Choosing a church is quite an adventure, but one that must be entered into prayerfully. In my book, Changing Churches: A View from the Pew, I describe in detail our search for a new church. Here are some of the things we found helpful on our journey.
My husband and I listed our hoped for criteria. Yes, we wrote down and talked about each item. We wanted to find a biblical church that exalted Jesus Christ. We hoped for a friendly church, reverent worship, good music and a deliberate Communion service. We assumed any church with these qualities would also be mission and outreach minded. We narrowed our search to churches nearby so we could be active at any age. We also hoped for a smaller church so we could get to know others.
Roger Olsen in The Mosaic of Christian Belief says that many people today have little concern for beliefs and often base their decision about a church on the worship style or the programs for children or teenagers. These may be important to you, but be certain to consider the beliefs of each church you visit or you may be in for a disappointment.
Choosing a church is complicated in today’s world because what you see may not be what you get.
"Many and perhaps most churches have seriously down played theology and doctrine in the second half of the twentieth century. It is very difficult to find out exactly what a church believes and whether or not it actually takes the beliefs it says it holds seriously....You could find yourself in a church that advertises itself as Christian but denies the Trinity, the deity of Christ, salvation by grace alone, and a host of basic Christian beliefs."
A church that is vague about foundational Christian beliefs would not be a healthy church. Does the church require those who join be committed to Christ? Are members expected to be “born-again” Christians? The urge to enlarge a church by watering down the “entrance” requirements dilutes the effectiveness of the church.
We learned a great deal about the churches we visited from their websites. The statement of beliefs shown there will vary. Some are lengthy; some are short. Some are detailed and specific; some are vague. Meet with the pastor to learn more.
Look for unity in the church. Look for transparency – openness in addressing any question or issue. Look for a church where Scripture is taught in its entirety. Look for a church where Jesus Christ is Lord. Pray as you search and the Holy Spirit will touch your heart when you attend the church where God is leading you.
A healthy church will accept you warmly, welcome your questions and give complete answers. A healthy church will inspire and challenge you to grow in your faith.