Here are a few things to keep in mind when on the hunt for a new church!
And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers… And all who believed were together and had all things in common. – Acts 2:42, 44
When trying to find a good local church, it’s good to remember that, just like the people in them, no church is perfect. However, there are many important issues that should be considered when choosing a church. Be sure to pray about the churches you’re considering, to be sure you’re following the Lord’s leading as you search. Be especially sure to read a church’s doctrinal statement or statement of belief to find out about their stance on important issues. Listed below are some important things you should consider in your search to find a church.
1. What is being preached and taught?
The Bible is clear that we should only listen to those who preach the true gospel of Jesus Christ (Galatians 1:6-9). If any other message is being given in its place, then it is not a Christ-following church and you should move on to another one (Ephesians 1:22; 4:15; Colossians 1:18). The church should be speaking God’s truth as given to us through His inspired Word, the Bible (2 Timothy 3:15-17). Besides the message of salvation, churches vary when it comes to their views on the Trinity, the authority of the Bible, eternal security, free will, God’s sovereignty, election of the saints, eschatology (beliefs about the end times), and other theological issues. These are all important issues that we should seek to understand, and, as much as we are able, we should choose a church based on the convictions we have about these and other church doctrines.
If you don’t know where you stand on these issues, you should try to find a church that emphasizes and teaches that the Bible is God’s inspired word and that believes in God’s sovereignty. God’s sovereignty is seen in the fact that God is lovingly and powerfully in control of all of history, and working in all our lives to ensure His plan is carried out in every detail and in His perfect ways (though often not understood by us). Avoid a church where you’re told that God only wants happiness, good health, success, and wealth for you; the Bible says that, as Christians, we should expect persecution and suffering for the cause of Christ (Matthew 5). God uses our pain to encourage others and to grow us. While God desires us to be happy, He is more concerned with our holiness than our temporal happiness.
2. Is the church a place of fellowship and community?
The early church of Acts 2:42-47 devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and to the fellowship. They broke bread and prayed together. They had a spirit of unity, and put others’ needs before their own. This community is what grew their numbers daily. Fellowship should indeed include the observance of God’s ordinances for the church: communion (the Lord’s Supper) and baptism of believers (Acts 2:38).
Also, the church you choose should be welcoming to all. We should welcome sinners yet speak the truth to them about their sin. The people of the church should be committed to encouraging one another to grow in Christ (1 Thessalonians 5:11). Sometimes it’s hard to find a church where people don’t just show up on Sunday, but instead truly invest in each others’ lives. Part of this investment is seen in how active and important Sunday school classes, community groups, small groups, youth groups, and other support groups are within the church.
3. Is the church focused on outreach and practical service?
Christ commanded us to carry the gospel to the ends of the earth, to all unreached peoples (Matthew 28:19-20). The church should be leading its members in this, preparing them to share the gospel with their neighbors and supporting or even leading local or international missions trips. We should be caring for the poor, the widowed, and everyone whom we can help (James 1:22-27, 1 Peter 4:10). Some churches don’t have the resources to reach out to the community with formal groups, but the individuals in the church should be volunteering in the community and serving their neighbors, on their own or with friends. Be sure to also look for a place to serve within your church.
4. Does the style of worship fit with your taste or preferences?
While music style should be taken into consideration, it should not be the deciding factor in finding a good church. The older hymns are often rich with truth and important doctrines that can bolster our faith, and there are also many newer songs and choruses that are uplifting and encouraging. The purpose of music in a church should be to lead the people closer to the Lord in worship and adoration. Many of us are used to one style of music as opposed to another, just out of habit or childhood experiences. Be open to a different way of worship!
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