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The church should be a central part of your life if you are a believer in the risen Christ. But sometimes knowing how to find a good church can be difficult.
Maybe you attend the church your parents attend but it doesn’t have good programs for children or youth. Or maybe you’ve recently moved – or soon will – to a new state or city where you don’t know anyone. Maybe you and your husband have decided to find a new church because of the distance you’re currently driving.
Whatever the reason, if you’re looking for a church home, there are lots to choose from.
- Different denominations
- Big churches
- Small churches
- Mega churches with multiple campuses
- Churches with a traditional choir and organ
- Churches with a praise band
- Churches that only meet once a week – plus a variety of activities
- Churches that meet two or three times a week.
With so many options, how do you find a good church? It might help to think of it like buying a house: you need a good foundation, a strong superstructure (the actual house), and great details.
How to Find a Good Church: Inspect the Foundation
What is the foundation of a good church? Biblically sound doctrine. If you’re confused about what that is, learn about the early creeds of the church such as The Apostles’ Creed or The Nicene Creed. Or, for a more detailed explanation, check out The Westminster Confession of Faith or The Westminster Shorter Catechism.
If you don’t have too much free time for that, below are the basics that any good, Biblically sound, church should have as a part of their statement of faith. And BTW – always read the statement of faith of any church you’re thinking of attending or joining!
Key points of doctrine which your church should believe and teach include:
- The inspiration, inerrancy, and sufficiency of Scripture
- The existence of God in the Trinity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit
- The full deity and full humanity of Jesus Christ and His virgin birth
- The death, burial, and bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ
- The sinfulness of all humanity and the need for salvation
- The availability of salvation to all who call in true repentance on Jesus
- The future return of Jesus as King
- The importance of being a part of a local church
- The necessity of celebrating the Lord’s Supper and Baptism
- The eternal existence of all people after death in either heaven or hell
I didn’t include any Bible references in this list because there are too many. But if you go to a reliable website, such as blueletterbible.org or gotquestions.org you can find a lot of Biblically sound information on each item.
There are plenty of other points of doctrine that most good churches teach, but these are the 10 most important. If the church you are attending or considering has uncertain or nonbiblical beliefs in these areas, then it is time to move on to a different church. You might even need to consider a different denomination.
How to Find a Good Church: Examine the Superstructure
Once you have a firm foundation, other details are mostly negotiable. Consider, again, the example of a house. If the foundation is firm, you can build a cottage, a split-level, a Tudor-style, or a ranch. All are houses, and all will be perfectly acceptable for living in, if the foundation is secure.
However, since there are so many different personalities, cultures, traditions, languages, and simple likes and dislikes, not everyone would want a split-level or Tudor-style home.
In the same way, not every believer will want the same type of church. And that’s OK – as long as the differences aren’t in doctrinal essentials. Below is a list of some questions to consider in a few areas of difference that aren’t doctrinal issues.
- Is the preacher generally a suit-and-tie guy or jeans and a T-shirt?
- How frequently does the church observe The Lord’s Supper?
- How large or small is the church?
- What type of music is used in worship services?
- Does the church follow the liturgical calendar?
- What is the assumed dress code?
- How welcoming is the church to outsiders?
- How does the church relate to and interact with other area churches?
This list could be much longer, but you get the idea. These are issues that affect how comfortable a person might be in a particular church. But almost none of them are issues of Biblical doctrine.
As important as this list is for understanding, please also notice what isn’t on the list: doctrines concerning Satan, demons, angels, the Second Coming, baptism, or marriage and sexuality. All of these, and more, are doctrinal issues that believers need to have a Biblical understanding of – even if they don’t directly affect the gospel of salvation through faith alone.
How to Find a Good Church: Pay Attention to Details
So, you found a church that is Biblically sound (the foundation). You’re comfortable with the size, style, friendliness, and such (the superstructure). Now there’s one more area to focus on: the details.
The details of the church are often what will be the determining factor for many families. But, just as a home has different details in different rooms – think crown molding in the living room or quartz countertops in the kitchen -there are a couple of areas of detail to focus on.
Detail #1: The Purpose
Why does this church exist? The answer to that question is the purpose of the church – and each church needs a written purpose or mission statement. Why? Because without one, the church will be pulled in dozens of directions and be ineffective in all of them. And also, each church is unique in its location, character, and connections – which means it has a unique purpose or mission to fulfill.
