelous simplicity:
Also they teach that one holy Church is to continue forever. The Church is the congregation of saints, in which the Gospel is rightly taught and the Sacraments are rightly administered. (AC VII.1)
There are things that are nice to have, but only the Gospel and the Sacraments are necessary, necessary for the Lord’s church, necessary for our families, necessary for our salvation.
May the Lord Jesus continue to see that His Gospel is rightly preached, that His sacraments are administered according to His institution, and that we, His people, are found in congregations and churches that are marked with the same. Amen.