Finding a church home can be hard. You only get one or two days a week to visit, and if you’re new to an area and visiting several different churches, it may take months before you feel comfortable enough to contemplate membership. So, what should you be looking for in a church? In Brian Croft’s trending post at The Gospel Coalition, 4 Questions to Ask before Joining a Church, he suggests four questions to keep in mind as you visit.
First, is this a church where my family will be regularly fed by the Word? This is not only a matter of faithfulness to the Word, but it’s also a matter of exposition— is the church teaching through books of the Bible regularly?
Second, is this a church where I am convinced the care of my soul will be a priority? Along with biblical teaching, does the leadership of the church care for the souls of individual members?
Third, is this a church where my family will experience meaningful Christian fellowship and accountability? Figuring this out will take spending time and investing in building relationships, so expectations here should be realistic.
Finally, is this a church where I can serve God’s people and use my gifts for its benefit? There are some needs in the church that you can fulfill just by showing up and being committed. There are others that will require your specific gifting. And, as Croft notes, don’t assume you’re aware of all the needs just by observation- ask where your gifts can be put to good use.
Looking for more advice? Crosswalk contributor Jessica Bufkin shares 5 truths to remember when searching for a church home. Number 1 on the list: No church is perfect. “I could tell myself this 100 times, and it still won’t be enough,” Bufkin writes. “God uses flawed humans to share his love with the world. Every person sitting in that worship service on Sunday morning needs the same grace I do. I should be quick to offer it to them instead of assuming the worst. It is an important truth to remember even when I do find a church, as people will always fall short but God still loves and uses us regardless.”
And Dr. James Emery White gives us good council by reminding us the difference between church “shopping” and church “hopping.” Church shopping is a committed search to seek out a church home with the intention of joining. On the other hand, church hopping is going from one church to another without committing to any one church for any significant period of time. Of these “hoppers,” Dr. White writes, “They want nothing more than to be ‘fed,’ and when they feel they’ve eaten all a church has to offer, they move on where there is the potential for more food – as if that is what constitutes growing in Christ or being connected to Christ.”
Along these lines, Croft closes his article with this: “You and your family should feel a sense of persistent unease knowing that you are not in covenant fellowship with a local church and are not under the authority of undershepherds caring for your souls. The freedom and absence of accountability many experience in the search for a new church can cause a sinful complacency.”
What do you think? What are important things to consider before joining a church? Let us know in the comments section!
Kelly Givens is the editor of iBelieve.com.