Visitors often don't know where to start when looking for a church home. With so many churches to choose from, the prospects seem overwhelming. To narrow their search, many people base their decision on their own, more immediate needs. Questions like: Should it be like our last one or the complete opposite? Will we be accepted or treated as outsiders? Does this church's doctrine match my beliefs? Will they have established programs which meet the needs of our children?
These questions are only a sampling of the limitless possibilities with which many families grapple. But selecting a church should not be approached like choosing where to buy your groceries. When buying groceries the store that offers the best prices or has the largest selections, or is closest to home may win our business.
Finding the right church will be easier if you remember these biblical guidelines:
The church is an organism as well as an organization.
If you are a Christian looking for a church home, then may I suggest using your development as a Christian as a guide. Are you a new Christian? An established, active Christian? or would you classify yourself as an experienced Christian?
The new believers in Acts 2:43 exemplify the needs every new Christian has. The verse says, "they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship and in breaking of bread and in prayers." New Christians should be looking for a church which teaches the Bible and its biblical principles in order that their faith may grow. You need a place that will strengthen your faith and provide encouragement along the way.
More established Christians have different needs. While they still desire a place which teaches the Bible to continue in their development - they need more complexity (like in high school, it's Algebra II). This is where the majority of Christians would be. Perhaps they have moved residence, face a job relocation or thru God's providence find themselves in need of a new church home. Whichever the case may be, the biblical principle to remember is that the local church is an organism as well as an organization. That means every church is different. God wants it that way. Each entity has its own strengths and weaknesses. Paul emphasized this point to the Corinthians. In 1 Corinthians 12 he explains the diverse roles and needed components for any Christ-centered church by using a metaphor of the human body. Some are eyes, ears, hands and feet but all were necessary in order for the body to function properly.
Too often, Christians make the mistake of comparing the church their visiting to their last church. That's like comparing your wife's cooking to your mother's cooking (hopefully, we all recognize this fallacy). Instead use 1 Cor.12:18 as your litmus test. "But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body as it hath pleased Him." Are the members actively completing the church's mission? If they are, then you know God is at work through the preaching and its people.
Seek to be a part of a church like this!
Occasionally a church is blessed when experienced saints enter a new ministry. Their gifts and talents provided exactly what the new church needed. Acts 18 records how three different individuals were a great help to the church in Ephesus (Aquila, Priscilla and Apollos). The first two were motivated and instrumental teachers while the last was skilled in apologetics. Acts 18:27 concludes with a great statement, "...helped them much which had believed through grace". What a boost and God-send experience Christians can be! So don't "settle" for a church - become a vibrant part of helping a church become better!