Everybody should become a Christian, and if you aren't you should do it today - do it now.
But - at least initially - become a Christian first, and don't leap into joining a church.
Obviously, this does not apply if you believe that only one church is THE Christian church - but few Christian's truly believe that.
The problem is that at least 90 percent of actually-existing self-styled Christian churches are anti-Christian in overall tendency and effect - Anglican, Catholic, Methodist, Presbyterian, Baptist etc.- typically, they all lead their flock astray.
Indeed, all the large, powerful mainstream churches in the UK are - at their senior levels especially - primarily 'front' organisations for Left Wing politics - Christianity is merely a rationalization for their primary agenda of political correctness.
So, why join a church that will try to make you a worse Christian, or not a Christian at all?
Even among the (say) ten percent of real Christian churches, at least half will be unsuitable for you personally, for one reason or another.
Either they will be just not-helpful, or so alien and unappealing that it will be a constant battle merely to attend, to engage and to stay active.
At a conservative estimate - if you become a Christian and join a church then there is a ninety-five percent chance that church will not help your new faith, or will actively try to erode it.
Clearly, it is much the best thing to be inside and engaged-with a real Christian church - but that is much easier said than done.
Therefore the safest strategy in the UK is to become a Christian in haste, but to be slower and very careful about choosing a denomination; or else you will likely have cause to repent at leisure your precipitate act of premature church membership.
You will also have to decide which Bible to use. The biblical text was not finalized (for Christians) until the 4th and 5th Centuries AD, and the texts adopted were the current New Testament and the Greek Septuagint version of the old testament. Both had been in common use, so this was not an innovation. The Septuagint was oriignally used in the Jewish diaspora in the eastern Meditierranean, because it is in Greek and the Jews of the 2nd and 1st Century BC were thoroughly Hellenjzed and spoke and read Greek, not Hebrew. The most complete version of this text is the Orthodox Sudy Bible. The Catholic Bible deletes a few books, and Protestant bibles delete several more.
If you've already decided for some reason or another to use a Protestant Bible, then there are others besides the Authorized (King James) Version. An early predecessor of the KJV is the Geneva Bible.
It should be born in mind that choosing a bible means you have already made a choice of Christian sect, or at least greatly reduced its range. If you choose the Book of Mormon as and addition to some version of the Christian Bible, you've narrowed the sectarian choice to the Mormons. If you choose to use some of the gnostic gospels, you've made yet another choice.
The historical method might work best. Begin with the Orthodox churches (there are many), and work your way through the Great Schism, the Reformation, etc. Stop wherever you like, and feel free to back track.
@Sykes - I don't agree with the premises of your analysis!
After all, unless someone happens to know multiple ancient and modern languages to a high level, they are going to be reading a vernacular translation.
The best answer would come from prayer and inspiration - but if you speak English, it is a choice of English language Bibles, and the crucial factor is which is most likely to be divinely inspired. For me, this obviously seems to be the Authorised/ King James translation - if not as primary text then at least as the basis for some more modern translation.
But in fact, unless it is itself the instrument of conversion (in which case the decision is made for you) you already have to be a Christian before you read the Bible, otherwise you won't understand it.
In other words, choice of a Bible is a secondary matter which should never deter or cause a moments hesitation for anyone contemplating becoming a Christian.
Augustine said it was better to believe nothing than to believe a false doctrine. I liked the church I went to but it has since been closed for being politically incorrect.
@dl - I'm not too sure about whether it is worse or better to believe nothing than false doctrine, probably 'it depends' - not least because I suppose Augustine would have regarded 99.9 percent of the people I regard as Christians to be believers in false doctrine and therefore worse than nothing. Certainly to believe nothing (that is, to live in a state of universal doubt) is a terrible situation.
But I don't think of non-churchgoing Christians as believing nothing. It is certainly a sub-optimal situation to be unaffiliated; but for some people, in some places, for some period of time - it may well be the best available option.
Being an un-churched Christian is a very difficult road. It is perhaps where the virtue of humility and avoidance of pride is most warranted. I have a hard time being introspective on motives - am I really doing this-or-that for the right reason?
@Andrew - Being an un-churched Christian is very difficult compared with what?
The usual comparison, for many people in the UK, is with an organization up-front dedicated to Fair Trade economics, feminism, socialism, transgressive sexuality, the fight against global warming, pacifism - and the rest of it.
The social side of church may be pleasant and cozy - but is likely to resemble an old folks home. The liturgy and scripture is likely to be highly selective and to use bureaucratic language or faux-trendy jargon. In the end, whether you get anything valuable from church attendance may hinge on how much you enjoy community singing. Ceremonies are likely to be run by a priestess or pastoress, and to be undignified and unserious in style and conduct.
This is the likely comparator for being unaffiliated.
The biggest lack from being un-churched - for me - is missing Holy Communion. I console myself by recalling that such has often been the situation for Christians in some times, places and circumstances.
To me what's important here isn't a church but rather fellowship.
@Bruce - I agree with you. You're right, it is disheartening to attend most churches. I did find a very traditional Catholic church locally with a beautiful liturgy, most weeks even have Gregorian chants (which I love). The main problem being that I'm not Catholic, and I'm not sure I can convert for many genuine reasons, most of which I think you've mentioned elsewhere. Nevertheless, I feel a great deal of self-doubt of doing things like wanting to pray the rosary, celebrate saint days, etc. - but never being allowed to go to confession or take communion!
Paradoxically, the modern Catholic church seems to be very non-judgemental about this... lol
@Andrew - the problem I have mentioned several times before is that denominations tend to be too strict about converts (demanding 100 percent unconditional assent to multiple propositions, and swearing to levels of active practice that in practice very few people attain) - and too lax about cradle members.
If you were already a Roman Catholic, there would be little/ no problem; but becoming one as a convert would involve you in all kinds of soul searching, lack of candidness, swearing oaths etc. The same applies to Eastern Orthodoxy.
This keeps out honest people who would be good church members if they were already insiders.
I think this does not apply to all the serious Protestant churches - for example, you can attend a serious conservative evangelical church without having to swear to anything, and can take Holy Communion and join in all activities.
However, such a church is deliberately and self-consciously administered by Pastors not Priests, the Holy Communion is only regarded as a memorial meal and the real presence of Christ is denied - so there is a sense in which attending this kind of Protestant church, self-confessedly does not add anything necessary or substantive to private and personal worship.
However, all this is not going to change - and therefore it seems inevitable that there will be serious, scrupulous Christians who are kept outside of all real Christian denominations which offer something that can only be obtained by church membership; they can only attend churches for whom attendance is conceptualized as purely for stimulus, fellowship, teaching, group prayer and other such optional factors.
This is extraordinarily difficult for me. I'm a Christian, but the church I love (Episcopal) is self-destructing. Its clergy and hierarchy are, so far as I can determine, actual communists seeking the final destruction of the church... in the name of Jesus.
At least in the US, I see no substantive difference between any of the mainline churches. Roman Catholic, Anglican, Protestant all embrace the multicultural, anti-European, pro-Third World immigration nonsense. Even the "conservative" ones. Any differences seem to me to be of style only.
O Lord, make haste to help us...
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