When my husband and I were searching for a church five years ago, we visited around 15 churches before making our decision. As you might imagine, we were pretty ready to be settled when we found our church home.
Our search may sound lengthy, but where we choose to place membership impacts our entire lives.
Church is not just about our preferences. Church is about biblical standards, family and commitment.
It is important to enjoy a pastor’s preaching style. Most care about the style of music played during worship. We should consider what programming is available to disciple our families.
Many people stop their search right here.
They reason, “Pastor keeps me awake during messages. Check. Enjoyed the songs we sang. Check. People were friendly. Check. Kids had fun during Sunday School. Check. Okay, let’s attend here.”
While these things are important, there is more that should be taken into consideration.
Church should never be about attendance; it needs to be about involvement, ministering to the community and the world through missions, and true discipleship.
Our society seems to believe that we need to go to church because it is the right thing to do and because it makes us feel better when we attend.
We walk in, get our fix, walk out and go on with our week. With this mentality, it is no wonder why people choose a church based on what they will get out of it.
We are missing the point. Church is about learning, worshipping and fellowshipping. But it is also about serving, accountability and character development.
One question that my husband and I have been asking the Lord in recent months is “How are you calling us to serve after our baby arrives?”
Our lives and schedules are going to change, but this does not change the fact that God calls us to serve his people. Church often gives us an opportunity to serve as we are commanded.
Sometimes we need to choose a church based on their needs and not ours. Sometimes, God wants us to choose a church because they need our experience, faith and spiritual gifts to grow the body.
Because church is not simply about attendance, we need to ask the Lord to show us which church family he desires for us to serve.
I mentioned above that church is about family and commitment.
I do not know where we would be without the prayers and support of our church family. They have been God’s precious blessing in the midst of some difficult times. We are called to be the same for them.
The church body can go through tough times. We must determine if we would be willing to stay the course and walk through the difficulties with our church family.
When churches struggle for a season, many folks decide they are going to change churches because they are no longer getting “fed.” This can be so detrimental to a church. During tough times, a family must choose to stick together.
I’m not saying we should stay in an unhealthy church. If the church is struggling because the leadership is making unwise or unbiblical decisions, we should most definitely pray about a move. After all, a church body is only as healthy as its leadership.
The first churches met in homes. They studied, prayed, discussed, served and worshipped together and were a family. They stood by one another through thick and thin. Often, their lives depended on it.
It is no different today.
Most church buildings are bigger and more people are a part of the church family, but we are still called to “do life” together. Whether we realize it or not, our spiritual lives depend on it.
If we are serving the body as God intended, we will automatically grow in our character through our experiences. Not only will we be fulfilled and encouraged, but we will be spiritually challenged and matured ... which is exactly what we need to consider when we are prayerfully seeking a church home.
I say all of this to bring us back to one of my original statements: Church is about biblical standards.
During our search, we visited some churches that filled with wonderful people. When we got down to their biblical values, they were making decisions that did not honor God.
I understand that people interpret the Bible differently and there is the rare occasion when people are called to a mission field in their church and continue attending an unhealthy church to reach the body with truth.
It is necessary to remember that there are guidelines given in the Bible by which we must abide.
For instance, the qualifications of a pastor and elder are outlined in 1 Timothy. If a church is stepping outside of these guidelines, this should be a red flag. We are told throughout the Bible that adultery is wrong. If a church leader has struggled with an extramarital relationship, be cautious. We are told in Jeremiah 1 that God knew us before he formed us in the womb, and his 10 commandments explicitly state that we should not kill. Much prayer should go into the choice to attend a church that takes a pro-choice stance.
We must choose a church that does not water down God’s word, twist God’s word or ignore parts of God’s word. Even if a church is prospering and looks healthy on the outside, serious problems can arise if they are not following the biblical mandates laid out in scripture.
For those who have been looking for a church home or considering a church move, I ask that you pray and research before you make your decision. The Holy Spirit will show you exactly where you need to be to be discipled, serve his people and make an impact on his kingdom for eternity.
Misty Shultz holds master’s degrees in marriage and family counseling and Christian education. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.