Looking for one can feel like attending a timeshare seminar, a blind date or a multi-level marketing "party".
|Jim Sorbie (CC)|
But if you persevere it will pay off. Katie and I went through the process a year ago, and we learned some valuable lessons along the way. Here are nine steps to finding the church God wants you to attend:
Kind of obvious right? Sad thing is, it's easy to forget. You can get so caught up in the style of music and caliber of preaching that you forget to kneel before the almighty and ask for guidance.
2. Look for Ministry
If you really want to attend the church God has in mind for you, might be a good idea to ask Him, huh?
2. Look for Ministry
Any healthy church should have thriving ministries, both internal (like children's church and bible studies) and external (serving the community). There must be a balance between these two. A church that neglects the lost for the sake of its congregation isn't really a church; it's a club. But a church that focuses solely on evangelism will have spiritually shallow congregates.
As part of this step, you must also identify what ministries are important to you. We have four kids under ten-years-old, so a strong youth program was essential for us. But if a church doesn't have a ministry that you desire, don't (necessarily) let that stop you; maybe that's something you could start.
3. Look for Vision
You know I'm a big believer in having a vision for the future. Not something set in stone, but something to aim at down the road.
Just like there is no perfect person, there is no perfect church. But if a church doesn't have a vision of its ideal self then it will wander, struggle for identity, and be ineffective in ministry.
4. Research Its Truth Claims
I did a great deal of online research when we were looking for a church home (because that's how I roll). If a church has a website, it's a good place to start looking for its core beliefs. Many churches don't have websites—just call them (remember telephones?) and ask. Once you have identified what the church claims to be true, check that it aligns with what the Bible says. (If you need help with this step, feel free to email me at andrew at andrewgilmore.net.)
Be wary of churches that don't state plainly and specifically what they believe. Also, don't assume that just because a church belongs to a denomination, that you're safe. Churches within denominations can vary widely in culture and core beliefs.
5. Research Its Leadership
Who's the leader of the church? Is he or she a person of God? Sometimes its hard to tell from just a few visits.
Here are few questions to ask yourself:
Does the leadership have accountability in the form of a church board or other mechanism?
Does the leadership embody Micah 6:8?
What does the Lord require of you?To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
Does the leadership exhibit the fruit of the Spirit?
6. Trust Your Gut
After a few months of our Norman, Oklahoma church tour, Katie and I had visited a certain church four or five times. We liked a lot about it, but something just didn't feel right. So we kept looking. The next church we attended turned out to be the right one for us.
Trust your gut. If you're steeped in prayer, often your "gut" isn't really you at all; it's the Spirit guiding you.
7. Ask Yourself This Question
Ask yourself, "Could I invite my unsaved friends to this church?" If the answer is no, move along.
8. Pay Attention to How the People Treat Each Other
A church is supposed to be a "body", a unified organism. Are people engaged with one another or are they cold? This can take some time to figure out, so be patient.
9. Be Brave
Visiting new churches can be scary, but it's important to step out of your comfort zone. Talk to people, ask questions.
If you don't risk anything, you can't gain anything either.
Use the John F. Kennedy Method
Mr. Kennedy made famous his 1961 inaugural speech when he said:
Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.
The same should be true of your relationship with your church.
It does not exist solely to serve you. Yes, spiritual growth and discipleship are essential functions of a church. And when you are in need it should be there for you as well. But if you're only looking at how a church can serve you, then you will never be satisfied. You will become a perpetual church shopper, only at one place until you realize you don't really like the style of music or the communion wafers start to taste stale.
Church isn't something you attend, it's part of who you are. If you aren't invested in it, if you aren't all in, then why are you there?
God has a place in mind for you. Commit to the process; you'll be glad you did.
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