Many communities in the United States have a variety of churches. With a myriad of options, how does one decide which church to join? There is no more important question for your spiritual health and usefulness in the Kingdom. In Tempe, especially this time of year, many people visit many churches. How do you decide where to plug in? Here’s are seven suggestions to guide your crucial search:
- Read the statement of faith. A church’s doctrinal statement is her most important document. Is it biblical? Is it robust? Is the tone consistent with its truth?
- Listen to a couple of sermons. The preaching of God’s Word drives the life of the church. Is it faithful to the Scriptures and carefully applied to the people? Is the gospel articulated? As you begin to meet people, does God’s work through his Word naturally come up? Is the church property close enough to your residence to consistently hear the preaching of the Bible?
- Look over the website. Websites reveal values. What does the church value? Are people or programs more important? Are people consumers or servants? Does the website reveal a theologically-minded plan for church life or is the latest fad more important?
- Make an appointment with the lead pastor and be sure to ask about the health and function of the elders. Typically, as the leaders go the church will go. Does the lead pastor appear to be a humble servant? Do the elders pastor together? Would you want your life of holiness and ministry to look increasingly like the pastor’s?
- Attend a small group. The church is not the building: it’s the people. Do the people seem to be maturing in the things of the Lord? Is genuine community a priority? Is the work of evangelism and discipleship relationally-rooted? Are the one another’s more important than mere niceness?
- Take the membership class. Joining a church is joining a family. Is membership meaningful? Do you feel confident you’ll be lovingly held accountable and, by grace, encouraged to keep Christ and his people the center of daily life? Is there a drive for winsome growth in the gospel? Is the diversity of the community reflected in a diverse church membership?
- Ask yourself prayerfully, “Is this a church I will grow in and be able to serve?” Don’t choose a church because you like its logo, the people seem to easy to hang with, or you like the music style. Instead, go deeper. Will you grow to know Jesus and the Bible more? Will you be equipped to serve in consequential ways? Could you bring a non-Christian friend and feel confident she would hear and see the gospel?
Finding a church can be exhausting and frustrating, but it’s worth it. Be patient, pray, and let these seven suggestions guide your search. While there is no perfect church, there is a vast difference between a healthy and an unhealthy church.