Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. – Matthew 7:7 NLT
“There is no such thing as a perfect church,” my mother would say repeatedly, and I never forgot it.
There was a time when our family was looking for a church to attend. I remember wanting my list of “must haves” to line up perfectly. First, I wanted the Pastor to teach the scriptures like a seminary professor. The worship needed to be cutting-edge musically and line up with my doctrinal preferences. Finally, I wanted them to be friendly, to notice us, and invite us out afterward for lunch.
We decided to attend this small church in a rough part of town whose members primarily spoke english as a second language! I was surprised to discover this little church was where God wanted our family to be. We would have missed this wonderful season if I stubbornly stuck to my guns.
Maybe you have been on the hunt for a church like this but have been getting discouraged in the process. Perhaps you have been tirelessly searching and not finding what you are used to. It’s okay if these new churches don’t look like you, don’t have similar backgrounds, or aren’t the type of folks you are accustomed to being around. None of these things matter. What matters is determining, “Has God brought me here to walk with this particular tribe”? This is where we practice James 1:5 and ask Him for His wisdom.
Although there are some non-negotiables any church we plan to attend should have:
1. They must teach and value the Bible as the ultimate authority and that it is without error.
2. They must keep Jesus as the Triune God and the only doorway to salvation and heaven.
3. Being changed to become like Jesus is one of their primary beliefs.
Everything else is stylistic and less essential. With all this in mind, I found there wasn’t going to be a perfect church to meet my wants exactly. I was looking at it all incorrectly, as I can now see that my search was preference-based, not prayer based. I was considering everything from my point of view rather than from God’s. I was setting these church options up for failure because I had unrealistic expectations for genuine believers in some great churches.
We can be 100% confident that He will answer and direct us when asking God for His wisdom and direction in finding a church (James 1:5). 1 John 5:14 teaches us that He answers prayer when it is something that pleases Him, and we know that it’s His will that we are partnered and rooted in the local church. Ask and trust He will direct your steps.
When continuing to seek out a local church to call home, here are a few things to consider:
1. Research the church online before you go. It’s standard for most churches to have information about their beliefs and practices, pictures of their leadership, podcasts, and even video of their services. You should not be walking blindly into a situation where you have no idea what you are getting into.
2. Be friendly. In new church situations, most of us passively expect people to be friendly to us. In a perfect church, that would be the norm. Because that doesn’t exist, I recommend working on being outwardly focused and taking the initiative to talk to others. Ask questions to get to know people.
3. Be humble and open to new things. Try not to be critical. Be open to learning about new people and a new church culture that may not be familiar to you. Remember to separate style and preferences from Biblical non-negotiables.
4. Visit multiple times, including meetings outside of Sunday. Becoming a part of a new church takes patience and a prayerful decision made after viewing the church from numerous angles. Go to multiple services at different times if they offer other times. Visit Bible studies, home groups, men’s or women’s gatherings, church picnics, etc.
5. Final decisions and factors to consider. Is this teaching something I am convinced is Biblically sound? Are these people I can walk with for the long haul? Can I give myself to the vision and mission here? Do I feel confident about giving financially to this?
Finally, remember to keep this basic rule in mind. Try not to filter your past negative experiences at other churches over this new group. Also, try not to compare them to the amazing church experiences you have had. It’s never going to be like it was, but it might be better than before if it’s God’s design for you!
1. ASK – Begin to pray this week about God’s specific direction in finding the right church. Trust He will lead and guide you (James 1:5)
2. SEEK – From that prayer time, make a list of Biblical non-negotiables. Also, make a separate list of personal preferences. Remember, your preferences are not always wrong, but be sure to make decisions based on the Bible.
3. FIND – Begin to research where you plan to go, and then take the step out by going to the next possible gathering and finding the tribe God has designed you for!
For more on getting connected to a healthy local church, CLICK HERE.