What Should You Look For In Choosing A Church?
I have many people ask me for help in choosing a church. It is not a simple question to answer because churches vary as much as people do.
However there are some ingredients that make up a good church that I find common in every healthy church regardless of denomination or lack thereof.
You see, you can’t just point to a particular denomination or non-denominational movement and say those are all good churches. Some are and some need some work. I do my best not to wave a denominational flag on this website nor to be negative about any particular church. (I take exception to that when dealing with cults or non-Christian religions.)
My brother is never my enemy and a church group or movement that is different than mine is not bad.
I have yet to find a denomination or movement that had 100% good churches or 100% bad churches. Some are healthy and some are not. So how do you tell someone or how do you decide whether or not a church is a good church for you?
Choose a Good Church Based On Biblical Principles
There are biblical principles that you can use to tell if a church is a good church for you. Some of the things we use to base our evaluation on whether or not a church is a good church or not really have very little to do with biblical principles.
Things like types of music, the preacher’s ability to preach, or even whether they have a children’s ministry are not things that are listed in the Bible. The amount of parking, length of the church service, or what time it starts have nothing to do with God’s plan for the body of Christ.
These are in all honesty carnal things. They are things that matter to our selfish nature, not our spiritual nature. So let me give you 4 things that are important when looking for a biblically healthy church.
4 Basic Ingredients of a Healthy Church
The Believers Form a Community
42 All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer.
In this verse we see 4 basic ingredients in what I would call a healthy church. This is what is called New Testament Christian living.
These 4 ingredients can be lived out and applied no matter what century you live in. They may not look quite the same as they did in the early church, but they are still all applicable to today’s life.
In fact, I believe when the church strays away from these 4 ingredients that it starts to lose it’s power and relevance in a society. It becomes more of an institution rather than the body of Christ.
So let’s take a look at these 4 things and hopefully I can give you some insight on what to look for when trying to find a good church for you or your family.
They devoted themselves to the Apostles’ teaching.
This is probably the most important principle you should look for when deciding if a church is a good church or not. You need to look at what the church teaches.
The Apostles taught of a real and living relationship with a real and living savior named Jesus.
They taught that God gives gifts to men to enable them to do what would normally be an impossible task.
So when you are deciding if a church is a good church, you might want to consider these things.
- Do they teach and explain what the Bible means and how to apply it to your life?
- Do they teach and act as if Jesus is alive and present with them?
- Do they explain away things that are “not for today” or do they still teach what the Apostles taught?
- Do they walk in grace and mercy and loving one another?
- Do they act as if their relationship with Jesus is real or is it just a religious exercise?
They devoted themselves to fellowship.
Fellowship means having a common goal and interest. It is a term that has become religious but really doesn’t have to be. It means that they are like minded and have the same purpose.
So when you are looking for a church you want to find one that there is agreement and harmony and like minded direction.
That does not mean that they are all clones. You don’t want to be part of a clone church. That is unhealthy, but instead you want where people are all heading the same direction.
They are all on their paths of following Jesus and they are locking arms with one another to help one another get there. This is where the small church has much more success at producing fellowship than the mega churches.
So when looking for a good church you might want to consider these things.
- Where are these people headed?
- What is the glue that binds them together?
- Is there strife and political maneuvering going on or are they working together?
- Are they open and receptive to newcomers or is it just a cliche that no one can be a part of?
They devoted themselves to sharing meals together
There are 2 aspects to this ingredient. The first one is about liking one another. They liked to spend time with one another and thus shared meals with one another.
They helped one another out and liked to engage in something that is personal and intimate. You cannot be at odds with someone you share a meal with. It will cause indigestion!
So finding a church that people really hang out and spend time with one another is a wonderful thing!
The second aspect of this is the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. This is also called Communion or the Eucharist. This aspect is important because as believers we are supposed to remember what Jesus did for us on the cross.
It is also important to keep this sacrifice in the center of what we do so that we do not get off on wild tangents of doctrine or practice. When you remember the blood that was shed for us and the body that was broken for our healing, it brings you back to what is really important and what the church is really about.
When you compare our earthly squabbles and selfish desires to what Jesus did for us, those things quickly lose their importance.
So when you are looking for a good church you should consider these things.
- Do these people like hanging out with one another?
- Do they spend time together apart from “religious activities”?
- Do the celebrate the Lord’s supper with the fruit of the vine and bread?
- Do they keep to what is really important to the church which is the centrality of Christ in everything?
They devoted themselves to prayer.
I remember vividly what impressed me the most about the church that was instrumental in bringing me to the Lord.
Up until that time I had gone to churches where the prayers were canned or rehearsed. It sounded like they were praying to impress one another and not talking to God.
When I went to the church that was used by the Lord to win me to Jesus, their prayers were different. They prayed like there was actually somebody listening on the other end.
- Do they actually talk with God?
- Are they praying for one another?
- Do they pray for the needs of their community, family and those outside the church?
- Do they take time to let more people other than the professionals pray?
A Church Doing These Things Is a Good Church
I am not saying that it will be perfect. If you are looking for a perfect church then when you find it, don’t join! It will become imperfect!
What I am talking about is a healthy church. If it has these ingredients it will be healthy.
It may not have the perfect music, or even the latest music.
The preacher may not be all that eloquent.
There might not even be any children’s ministry and the parking lot may be gravel but that doesn’t matter.
What matters is that you will grow, thrive, and be fruitful because a church that has these things bears much fruit by everyone involved.
That should help you in choosing a church!