The Question: How do I find a good Church? I’ve been to a few and they haven’t been what I’ve expected or hoped for in some way or another.
This is actually a tough question, and the state of many churches and the way people act who compose said churches are probably the number one reason why people ‘leave’ the church or depart from ‘Christianity’.
I’ll go ahead and say it right away: there are churches out there (and people who go to church) that are not seeking to serve God or follow what the Bible says. You hear about some of these ‘Christian’ churches in the news or in social media occasionally.
In fact, the term ‘Christian’ is so widely used to describe essentially whatever people want it too, that I’d hesitate to even call myself a Christian at this point, however that’s getting a bit off topic.
So one other important thing to note here, is that no where in the Bible does it say we need to attend a Sunday church service in order to be a ‘Christian’, as many people seem to believe we do. Nor do we have to give a certain percentage of our income to a ‘church’. I’m not saying attending a church service is wrong or it can’t be beneficial or fruitful, however it’s not a requirement to be sure.
I often find meeting together with a few fellow brothers and sisters in Christ to study the bible is more fruitful and beneficial than attending a church service, and I think getting together frequently with other Christians to encourage one another in Christ is important (as the Bible says it is in Hebrews 10:25), but that doesn’t mean necessarily a Sunday church service as many seem to believe.
Back to finding a church! Some practical advice when looking for a church:
1. Pray for guidance.
As with anything you do, praying for God’s help and guidance is always a good idea and a good habit to get into (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
2. Actually visit different churches.
This may seem obvious, but you would be surprised. I get that it can be exhausting and frustrating going to a different church every Sunday and meeting or being around a bunch of new people, but if you want to find a church that really helps you grow in faith and knowledge it is worth searching.
3. Observe/experience how the members act both in church and outside of church.
You can find churches with comfy seats and a nice building and the latest technology and professional musicians, etc. But at the end of the day it’s the people that make up the church. No one is perfect, so attempting to find a church without any ‘hypocrites’ in some form or another is impossible, but finding one who’s members have an attitude of humbleness and love is certainly possible and I would even say mandatory.
4. Decide if the church you are considering attending is following God according to what you know of the Bible and how it says we should live.
If you don’t know what the Bible says regarding this then I would advise continuing to visit different churches while studying God’s word to find out, however John 13:35 states the basis of how you or anyone else should recognize God’s followers.
5. Get involved.
Most people think of ‘church’ as a building or institution religious people go to once a week. Church however refers to the group of people that are striving to follow God, and it’s a 24/7 process; it doesn’t begin or end with Sunday services. If a ‘church’ you are attending exists only on Sunday, that’s a good indication you should find another church.
John 13:35 says that our love for one another is what differentiates us from non-believers. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 explains what love is. Using that basic knowledge should provide a fair amount of guidance in finding a church that is really following God.
Doctrine is extremely important to some people, to me it is practically meaningless (to a certain extent). In fact, the Bible explicitly speaks out against divisions based on the topics that compose the doctrine that segregates most denominations (method of salvation, baptism, etc.) in 1 Corinthians 1:10-13, Romans 16:17-18, Titus 3:9-11, Ephesians 4:3-6 as a few examples. One thing I very strongly dislike about ‘North American Christianity’ is the extreme divisions in the Church. As such I (and this is what I have personally been convicted of, I’m not saying you need to do the same) wouldn’t become a member of any denomination.
My wife and I often attend a Pentecostal church and are involved in the church and play music and do other things, but I wouldn’t consider myself a part of ‘that’ church or claim I’m a ‘Pentecostal’. To me, that is a group of Christians I often fellowship with on Sunday, and I am a Christian. I am not Baptist, Pentecostal, Lutheran, etc, nor do I support any of those denominations as I feel they are divisions in God’s Church.
To be clear, I’m not condemning or judging anyone who is a member of a denomination or saying they are ‘wrong’ or anything, and there are a lot of people genuinely serving God that are part of various denominations, however for me, where I’m at, with what I’ve been convicted of and with my current understanding, I wouldn’t be a member in any official capacity or support any particular denomination over another or subscribe to any particular denomination’s beliefs. I believe in the Bible and God, plain and simple.
There are some main points that would be a deal-breaker for me in regards to attending/fellowshiping with a particular group or ‘church’ however, and those are this:
1. God sent his son Jesus Christ to earth, the only human to live a sinless life, to sacrifice himself for us.
1 John 4:9, John 3:16, 1 John 2:2. Churches that try and teach Jesus wasn’t Human, wasn’t God’s son, that He wasn’t sinless, that there were also other human’s which were sinless, and that He didn’t sacrifice himself for us, or any combination of those things, aren’t teaching Christianity or about the God of the Bible.
