Choosing a Church
Did God intend the phenomenon of “Designer Churches” where we “shop” based on our lifestyles, tastes and preferences?
For most families and individuals, choosing a new church can be a cumbersome and time-consuming task. Many times we think we’ve found the right church, stay a few months, and then realize it’s not the right church and we have to start again from square one!
But clearly one of the reasons Americans have difficulty in finding a new church is because we’re looking for the right thing in the wrong way. C.S. Lewis wrote, “The search for a ‘suitable’ church makes the man a critic where God wants him to be a pupil.” What an incredibly poignant statement!
Often, if we’re not careful, the things we tend to look for in a church are self-oriented rather than God-oriented. In our consumer-minded society we want a church that “meets our needs.” What we’ve forgotten is that we come to church each Sunday to offer worship and not to have a list of needs met. Our God is none other than, “the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light.” He is worthy of our worship and that’s why we come. We need to come to church with hearts fearing and reverencing Him rather than coming in an attitude of consumerism. We come in the joy of our salvation in Christ. We come with a desire to serve rather than to be served.
Biblically, the passionate preoccupation of all healthy churches and the members within them should be the following:
- The glory of God
- The equipping of the saints
- The evangelization of the lost
Now granted, those are pretty broad goals. The question, therefore, is what exactly do we look for in trying to find and unite with such a church?
Here are some practical questions and answers to consider:
Is the church engaged in the expositional preaching of God’s Word, the Bible? This can be tricky because many churches today are preaching “from the Bible” about things like relationships, finances, overcoming hurt, family life and so forth. But that’s not biblical preaching. Biblical preaching is God-directed — bringing us to a deeper knowledge of Christ and a greater love for Him through the systematic, expositional preaching of the word.
Does the church’s statement of faith conform to historic, orthodox, Evangelical Christianity? If so (and more importantly) is the church presently conforming to its own statement of faith? Critical, “no-compromise” issues include things like the Trinitarian nature of God, the deity of Christ, inerrancy of Scripture, total depravity of man, justification by faith alone, the literal bodily resurrection of Christ, literal six-day creation and so forth. Read and observe carefully!
Are the worship services God-directed? Or are they audience-directed? Is it really worship or just entertainment disguised as worship?
Are there opportunities to dig deeper into God’s Word? Are there men’s, women’s and youth Bible studies during the week that give us a comprehensive understanding of the most amazing 66 books on the face of the earth?
Are there opportunities for service? Are there ways God can use me and/or my family here to glorify Himself, strengthen the brethren and reach the lost?
Do the people here have a love for each other? Will I be strengthened by the fellowship and encouraged unto godliness? “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” (Psalm 133.1) This is by no means an exhaustive list but it’s a good start. Most importantly, you need to be actively and fervently praying that God will give you a right heart about this and then direct you. For example, you may be searching for a new church because you’re mad at you’re old one! If you’re leaving your present church because you didn’t get your way you need to seriously examine whether God is pleased with your leaving. Moving to a new church is serious business. But if you’re searching for noble reasons (relocation or doctrinal reasons for example) then God will attend to your prayers in this matter so “that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim. 3.15).