New to your area and thinking about choosing a church? There are a few things you’ll want to consider.
1. Is it all about Jesus?
For Christians, this one goes without saying, but let’s say it anyway – a church needs to be motivated by the desire to make Jesus known. You might be surprised at how many churches are not. They think they’re motivated by Jesus, because, by and large, they’re talking about him. But there’s a difference in talking about him as a connoisseur and talking about him as a missionary. Imagine the difference between someone who talks about food at a culinary school and someone who talks about food at a homeless shelter. The first is wrapped up in specifics that insiders will relish. The second is primarily interested in getting food to people who are starving. Followers of Jesus know that the world is starving without him, and the last thing we need is groups of insiders gathered to reinforce things that everyone in the circle already believes in. Being about Jesus is being about making Jesus known.
2. Is it a mission or a monument?
Some churches are missions, and some churches are monuments. A mission has a purpose. It’s motivated by its purpose, it makes decisions based on its purpose, and it says no to things that distract it from its purpose. A monument exists to preserve a moment in the past that most of its members cherish and remember. A movement is always out to reach a lost world for Jesus. A monument remembers a point in time, years ago, in which it was most successful. There are lots of monument churches littering the American countryside. Sadly, they’re soon to become another “m” word – museums.
3. Does it make the Bible come alive?
There are churches that still think they live in an era in which people are just going to feel obligated to go to church. They keep teaching the same messages, using the same vocabulary, and running the same programs. The idea is that people used to feel obligated to go to church, and these are the programs they went to. But that’s not the culture we live in anymore. The population, by and large, especially young adults, do not wake up on Sunday morning feeling like they need to go to church. If the church doesn’t the make the Bible come alive – relevant, vital, challenging, and counter-cultural – most people realize they will get more out of sleeping in than going to church. Teach the Bible in ways that engage non-believers or start the countdown to closing your doors.
4. Does it love across boundaries?
The kingdom of God is multi-racial, intergenerational, and graceful. It loves lost people most of all. It doesn’t shape itself around long-time insiders who want things the way they used to be with pastors who preach “peace, peace.” Churches filled with the Holy Spirit love outsiders especially – non-Christians, adulterers, gays and lesbians, swindlers, the greedy, and the selfish. Real churches of Jesus should be filled with former-thieves, former-philanderers, and former-dirtbags, plus all of their friends who are not quite yet former-anything. Churches love people who don’t know Jesus so much that people who don’t know Jesus can’t avoid church. The standard monument church makes non-Christians uncomfortable. A church of Jesus should seem, to non-Christians, absolutely irresistible.
When you move to a new area, look for a church. It’s a fun and fascinating way to get to know who is in the neighborhood. I’ve been to tons of churches in my area and beyond, even though I’m already committed to a church. Before you go and before you settle, look for a Christ-centered, biblical, loving church that is on a mission to introduce a lost world to Jesus Christ.
If you know someone who has moved to a new place and might be thinking about finding a church – think about forwarding a link to this blog to them!