Few things are more vital to your growth as a Christian than the church you join.
So if you find yourself in a situation where you must choose a new church, how should you go about making that choice? This is by no means an exhaustive list, but these three elements are good indicators that a church is healthy and will promote your health and ability to obey Jesus’ command to make disciples.
The Gospel is Preached from the Bible in the Pulpit
Of all the things on this list, this is an absolute non-negotiable. If you attend a church and the Bible is only briefly mentioned and Jesus is not a central part of what is being said, run. As fast as you can. It doesn’t matter what their children’s program is like, how many people are there that are around your age, how much you like the music, how funny and easy to listen to the pastor is, or if they brew your kind of coffee at the welcome center. If the gospel is not at the center of what’s going on, get out. Fast.
God grows His people through the Spirit working through a biblical word centered on Jesus. Some churches seem to have a lot to offer but if the gospel is not the main part of that, run! I would rather lie at the doorstep of a church where Christ is central than dwell in the snazzy tents of those who sound relevant but dismiss the beauty of the gospel.
So if you don’t read any other item on this list, read this one. It has to be there.
Members Greet You…and Introduce You to Others
If you visit a church and no one talks to you, that’s a bad sign. But it is also not enough just for a few friendly people to stop by and say hello. You don’t need friendliness in a church – you need connection, you need people who are going to come alongside you and help push you up into Jesus.
Keep an eye out for churches where the people not only introduce themselves to you but also introduce you to others. Look for those who bring people and come sit next to you. Notice if someone invites you to lunch afterwards. That is an indicator that these people expect to get to know you and make you a part of their lives. I think it is silly for 5 people to come and introduce themselves to a guest and then leave to sit in their spot while the visitor and their family sits alone. Connection is vital.
There’s an Intentional Emphasis on People Outside the Church
This one may be hard to detect on just one visit. But that underscores the point that you should probably visit a church 3-4 times anyways (unless they’re not preaching the gospel) before making a decision.
You want to pay attention to see if they ever mention lost people in their community who don’t know Jesus. You want to notice if they ever mention the billions of people in the world with no access to the gospel. Do they say things to compare themselves to other churches in town or do you sense a cordial spirit of cooperation with like-minded churches? When they pray and preach and speak, does there seem to be a concern for people outside of their own walls?
This is an indication that a church is serious about the task of making disciples. Part of making disciples is bringing the gospel to those who do not yet have it and the task is large enough that we need to have a spirit of thankfulness that other churches are in town with the same aim.
These are three things that I think are important in looking for a new church. I would rather go to a church that exalts Christ, seeks to connect with new people, and has an eye and a heart for those outside than one that has a lot of amenities that would make me comfortable and feel well-served.
Are there any that you would add to the list?