Let’s face it. Finding a church can be as awkward as a blind date. You don’t know what you’re stepping into. You want to be a part of something bigger than yourself, but you don’t want to end up with a bunch of crazy people in some strange place with the exit doors blocked off.
To help you in your quest to find a church to belong to, here are five questions to help you navigate the awkwardness.
1. Do I agree with their core beliefs?
To make sure you don’t end up in a cult, you need to know what the church believes in. For me, as a Christian, I would start by visiting their website and reading their statement of faith.
As I read through it, I would ask myself the following questions:
- Do they believe in the Trinity (Father, Son, & Spirit)?
- Do they hold the scriptures in highest regard?
- Do they believe in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus?
- Do they believe in salvation by grace through faith in Christ?
- Are they ultimately about loving God and others?
These are essentials that all Christian churches share despite their denomination, affiliation, or style.
If they do believe in the essentials, move on to question 2.
If not, keep looking.
2. Can I get behind their mission and leadership?
Can you visit a church gathering or website and clearly know why they exist? It’s important because you want to know what you’re jumping into. If they don’t have a purpose, proceed with caution. A church without a mission is like a person without air. A church that’s fully alive and on mission will often be strong in word and deed. They are sharing the good news of the gospel while also meeting tangible needs in the community and beyond.
If you do know their mission, can you go along with it, get behind it, and support it? Do you respect the leadership of the church? Do you want your name to be associate with them?
If so, move on to question 3.
If you can’t, and you’re a believer, why?
If it’s because their mission is off-track or leadership is suspect, keep looking.
If it’s because you’re a know-it-all who is never satisfied, get over yourself. :)
3. Are outsiders welcomed here?
When it comes to style and preferences, everything is subjective. The fact is, it takes all kinds of churches to reach all kinds of people. Mega-churches, house churches, traditional churches, contemporary churches, organic churches, contemplative churches, creative churches, and so on.
Regardless, could you invite someone who was exploring their faith to a gathering of this church and not creep them out? Would they be accepted and feel welcomed?
If so, please advance to question 4.
If not, consider moving on from this church. The stakes are too high, and those you know and love matter too much, to be involved with an insiders club.
4. Can me and my family connect with this community?
If you have a family, you must keep them in mind when considering churches. If you’re married, I urge you to listen to your spouse’s intuition. If this church isn’t a community she can connect with, it will be difficult for you to connect with. As a parent, you would also want to know if there’s a vibrant and engaging children’s ministry for your kids to belong to. If you’re single, hopefully this is a community you can feel comfortable in as well.
Is there are strong sense of community here? Is there the potential for you, and your family, to have meaningful relationships with the people here?
If so, go to question 5.
If not, continue looking. A church should be a place where strangers become friends, and friends become family. Don’t settle for less.
5. Do they have grace on tap?
God loves us just as we are and not as we should be. God also loves us enough not to leave us there. Likewise, a gospel-driven church has grace on tap. At the same time, honesty and authenticity are a crucial element of the gospel. When we can admit that none of us are perfect, we can better see the One who is. When we can concede that we are not as we should be, we can grow to become who we are meant to be.
Is this church real, plastic, or something else? Chances are, if you’ve gotten this far, this is a solid church. Hopefully, they can point to God’s grace, smile, and call it amazing. Because it is.
No church is perfect though. If a church is missing something, you may be the one to fill the need. You may be the answer to a prayer. God may have brought you there for a reason.
It’s important to remember that as Christians, we aren’t shopping for a product or service, we are searching for a people to belong to. A people who are on a mission to be good news, and bring good news, in a world of bad news. All because of what the Good Lord did for us.
What things would you say folks should explore before joining a church community?