How to find and examine a church is a question I am often asked. Here are a few things I would look for in a church.
Is the Bible taught?
Notice I didn’t say is it rapture minded. The issue is do they take the Bible seriously? If they don’t, run! The Bible is the anchor. It’s not that they preach from the Bible. The issue is will they teach the Bible, all it, without apology. If I had only two choices between an Olsteen type vs MacArthur type, I’d go with Johnny Mac because the Bible is taken seriously. (And I can’t stand either!)
Is the church woke or winsome?
If they are woke, aka buy into critical theory, run! Critical theory is anti-Bible. If they are winsome in that they won’t take a stand against what is the major heresy of the day, run! I would take a jerk standing for truth over one who is like the world or what call people to repent. And I don’t like jerks.
Is reaching people the mission?
If a church does not have a focus to reach people who do not know Jesus, run! You want a church that will push you to reach people. This means you won’t be comfortable there. There are three things to look for in evangelism. 1) They try to get people into the community. 2) They encourage you to build relationships with people who are lost. 3) They call on people to repent and be baptized- not just get saved, but actually follow Jesus as Lord.
Is emotional health valued?
There is extreme overlap between emotional and spiritual health. If emotional health is valued, then the church cares more about who you are than what you do. They take handling conflict seriously, but are also not afraid of conflict because Jesus already gave us the victory. The church pushes people to serve, but also values the biblical commands to rest. The church pushes biblical commands, but also recognizes people are at different places in their spiritual journey. Finally, the church values those gifted in the arts and in counseling.
Is the church open?
An open church is welcoming. Not only to guests, but also questions. An open church is one who is not afraid of hard questions. An open church is one where the lead pastor is ok with a “no” but the church is also willing to follow his direction. An open church is one where everyone is given time and room to grow. Where failure is allowed because we all need next steps to being like Jesus. At the same time, an open church will deal with sin appropriately and push people to change. And open church wants to help you serve and bless others, not merely participate in a show.
What about music, Spirit, denomination, oh my!?
Church isn’t about you. If the above holds true for a church, I’d take it over a church that has all the programs, theology and preferences I like. If you lived in a particular town in Washington, I’d recommend you go to Corem Deo. They have the above. Music, some theology, and a couple of preferences are not a what I’d want, but I’d submit to them in a heartbeat. Another town I know of in Michigan I’d recommend Emmanuel or in another town Hillside. One is closer to what I am the other is not, but they have the above.
If they have the above chances are high they follow the Spirit’s guidance. And if the Spirit isn’t grieving, worship will be amazing regardless of what kind of music it is. Regardless of what programs they have or don’t have.
Church is a family not a commodity
If you look for a church like you shop for clothes or food, you will be disappointed. Church is family. That is a theological reality. Sadly in America we treat church like a vendor.