What Do You Look For In A Church?

Is it the music? I love gospel music and grew up on the likes of the Clark Sisters, John P. Kee, Hezekiah Walker, Fred Hammond, Yolanda Adams and Kirk Franklin and more, and many choirs.

Is it good preaching that makes you happy, that gives you good, relevant tips for life, somewhat like a life coach?

Is it having a children’s ministry, a youth program?

Do you think it is important to be a member of a church?

I believe that we all should be members of a church. That belief is supported by scriptures throughout the New Testament. As members, we should be committed to that particular body of believers. But how do you find that church?

I am not a church hopper. I thought that I should state that first. Second, I’ve actually only moved twice in my whole adult Christian life which spans 40+ years. Yes, I’ve only been a member of two churches in 40 years.

In 40 years,  I’ve only looked for a church twice.  The first time I had to “look” for a church was just over 10 years ago. In that quest, my husband and I just visited two churches, and we ended up joining the church that I had originally grew up in. I had been there from the time I was 14 years old through age 30, but had moved due to marriage.

What was the criteria? I wanted to be in a church where I knew God was reverenced, where I knew the Pastor feared God. I had noticed that God had become much smaller, more attainable, as if we were on his level. He had lost his holiness, his wrath. What I mean by that is not that God lost it, but that we made God smaller, more like us. We no longer feared his judgment.

So my husband and I went on a search looking for that.We actually only visited two churches, and ended up re-joining the church in which I had grown up. It was based on how we felt.

I now know that feelings are not a reliable criterion. It may be a factor but should not be the primary  factor.

The second time I looked for a church, different criteria was used. Different because the previous three years, I had been thoroughly immersed in the Word of God, in learning more, understanding more. God, through his grace, had been growing me in spiritual wisdom and knowledge.

This time, I went about looking for a church that believed and taught what God had been teaching me through my quest in the scriptures. It was not good enough for a church to proclaim they “believed the Bible”,  I wanted to know whether the church knew and practiced what the Bible teaches.

My search again was relatively short; actually, only one church was considered. My husband and I had visited this church on one summer day in August. I had previously checked out this church online. It was a Reformed Baptist church. I was just learning about the reformed movement, and had Googled for any in Sacramento. It was the first one in the search.

So, while I was not then looking to move from my church when we visited that summer day, the Word preached that day was really good and sound; but as I explained in my very first post, Why Sit We Here Until We Die? , it lacked the music I was accustomed to, so I dismissed it, never expecting to return.

But what did I learn in my online search?

  1. I found that this church had a Confession of Faith, namely the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith.  I was already familiar with this document and believed like they, that it codified what I believe the Bible teaches.
  2. The Bible is their sole authority.
  3. It had a church constitution that governed how they function as a body including how church discipline is conducted.
  4. One had to complete an application to become a member of the church. Now had I not heard a sermon from Pastor Albert N. Martin, Parting Words of Counsel to the Members and Friends of Trinity Baptist Church, Part 2, that explained why and what membership entailed, I would have thought that this was outrageous having been raised with church being comprised of  “whosoever will”.

All of the above were very important to me. I did note in their visitor packet that it included a statement describing their worship service not being “entertainment oriented” but God centered. I admit that that gave me pause because I had been over our music ministry, and  ensured our music was biblically sound, God-centered, and God-glorifying. But God overcame that hang-up in me by making me more hungry for the Word.

Some might include in their criteria, expositional preaching and an appreciation for church history, as my current church also does.

Unfortunately, there are many churches that don’t have an online presence which would require visiting various churches and learning from them what they believe, and how they are governed.

But that would be my first tool, along with prayer for guidance. I believe that it would be more difficult but not impossible to find out what a church believes and teaches if there is no online presence. Perhaps a meeting with the pastor, and talking with some of the members would yield the same result.

The important thing for me was having specific, tangible criteria. Will that lead you to a perfect church? No, there are no perfect churches, but there are churches that are filled with people whose God is the Lord, who are trying to work out their soul salvation with fear and trembling, who have preachers that have a voracious appetite for the Word of God, that apply themselves to the study of that Word, who have an appreciation for church history, and more importantly they fear the God they serve and that plays out in how they shepherd the people of God.

