I noticed in one of your replies to a question before that you said skepticism could be healthy. I tend to be a tad bit critical when I look for a church to go to. It sorta feels like the un-Christian thing to do though. How does a Christian go about finding for themselves the best church to attend and serve at? What’s good & not good to take into consideration?
Discerning is probably a better term than critical. Discernment is different from judgement. Discernment is about figuring out what works for you, judgement is makes assumptions about the other parties motivations and hearts. Discernment is a biblical value. In Philippians 1:9-10 Paul says “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best.” So it is definitely a good thing to be discerning in all aspects of your life, looking for a church very much included.
No church is going to be totally perfect, so you have to know what is most important, what is non-negotiable. It’s not really a case of good and not good things to look for, but about prioritizing what you are looking for. It’s not wrong to want the worship leader to be single, look like Ryan Gosling, and sing with a sensitive British accent, but you don’t want to right a church off because that isn’t the case.
So what should be at the top of the list?
1) Good Doctrine: This is the most important. You want to make sure that this is actually Christianity we are talking about. Any church you want to go to should have a statement of faith available (often on their website). You want to give that a look and make sure that everything passes the smell test of basic Christianity. Things like: salvation, the trinity, the resurrection, etc. If you see something and you don’t know it it is hinky or not, feel free to ask here.
2) Community: One of the main points of church is having Christian Community. That is essential to growing and having a vibrant walk with the Lord. You can see that the way Jesus did things on Earth. He had a group of people around Him that He poured into. Descriptions of the early church in Acts describes that they were dedicated to meeting together and sharing meals and their lives.
I will occasionally get questions from people who are going to a church where there is no one their age, but feel guilty about wanting to go somewhere else. It is fine, and important to look for a church that has a place for you to fit in. Again, this isn’t about good vs bad church as much as it is the right church for you.
3) Relevant Preaching: This, unfortunately, can sometimes be tougher to find. Bible knowledge is a good thing, and part of what a sermon is supposed to be about. However, a sermon is supposed to apply the Bible to your life, not just be a series of Bible facts. Preaching delivery is totally an issue of taste, but it is important that you hear something in that sermon that you can apply to your life when you leave the building.
Those are the things we look for when we visit a church in Chicago that we may want to send our men and women from The Bridge to. There are certainly other things to look at: what is this church doing to serve people? Does the pastor seem accessible? And there is something to be said for just liking the vibe of a place.
Finding a Church is extremely important and you should certainly apply discernment to that process.
-Matt from The Bridge