What should I be looking for in a church?
Question: "What should I be looking for in a church?"
Answer: In order to know what to look for in a church, we must first understand its purpose, the reason for its existence. The church is designed by God to be many things, but two stand out above all others. First, “the church of the living God [is] the pillar and ground (foundation) of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15, italics added). Second, we must understand that Christ alone is the head of the church (Ephesians 1:22; 4:15; Colossians 1:18).
In regard to the truth, the church is a place where the Bible (God’s only Truth) has complete authority. The Bible is the only infallible rule of faith and practice (2 Timothy 3:15-17). Therefore, when seeking a church to attend, we should find one where, according to biblical standards, the Gospel is preached, sin is condemned, worship is from the heart, the teaching is biblical, and opportunities for ministry (to minister to others as well as to be ministered to) exist. Consider the model of the early church found in Acts 2:42-47, "They joined with the other believers and devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, sharing in the Lord's Supper and in prayer. A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. And all the believers met together constantly and shared everything they had. They sold their possessions and shared the proceeds with those in need. They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord's Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity—all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their group those who were being saved."
In regard to the second most important factor, Christians should attend a local fellowship that declares Christ’s headship in all matters of doctrine and practice. No man—whether pastor, priest or pope—is the head of the church. All men die—how can the living church of the living God have a dead head? It cannot. Christ is the church’s one supreme authority and all church leadership, gifts, order, discipline and worship are appointed through His sovereignty as found in the Scriptures.
Once these two fundamentals are in place, the rest of the factors (buildings, worship styles, activities, programs, location, etc.) are merely a matter of personal taste. Before even stepping foot inside a church, some homework is in order. The local phone book will provide a list of the churches in the area. Doctrinal statements, purpose statements, mission statements, or anything that will give insight as to what a church believes should be carefully looked over. Many churches have web sites where one can get a feel for what they believe regarding the Bible, God, the Trinity, Jesus Christ, sin, salvation, and man.
Next should be visits to the churches that seem to have the fundamentals in place. Attendance at two or three services at each church will be helpful. Any literature they have for visitors should be scrutinized, paying close attention to belief statements. Church evaluation should be based on the principles outlined above. Is the Bible held as the only authority? Is Christ exalted as head of the church? Does the church focus on discipleship? Were you led to worship God? What type of ministries does the church involve itself in? Was the message biblical and evangelical? How was the fellowship? You also need to feel comfortable; were you made to feel welcome? Is the congregation comprised of people you can identify with?
Finally, remember that no church is perfect. At best, it is still filled with saved sinners whose flesh and spirits are at war constantly. Also, don’t forget the importance of prayer. Praying about the place God would have you attend is crucial from the very start of any search, throughout the search, and through the decision-making process.
Recommended Resource: The Church: Why Bother? by Philip Yancey.
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Questions about the Church
What should I be looking for in a church?