Questions to Ask When Seeking a New Church Home
For Christian believers and seekers, one of the most important decisions they can make is in determining a church to call home. The church that you attend each week and depend upon for your spiritual nourishment is critical to the health of your faith. Whether you are relocating to a new city, have decided that your current church isn't for you, or are just beginning to research the claims of Christianity, here are five questions to help you identify the right church for you.
1. Are the teachings of this church consistent with Scripture?
When considering a particular church, ask for a statement of faith. Most churches make such statements readily available for newcomers. You may even find it on the church's website. If you are already a mature Christian, you will likely be able to quickly discover if the statement of faith and the teachings of the church are consistent with Scripture (and with traditional Christianity). If you are less experienced, you may need to do some research online to discover what others are saying about the church, the pastor, and the denomination. You can also ask for advice from Christians you know and respect.
There is a certain amount of doctrinal deviation between Christian branches and denominations, mostly due to different understandings of specific teachings of Scripture. This by itself is not cause for concern, as most of the differences involve only minor doctrinal points. However, you should avoid churches that twist their doctrines to fit an agenda and that deviate from orthodox Christianity so much that they can be considered to be cults.
2. Is the congregation a biblically-functioning community of believers?
In other words, do the people love each other and accept each other? Does the church possess a positive atmosphere that you find uplifting and encouraging, or is the church hampered by a spirit of criticism or apathy? Are newcomers welcome, or has the church turned into an unhealthy clique? Is there an emphasis on corporate worship and spiritual discovery, or is the church nothing more than a social club?
3. Does the church display a commitment to fulfill the Great Commission?
With His final words at the end of the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus instructed His followers to take His message to all people everywhere, inviting them to become followers of Jesus as well and to be baptized as believers. This instruction, commonly known as the Great Commission, has been the mandate for Christians throughout the centuries and remains at the heart of the Christian Church today. Any church you consider making your home should show that it takes Jesus’ words seriously by identifying the Great Commission as central to its existence.
4. Is this a church you can support with your time and resources?
If you truly believe in a church and what it is doing, you will eagerly volunteer in its ministries and give financially to provided the resources necessary for the church to thrive. Your support of the church will not be merely from a sense of duty to serve or an obligation to tithe; it will be motivated by your belief in the mission of the church as well as an act of worship to God.
5. Does this church offer programs that nurture the spiritual growth of you and your family?
The answer to this question does not have to be a deal breaker. A healthy church can evolve over time and, if it does not already, may soon possess programs that minister to you and your family. In fact, you may be able to provide the leadership or motivation necessary for the church to begin those ministries. The existing programs at the church are definitely factors, though, especially if you are responsible for the spiritual development of young children. As they are relevant for you, consider the youth and children’s programs, the music and worship style, the teaching ability of the pastor, the small group ministry, and the prayer ministry.
In your quest to find a new church home, be sure to visit a number of local churches. Do not depend on just one visit to determine your decision, given the fact that your visit may fall on an atypical week for that church. Talk with your family about what each of you desires in a church home, and acquire all the necessary information to make the right selection. Then, when the choice has been made, get involved and begin building relationships with your new church family.