What do you look for in a church?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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19 thoughts on “What Do You Look For In A Church?

  1. Is this Church teaching what the Church that Jesus called from the seashores of Galillee taught? 1. The correct plan of salvation. Eph. 2:8-9. 2. Is this church modeled after Jesus Church, Local and visible. 3.Does this Church teach and practice the proper mode of baptism? Proper candidate, saved; proper mode, immersion; proper authority, scriptural New Testament Church; proper communion, closed, administered to that local congregation only, just as the first church. I know on communion some find excuse in the Church at Corinth and their abuses to open it up to those of like faith and order, but we find that with all the abuses of the Corinthian church, they practiced “closed communion.” I instruct my members that if any one of these 5 doctrines are missing, it is not like the Church that Jesus built and instructed. Move on. We have no right to our “preference” on these doctrines. The other things, music, way of delivering message, etc. are preferences.

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  2. Great post! Our family looks for a church that loves the community! We look for a church with sound Biblical teachings. Not merely inspirational teachings. And a church that believes in prayer. Not only that we look for leaders who follow through with what they say they believe. We attend an amazing church! We love it for all the reasons mentioned above.

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  3. Love this post. The first thing I look for in a church are they teaching from the Word of God or their opinion. I also look to see if they have His love, if negativity and condemnation radiates and they slander other churches or individuals I know I don’t belong there. At the same time I don’t want to see sin condoned. My church lost members a while back because our pastor preached on sin, he did it without condemnation but said that we needed to turn fro our sins that grace was not an excuse to continue living in sin. One who had left had come to me and told me he had judged her to harshly that day and that their family and friends would not be returning. When I asked did he condemn you or call you out publicly and they answered no, he had not even addressed their situation in private. They just didn’t like hearing a sermon on what sin was and the need of repentance. Unfortunately they didn’t just leave the church but slandered the pastor, his wife and the ministry. This broke my heart. Truth and God’s love is what I seek. I know that no church is perfect but I stand behind any minister who stands for God and won’t water down God’s Word just to keep the number of attendance up.

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  4. thanks for the great message and opportunity to say something on the topic….
    1. I would actually look for the direction of vision and mission church is making it’s progress…is it just some club, community institution, chitchat place or real living organism inspired to move according to dreams put by GOD
    2. I would look if leader, elders and pastors are treating every one equally irrespective of origin, color, wealth, gender and other aspect
    3. The amount of time believers of the church have for the fellowship beside one day of the Sunday or Saturday service
    4. What is the priority of Church..GOD, people or the money…are they interested to operate church to bring in more economic class to increase the treasuries or they understand value of poor souls.
    5. The purposes in which the offerings are being used and invested.
    6. Do they respect the youths that have genuine thirst of GOD and called by GOD than just having their relatives to take over some responsibilities. Moses had sons but whom did he give the leadership responsibilities..It was Joshua the one appointed by GOD…even other young leaders circle did not include his sons, Jesus had brothers but he chose twelve disciples for his witness
    7. is the church family driven or the believers,,,church is all about believers
    8. Is there factions among the believers. If yes then why????? we know the reason from Bible
    9. What do they prefer to preach,,,Bible or inaccurate theologies. Are the teachers well versed in hebrew and greek bible…which is tough but every other bible beside these Hebrew and greek are not genuine as it loses meaning and context. There are many translation but they are all inaccurate because they are not fluid, numerical and coding-decoding like hebrew and greek..Are they just teaching from canonized bible compiled by catholics or do they research the other missed out important and accurate writing of apostles, ancient historians, prophets and GOD’s devotees
    10 Is the church Christ centered or Paul centered…sorry to put this criteria because many churches often take names of Paul more than Christ and GOD
    11 Do the church seek qualified person or called and chosen person…See these days Bible college students have licence to preach and operate as pastors and leaders in many churches worldwide…but is that the criteria in GOD’s eyes…i don’t see such example in the BIBLE..never!!!
    12. Is church Spiritual or unexpectedly professional like that of worldly institutions. You know there are churches which is professional, i don’t know what are they up to..
    13. Is preaching gospel the priority, are worship team dedicated with passion with great musical knowledge…David was like expert..has psalm for us…he played harp..he appointed the choir with experts during his days..not just some guitar playing kiddos that lacked music sheet knowledge…if the kiddos dont know music sheets..is church willing to improve the skills of kiddos..Gone are the days when there was orchestra..these days we have bunch of hobby driven kiddos playing music in church with stickers of weeds on drums and pant’s below their bottom…just recently met a chain smoker christian who said he was interested in becoming worship leader…or is worship service just some talent show for gigs

