What to Look For When Seeking a Home Church?

(Micah Bush) #1

Hello everyone. I am at a point in life where I am seeking a new home church (for a variety of reasons, I concluded that the church I grew up in would be difficult to commit and meaningfully contribute to in the long-term), and it occurred to me that a discussion on what to look for might be relevant to others as well. Based on personal study of Scripture, past discussions, and personal experience, I’ve made the following list of things to look for:

  1. Biblically-rooted teaching

  2. Willingness to critically test beliefs, standing behind those that hold up and rejecting those that are weak (i.e. not believing that one’s predecessors absolutely had every single issue figured out)

  3. Emphasis on missions and ministry, both locally and abroad

  4. Willingness to shun Western ideals of prosperity and comfort (i.e. in the world, but not of it)

  5. Conscious of and engaged in present issues and concerns (i.e. not stuck in 19__,15__, etc.)

  6. Meaningful, mature, theologically-sound worship

  7. Meaningful community

  8. Membership and a means of outward accountability

I realize that the vast majority of churches will be imbalanced in at least one of these areas (some of which are highly subjective), and not everyone may agree with this list. In any case, I’d like to know what other people think: What have you looked for in churches in the past? I’d also like to know what people other think on the question of how closely aligned one must be with a church’s traditional stances in order to pursue long-term commitment and membership. (For instance, is it wise for a credobaptist to consider joining a church with a tradition of infant baptism?)

(SeanO) #2

@MicahB Below are some thoughts on finding a Church. Personally, I think it is fine to attend a Church where you do not agree with all of the traditional teachings, or even current teachings, as long as Christ is exalted and that is where God is leading you. I think authentic community, love and the presence of God’s Spirit are more important than agreement on secondary matters.

I think I generally break this process down into 2 stages:

Determining My Stage of Life / What Type of Church Appropriate

What are my gifts (teaching, leading worship, administration, etc)? How do I want to plug in?

Who am I responsible for (spouse, children, friends who join you, etc) and what are their spiritual/safety needs? How do they want to plug in?

Qualities I Look For in a Church

1 - Clear, Biblical teaching - sermon outlines are helpful in my opinion and show the teacher actually prepared well (or at least tried)

2 - Healthy community (no recent splits, apparent bigotry, irresponsible use of finances) - I find that Churches where the pastor has stayed around for ten plus years seem to have this more often

3 - A Place to Serve

4 - Accountability (Leader are not appointed without background checks, etc)

5 - Clearly stated beliefs - no clear statement of faith sends up red flags for me

6 - Good google reviews - def should not be the determining factor, but if half of the people who have reviewed it are upset, this may be a sign of broken community or manipulative behavior on the part of the leaders

Making the Decision

I tend to attend a Church for months before joining and put the needs of my family above my own (or at least I try) since I believe God calls me to lay down my life for them. I think it takes time in a community and daily prayer to discern if a community is the right place to invest and be invested in - especially if you are responsible spiritually for spouse / little ones.

I would rather go without a home Church for 3-6 months while discerning God’s leading than jump in somewhere that is unhealthy spiritually or socially only to be hurt or forced to leave. That could still happen, but it seems to happen far less when I take the time to discern.

Navigating denominations
I feel the most lonely at church
Should I leave an LBGTQ affirming Church? How should I respond?
(Steve Kell) #3

Having been on the search myself, I was looking for sold out lovers of Jesus. People who were putting the church of Acts into practice. You mentioned Western Values, the church of Acts was radically different than the current structures. Breaking bread together daily, worshiping, sharing things in common.

My answer to this question is that the church I am looking for does not exist, but the church I go to could become it, or may perhaps help me resolve to start it, and in the meantime I can try and love the people there the best I can. What it all boils down to though, in my mind, is that a place where people who love God gather together will become that church, and the taste I have for my style of one aspect or another can be graciously changed.

Like marriage, it can be a commitment to love, not necessarily a promise to agree. These are great question for me to wonder about even now.

Lastly I think of John B’s followers who found Jesus and departed asap. “John said, he must increase while I must decrease” He had no shame in watching people pursue Jesus, our churches should be the same when they see people go after God. No bridge needs to be burned.

(Andrea L) #4

@MicahB, I think @seanO and @skell pointed out very good aspects. I’d share my church-seeking-finding experince, you might find some bits of it useful.

