How does a person find a good church to attend? Is there a checklist to review, a universal standard to apply? Do you select a church just on a gut feeling?
Today’s marketplace of churches can leave one confused. The process is complicated because, first and foremost, people pick a church the same way they do a restaurant or movie. And many churches have realized this consumer mentality, learning to market themselves using worldly “selling” principles. They advertise with slick mailers or television commercials. They decorate their church building like a modern office building. To make the aura just right, they adjust the lighting and music to make the visitor’s experience ever so appealing.
I know of churches that promote enticing coffee bars for adults and climbing walls for kids. Other churches are constantly building a new facility or addition that passes the “smell” test—people are drawn as to a new-car aroma. The pastor will preach in twenty to thirty minutes or less, using a canned message bought off the Internet—or a message with key talking points that the home church mandates all its satellite churches preach. Now, I am not denying that some of these things are attractive and in themselves not bad. But when you compromise and accept weak teaching for a hot latte, then a problem arises.
What is wrong with a church presenting God’s house of worship no differently than a business selling its services? The Bible makes it clear in 1 John 2:15 that the believer is not to love the world:
Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
Worldly principles that “sell” a person on a new church miss what God holds as important.
I have always told our people that “what you win a person with, is what you win them to.” The meaning is this: if you win a person to a church with outward enticements, that is what the person is committed to. In the end, churches like these find their attendance growing, but they are producing shallow depth of character because they really do not use the Bible to mature their people. But it is clear that God wants the Word taught, as the Apostle Paul says in Colossians 3:16:
Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
So, yes, for Christians who desire to be strong and grow in the Lord, how to choose a church has to be an important issue. It is a choice that must be thought through biblically. The decision affects not just one person, but an entire family’s direction.
It makes sense that an answer to this issue comes from the very book that we hold dear, the Bible. As pastor of Hammond’s Bible Church at Christian Fellowship Church, I believe the Bible presents clear criteria for choosing a church.
In my first blog I wrote on how a Bible church is important for every believer to attend. This blog now introduces the selection process. I propose there are five main things to consider in choosing a church. Note that newness of buildings and slick interior design—or even a coffee bar—did not make the criteria! The five important things to look for in a church are:
1. A proper gospel is taught.
2. A proper leadership structure is in place .
3. A proper approach to Bible study is used.
4. A proper view of spiritual gifts and discipleship is practiced.
5. A proper use of giving is taught and practiced.
Each of these five areas is going to be explained in detail in future blogs. Each explanation will be rooted in Scripture. It is my hope that you will read and study each area in depth. For the practice of being a “keen Berean” was not only good for the believers of the first century, but it is just as relevant today (Acts 17:11).
Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.
It is my hope that you, too, will search the Scriptures about this very important issue!