How To Pick A Church
My wife and I are pastors of a church that we started a few years ago, so it might appear self serving to write about this topic. At the time that I’m writing this - our church doesn’t even know about this blog, and I’m not currently promoting it in our area. So chances are if you’re reading this right now - you’re not anywhere near Brockport NY.
So why write it?
We’ve had bunches of people ask us about how to find a good church. Apparently it’s not as simple as it sounds to find the right church. I’ll give you my thoughts on the matter and see if it helps steer you in the right direction.
When you start looking for a church you most likely have asked yourself, what is important to you about the church you attend?
Considering that the quality of the bathrooms rank higher on the list of importance than the preaching does for most Americans… That may not be the best question to start with.
People go to church for a variety of reasons. I used to think that everyone went with the same intention: to seek Jesus and His plan for your life.
If not everybody goes to church for that reason, what are some of the other reasons people do go to church?
- To fulfill religious obligation
- To be with family, friends, community
- It’s close to home
- The pastor is friendly
- The music/worship
- The children’s program
- The facility is nice
- To get financial assistance
- The service is short
It’s great when a church has some or all of those things (minus the religious obligation part). Yet these aren’t the main reasons we should go to church. That’s like choosing a steak restaurant because they have great soup.
It’s probably more important to see what the Bible says about what the purpose of the church is. Once you have that, that should narrow down the results of eligible churches for you pretty quick.
Here’s a few scriptures that describe the purpose of the church and the job of the minister:
Ephesians 4:11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.
2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy 4:4 I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: 2 Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; 4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. 5 But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
You need to find a church that will build you up spiritually. That will challenge you to grow in the things of God. That will preach the word of God without being ashamed of it. That will minister under the anointing of the Holy Spirit and allow the Holy Spirit to move in the service.
Church isn’t about you being comfortable.
It’s about you changing into God’s image. Being spiritually edified, so that you can fulfill God’s plan and purpose for your life.
Preach the Word:
Did you know that the Bible says it is impossible to please God without faith? It also says that faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. If you aren’t going to a church where you are hearing the word of God preached, then your faith isn’t being built and it is a waste of time.
You need to hear the word of God preached so that your faith will be built, so that you will please God with your faith.
It seems strange that a church wouldn’t teach the word of God, yet many don’t.
Much of church culture has become about avoiding touchy subjects, and making the Bible more “palatable”. That’s not what Jesus did. He went head on with the hard topics, and didn’t hold back in order to avoid offending somebody.
- Jesus told his followers that they would have to eat His flesh and drink His blood. That caused many of His followers to leave Him.
- Jesus made a whip and drove out the animals and money changers from the temple.
- Jesus told the Jews that He was ministering to that He saw greater faith in a Roman centurion than what they had.
Finding a church that preaches and teaches from the Bible should be at the top of your priority list!
Don’t settle for a lukewarm church because you are more comfortable there. If you want to be comfortable, just stay home in your bed Sunday morning! If you really want to know God, then go somewhere that actually has God moving in their services.
Paul told Timothy who was a young pastor to do the work of an evangelist. It is important for every church to do the work of an evangelist: getting people saved! Make sure that the church you attend doesn’t just talk about people getting saved, but that they actually do something about it. After-all, that’s why Jesus came (John 3:16-17, Luke 19:10).
As a father I understand the importance of going to a church with a good children’s program and facility. I attend conferences in other churches besides my own so I know what it’s like to leave my child in the care of the somebody else.
I’m not saying that parents should just look past a poor children’s program. Chances are that if a church has the heart of Christ and is doing everything they can to see souls saved and minister to the needs of the people; that they will also care about your children. Also it is likely that if that church is reaching the lost and the church is growing, that their facility will be improving with the growth of the church. If the preaching and the ministry is good, try sticking it out a while, maybe even consider getting involved with the kids program.
