Before you over-analyse it, let me start by saying that, there’s absolutely no perfect church anywhere. Don’t forget that! Perhaps you are moving to a new location or you are just considering changing your church (for whatever reason), it is expedient that you think through this decision carefully, thoroughly and prayerfully. Why? Because one of life’s key decisions is choosing a church; this is a decision that will not only impact upon your life here on earth, but also has ramifications deep into eternity.
A church can make or mar you; it can serve as the nerve centre (or otherwise) from which the entirety of your life derives its coordinated rhythm for optimal productivity and sustained impact. The right church family is the very catalyst that will propel you into your God-ordained destiny and it is the solid base from which your life will be established firmly in grace.
The honest answers to the following questions and an in-depth consideration of the checklist below will help streamline your options, until you find the right church:
- Who/what is at the core of their worship?
Is Jesus at the centre of their devotion? Who’s the major subject of reference in any of their meetings? Whose word is the final authority, God’s Word or that of the pastor? To whom do the church members owe their allegiance? A church where the Trinity (God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit) is not at the ‘centre of it all’ is a no-no. If the Word of God is not central in the operation of the church, please run!
- What is their doctrinal base?
Does the church believe and teach that Jesus is the Son of God and the only way to God? Do they believe that every scripture is inspired by the Holy Spirit and that salvation is a gift and not earned by our good works? Does the church’s doctrine highlight the reality of heaven and hell?
- Are there discipleship programs in place and a rock-solid foundation for growth?
Is the church very intentional about its leaders’ and members’ spiritual development? You should be able to see some evidence that supports the presence of these three-dimensional growth: qualitative (spiritual growth in Christ and training of people for ministry), quantitative (outreach with new people coming into the church, especially via evangelism and good works of charity) and organic (this is the development of gifts and people plugged into ministry).
- What is the church’s core practical value and culture?
Does the day-to-day outlook of the church reflect their documented values? Are these values in any way contradictory to the tenets of the Holy Scriptures? What constitutes their culture? How do they welcome and treat visitors irrespective of their societal status?
- Exemplary leadership and active mentoring opportunities
Are the conduct and general lifestyle of the pastors worthy of emulation? Do they have good reports within and outside the church they are overseeing? Are they (the pastors and leaders) accountable to other senior pastors and church leaders elsewhere? Can you respect and submit to their authority? It is wisdom to join a church that has ample avenues for mentoring its members in the things of God and on how to excel in other spheres of life.
- Is it a church where your gifts, talents and/or experience can be deployed?
A child, from whatever dimension you look at it, is someone that needs to be catered for all or most of the time. As you grow healthily in the things of God, you will realise that greater fulfilment comes by being at the giving end of things. You need to be sure that the church you are moving to can provide the platform for you to live out your calling and also serve as an enabling environment for you to be a blessing to humanity.
- What are your family needs?
If you are a family person, you may want to factor the needs of your spouse and children too when deciding which church to join. You need to be sure that church has a well-structured children and/or youth church, with programs carefully designed to help raise them up in the ways of the Lord.
It is not advisable to join a church just for the numbers; you must be fully planted there. Is the church you have in mind within reaching proximity to you? As much as possible (except when you are out of town), don’t join a church that you can only attend services online because the distance is not ‘kind’ to you.
- Church size
You also need to determine what is best for you in terms of church size. The intimacy of a smaller church often translates to a greater opportunity for individual care and a chance to develop strong relationships. Larger churches possess the capacity, financing, talents, numbers and other resources to undertake bigger projects. However, you must note that a large church with an effective small groups system can yield the typical advantages that a smaller church has over a larger one.
The thoughts outlined here are in no way an absolute template, but a guide to narrow down the vast options at your disposal. As you partner with God through the direction of the Holy Spirit, I believe you will find a place where you can call home. The church God will lead you to may not be your personal preference, but allow Him to use you to bridge the gap in areas that are lacking.
Whatever your needs/preferences, be sure to join a church that will help you to live purposefully here on earth and to make heaven in the end. The peace of God will overwhelm you once you find the right church for your planting.
Written by: Mancha Matthew