You think it wouldn’t be too hard to find a good church but sometimes it can be. Finding a church home, like finding a house to live in, is one of the most important decisions you will make as a believer. It is worth putting time and effort into it.
Here are some of the traits of a good and healthy church.
- There is biblical and doctrinally-sound preaching and teaching with a focus on, and commitment to, Christ and relevant application to daily life
- Leaders who serve with integrity, humility, and accountability and are seeking to empower and equip the congregation for ministry
- There are opportunities to serve using your spiritual gifts
- The church reaches out into the community
- Worship is inspiring and Christ-centred
- Loving relationships pervade the church body
Here are some practical steps to finding a good church.
- Go online and search for local churches rather than church-hopping week after week. Most churches these days have websites, which can help you evaluate them according to the healthy church criteria noted above.
- Once you have a list of churches in your area prioritize the list by things important to you. If you don’t have some things in mind when you start your search you will need to decide while you search whether one thing is more important than another. Here are a few examples of things to consider.
- Denominational preference. If you have a preference, such as Baptist, Pentecostal, or Anglican, narrow your search by looking first at churches of a certain denomination
- Accessibility. Is the church easy to get to? How far are you prepared to travel?
- Size. Larger churches can offer more in the way of programs for all kinds of people but require a small group for a sense of community. Smaller churches offer less in programming but are often more closely knit and focus on community
- Priorities. The pastoral staff’s responsibilities will tell you a bit about the church’s priorities
- Statement of beliefs. Check whether it is doctrinally sound and whether you agree with it and other values the church presents
- Contact the churches at the top of your list to ask the pastor specific questions about things that may be important to you such as worship style, Bible translations, church government, membership requirements, or issues that may have arisen as a result of looking at their website.
- Based on the answers you received from the pastor, ask the Lord to guide you and then plan to attend the worship service of a church you are interested in. Arrive a bit early and linger afterwards so you get a sense of the atmosphere. Are people friendly to you and each other? Are people joyful? Do people seem excited to be there? Try to greet those around you and to participate fully in all aspects of worship. How much you connect will be determined to some extent by how much effort you put into it.
- After the service, assess your experience based on the healthy church traits listed above. I suggest attending a few times to get a better sense of how things actually are. Although the worship service is only one aspect of the church you are assessing it is a major one. It must be a positive experience.
- If you feel the church was not a good fit try the next one on your list. It will also serve as a basis for comparison. Throughout the process be prayerful, asking God how He wants to use you and where He wants you. God wants us to be part of a local body so He will guide you if you ask Him. It may also be He wants to use you to help improve a particular local body as you exercise your own spiritual gifts.
Someone once said, “If you find the perfect church don’t join it because then it won’t be perfect!” No church is perfect in every way and each church will be a blend of healthy and not-so-healthy characteristics. Resist the tendency to be too critical or to give up too easily. In the end, your effort will pay off as you settle into the place God wants you to be.