2. Jesus Christ was raised from the dead after being crucified.
1 Corinthians 6:14, Acts 2:24, Romans 4:24, 1 Peter 1:21, 1 Thessalonians 1:10. Again, churches attempting to say Christ wasn’t crucified and raised are believing in something completely different than the God of the Bible and truth.
3. After Jesus Christ ascended to heaven God sent the Holy Spirit to dwell among us.
John 14:25-26, Acts 2:38, Luke 11:13, Acts 1:8, Acts 4:31, Acts 5:32, John 14:16-17. A church saying the holy spirit was only for the 12 apostles or only for believers in that time period are denying the power of God and the Bible and ignoring very important aspects of how God instructs us to live as Christians, to the point where I don’t think it could even be called ‘Christian’.
4. Jesus will return to bring His followers to heaven.
Hebrews 9:28, Luke 21:25-28, 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, Revelation 1:7, Matthew 24:31-33, Joel 2:31-32, Acts 1:11. Churches or people that say this already happened or won’t happen are taking away the hope of the Bible and a very important part of what our faith is built on, similar to #3, people who don’t believe this couldn’t really be called ‘Christian’, as they believe in something quite different.
5. We are to love one another.
Matthew 22:37-40, John 13:35, 1 Peter 4:8, Romans 12:10, 1 John 3:18, Romans 13:8. This seems like a no-brainer, however a lot of churches, while they may say they ‘believe’ this, don’t support their belief with action.
1 Corinthians 5:12-13, Luke 6:37, Romans 2:1-3. Many ‘churches’ are big on condemnation and judgement of non-believers and even teaching their followers to hate them as human beings. This is not of the Bible or God.
7. It is by God’s grace we are saved and sanctified, not by works.
Ephesians 2:8-10, Romans 11:6, Titus 3:5, Romans 6:23, Romans 3:24, Romans 3:20. People teaching against this doctrine are, as with many points in this list, ignoring crucial and significant portions of the Bible and the essence of what it is being a Christian and saved by God. People who believe we can ‘earn’ our way to God or heaven are subscribing to a different god than the one in the Bible.
Hebrews 4:12, 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Matthew 24:35, Colossians 3:16. It seems to be growing in popularity in some ‘Christian’ circles that the Bible isn’t ‘really’ God’s word, and thus there can be things that are incorrect and can be ignored or overlooked… AKA, whatever things they want to change to suit their personal lifestyle or whatnot they can. Again this then isn’t really ‘Christianity’, it’s a man-made religion of some sort.
9. We are to cease living in sin and walk in righteousness with Christ, gently correcting other Christians who stray.
1 Corinthians 6:9-11, 1 John 3:4-9, 1 Corinthians 10:13, Hebrews 10:26, Romans 6:1-2, 1 Peter 4:1-2, Galatians 6:1, Matthew 18:15-17, Titus 3:10-11, 1 Timothy 5:19-20, 2 Timothy 4:2. A lot of churches preach and teach the ‘acceptance’ gospel, aka, you can do whatever you like, God loves you and has forgiven you. However that is very obviously false from a Biblical perspective and clearly not how God desires us to live or what is best for us. Many ‘Christians’ when someone attempts to correct them will play the ‘don’t judge me’ card, however the Bible does clearly instruct us to correct and instruct our brothers and sisters in love when we see sin in their lives.
10. Following God does NOT brings material wealth and/or easy, problem free life.
John 16:33, Romans 5:3-5, James 1:2-4, 2 Corinthians 6:4-8, James 1:2-4, Hebrews 13:5, 1 Timothy 6:10, Luke 12:33-34, 1 Timothy 6:17-19. Another common theme among many churches is if you are really following God, you’ll be wealthy and never have any problems, and as per usual this belief is absolutely not supported Biblically. There are certainly many examples in the Bible of God blessing people with wealth and material possessions, however that isn’t a promise or guarantee anywhere in the Bible. Similarly, not only is there nothing in the Bible to support that life will be easy and problem free, it says the exact opposite, that we can expect trials and tribulations if we choose to follow Christ! It does however guarantee the peace of God will be with us if we trust in Him and that He will never forsake us through those difficult times.
If any church teaches against or it’s members consistently act against any of those ten points, I would not associate with them as I don’t believe they are following God. Other than that however, I really see no differences that would be important enough for me to not associate with a particular church (within reason of course).
If members of a particular church consistently ridicule or condemn other denominations as I’ve seen done in a few different churches, that goes along the lines of not loving one another in my books, so that would put me off.
I guess the bottom line is you should know they are servants of God by the ‘fruits of their labor’; if a church makes a big noise on Sunday service and the preacher gives a very compelling and convicting sermon, but none of the members of the church actually are out in the community showing love to each other and non-believers in some way on a regular basis, then that may be a sign to look for another church.