Tuesday, August 12, 2008

How to Find a Good Church

Sometimes people do need to change churches. Maybe they attend a church where salvation is not articulated. There may be heresy, or abuse, or it may just be dead. Sometimes people move to a new community and search for a new church.

This can be done in a God-honoring, Christ-exalting way that is healthy; both for the individual and the church.

Here's how to do it:

1. Look for a church prayerfully. As is the case with all others decisions we make as Christian’s, you should begin your search for a church by seeking the Lord’s direction. The Bible promises, "In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths" (Prov. 3:6).

2. Keep in mind that you’re looking for a fellowship of believers. A church is not a building, nor is it merely a ministry, it is the body of Christ and the family of God. So seek people who love the Lord and who love each other -- people that will love you and people to whom you can give your love.

3. Look for the church that preaches and teaches the Word of God. -- Seek the fellowship that has sound doctrine, proclaims the Word, and sincerely lifts up the Lord Jesus Christ in worship and in all they do. Much of this can be discovered by observation, but most fellowships have a printed statement of their doctrines they will provide to you upon request. For clarity, you can speak with the pastor or leadership about their beliefs or practices.

4. Look for a church that will help draw you closer to Christ. It might be nice to find a church where the music is flawless, where the seats are padded and the minister dismisses promptly at noon. But more importantly, you need a church that cares about you and that will inspire you to grow in Christ, and will motivate you towards godliness. You need a church whose preaching and teaching will not merely appease or entertain you, but will boldly challenge you to advance beyond your comfort zones to live toward God’s high ideals.

5. Look for a church where you can become committed. In many ways, your relationship with the church is similar to a marriage -- you can’t get any more out of it than what you put into it. The only church in which you will ever grow and mature spiritually is the fellowship where you will commit yourself and get involved -- where the people submit themselves to God and to each other -- where they will both encourage you and hold you accountable.

6. Look for a church that is actively reaching lost souls and those far from God
. This is essential to the Great Commission. Such a church understands its purpose and is serious about reaching the lost. They don't just talk about it, you can actually see their efforts and results - conversions.

7. Look for a church that is balanced its purposes. Churches have a tendency to emphasize one aspect of the Christian life over others, resulting in an out-of-balance church and members. Look for equal emphasis on the five purposes God has given the Church:

  • Evangelism
  • Worship
  • Fellowship
  • Discipleship
  • Service

8. Look for a church where you can contribute. Find a church family where you can get involved, where you can roll up your sleeves and help them to minister to others. Don’t look for a church that will only "serve you," but look for a church in which you can "serve." Always remember, a church is the combination of what its people are. So if you want your church to be the best it can be, you must be the best you can be. A church can never rise above what it’s individual members are.

9. Accept the unique individuality of a church. People often look for a church like the one in which they got saved, or like one they see on TV, or one like their childhood memories, or like the one they read about it a book. But this is futile, because every church is distinct and different in its personality, just like people are. Always use the Bible as the standard to measure a church -- not other churches.

10. Look for a church with reasonable expectations. Don’t bother looking for a perfect church, because there aren’t any. In every church you will find people who are wonderful and some who aren’t. Jesus taught that it was common for weeds to be found growing together with the crops (Matt. 13:24-30).

Also, in every church, you’ll find some things done well, and others that are not.

Don’t worry about finding a perfect pastor, either. Trust me, we’re all human and will make mistakes. But look for a pastor who is sincere, who is trying his best to live a godly, moral life, and who is proclaiming the uncompromised Word of God. In short, be content with the church that is doing the best they can.

There are many good churches in your community. Trust the Lord to guide you to the fellowship where he wants you, and become faithful there.

Don’t be a church hopper -- bouncing around to one church after another each week. God wants you to be submitted to the accountability of spiritual leaders who will help you and even correct you when necessary (Heb. 13:17), and this isn’t possible unless you are rooted somewhere.

Don’t have an neglectful attitude, going to church only when you feel like it. Attend faithfully and show up on time. Serve your church at least as diligently as you would your employer.

Remember, the Lord views your attitude toward His church as your attitude toward Him (Matt. 25:40).