If you’re looking to start attending a Christian church or if you’re returning to church, this is for you!
Recently I was visiting a church and realized that it can be tough jumping into a new church. This coming from someone who’s been in ministry for almost 30 years. My heart immediately became sensitive to people who may be trying out a church for the first time ever. Ugh!
What do you look for? What indicates a good choice when hunting for a place to worship and plug into?
Granted, there are lots of things that indicate Biblical church health, but we’re just gonna look at three to help get you started.
Speaking of “Biblical,” you need to know that as Christians we believe that the Bible is God’s inspired word, penned by men, but written by God’s Spirit. This book lays the foundation for all that we believe about God, His church and how His followers should live. It’s basically our faith’s blueprint. It clearly explains God’s story and how we fit into the narrative.
In a nutshell, the Old Testament and the New Testament together reveal that despite people’s sin and tendency to wander away from God, He provided the most precious way for us to have a relationship with Him – through His Son, Jesus.
The Bible teaches that Jesus lived a sinless life and died on the cross to pay for our sins so that we can have a relationship with God the Father.
Jesus was then raised from the dead, proving to be who He claimed to be: God. That’s a huge claim, one that is unique to Jesus.
People may disagree about some minor details, but every solid Christian church believes the Bible is God’s Word and is worth trusting.
With that it in mind, let’s jump into three signs that you’re on the right track when hunting for a church.
1. The preaching/teaching explains what the Bible says. Remember that to the Christian the Bible is God’s Word and there’s no higher teaching that can be offered. So if the pastor or teacher reads the Bible (also called Scripture) and then explains what this means then you’re on the right track. The Bible should be central to all teaching and preaching in a Christian church. Illustrations are helpful, but things such as stories, opinions and politics should not dominate the message. If the message is full of stories with little or no Bible sprinkled in, keep hunting, friend.
2. The music is all about who Jesus is and what He has done. We Christians believe that Jesus is God and He alone is worth all of our praise. The Bible says in Philippians 2:9-11, “God elevated Jesus to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” So the music should be centralized on who God is and what He’s done. The style of music is unimportant and is totally up to you. I consider music style like culture or language. If you prefer bag pipes, mariachi, or rock band, go for it as long as it makes a big deal about Jesus. By the way if the church you visit doesn’t believe that Jesus is God, keep hunting, friend.
3. The people are warm and welcoming. If the people seem genuinely friendly, it probably means that they like each other and like having new people join them. A church that loves new people is hopefully a church that has a good understanding of the Bible. Understand that there’s a major difference between religious people who feel they have to attend a worship service and genuine Jesus-followers who get to gather with fellow believers for encouragement, learning and worship. Unfortunately, religious people get a lot of attention, giving the rest of us a bad rap. Also know that we’re all messy and no Jesus-follower is perfect. We’re all hypocritical to a degree. So don’t expect perfection when getting to know folks. One more thing, if the only person that greets you informs you that you’re sitting in their spot, keep hunting, friend.
If these things check out then I’d recommend you visit the church for two Sundays at least. I personally also like to try their Wednesday night service and a small group Bible study. Some churches do their Bible studies on Sunday mornings, and some do it during the week in homes.
Finally let me say that I’m so glad you’re looking into Christianity and starting the search for a church. Jesus has forever changed me, and His church has helped shape who I am. At one point in my life I severely doubted if Jesus was the real deal. But after all these years of following Him I know for a fact that He is THE Way, THE Truth and THE Life. He is the only way to God. You can trust Him, and you can trust what the Bible says about Him. If you have any questions please feel free to direct message me or reach out to anyone who you know is following Jesus. Happy hunting, friend.
State Missionary Larry Hyche is an associate in Global Missions focused on men’s spiritual development. This article was originally published on his Facebook timeline for a general audience and was later published at alsbom.org.