I spent my early 20s going to school, moving around, and trying new things. In the midst of all the change I made a familiar decision over and over again. Finding a church to attend.
Whenever I moved to a new place it was the same dilemma. Where should I go? I couldn’t figure out a scientific way to choose a church so my selection process defaulted to either attending with a friend or trying out nearby churches.
This trial and error helped me deduce what I liked about different churches or services and what I didn’t. My only regret is I wish I took better notes along the way. It would have been so nice to move to a new city and only need to consult my handy “How to Find a Church in Six Simple Steps” brochure in order to make my decision.
There’s a helpful article on Insight for Living Canada’s website called How to Recognize a Healthy Church. I love this approach—it’s a step up from just finding a church to attend. The article lists six essential qualities of a healthy church.
1. God gets the glory
The Church is the place where people come to learn of God’s nature and will, to be formed by Him into His people, and to deepen their love relationship with Him.
2. God’s Son, Jesus Christ, is central
A healthy church is a Christ-centred church. The gospel of Jesus Christ will be preeminent—leading God’s people to rejoice in Christ’s salvation, rest in His forgiveness, follow His example, and obey His teaching.
3. God is truly worshipped
In a healthy church, love for the Lord will be behind everything that’s done, engaging people’s hearts so they can come before the Lord as a worshipping community.
4. God’s Word is not only taught but applied
It’s crucial a pastor’s teaching is rooted in Scripture, be personal rather than theoretical, be relevant, be balanced with humility, love, and grace, and be only the means to one end—knowing and worshipping its Author, not the Bible itself.
5. God’s love can be seen and felt
The traits God wants His people to be known for are compassionate, kind, humble, gentle, patient, forgiving, and loving.
6. God’s good news will be shared with others
A healthy church will be actively concerned about the world outside its walls, praying for people who don’t know or have turned away from God’s love.
These are great characteristics to look for in a church as it brings to life things like exuding a warm, welcoming spirit, treating non-believers with respect and allowing the Holy Spirit to work with them in His way and time, and engaging people’s hearts.
I know there’s no perfect formula or decision matrix for choosing a church. We all have different preferences and worship styles and our needs change based on our life stage and circumstances. However, I wanted at least a few questions on paper so I know what to ask the next time I’m looking for a new church. Here are some of my ideas.
- Does this church value Bible-teaching? Are the sermons Bible-teaching?
- What other values does this church have? Do they correspond with mine?
- What denomination is this church? What is their statement of faith?
- Are there opportunities to be involved or volunteer? What are they?
- Are there opportunities/programs to help me grow as a person?
- Do I know anyone here?
- What levels of accountability are within the leadership structure?
- Will I be comfortable enough to worship in my own way?
For me, the next step is to decide how important each question is. Which are deal-breakers, which can I live without? Understanding upfront no church can meet all my many needs and/or wants doesn’t mean I’m settling for an unhealthy church. The church’s purpose is to provide a place for believers to worship together, teach God’s word, and inspire one another to live holy lives. If I can find that much, I’ll be OK.