CHOOSING A CHURCH
To live as Christ wants us to, we need the love and encouragement we receive from fellow believers. We are also commanded to love, serve, and pray for our fellow believers as well. We can obey these commandments most effectively if we are in personal relationship with other Christians. The church is a community of believers where these relationships can be nourished. Because it is of utmost importance that you join a church, you should give much prayer and thought in choosing it. Here are some important questions you should consider when determining which church is right for you.
1. Does the church recognize and proclaim the authority and inerrancy of the Bible?
Does it recognize only the 39 books of the Old Testament and the 27 books of the New Testament as Holy Scripture? (It should.) Does the church use the Bible as its primary resource for preaching and teaching (2 Timothy 3:16,17)? (It should.) While there is nothing wrong with a church using supplemental resources (like Sunday school literature), their purpose should be to help us understand what the Bible is teaching us.
2. Does the church put strong emphasis on biblical preaching and sound doctrine?
Solid biblical preaching should expound on what a particular passage says, explain its meaning, and offer insights for how listeners can apply it to their life. The preacher’s authority begins and ends with Scripture (2 Peter 1:20,21). Be wary of preachers who offer opinions that cannot be firmly supported by the Bible, or who want to use the pulpit for other purposes (such as promoting a particular political or social agenda) rather than proclaiming what God is saying to us through His written Word. (For more about sound doctrine, see the section on Basics of Christianity.)
3. Does the church encourage God-centered worship?
Some churches try to be places for entertainment, or provide services that are more people-centered than God-centered. Be very careful not to select a church where meeting man’s needs is more important than serving and worshiping God (Luke 4:8; Philippians 3:3). God has promised to take care of our needs. Maybe not all of our wants, and sometimes He doesn’t provide everything we wish He would, but we can know that if we love God, and are called according to His purpose, everything in our lives is working for our good (Romans 8:28)!
4. Will the church equip you to grow as a disciple of Christ?
Being a true disciple of Jesus means being a follower, a student, of His. Does this church have programs and educational resources available to help you in this growth (Matthew 28:19,20)? Does it have people who are trained in how to better equip you in being a true disciple, and are eager to do so?
5. Will the church provide opportunities for you to use your spiritual gifts and serve?
The Bible teaches us that every believer has been gifted by God for His service, but we must be in an environment where those gifts can be used (Romans 12:4–8). Make sure the church you choose can help you determine what your gifts are and can afford you opportunities to use them.
6. Will the church be able to offer meaningful Christian fellowship?
For some this may mean checking to see if the age demographics of the church include people who are in similar stages of life as they are. Those still in school, people starting families and careers, individuals who are single, and adults who are at retirement age often have different needs, yet we’re still to care for one another (John 13:35). Don’t exclude a church because it has many members not in your age bracket or at different stages in life than you, but at the same time, be mindful that people who are your peers can often provide Christian fellowship in ways that are most helpful.
7. Does this church put strong emphasis on missions and evangelism?
One of Jesus’ last commands before He ascended into Heaven was, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you” (Matthew 28:18–20). How much of the church’s budget is spent on missions? Does it participate in outreach ministries? Does it train its people in how to evangelize (spread the gospel)? This will tell you a lot about how strongly the church feels about missions and evangelism. It will also tell you a lot about the opportunities for service you may have there.