Searching for a new church today is not easy. Fifty years ago, devoted Christian people like our grandparents had a much easier time reaching a decision about which church to attend.
Most people of that generation made their decision based on things like the church’s basic faithfulness to Scripture and sound doctrine, the friendliness and spirit of the congregation, the preaching and leadership of the pastor, and the general cleanliness and welcoming atmosphere of the church building.
Oh, how the times have changed.
While the above considerations still apply, many Christians today are also considering a host of other variables when it comes to choosing a church. Will it be contemporary worship or traditional? Praise band or piano? Pews or stadium seating? King James Bible or English Standard Version? Dress-up or dress-down? Classic or cutting-edge? Saturday night services or Sunday morning?
Every Christian is called to exercise Scripture-enlightened and Spirit-empowered discernment when it comes to selecting a local church. As a pastor, I want to suggest (with a little bit of exaggeration, to be sure) that if at any point during your search for a new church the following questions enter into your decision-making process, you need to re-engage with the Scriptures in a serious way.
If you’re genuinely searching for a quality church that meets New Testament standards, here are eight questions you shouldn’t be asking:
1.) Is the pastor “cool” in his language, haircut, and fashion choices?
2.) Does the church offer activities in addition to religious services? Movies? Bowling? Pizza parties? Ice cream socials?
3.) Is the church’s building top-notch — does it have curb appeal and shine compared to others in the area?
4.) What kind of coffee does it serve? Starbucks? Seattle’s Best? Will it make my favorite cappuccino or specialty drink?
5.) Does the worship service make me feel happy? Is it always positive, affirming, and upbeat? Does it focus on my personal needs?
6.) How short is the sermon? Does it inform and inspire in 20 minutes or less?
7.) What is the parking situation? Can I get in and out in fewer than 25 steps?
8.) Does the church have multiple video screens? How about a phone app? Does it accommodate me as a busy person in every way possible?
Sure, I’m presenting these questions with a hefty dose of satire — but the tragedy of modern-day evangelicalism in America is that many Christians are actually basing their choice of congregation or church on these and other considerations.
May God help us to examine ourselves and to dig deeply into the Scriptures.
Is it any wonder America’s churches are too often weak and spiritually immature today when they’re filled with consumer-minded Christians absorbed with their own desires? The truth is, we could use a little more of our grandparents’ and parents’ wisdom when it comes to choosing a church in today’s world.
May God help us to examine ourselves, dig deeply into the Scriptures, and, by the power of the Holy Spirit, come to see the essential elements that make for a truly dynamic church.
Pastor Ryan Day is senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Hazleton, Pennsylvania, where he has served for 19 years.