Is it the music? I love gospel music and grew up on the likes of the Clark Sisters, John P. Kee, Hezekiah Walker, Fred Hammond, Yolanda Adams and Kirk Franklin and more, and many choirs.
Is it good preaching that makes you happy, that gives you good, relevant tips for life, somewhat like a life coach?
Is it having a children’s ministry, a youth program?
Do you think it is important to be a member of a church?
I believe that we all should be members of a church. That belief is supported by scriptures throughout the New Testament. As members, we should be committed to that particular body of believers. But how do you find that church?
I am not a church hopper. I thought that I should state that first. Second, I’ve actually only moved twice in my whole adult Christian life which spans 40+ years. Yes, I’ve only been a member of two churches in 40 years.
In 40 years, I’ve only looked for a church twice. The first time I had to “look” for a church was just over 10 years ago. In that quest, my husband and I just visited two churches, and we ended up joining the church that I had originally grew up in. It was based on how we felt. I had been there from the time I was 14 years old through age 30, but had moved due to marriage.
What was the criteria? I wanted to be in a church where I knew God was reverenced, where I knew the Pastor feared God. I had noticed that God had become much smaller, more attainable, as if we were on his level. He had lost his holiness, his wrath. What I mean by that is not that God lost it, but that we made God smaller, more like us. We no longer feared his judgment.
I now know that feelings are not a reliable criterion. It may be a factor but should not be the primary factor.
The second time I looked for a church, different criteria was used. Different because the previous three years, I had been thoroughly immersed in the Word of God, in learning more, understanding more. God, through his grace, had been growing me in spiritual wisdom and knowledge.
This time, I went about looking for a church that believed and taught what God had been teaching me through my quest in the scriptures. It was not good enough for a church to proclaim they “believed the Bible”, I wanted to know whether the church knew and practiced what the Bible teaches.
My search again was relatively short; actually, only one church was considered. My husband and I had visited this church on one summer day in August. I had previously checked out this church online. It was a Reformed Baptist church. I was just learning about the reformed movement, and had Googled for any in Sacramento. It was the first one in the search.
So, while I was not then looking to move from my church when we visited that summer day, the Word preached that day was really good and sound; but as I explained in my very first post, Why Sit We Here Until We Die? , it lacked the music I was accustomed to, so I dismissed it, never expecting to return.
But what did I learn in my online search?
- I found that this church had a Confession of Faith, namely the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith. I was already familiar with this document and believed like they, that it codified what I believe the Bible teaches.
- The Bible is their sole authority.
- It had a church constitution that governed how they function as a body including how church discipline is conducted.
- One had to complete an application to become a member of the church. Now had I not heard a sermon from Pastor Albert N. Martin, Parting Words of Counsel to the Members and Friends of Trinity Baptist Church, Part 2, that explained why and what membership entailed, I would have thought that this was outrageous having been raised with church being comprised of “whosoever will”.
All of the above were very important to me. I did note in their visitor packet that it included a statement describing their worship service not being “entertainment oriented” but God centered. I admit that that gave me pause because I had been over our music ministry, and ensured our music was biblically sound, God-centered, and God-glorifying. But God overcame that hang-up in me by making me more hungry for the Word.
Some might include in their criteria, expositional preaching and an appreciation for church history, as my current church also does.
Unfortunately, there are many churches that don’t have an online presence which would require visiting various churches and learning from them what they believe, and how they are governed.
But that would be my first tool, along with prayer for guidance. I believe that it would be more difficult but not impossible to find out what a church believes and teaches if there is no online presence. Perhaps a meeting with the pastor, and talking with some of the members would yield the same result.
The important thing for me was having specific, tangible criteria. Will that lead you to a perfect church? No, there are no perfect churches, but there are churches that are filled with people whose God is the Lord, who are trying to work out their soul salvation with fear and trembling, who have preachers that have a voracious appetite for the Word of God, that apply themselves to the study of that Word, who have an appreciation for church history, and more importantly they fear the God they serve and that plays out in how they shepherd the people of God.
What do you look for in a church?