8/14/2016

How to Find a New Church



After much discussion, my wife and I recently decided it was time to find a new church to call home.  Thankfully, we did not have to search very long, and I am happy to report that after only visiting 3 different churches in the area over a short period of time, the Lord brought us to a church that both of us are very happy to be a part of.

Thinking on our brief journey, my mind naturally turned to those who might find themselves in a similar situation.  I've known some people who have spent months and years trying to find a church to belong to, but for a number of reasons, they never manage to settle down somewhere.  My hopes in reading this brief article, you'll be able to narrow down your search and that the Lord will help you find somewhere that you can grow and serve. 

Here are my tips on finding a new church:

1.  Keep it Local:

I believe this to be one of the most crucial things in finding a church as well as the most practical.  I've been part of a church before where I had to drive 30+ minutes on average Sunday morning just to get to church.  Such makes mid-week activities and fellowship outside of Sunday morning gatherings very difficult, especially if you live in a large city like I do, and have to battle terrible traffic.  And like any other relationship, long distances often creates problems. 

Therefore, I believe if you are looking for a new church, unless you live in a very rural area, you need to get out a map (like Google Maps), and draw a circle within a 10-15 minute drive of your house, and limit your search for a new church to congregations located within that distance from your home.  Church isn't just supposed to be a Sunday morning activity.  It's supposed to be part of your life.  And the proximity you have to drive to be involved at church and in frequent fellowship with other believers becomes increasingly difficult the further you get away from home.  If you have to drive a far distance to be involved in the life of your church, it will ultimately hurt the quality of the fellowship you enjoy.

2. Leave the Checklist at Home:

For some people, finding a new church is often like dating.  People build ridiculously long checklists of things they are looking for in a church, and as a result, they never find that perfect church to belong to.  I did this for a few years when I was dating.  And as a result, I found starting new relationships very difficult, because nobody out there was good enough for me, as they didn't meet my highly itemized list of have's/have not's.  The result?  I was the king of first dates, but I didn't have many second dates.  And that's because I dismissed many girls outright simply because they didn't conform to this long list of what I thought the perfect girl for me would actually look like. 

It was only when I finally gave up on dating a list and looking to build real relationships that I found the woman who became my wife.  And if I compared my wife to some of the ridiculous things I had put on my ever growing list, I probably wouldn't be married as I am this day.  And if you approach finding a church this way, the chances are, you'll never find a church to belong to.  The perfect church, like the perfect woman, simply doesn't exist. 

A church is a highly relational community, therefore, you should engage each potential church you consider joining in a very relational way.  Be gracious.  There is no such thing as a perfect church.  If there were, you would ruin it by showing up.  Show each church you visit a bunch of grace and cut them some slack.  If they do things a little differently than you are typically accustomed to doing at church, don't pass judgment on them, rather, simply embrace them in the same way Christ has embraced you.  Get to know the people there and find out why they do things the way they do.  You might actually find out that you prefer their unique approach to things.

3. Go to Serve:

While it is important when looking for a church to find somewhere that can help meet you and your family's needs, don't pick a church just because they have great preaching, great singing, and a great youth program.  Don't go to church with a consumeristic mindset, thinking of only what you can get out of belonging to a certain congregation.

Rather, have the attitude of Christ, and look at each church as a place you are going in order to ultimately serve.  Only in looking to be a blessing to others will you ultimately be blessed.  And only in serving your local church will you be able to rightfully say a certain church is "your" church.  Don't go to church to get, go to church to give.  See what you can bring to the table instead of the other way around.

4. Don't Stumble Over Theology or Denominational Affiliations:

While the theology of a church is important, it should not be the primary reason why you pick a particular church.  And denominational affiliation should have very little weight in your mind as to why you decide to attend a certain church (most folks don't really care about denominational affiliations these days anyway, except those who have their bread and butter made by them).  Over the years I've learned that no matter what the official denominational affiliation a church has, and no matter what creed is printed in its bylaws, most churches tend to have a very wide spectrum of beliefs in each congregation anyway.  This is seen even in churches that are very theologically rigid, or have strict practical commitments.

So, don't get too hung up on the particular theological bent or denominational affiliation (or lack thereof)  of any given congregation.  Churches tend to be made up of actual people, and not systematic theologians who are interested in doing nothing more than defending and propagating their pet theology.  Every person is at different places in their walk in Christ, and not every person is going to see eye to eye on all of the particulars of the faith.  We all see a little bit dimly.

Therefore, while I would caution against being involved with churches who don't commit to at least a basic evangelical theology and lifestyle as a community, keep in mind that the apostle Paul was a minister to congregations where some people had doubts about if Jesus Christ was really bodily resurrected!  They weren't really altogether sure about that fact.  Some had their doubts.  And many other churches that Paul wrote letters to were struggling with accepting some very other basic Christian beliefs that we tend to take for granted today.

So, keep an open heart and mind about wherever it is the Lord may be leading you and your family to worship and serve alongside.  The Christian community is a very diverse community, and each congregation often has a long history.  Engage each church relationally, and you'll find theological and denominational affiliations tend to not be the giant hurdles that some have made them into over the years. 

In my opinion, so long as you can see Jesus Christ living in the lives of others, and you find fellowship in the Holy Spirit, that is all that you ultimately need in order to belong to a church.  And as you relate to others in the congregation as actual people, instead of a mission field of people you need to convert and reform or correct, and I believe you'll find a lot of these traditional barriers to fellowship fall to the wayside, and you might just find yourself planted firmly by the Lord in a church that is full of folks struggling with their theology just like you.

Conclusion:

Above all, when searching for a new church, trust the Lord to guide you to the right place.  And give an ear to those who care about you in your life, and see where the Lord might be leading you through them.  And if you are married, work very hard with your spouse to come into agreement about where you and your family should serve the body of Christ. 

Finding a new church can sometimes be a difficult thing to do, but it doesn't need to be needlessly difficult.  I firmly believe if you take the things written above to heart, you'll find your search for a new church comes to an end very, very soon.

God be with you in your journey.

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