5 Things To Look For In A Church
How to find a church
Finding a church can be hard. While I hate (I hope that’s not too strong of a word) the idea of “church shopping”, as if a church is a commodity to be bought or sold based on our personal preferences, I think we all recognize that not every church is for us. So, where do you start when you’re looking for a church? What are the most important things to watch out for? Here’s our top 5 things to look for in a church.
- Find a church full of sinners. Sound strange? I think it’s crucial. Find a church that recognizes their sin and their absolute need for a Savior. None of us have moved past the need for Jesus (that’s why we keep gathering together around Him). Find a church that’s willing to admit that they don’t have it all together, that they are far from perfect, but that they trust in Christ’s perfection.
- Find a church that’s willing to preach the truth of God’s Law. It might be nice for a little while to attend a church that only gives you good feelings. But, we all need God’s Law. God’s Law keeps us on track, like the curb on the side of the road when we start to drift. God’s Law holds up a mirror to our lives so that we see all our warts and faults – for the purpose of driving us towards our Savior who washes us clean and forgives us. God’s Law also teaches us how to live, and what God wants for our lives. Find a church that’s willing to speak the truth to you.
- Find a church that’s devoted to preaching the Gospel. I just finished saying that we need the Law, but the Gospel should predominate. We need to be taught how to live, but if all we hear at church are some moral lessons on how to be a better parent or a more obedient disciple, than we’re missing the whole point of Jesus: He came to do what we could not do, be what we could not be, and to set us free from ourselves and our captivity to sin. Without the Gospel, church becomes little different than any other civic gathering. The Gospel is what makes the Christian Church Christian. Find a church that boldly proclaims the forgiveness of sins. Find a church that declares you, week after week, to be God’s beloved child. Find a church that is so consistent and persistent in speaking this message it gets old.
- Find a church that is Christ-centered and cross-focused. The Gospel is all about Jesus. Find a church that continually points you to Jesus and His sacrifice and resurrection. Good News without a cross or tomb isn’t all that good. Some churches might proclaim good news, but the Good News flows from Christ and His sacrifice. We constantly need Him in front of us. We need to be re-focused – away from ourselves and towards someone greater than us – Jesus.
- Find a church near you. If at all possible, find a church that you can get to easily and quickly. I know this isn’t always possible, but I think it’s important. You will be much more likely to go on those snowy or rainy mornings if you don’t have to drive far. You’ll be more likely to join mid-week Bible studies or service groups if your church is right around the corner.
BONUS 1: Don’t find a church that caters to your whims and preferences. We all like to be catered to, and it’s nice to sing our favorite songs and have classes about our favorite topics, but there is something important about being shaped and molded apart from our preferences. Find a church that fearlessly speaks the truth and love of Jesus regardless of how anyone feels about it. I don’t mean to suggest you should find a church full of uncaring, unsympathetic leaders and members. But, I do strongly believe that our preferences are secondary to everything else on our list. I would much rather attend a church that preaches Law AND Gospel, that is Christ-Centered and cross-focused, and that is nearby, than a church that just tells me what I want to hear.
BONUS 2: This tip is more on you. When you visit a church, ask lots of questions. Talk to the pastor or other leaders. Attend a Bible study. Schedule an appointment to meet with the pastor outside of Sunday to learn more about their beliefs.
BONUS 3: Give the church a chance. It can be hard to evaluate a church after one visit (or even two or three). We all have off days – and churches do too.
If you’ve like what you read and want to read more, check out our book on Amazon called “Growing Up: In, with, and under Jesus”