I thank you for your site. It has been a great source of information as a new believer. Although I always considered myself a Christian, I never truly understood its true meaning until starting and completing, cover-to-cover for the first time, the Bible last year culminating in accepting Christ as my Savior in January of this year.
I am still very new to this and living in a very liberal town, I am surrounded by very liberal views. Finding a church at which to worship has been difficult, and I have questions. I need to be baptized. Before fully coming to Christ I began attending a church, the least liberal I have found to date. They are non-denominational, claim to be Bible based - though some things said I question, but I don't feel I have enough study in to judge. They are a very large congregation and growing and in fact were just given a church property by a congregation in another town that has seen their congregation dwindle but they tend more toward the new version of worship. The senior pastor seems biblically sound. However, he shies away from talk of hell and under his leadership younger pastors have said things I think are questionable. As a new believer I don't feel qualified to judge; e.g. one junior pastor taught John 21:15-19, stating we need to understand that John spoke Aramaic, not Greek and therefore didn't understand the difference between the verbs agapao and phileo and kept mixing them up, there is no significance to the use of those words. I study the Bible for an hour each day and granted I've only been doing it for a year now, but I have no idea how anyone could understand that passage in that context. Another pastor (a woman - which in and of itself is an issue - but she has only taught one or two times since I've been there) taught something that sounds like Kingdom Theology. They also built a prayer labyrinth on their grounds and frankly it's my personal sense there is something wrong with that, it is not in the Bible and seems to have pagan origins.
Should these things matter? And what does one do if there are no churches, solid churches to attend? I feel like leaving is "church shopping" which makes me think of Mark 13:21. I sense there are many true believers in this church. My question is, if I need to be a member of a church and I need to be baptized, in these times - and in this place - could I choose a "wrong" church? I thank you for any insights you can offer.
What makes a person a Christian is not a personal self-declaration. It is Christ who adds people to his church (Acts 2:47). Therefore, it is by submitting to Christ's rules that a person becomes a Christian. See: What Saves a Person? Until you have put on Christ, you cannot truly be a Christian. "For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ" (Galatians 3:26-27).
Your salvation is based on what you do. In one sense attending a poor church will not affect your salvation, such as those at Sardis (Revelation 3:1-6). But that only is if you remain faithful and worship God truly as He desires. That is very difficult to do among people who are not following God fully. "Do not be deceived: "Evil company corrupts good habits"" (I Corinthians 15:33). What you listed shows a group who are religious sounding, but are not interested in following the Bible completely. The argument about the difference in the Greek words is false because the New Testament was written in Greek, not Aramaic (except for a few words). What is being overlooked is that the Bible is inspired by the Holy Spirit and He chose the words used. "These things we also speak, not in words which man's wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual" (I Corinthians 2:13). Therefore, the difference in the words used do matter. The prayer labyrinth is borrowing ideas from eastern religions and trying to make it a part of Christianity.
John said, "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world" (I John 4:1). Paul said, "Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil" (I Thessalonians 5:21-22). Supporting false teaching isn't the way to please God.
I happen to know the region you are in and while it is liberal, there are sound churches in relatively easy driving distance.