Looking for a Church? Here are a Few Things to Consider
Have you been thinking about finding a church? It’s that time of year where people start thinking it’s a good time to get back to or check out a church. Maybe you’ve been going to your local Catholic fish fry on Friday nights or seeing people observing lent at work, but these days leading up to Easter are contemplative. It’s a time when those of us who don’t usually think of spiritual things sometimes consider them. If you’re reading this, and thinking, “I have a church”, well, that’s great. Stay with me though, because I think there'll be something in this for you too.
I don’t know what lead you away from church or what is leading you to look for one, but I know God wants you to find a place to worship and learn about Him. Be open to Him and be honest with yourself. Maybe you were a regular church attender before COVID and haven’t gotten back in a building yet. Maybe you find every excuse not to go to church on Sundays. If you once attended a church and haven’t been there for a while, ask yourself why?
Churches are like relationships. There is a time to stick it out and a time to end it. Church jumpers are annoying -people who are all in until one thing happens they don’t like and then they’re jumping to the next one. (Typically these things are a matter of preference and not a core Biblical value of the church.) However, if you’ve been “sticking it out” for 20 years, it’s probably time to find a different church. So, where to start?
We live in a time where you can do a ton of research on local churches before even stepping in the door. Of course, you can’t get a feel for the people from the website, but you can find out what their mission statement is, see some of the programs they offer, and even watch a sermon. In your search, there are a few things you should keep an eye out for.
1. Choose a church that’s looking out instead of in:
I’ve heard my pastor say, “We want to be the kind of church that if we left town, they’d have to raise taxes.” In other words, we want to be in our community and for our community. So, is there a church in your community that does that? Have you read social media posts or articles about a certain church that makes serving the community a priority? A big part of being a Christian is learning to serve others the way Jesus did on earth. Your church should be giving you a lot of opportunities to exercise those muscles. If the church feels like a country club where they’re happy with their members and aren’t looking to reach out, it’s probably not a heathy, thriving church.
2. Choose a church that tells the truth:
I know this can be a hard one. If church is new to you, it’s probably hard to tell if the church is telling the truth. Big churches often get a bad name for this kind of thing because they often offer a comfortable atmosphere where the coffee is hot and free and the band is loud and polished. But that doesn’t mean that they aren’t telling the truth. If you watch a sermon or two and you feel…comfortable, I would be a little weary. God doesn’t call us to be comfortable. He wants us to be confident in His love and power. He wants us to be joyful, but He rarely calls us to be comfortable. A good message should challenge you. You should feel convicted in some way. If you leave feeling that all your beliefs have been affirmed and you have nothing to work on, this may not be a church that tells the truth. John 16:33 says, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” A church that ignores the “trouble” isn’t telling the whole truth.
3. Choose a church that has a definite direction:
People are imperfect, so obviously churches are too. However, a church that has a definite direction or a mission statement they cling to won’t be wishy washy on every decision. They’ll ask, “How does this fit into our mission?” and proceed from there. And how do you know if their mission is a good one?
4. Choose a church that puts the Bible first:
Christians believe the Bible is the word of God. If you took your car to the dealership for a repair and they said, “We sell only Toyotas, but we hardly ever check the manual for how to fix them. We just kind of do what feels right and hope for the best.” You’d probably take your car somewhere else. Like I said before, people are imperfect. And if they’re not constantly filtering their decisions through the lens of the Bible, things can go south really quickly. If a church isn’t putting the Bible first, they’re probably putting their own self-interest first and you don’t want to be a part of that.
5. Take the invitation:
Maybe you’re leaning toward a certain church to visit. Sometimes God nudges you in a certain direction. This time of year, people will be inviting you to church. Whether it’s a card in your mailbox or a personal invitation from a friend, seriously consider taking them up on it. I can tell you, it takes a lot of courage for someone to ask you to their church, so truly consider it because they want you there and they think it would be a good fit for you.
6. Listen to your kids:
If your child attended a church with a friend and they want to go back, GO WITH THEM. Unless you have a serious concern with the theology of the church, listen to your kids. They’re only under your roof for 18 (or so) years. So, listen to them and encourage their spiritual journey. They found something worth while there; why not give it a try?
7. Keep shopping:
I hate to use the term “church shopping”, but that’s what it is. And we’ve all stepped into a store and thought, “This just isn’t for me.” That’s okay. If you feel like giving it another week, do it. If not, don’t give up until you find a place that is a good fit. A church website can’t give you all the information you need. So, plan a visit and try it out. Maybe even ask on social media, “I’m thinking about trying out ______ Church. Do any of you go there?” Chances are, you can find someone that you already know who will answer any questions you might have. They may even meet you there to sit with you.
If you have a church you love, invite your friends to go with you. Pray that God will lead you to friends that need a place to connect with God and others. Easter is a great time to get plugged into a church.
I pray this is the year you find your church family.