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  5. Praise and worship has to be amazing and I want to be in a church where I need to take notes every time the pastor speaks. I want a teacher and not only a preacher. Also important is the children’s church.

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  6. Ask this question of ten people and you’ll get ten answers, haha. But here’s some things I thought of right away for myself…

    * Expository preaching – offering the Word as it is, not bending it to your agenda. I do appreciate a motivational/inspirational word or series every once in a while, when the Bible legitimately supports it, but it’s crucial to hear the Bible’s own emphases, including a theology of suffering and a grounding in personal holiness and community service.

    * Heavy focus on missions – “Gather, grow, go” is my church’s philosophy. A church that isn’t doing this isn’t a church at all.

    * Worship that demands only our surrender, not our performance.

    * A matching youth ministry. If you think this is frivolous, think again. Our youth are our future and neglecting or underteaching them is fatal.

    * An undergirding of grace in all that is done. My youth pastor will not grant leadership positions to sexually active singles, but has quietly thrown baby showers for pregnant teens who have no support. They’ve got the Biblical discernment to extend grace to the repentant and offer patience to those in genuine process.

    * Zero tolerance for empty religion. Wine and Harry Potter (in moderation) are not screamed about in my church; my pastor has John Eldredge on his bookshelf and has recommended “The Shack” from the pulpit. It’s nice having a staff who has the ability to take a teaching and extract and appreciate what is valuable, instead of blacklisting authors or entire branches of study out of fear and anger. (Although, to be fair, Rob Bell would never be taught here.)

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  7. I am not a church hopper either, but we have not been able to stay at one church for many years. We’ve moved so many times. I have had many opportunities to search for churches. We’ve gotten pretty good at narrowing it down. My criteria is very similar to yours. Must teach word of God. I need to see it demonstrated in the life of congregants. Sometimes we can tell very quickly, but sometimes it takes months. But, it is worth the wait to find the right place.

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    1. I know moving a lot probably makes you really good at finding the right church. Seeing it demonstrated in its congregants is a sign of a good church! Thanks for sharing that because that is definitely something I noticed also.

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  8. I was thinking the other day about certain things churches are missing. I thought it would be really cool if the pastor would answer questions during the sermon. The questions of course would go along with the service. I’m not sure if there are any churches that do this, but that would be a good addition to a church service. I’m not a fan of pastors who put themselves above the church. I think we should learn about God’s word together instead of making it seem like a pastor knows the most. Many sit quietly during a service without understanding what the sermon was about. Feed the souls.

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    1. At our church, we are able to ask questions during the Sunday School hour and I find that helpful. I do expect the pastors to know more than me as they are the leaders of the church, although, because we are all called with reading the Bible, we are able to know if they go off track. The pastors are there to proclaim the gospel. They should see themselves as standing in the need of a Savior like all of us, and I have been privileged to have pastors that do. Thanks for reading and sharing!

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  9. I have been a member of my church for several years. I left my previous church because it was too predictable. I could fill in the sermon message before the minister got to it…it was like he was going through the motions. So, I set out to find a church that would challenge me to grow spiritually. In one of the first messages I heard at my church was ” you might be in the wrong church if you are not committed to service”. Pastor pointed out how there are many good churches and the importance of finding the right one. Within the next few weeks I signed up for our hospital care team and after that completed the Stephen’s ministry certification. My church challenges us to get beyond the four walls of the church and serve where we are needed. My church also has prayer vigils which have come to be very important to me. Great post, great question ! Thank you for sharing your walk of faith!

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