It is not good for man to be alone. So God gave Christians a family: the local church.
I love my church family. We have our flaws. for sure. But many Christians have not yet committed to a church family. Some have been looking a long time. Maybe that’s you.
Christians need a church family where they can encounter Jesus, deepen meaningful relationships, and make disciples of Jesus Christ. Yet visiting churches and checking out websites is time-consuming and often frustrating. I know what it’s like to visit a church and feel discouraged. I’ve also tasted God’s goodness and grace through the church. So keep looking!
Here are five things I encourage you to seek in a church.
1. Commitment to Expository Preaching
“Expository” means the content and intent of the Bible passage shapes the content and intent of the message preached (Mike Bullmore). “Preaching” means that teaching is applied directly to the hearer’s conscience. Many churches say they preach the Bible, but the content and intent of the passage don’t shape the message.
You gather with the church to hear directly from God through the Bible preached. A solid church preaches the gospel of Jesus Christ, because that’s the Bible’s main message. A faithful church must believe and teach that man is accepted before God by faith alone through the death and resurrection of Christ alone.
2. Clear Vision for Discipling One Another
The essence of the church unfortunately can be missed by both churches and church-seekers alike. Members of the local congregation are responsible for one another’s discipleship, both collectively and also individually. The church is not merely a crowd gathered on a Sunday. It’s a group of people committed to Christ through repentance and faith, committed to each other’s spiritual growth, and committed to share together in the practices of baptism and communion as commanded by Jesus.
This commitment to discipleship should be mutually understood by all members. Is the church you’re considering clear that it expects members to minister to one another? Do leaders expect you to be your brother’s keeper? God does. They should too. If you really want to know if it’s clear, don’t ask church leaders—ask the members.
3. Backbone to Love Wandering Sheep
Churches should have a backbone. By this I mean they should have the courage to practice church discipline on those who refuse to repent from sin. That may sound a bit harsh and unloving in our day. But Jesus was clear that discipline is an act of love:
If your brother sins against you, go and rebuke him in private. If he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he won’t listen, take one or two more with you, so that by the testimony of two or three witnesses every fact may be established. If he pays no attention to them, tell the church. But if he doesn’t pay attention even to the church, let him be like an unbeliever and a tax collector to you. I assure you: Whatever you bind on earth is already bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth is already loosed in heaven. (Matt. 18.15–18)
Paul also encourages the body to practice redemptive discipline in 1 Corinthians 5. You want to join a loving body, which means you need to find one that will care enough to restore you to Jesus and his people at any cost, even if that means biblical discipline designed to win you back.
4. Sense of Mission
Jesus gave the church a clear mission: Make disciples of all people groups (Matt. 28:18–20). You were created and saved for great things. Your life has an important and eternal purpose. Join a church where leaders and members remind and equip you for the disciple-making mission Jesus established for all his followers.
A faithful church should sweep you up into that life of mission.
5. Place with People Unlike You
Many Christians are looking for a church that fits their preferences: their style of music, their style of preaching, their demographic (age, stage of life, ethnicity, culture), a thriving youth group, a first impression of friendliness, or size (large or small).
But none of these factors should be decisive.
When these take top priority, you have swapped the essence for the extras. It’s like choosing a car because of the tires or steering wheel. If you buy a car because it has the rims and radio you want, even though the engine doesn’t work and the transmission is broken, you’re confused about an automobile’s main purpose.
The church is a group that takes responsibility for one other’s Christian discipleship—a group of varied ages, ethnicities, musical preferences, and interests. They all love Jesus and the gospel. He makes them a family. Sure, such diversity may bring conflict at times. But that can be a good thing ifit challenges our selfishness. When we sacrifice personal preferences for the sake of others, we are getting closer to King Jesus. And isn’t that why we’re joining the church in the first place?
Find a Church
Be intentional. Ask questions. You don’t want to wander around for many months from church to church when you could be building up a church family and glorifying our Lord Jesus. Find a good church so you encounter Jesus and help others encounter him.
When you finish your life, which is a vapor, you’ll be glad you did.