Finding a church home can be challenging, especially when you have a lot of options. In our last post, we covered three vital areas to consider: Scripture, Gospel, and Sacrament. In this post, we’ll look at a few more considerations to keep in mind when looking for a church.
Are there possibilities for fellowship, mentoring, and connection?
We all need companions on the journey of life. It’s important to have not only peer relationships, but also relationships with those who are older (and younger) than you. Some churches split up people based on their ages or life stages. There’s not necessarily anything wrong with this, since we all need friendship and camaraderie with those who are in similar places to ourselves in life. However, the church is one family—not separate groups of singles, elderly, middle-aged, those who are married with kids, children, or teenagers. If these groups of people never interact, that’s not healthy.
By nature, we tend to become focused on what is most relevant to our life stage at any given time. That’s why we need those who have different perspectives or who are in a different life stage to speak into our lives. We are a family. The younger need the wisdom and experience of the older and the older need the vibrancy and curiosity of the young. Check out a church’s small group pattern. Is there opportunity for discipleship in these small groups? Is there opportunity to seek out relationships with those who are older and younger?
Does the music lead you into worship?
We often think of the music in a service as the main part of worship, but in reality, all that we do as Christians is worship, singing is merely one expression of it. As such, the music in church doesn’t need to be your first consideration. However, that is not to say that it doesn’t matter. The main question is not, “Do I like this style of music?” but rather, “Is the music in this service leading people into worship or distracting them from it?” Is it a performance or is it praise?
Is the church a place where you can serve? Is it a place where you can rest?
Service to others is a key feature of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. We follow in the example of Jesus himself, who humbly washed the disciples’ feet. Our service for others should be an overflow of our love for God. Indeed, at the end of each service we are being sent back out into the world to show the love of God to others, not least by our willingness to serve others. As such, the church should be involved in the community—caring for the poor as well as proclaiming the Gospel.
That said, service is not the defining mark of the Christian community. Love is the defining mark (John 13:35). Love for God and for others. If we are not careful, a church’s call to serve can sound like a cheap play on JFK’s famous maxim, “Ask not what Jesus can do for you, but what you can do for Jesus.” That is not the Gospel. The Gospel is all about what God did for us. Any outward expression of service that we have will be what he does through us. Therefore, if we are to serve out of love for God, we must have the space to learn and grow in our love for God. Sometimes being part of a church means that we need to sit and rest. Instead of getting involved right away, you might need to just listen to God and hear what he has to say to you. So yes, get involved, but be open to the possibility that God might be calling you to just rest for a season.
What happens if you can’t find a place that meets all of these criteria? Do you stop going to church? No! You simply make the best of it. Recognize that whatever church you are in, you are with the people of God (assuming they believe the Gospel). The church may not have the best music or your favorite preacher, but I’m willing to bet that the people there love Jesus. And when you’re with those who are loyal to Jesus, you’re in church. You’re in a place where God can meet you, encourage you, and teach you humility. Trust him to grow you wherever he calls you to be faithful.