To some degree, the purpose of any church should be very similar to any other church. For example, the church I’m a member of in Georgia has a mission statement that reads:
We exist to unite all generations to go make disciples of Jesus.
That’s a great purpose or mission statement for any church! But then my church expands on that simple statement with other statements that
- Relate to the denomination
- Emphasize missions work, locally, nationally, and internationally
- Prioritize families
- Promote cultural diversity
- Expect generosity
- Presume people will come to church with a wide variety of problems and needs, in all the messiness of humanity and sin
Again, this could be used by other churches. But taken together, the mission and the supporting statements give my church a unique culture of service and acceptance, of truth and grace, for our local area and beyond.
Detail #2: The Vision
A church has to have a purpose and an understanding of why it exists before it can have a vision. The purpose is the ‘right now, right here’ anchor. The vision is looking toward the future.
Here are some questions to ask of the leadership:
- Does the church leadership have a clear vision of where to focus efforts and resources in the next 10 years?
- Are there programs that continue for no other reason than “we’ve always done it that way”?
- Does the vision include outreach beyond your geographical area? How far beyond?
- Are there ministry dreams in the works that the church is hoping to launch in the next two to four years? For example, a school, a foster-care ministry, a homeless outreach, or partnering with churches in one or two specific foreign countries.
- Especially for families: what does the future of children’s and youth ministries look like to the church leadership?
Detail #3: Where Do I Belong – Or Do I?
Ths might seem like a small thing, but it isn’t. Always consider how you feel when you attend a church. Do you feel accepted, comfortable, and welcome? I once visited a church where not one person spoke to me. I never returned. How you feel in the church you attend is important. Not as important as other issues, but still important.
Along with how you feel, consider how your kids and husband or wife feels. The entire family should feel comfortable. But if anyone is going to feel like a bit of work might be needed to fit in, it shouldn’t be your kids – it should be you. You’re the adult, so be one.
Finally, in considering where – or if – you fit, think about opportunities to serve. Are you passionate about middle school girls? And is there a ministry opportunity for you in that area? Or maybe you love to organize or coordinate for big events. Ask around and see if your gift of administration would be a welcome addition.
Finding a church home requires a solid, Biblical foundation and a good fit for you and your family. But going to church shuld never be only about warming a pew or making sure the kids get some good teaching. The chruch where your famly belongs is the church where you can learn and grow and SERVE! Yes, I did just write that in all caps. Because it matters and is far too often overlooked or ignored.
Why Bother with Church?
Some of you might be wondering, why bother to attend church at all? Making the time and effort to find a good church seems like too much; can’t I just tune in on the Internet to my favorite preachers and call it good? The short answer is “No.” The long answer involves considering the practices and teaching of Jesus, the early Church, and the Word of God.
Their practice: Worshiping together was important to Jesus and to the early church:
- Jesus went to the synagogue regularly (Luke 4:16)
- Jesus encouraged believers to meet together (Matthew 18:20)
- Jesus commanded believers to make disciples (Matthew 28:19-10)
- The early church met together regularly (Acts 2:46-47)
- Paul went to the synagogue regularly (Acts 17:2)
Their teaching: Worshiping together was commanded and encouraged:
- We are commanded to gather together and encourage each other (Hebrews 10:25)
- We are encouraged to gather together to teach, admonish, and praise (Colossians 3:16)
- We should hear the clear teaching of the Word, which can change our lives (Romans 10:17)
- Jesus promised to build His church and we need to be part of the building (Matthew 16:18)
- The church is the primary means the Lord uses to spread His message of grace, forgiveness, and salvation (Acts 9:31)
- We are admonished to seek the kingdom of God first (Matthew 6:33)
- We cannot become mature believers apart from the church (Ephesians 4:11-16)
Wherever you choose to attend, serve, and worship, you should be praying for your church. Check out this list of 20 Ways to Pray for Your Church and this one on 20 Ways to Pray for Your Pastor to get started.
What church will you attend this weekend? And how does it measure up to the standard in the Word? Is it time to find a new church, become more committed to your church, join a church, or start serving in church? Make your decision and follow through.