I’m totally for having the best church building that we can get, but should that be one of our deciding factors for attending? What is more important, that the building is new and trendy, or that lives are being touched and changed by God? Remember this: the church isn’t a building, it is the body of Christ (the believers).
You’re busy. You work a lot. Sunday morning is one of the only days during the week that you can sleep in. If you’re going to sacrifice that sleep for church, then the next best thing is finding a church that won’t take your whole morning right?
Hebrews 10:24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.
Of course nobody knows when that Day will come, but I know one thing for sure: we’re a lot closer to it than when that letter was written nearly 2,000. years ago. That tells me that we shouldn’t be looking for less church but rather more church.
I don’t think we should have long services for the sake of having long services. However if the Lord is moving then we should allow as much time as necessary for Him to do what He needs to do. He is the head of the church, not us.
You probably have no problem watching a 2 hour movie, or a 3 hour football game. It shouldn’t be a burden for you to sit through a sermon, or to stand through some worship songs. Your pastor’s job isn’t to entertain you, it’s to make sure that you are right with God and that you’re fulfilling His purpose in life. Our culture has become an entertainment culture and that seems to have carried over into the church.
Going to church isn’t about fulfilling our religious duty or because we feel guilty. It should come from a desire to get closer to God. To learn more about Him and His word. To live like He wants to live. If attending church isn’t changing you from glory to glory into the image of Christ, then you should probably start looking for a different one.
I’m all for helping people. We have events that are specifically for giving to the community. The Bible gives instruction about taking care of those that need help. It’s also to the benefit of the church to be generous, because as we sow into the lives of others - we can expect a generous harvest to be returned to us.
However, if your goal in going to church is to get money, you’re going with the wrong motive. Chances are that if you’re this kind of person, you won’t be reading this blog. Either way, people have a misconception about the role of the church in this area. Many seem to think the church is a bank ATM, that you can go to whenever you need to make a withdrawal. In our own church, though we are in a rural area, there have been many people that have stopped by just to ask for money.
People need to learn to depend on God as their source of provision, not man. In order to do that we have to abide by His principles. The law of seedtime and harvest is clearly laid out throughout the scriptures. In my experience, the people that have come to us for financial needs are the ones that aren’t abiding by God’s principles for money. How do I know that? I ask them, and when you flat out ask somebody if they tithe (10%) and give offerings - they generally are truthful about it.
We help people when we can. Yet if all we do is give somebody some money, then we aren’t helping them out in the long run. We need to teach them how to give and receive to and from God.
Proximity to the church.
Most people are willing to drive 20-30 minutes, sometimes more to get to a good job. When it comes to God, many people aren’t willing to drive more than 5 minutes. Often, these same people will say that their priority is God first. Don’t let “God first” only be in word, put some action to it.
If you have to drive an hour to get to a good church: DO IT! It will be worth it when you get to heaven. Before starting our own church, I used to drive an hour each way to church, multiple times a week. Put a sermon or praise and worship on in your car and make the drive!
Friends, Family, and Community:
Who does Jesus consider to be His family?
Matthew 46 While He was still talking to the multitudes, behold, His mother and brothers stood outside, seeking to speak with Him. 47 Then one said to Him, “Look, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, seeking to speak with You.”
48 But He answered and said to the one who told Him, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?” 49 And He stretched out His hand toward His disciples and said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! 50 For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.”
There’s nothing wrong with going to a church that has your family and friends in it. However, it can become an issue if that’s why you go to that church. Some people haven’t received anything from the Lord in the church they go to for years, but they keep going because they don’t want to leave those people.
Taking Jesus answer to that question into perspective will help you. The people that we should consider to be our family, are those that do the will of God. Church isn’t a social club, it’s the body of Christ. We have a purpose - a mission - a Godly mandate - and if that isn’t being fulfilled by that local body, then it’s more important to be part of the body that is functioning.
This isn’t a conclusive list.
Hopefully it gets you thinking in the right direction though. When you’re considering which church to go to, maybe think beyond the bathroom quality.