A great faith community can be a huge blessing and God certainly wants each believer to have an active part in a Bible-believing church. If you are not yet a believer, a good church can help guide you to personal faith in Christ.
Churches have been called the house of God, the pillar and ground of the truth, and the active body of Christ. A local church should be very important for each follower of Jesus. There is something missing when we don’t have a faith community. When we find the right church, we may discover lifelong friends; and hopefully, as a believer, we will grow and serve.
There is no perfect church, but there is a perfect church for each of us. Pray about it; learn what you can from church websites; and then visit the prospective churches several times before making a final decision. Here are 4 things to look for in a church:
- Solid biblical doctrine (clear basic Bible truths)
Church doctrinal beliefs can usually be reviewed on most church websites. Find out their teaching on key doctrinal issues such as creation, the redemption of man (salvation through Jesus vs any of man’s works), baptism (after salvation by immersion), and the authority of the Scripture (an inspired and preserved Bible). We may not always be able to discern all doctrinal issues at our spiritual stage, but we can “try the spirits” to see if a particular ministry seems to be in tune with God (1 John 4:1).
- Desire for influence
Does the church desire to have an impact on their community and world? Do they want to see people come to know the Lord and grow spiritually? Is the church concerned about the spiritual and physical needs around them? What kind of outreach programs do they have? What do they do for world missions? Each church may have different ministries for influence, but these questions can help you to discern the desire the church has to influence. It may also be apparent when you make a personal visit. How friendly and open are they to you? What did they do for follow-up on your visit? If someone in that church is not personally interested in you, they may not be very mission-minded to others either.
- A godly leadership team
Look for spiritual leaders who will help take you where you want to go. Try to discern if they are balanced, spirit-filled, and spiritually strong leaders. Look for church leaders that know the Bible and are solid on what they believe. Spiritual leaders should portray good people skills. Try to perceive their reputation including what kind of people they personally attract. Every good church has a broad range of types of people, but keep in mind you probably want to avoid a lot of “weirdness” or “quirkiness.” Look for healthy relationships among church leaders and members. Evaluate the leaders’ individual families for strong husband/wife relationships and well-behaved children and teens. Spiritually healthy leaders can help you grow as a believer. Keep your standard high for those you allow to influence you and your family.
- A church that you need (as opposed to one that just needs you)
Often small struggling churches will “need” people like you. Most churches start small as ours did, so I understand how much small churches need people. However, some churches will stay small no matter if you join them or not. You should plan to be involved in your new church, but you joining a church should not be the “fix” they have been waiting for. What about your personal growth? Is this church going to be a great fit for your family? No matter what the church size, when you find the right church, plan on getting involved using the gifts God has given you. Your new church and, more importantly, the Lord will want you to be as involved as possible.
Allow your family to be included in this process. Have each person pray about God’s leading in this matter. Listen to those in your family that will be affected by this decision.