Looking for a Church?
When a person is ready to find a home church, what are the key factors for which they should be looking? Is it simply a matter of the type of programs or activities the church offers, the length and format of the services, the makeup and size of the congregation, the driving distance from our home, or it is more than that?
While each person typically relies on their own personal preferences when choosing a church to attend, we have to remember that the Scriptures are clear as to what God's preferences are. In other words, God has already revealed to us through His Word as to why the church exists and what it's purpose is to be. Our job is to discover those truths and then find a local church that embraces and practices them.
While there are many things a local church can do, there are only a couple which God insists they must do. In His wisdom, God has given us a Scriptural blueprint as to the main focus each local church must follow in order to have His approval. When all the pertinent New Testament Scriptures are considered, we find a very obvious and easy to understand purpose statement being identified: The church exists to bring glory to God by focusing on two equally important and interconnected aspects of the Christian faith. This dual focus is often referred to as the Great Commission; the final directive of Jesus in which He said this:
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” - Matthew 28:19-20
The purpose of the church is very simple: We are to share the Gospel with those who have yet to respond in faith and repentance, and we are to teach the rest of the Scriptures to those who do respond. In the words of Jesus, we are to make disciples by bringing unbelievers to a knowledge of salvation and then to a full knowledge of God's word. The apostle Paul stated it this way:
"Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ." - Colossians 1:28
Bringing every believer to spiritual maturity while equipping them to do the work of ministry is the purpose of the church. Just bringing people to a saving knowledge of Jesus, while vital, doesn't completely fulfill our purpose. When parents conceive and bring babies into the world, it is wonderful. But to completely fulfill their role and responsibility, parents must also raise those babies to maturity.
Like child rearing, making disciples requires a commitment to finish the job. While God's redemption plan starts with a person's entrance into His kingdom, it doesn't end there. That's why any activity or pursuit in which a local church engages that doesn't help it's people fulfill God's complete redemption plan is actually counter productive. Developing fully devoted and spiritually mature followers of Jesus is the church's primary business. It's why the church exists. As someone rightly remarked, "God only has one business and it's the redemption business." Again, the redeeming of sinners doesn't end at their conversion, it only begins there.
So when looking for a home church, our first and most important question must be: "Is this church in the redemption business?" In other words:
Is the true Gospel being explained clearly and often at every level of ministry?
Is all of God's word being correctly taught so that believers are growing in their faith, reaching spiritual maturity, and becoming more like Jesus?
If the answer is yes, then prayerfully consider joining that church. If the answer is no, then keep looking, no matter what other activities or perks the church might offer. Life is too short and eternity is too long to waste your time with a church that isn't even in the same business as God is.