Finding a good church home is a lot like looking for a car — you might test-drive many of them but still come out unsatisfied. Sooner or later though, with patience and perseverance, as well as a determination to find the right church, you will find yourself fascinated with one in particular. As one who became a Christian about five years ago, I soon realized the importance of discovering a church suited to my needs, and more so, one that I felt I could contribute to. Even though there are no bulletproof rules in finding a church home that’s comfortable to you, there are some basic guidelines to follow that can save you a lot of time, frustration, — and money.
Spend Time In Prayer:
Praying before you search for a church is a necessity for many reasons. First, since God knows everything, He is able to lead you to a church that serves Him and desires to do His will. Second, when you pray, you allow God to understand that you are serious about a church home, and that you will go through whatever trouble to find one. Third, it will keep you humble, waiting patiently, and choosing wisely.
Check the Yellow Pages, Newspaper, And Internet:
The Yellow Pages, newspaper, and the Internet are all wonderful resources when looking for a church. By looking under ‘Churches’ in the yellow pages, you will find a plethora of them within different denominations. Simply select the denomination that you are most closely affiliated with, and narrow it down to what is closest to your geographical location. The newspaper usually has churches listed in the religious section. The Internet is a wonderful way to check out a church because usually you can find their web site online — if not, then it might be a fairly small-sized. A word of caution though: Even though these are wonderful resources to find a church, they are limited. Even though you may be able to find out where a church is located and some of its’ beliefs, this does not tell you anything about the actual environment. There simply is no substitute for attending the church itself — just be sure that they are teaching the right thing though.
Research the Pastor’s Reputation Within The Community:
Especially in a day of pastoral controversies all over the U.S. (Ex. Ted Haggard), it is vital that you check the reputation of a pastor within the surrounding community. With a grain of salt, ask the people of the community what they think about the pastor. Check with other churches to see if they have any problems with him. Even check with the congregation itself to find out what the strengths and weaknesses of the pastor are. If you find out that the pastor has had a bad reputation recently, then it would be wise to find another church. A shepherd can only lead the sheep if the shepherd himself is a model of virtue and excellence; the sheep should instantly recognize and follow His voice.
Seek Out Their Doctrinal Beliefs:
This should be one of the most important aspects of a church, though it should not be overdone. The Gospel should not be watered-down and there should be explicit mention of faith and repentance. A solid Bible-believing church should believe that faith and repentance is necessary for salvation, that Jesus is the only way to salvation, that salvation is by grace through faith, and that love is the greatest commandment. Many churches believe that the deity of Christ is included here, but that is a matter of dispute. They should exercise rigorous self-discipline and not allow sin to be rampant in their church.
Ensure That You Feel Comfortable In The Church:
When you visit a church, check out the environment. Is it a place that you could visit three times a week possibly? Do you feel the presence of God in the church? Is worship an integral part of the church service? Do people greet you when you come in the door, and does your pastor come and talk to you at some point? Do they refrain from embarrassing you to stand up as a first-time visitor? If you’ve said yes to all of these questions, then you are on your way to finding a church that you will love. Keep in mind, that you are only going to feel appreciated if you talk back to the people who are talking to you. It is very difficult to have a conversation with someone who is reticent to speak. Also, you should find many other people of the same age at your church, since friends are vital to a healthy life — in and out of the church. If at all possible, you should stay away from mega-churches since it is almost impossible to feel recognized by the pastor and congregants. If you do attend one, find a way to talk to the pastor, and engage in Bible study with other people your age.
Know That There’s No Perfect Church:
It is very common to hear that many people refrain from attending church because of the hypocritical people there. You should keep in mind that no one is perfect, and that everyone is hypocritical whether or not they confess to be a Christian. If a church was perfect, you wouldn’t be allowed to attend. So please keep in mind that people in the church need to be forgiven just as anyone else does. Also, there are many people that attend church who confess to love Jesus, but yet live atrocious lives. If you know someone who is always talking about how much they love Jesus, but yet always living in sin, then you should stop short of spending too much time with them. People make mistakes. If they are falling into sin, then forgive them. If they dive into sin, then stay away from them, other than the times you are witnessing to them.
Look For Outreach Ministries Where You Can Contribute:
Ask not what your church can do for you, but what you can do for your church. Since a church is a multifarious organization, there is always a place for you in the ministry. Some churches have prison ministries while others have missionary retreats to other countries. Whether it is reaching out to your community, or another country, get involved. Make sure you do not perform ministerial works for the publicity though — it should be done for God and Him only.
Look For The Church’s Vision:
Last — and most importantly — look for the church’s vision. Every church should have a goal or plan that they are working towards. This should involve not only reaching out to the community, but witnessing to the lost. Without a vision, the people will perish, and you will have wasted your time.
Finding a solid Bible-teaching church home is not impossible, but you must approach the issue with candor as to what you want, and patience as to what you will get. You deserve no less than to be loved by the people of God, so please choose a church wisely. These tips will help you to find a church congenial to your desires and needs — a reciprocal relationship that grows over time. May God bless you and the church that you attend!