By: Gary L. Hutchens
People are motivated by different situations in their life to start thinking about finding a church. It could be a serious illness or injury, death of a beloved family member or friend, loss of a job, serious financial setback, a crumbling marriage relationship, even the birth of a child. Well, what should I look for in a church? What characteristics should I look for in determining what church I should belong to?
People are influenced in many ways: “It’s the church where I grew up.” “My parents are members of that church. I have friends, or business associates in that church.” “That church is convenient, close to my home.” “That church has a lot of people in my age range.” “They have a pretty church building.” “I like a church of that size.”
On their own, none of these are reliable reasons for choosing a church. What should be my guide in choosing the church I should belong to? Since the scriptures communicate God’s will, they alone are the authoritative guide on the subject (2 Tim. 3:15-17).
First, and foremost, it must be the church established by my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He stated, “…on this rock I will build My church,” (Matt. 16:18). He is the head of the church, and the church is identified as being His body (Eph. 1:22-23; Col. 1:18). That rules out all denominations established by men.
Second, it must be a church that recognizes the Bible as the literal word of God and thereby the only authoritative guide as to what the church is to believe, teach and practice (2 Tim. 3:15-17). A church that speaks where the Bible speaks and is silent where the Bible is silent (Rev. 22:18-19). A church that does not compromise on truth, that stands firm against false teaching (2 Jn. 1:9-10).
Third, it must be a church that teaches the plan of salvation instructed by Jesus: “And He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.’” (Mk. 16:15-16). A church that recognizes the Lord Himself as the one who adds to his church those who come to salvation in obedience to the gospel message (Acts 2:47).
Fourth, it must be a church whose mission is to teach the gospel of Christ to everyone everywhere throughout the world in every generation (Matt. 28:19-20; Mk. 16:15-16). Faith in God and Christ develops within an individual through learning and believing the teachings communicated in the word of God (Rom. 10:17). The church must be diligent in teaching God’s word, thereby helping everyone possible to develop that saving faith.
Fifth, it must be a church that is dedicated to worship God according to His instructions as to how He wants to be worshipped. “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (Jn. 4:24).
It should also be a church that identifies itself by a biblical name: “Greet one another with a holy kiss. The churches of Christ greet you.” (Rom. 16:16).
Through careful, thoughtful study it becomes obvious that we must seek God’s guidance through the scriptures in choosing not just any church, but in choosing the right church. The church is the body of Christ (Col. 1:18, 24), and the scriptures state there is only “one body.” (Eph. 4:4). So, choosing the right church should be our priority…
Gary L. Hutchens