Church should be a central part of your life if you are a believer in the risen Christ. But what church? There are many to choose from: different denominations, different sizes, different styles of worship, different styles of preaching, and more. How to find a good church when there are so many choices is a good question. It’s like choosing a house: it all begins with the foundation.
The Foundation of a Good Church
In a word: doctrine. That is the must-have, strong, secure foundation of any good, Biblical church. And Biblical doctrine begins with the Bible. Some key points of doctrine found in the pages of Scripture which your church should possess are as follow:
- The inspiration, inerrancy, and sufficiency of Scripture
- The Trinity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit
- The full deity and full humanity of Jesus Christ and His virgin birth
- The death, burial, and bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ
- The sinfulness of all humanity, and the need for salvation
- The availability of salvation to all who call in true repentance on Jesus
- The future return of Jesus as King
- The importance of the being a part of a local church
- The necessity of celebrating the Lord’s Supper and Baptism
- The eternal existence of all people after death in either heaven or hell
If the church you are attending or considering has uncertain or nonbiblical beliefs in these areas, then it is time to move on to a different church. You might even need to consider a different denomination. Over the next several months I’ll be discussing each of these areas in detail to give you a broader idea of the importance of the subject and the Biblical foundation of each.
What is Built on the Foundation
Once you have a firm foundation, other details are mostly negotiable. Consider, again, the example of a house. If the foundation is firm, you can build a cottage, a split-level, a Tudor-style, or a ranch. All are houses, and all will be perfectly acceptable for living, if the foundation is secure.
In the same way, a church may be a Baptist, Presbyterian, or Church of Christ (among others), and still be acceptable for a believer to attend. The ‘house’ is different in terms of governance, relationship to other churches, and non-essential doctrines. Non-essential doctrines might fall into the area of beliefs about Jesus’ coming again – not if, but the when and how – and angels, gifts for the church, or whether to use instruments in worship.
Another aspect of what is built on the foundation, and a negotiable area, is size. A house could be the perfect size for empty-nesters but way to small for a family of six. In the same way, some people are most comfortable serving and worshiping in a church that has only a hundred or so members, while others like a church of four or five hundred, and still others prefer a church of thousands. How comfortable you are with the size of the church you attend is important. Unfortunately, I know there are people who use the large size of some churches to hide from getting involved with the people and programs of the church. If you choose a large church, don’t let its size deter you from getting to know, love, and serve with others.
How is the House Decorated?
Finally, we come to the interior of a house. How it is decorated, and the feeling of hominess or aloofness conveyed by those decorating decisions will affect people who visit or live there. In the same way, a church is ‘decorated’ with love, purpose, and direction. The purpose of the church should be to help people to live lives of commitment to Christ in all areas. It should be easy to find out what the purpose of the church is. If you’re visiting or considering a church, ask what the church’s purpose or mission statement is.
You might also what to ask about the church’s vision for the future. Does the church have a clear vision of where it’s going with its program, or is it simply doing things as they have always been done? The vision should align with the mission statement. Part of its vision for the future should include evangelism and missions, both local and global.
Also, consider how you feel when you attend the church. Do you feel accepted, comfortable, and welcome? I once visited a church where not one person spoke to me. I never returned. How you feel in the church you attend is important. Not as important as other issues, but still important.
Where Can You Serve?
A final area of consideration when pondering what church to attend are the opportunities for service. A church is not just a place to sit and absorb the message and music. It is a place to exercise your gifts. Are there prospects for you to teach? To work in the nursery? To be a greeter? To visit shut-ins? To make visitors feel welcome? The church you attend is – or should be – a place to serve the body of Christ and grow in faith.
Why Attend Church?
Some of you might be wondering, why bother to attend church at all? Making the time and effort to find a good church seems like too much; can’t I just tune in on the Internet to my favorite preachers and call it good? The short answer is “No.” The long answer involves considering the practices and teaching of Jesus, the early Church, and the Word of God.
Their practice: Worshiping together was important to Jesus and to the early church:
- Jesus went to the synagogue regularly (Luke 4:16)
- Jesus encouraged believers to meet together (Matthew 18:20)
- Jesus commanded believers to make disciples (Matthew 28:19-10)
- The early church met together regularly (Acts 2:46-47)
- Paul went to the synagogue regularly (Acts 17:2)
Their teaching: Worshiping together was commanded and encouraged:
- We are commanded to gather together and encourage each other (Hebrews 10:25)
- We are encouraged to gather together to teach, admonish, and praise (Colossians 3:16)
- We should hear the clear teaching of the Word, which can change our lives (Romans 10:17)
- Jesus promised to build His church and we need to be part of the building (Matthew 16:18)
- The church is the primary means the Lord uses to spread His message of grace, forgiveness, and salvation (Acts 9:31)
- We are admonished to seek the kingdom of God first (Matthew 6:33)
- We cannot become mature believers apart from the church (Ephesians 4:11-16)
Wherever you choose to attend, serve, and worship, you should be praying for your church. Sign up for my occasional emails, and you can receive a guide for praying for your church and pastor in the 20 Ways to Pray ebook.
What church will you attend this weekend? And how does it measure up to the standard in the Word? Is it time to find a new church, become more committed to your church, join a church, or start serving in church? Make your decision and follow through.