Stone Creek Bible Church
Monday, August 21, 2017
A Christ-centered Fellowship

Choosing a church

Here is a little advice from Pastor Christian on choosing a church.
 

 

For many people these days the number one criteria for choosing a church is, “Do I like the music?” The secondary criteria seems to be, “Are the people here like me?” Many are drawn to a church by the super leader/preacher. I think these are terrible criteria for choosing a church. Not only are they mostly unbiblical, they completely miss the point of church, and contribute to (as well as reflect) the consumer nature of the American Christian. First lets consider why these are inadequate criteria. Then I will suggest some better criteria.

Music and singing are legitimate means of praising the Lord, and specifically doing it together as a church (Eph. 5:19). But, that praise is to primarily be about pleasing the Lord, not focused on our likes (although we can enjoy it, and the Lord probably enjoys us enjoying praising Him). Now, if what you are judging is how genuine a congregation seems in their adoration of the Lord, as you observe it through their singing, that could be a legitimate factor in choosing a church, after some more important criteria are considered.

Looking for a homogeneous group of believers, like you, is just not consistent with New Testament Christianity. God is the God of all the nations. He is the God who broke down the dividing wall between Jews and Gentiles through Jesus (Eph. 2:14). I think we would honor God more by being able to gather in diversity. Clearly races should be able to mix together in a church, but we let style and familiarity separate us. Ages should mix in the church. One example problem of different ages and life stages mixing is people who are involved only in a singles group. How are they going to have models of strong Christian marriage? How are young women going to get the mentoring they are supposed to get from older women (Titus 2:4-5)?

Attending a church primarily for its charismatic leader or gifted teacher shortchanges what the church is intended to be. Each believer is supposed to contribute their gifts to the work of the ministry. Of course the teacher should be gifted and teaching the truth.  But when one believer is the exalted centerpiece it can convey a wrong view of the church. Although we have some NT examples of acts of a charismatic few attracting people to Christian fellowship (namely the apostles in Acts), it seems to fall short of the ideal for regular church. I was thinking the other day, “What would it be like for people to be drawn to a church because of the sum of all the believers there, and the impact they were having?” 

So, how should we choose a church? 
 

Start looking close to where you live. In the early church they gathered daily, and their close proximity was part of making this possible. If you are going to be integrally involved in the church, the way the Lord desires, it is ideal to not have your driving distance be a discouraging factor. Now, each person has their idea of what close means, and what they would consider a far drive. As you visit the churches close to you, I would suggest using the following criteria.

Look for a church that is committed to teaching the Bible, and teaching it expositionally.  Many pastors are pedaling their personal wisdom, stories, and insights as the main point of interest in their teaching. Those things should be used in preaching, but to only illustrate the teachings of the Bible, not as the main content. God’s clearest revelation of Himself to us is in His son Jesus Christ. Jesus’ words and actions are recorded in the Bible. The Bible is God’s clear communication to us. So, we should be getting the information God wants us to know from the Bible. The apostles teachings are found in the Bible, which is what the early Christians were committed to studying when they gathered together (Acts 2:42). Expositional teaching means that the teacher attempts to expose the author’s meaning in the text, and ultimately God’s meaning, as opposed to what does it mean to me. Related to biblical teaching, look for a doctrinally sound church (1 Tim. 4:6, 6:3-4, 2 Tim. 4:3). If you don’t know enough about orthodox doctrine (beliefs held as biblically sound through history), get help from someone who does. Once you find a church or churches that meet this criteria, you can consider the next.

Is this a community God would want me to be a part of? Hebrews 10:24-25 talks about habitually meeting together with other believers, and teaches that the purpose is to spur one another to love and good deeds. Ask yourself, “Do the people of this church seem like loving people that are going to help me be more loving?” “Does this seem like a place that is going to encourage me in good works and serving?” “Does God seem to be calling me here?” This criteria is much more subjective. It requires prayer and listening for God’s speaking to the ears of our heart. It may also involve getting counsel from other believers; God often speaks through His people. Is there specific ministry there that the Lord may be calling you to participate in? Do you feel a connection with the people (even if they are not like you)? 

After you have considered these criteria, if there is still more than one church that you feel is possible, then you could decide between them based on preferences like worship style or maybe some amenities/classes/programs offered that you like. 

I hope this information is helpful in choosing a church the next time you need to do that, and that the Lord will be honored in your choice.

Some more helpful questions to ask yourself, after a few visits:
Did I learn from the Bible?  Was what I learned doctrinally sound?
Was it a place where fellowship and community are encouraged?
Are people's lives being changed?
Is there a place for me to serve in the church?  
Is this church involved in missions and local outreach?
Did this church help me connect with God?