“So, what church do you attend?” I will ask.
The response: “I’m not currently attending a church, I’m looking for the right one. I was at Church of the Morning Valley Sun, but the pastor was a creep, and I just can’t have my children around creeps, so we tried First Third Baptist, but they were too political, so we visited Mega Club Community Church, which was cool, but it felt like a concert. I’m looking for something traditional, but forward thinking, with a kids program, and healthy snacks.”
Have you heard this before? Or have you been the one to say this before? Okay, so I’ve not heard someone asking for healthy snacks (but perhaps they should). Either way, I’ve got a few tips for you concerning finding the right church.
I will offer a disclaimer out of the gate; I have been a member of one church organization my entire life. My church is not perfect, but it is very very good. So why do I think myself to be qualified to speak on this subject? Whom would you seek out if you want advice on marriage success? The couple that is celebrating a thirty year anniversary, or your neighbor who is on his third marriage?
I say choose option A.
Okay, with that in mind, here are my tips for finding the right church:
Find the Right Church Tip #1: PRAY
Prayer doesn’t need to be elaborate or complicated. Wherever you are, whether you close your eyes or not, you can simply say, “Jesus, help me find the right church.”
How do I know He will hear my prayer? Whenever you pray and ask God to help you get closer to Him, He will honor your prayer.
Find the Right ChurchTip #2: Find Your Why
Think about your reason for going to church: This is a biggey. Do not miss this step. Let’s take this thought process down to the foundation: what is The Church?
The Church, according to the Bible, is Christ’s body here on earth, the bride of Christ, the worldwide group of people that have dedicated their lives to Christ and received the Holy Spirit as sanctifier and guide. With this in mind, your reason for going to church should be to connect with these people and the Holy Spirit.
Now, this desire to connect is often expressed in our hearts and minds in different ways. You may feel a desire to quit a bad habit, or appease a guilt. These are expressions of our soul’s innate desire to connect to the Holy Spirit. You may feel intrinsically that your children need to learn about the Bible and about Jesus. This too, is an expression of your soul’s desire for the Holy Spirit.
Why is this step so important? It is important because it influences the type of church we look for, which takes me into Tip #3.
Find the Right ChurchTip #3: Recognize that all churches are not the same.
Well, duh David, you may say. Obviously they aren’t all the same. They have different pastors, different building styles, different worship styles, different meeting times.
Yeah, I know all that. But that is not what I’m talking about. What I am talking about when I say that all churches are not the same is that not all churches teach the same message, and if not all churches teach the same message, then it stands to reason that not all churches are teaching the truth.
Whoah, how can you say that?
I can say that because the Bible says it. “The time will come when they shall not endure sound doctrine, but shall heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears.”
In other words, the Bible says that over time people will not want to hear the truth of the Bible if it cuts them too close, so instead they will seek out pastors and preachers that will tell them what they want to hear.
And this is why I warn you; recognize that not all churches are the same.
Find the Right ChurchTip #4: Put the big rocks in first
At my high school graduation shower, a tray was placed in front of me with a glass jar, a little pile of rocks, a little pile of smaller rocks, a little pile of sand, and a glass of water. I was instructed to fit all the materials in the jar. I started with a little bit of big rock, a little bit of sand, a little bit of small rock, a little bit of water, repeat, repeat. It didn’t all fit. Then another tray with the same setup was placed on the table, and I was instructed to put the big rocks in first, then the smaller rocks, then the sand, then the water.
It fit this time.
This was a great object lesson for life. Put the big rocks in first. Get the important things right first, and the rest will take care of itself. This woks in career, family, spirituality, health….everything. (Thanks Uncle Kenneth!)
When it comes to choosing a church, what are the big rocks? The biggest rock is for the church to be one that will help us plug into the Holy Spirit. How can you know if a church can help you with this or not? Look at the doctrine they teach. If they teach that there is no cure for sin, and that you cannot be radically changed by the Holy Spirit, then this is not a good church for you. If the church teaches that you must increase in good works in order to be accepted with God, then this is not a good church for you. But if the church teaches that a person can be changed from the inside out by the Holy Spirit, then you are on the right track.
Another big rock when it comes to church selection is how much they involve the Bible in their teaching. This may seem like a weird thing, that a church wouldn’t use the Bible, but it is very common. I have witnessed several visitors to our church that say they appreciate the fact that we teach and preach straight from the Bible, because the church they are from doesn’t do that. This is horrible. In looking for a church, be sure to choose one that keeps the Word of God front and center, and promotes personal Bible study.
These are the big rocks. If you can find a church that has these two things right, then the smaller details, like the preaching style, worship music style, children’s ministry, and so forth will generally fall in line. A church with the Holy Spirit and the Bible will be a loving, compassionate, family promoting, truth teaching church.
Find the Right ChurchTip #5: Recognize you are joining a family:
The Holy Spirit unites believers together in a way that is best described by family relationships. My best friends in life are my sanctified friends, and I love them and feel connected to them like I do with my brother and sister. When you visit a church to see if they will be a good church for you to attend, keep in mind that, if this is a Holy Spirit filled, Bible teaching church, then they will treat each other like family, and will display a love for each other that is admirable.
The flip side to this is one that is often intimidating to church visitors: this close, family-type bond and feeling can come across to the visitor as cliquish, and the invitation and expectation on the visitor to become a family member can feel like pressure. The best way to combat these feelings is to expect it beforehand so you can recognize it for what it is: you have come to a family party, and you are invited to be a part.
Find the Right ChurchTip #6: This isn’t all about you.
What I read between the lines when people are telling me about their struggle to find the right church is “I can’t find a church that properly fits me.” Stop right there. If this is how you feel in your search for a church, then the problem might just be inside yourself.
What we need more than church is Jesus. When we come to Jesus, He will take us as we are, but He will never leave us like we are. He changes us into His image, into who He wants us to be. In this we see that it’s not about us, but it is all about Him.
So if you are searching for the church that fits you perfectly, you might be looking for something that doesn’t exist. You instead need to find a church operating at the direction of Jesus that can help you change into the man or woman that Christ wants you to be.
Repeat after me, “It’s not all about me, it’s all about Jesus.”
Find the Right ChurchTip #7: Ask the right person for a church recommendation
So, whom do you approach for advice on where to go to church? Typically people will refer their own church, so you want to be selective in who you ask. Don’t make this mistake: often times people that have no experience with church or with Jesus will seek out someone that has the same problems they do. “My neighbor has trouble with alcohol and temper like I do, and he goes to church, I think I’ll ask him where he goes.”
I get it, in that it is always easier to approach someone like yourself for advice, but boy is this a good way to find a bad church.
I recommend instead you seek out the neighbor or coworker who has undergone a remarkable change for the better because of an experience with Jesus, or the person you know that has steadily done the right thing and avoided bad habits. Ask them where they go to church.
Whom should you ask for health advice? Healthy people! Whom should you seek out for business advice? Wealthy people. Whom should you seek out for church advice? Holy people.
I hope these tips can help you in your search for the right church, or can help you advise your friends and coworkers. Don’t give up if you haven’t found the right church yet! God has good churches everywhere! He will help you find the right one.
If you have any other tips to share, or think my tips stink, please comment here or on our Facebook page. I love hearing your thoughts.
Many blessings, my friends!