I got saved (starting off as a Catholic in my teens) in a pentecostal-charismatic church, which was grandfathered by Derek Prince and Kenneth Hagin - this laid the foundations of my measurement (likely it’s not the right word I should say but I’m an ESOL so I hope you’ll get what I mean) of any church. We went through quite tough times as a family that time and as a result I finally drifted away from God. Although we got saved and waterbaptized together, my husband did not want to go to church after a while, so he came with me once a year and I maybe went about 5 times a year. God literally proved us that He leaves that 99 for that one - and He relocated us on the very opposite side of the Earth. Literally nothing farther just the water in the Pacific Ocean :slight_smile: So I found myself here in an unknown country, unfamiliar culture, although speaking English understanding barely anything for half a year (due to the accent), no family, no friends, nothing. So I had to run to God. So I finally started to look up a church. I was looking for a pentecostal and/or charismatic one, I have found one, went once - no one talked to me, went another time and just before I left I told God that if He wants me to stay He should send some to talk to me. Next minute the women pastor was standing beside me for a chat and prayer. So I stayed. I was used to more “painful” preachings - so time to time I still listened to my old church’s sermons, but I knew it was important to belong to a church and be under authority. Still was lonely - in the church. Still no one talked to me. Then finally, after approx a year, I got into a small group, then once I was prayed for lifting up the burden that my husband still wasn’t coming - and he started to come the very next Sunday :slight_smile: It was not my job to make him come, it was God’s. I belonged there but never felt really being part of it, because there were some differences in how deep and straight they saw things and how I did, what they emphasised and what they never talked about. I still trusted God that that’s my place, He placed me there so I stay, and survive with His grace (the gap started to getting wider). And suddenly, after maybe 4 years, things got stirred up. And God relocated me into another church - it happened literally in 7.5 days while both my small group leader and senior pastor disagreed with me about my leaving. I knew it was from God, I had no doubt, so despite their opinion I left. Looking back now it is getting clear how God operated (things happening over the years now make sense) and prepared me for leaving. Now I am in a church which shares the same foundational values and their importance as I have (e.g. the importance of what we let in - what we read and listen to). And the preachings are painful. Hits you in the stomach. Sometimes lasting for weeks… The Word of God is like a sharp sword.
I am thankful for being part of this church now, but I understood why it was crucial for me to start there, and I am thankful for them as well. There I had to learn to go for God, not for the people. I might have not succeeded with it here :slight_smile:. Also, there were preachings that I still refer to countless times. I got 3 unexpected prophecies there - the 1st is still on the shelf, the second was a valid one, about multiple things, and it all came true, even that I forgot half of it :slight_smile: and when re-checked I realized that it prophecied my leaving of the church and the shift in my profession, with a proper timeframe. The third was the one that the Holy Spirit instantly warned me to reject, so I did. Had I accepted I would have left the church. That was when God started to separate me spiritually from the church. Then emotionally. Then left. But these all were quite important stations as maturing in faith.
I wasn’t sure that where I ran the first Sunday in the transition period was the one where God wanted me to be, but that was the only one I “accidentally” (there are no “accidents” with God) knew about. I remember listening to the preaching and crying to those who came around to pray for me after the service that I want to stay but not my will but God’s be done. That was the day when Ravi was in town, so I did an hour walk and prayed, and asked questions to God kind of “if you really want me to leave tell me …”. And He did. And it was accurate. In the coming days I got three more confirmations, that God really wants me to leave. I still had to make sure that I won’t run into the same issues I had in the previous one, so when I had a chance to meet the senior pastor, I very briefly shared my background - the parts that caused the most controversy in me in the old one - and asked him whether he would be ok to have me in his congregation - and said a yes.
Then we moved (my husband was absolutely supportive), and had a month and a half long battle period - including some quite severe issues in our family. E.g. my daughter started being bullied as soon as we got to our new church. Severely and physically bullied. Health issues, etc… I saw it as a sign we are following God’s will as otherwise the evil wouldn’t bother causing us troubles. God was and is faithful and helped us through these.
My leaving was very sudden and quick, but I had to, as I left the family I had here. It took about a year that God started to restore the relationships with my group leader and with most of other group members, even provided me a chance to briefly talk to my previous senior pastor (I bumped into him, that was another thing I asked from God - I had what I needed to say, but let it for God to create an opportunity to share when it’s time) thanking him and sharing how crucial it was for me to be there. I have grown lots since being here. And still learning and growing.

Based on my experience I’d suggest seek the Lord, and His will, and trust Him, even with the timing. For me having the confirmations coming through different persons attending different churches living on the other side of the Earth plus from the Word were helpful when had to stand firm on my leaving. I had the talk with the senior pastor after I joined the new church, my new pastor said when I asked him that it is important to be released from the previous one, on spiritual level.

Sorry for the long story :slight_smile: I hope you find some useful thoughts in it.
I pray for God’s wisdom in your journey.

(Steve Kell) #5

So nice to see your story is able to be written with your clarity in it. We should all have such stories to tell of how God has led us in each particular step. I appreciate the theme of God being able to place you somewhere for a moment. At one time I questioned how God could have answered prayers, and then the time period was so shamefully small, it felt like failure. A blunt Christian friend said, “Just because he wanted you there it didn’t mean he wanted you there forever.” Trusting in Him, a wonderful aspiration.

(Marijan) #6

Amazing story! Thank you for your testimony. I currently am trying to find the right church for me. Been to a few and I can’t seem to stick in any. I have started to think its me and that I’m not giving any church a chance. But it’s like you said, its Gods will and He will let you know where you need to stay or go. So thank you again, that story lifted some pressure and anxiety off of my back.:grin: