Originally published March 29, 2008
When my husband and I have looked for a new church in the past, we’ve had our choices narrowed down for us because we are comfortable in our denomination and are not looking to change. When you’re starting from scratch, you have a lot more choices to wade through, so it can be more difficult. Here are a few guidelines I’d suggest.
1. The absolute most important thing is to find a church that preaches and teaches only what matches up with what the Bible says, and all of what the Bible says. In other words, they shouldn’t be teaching anything that’s clearly contrary to Scripture and they shouldn’t be leaving things out that are unpopular because they’re afraid they won’t attract as many people.
2. Pray about it. Ask God to lead you to exactly the right church in which to serve Him.
3. If you were raised in a particular denomination and felt comfortable in it, that might be a good place to start, either at the same church or a different church of the same denomination.
4. Ask around. Ask Christian friends about their churches and try visiting with them one Sunday. If you end up joining, you have the bonus of already knowing someone.
5. Do your homework. If there’s a particular church or denomination you’re interested in, chances are, they have a web site. There will probably be a section on the web site called “Our Statement of Faith” or something like that. Check that out and make sure all the tenets line up with Scripture. (But do bear in mind a significant number of churches have a perfectly biblical statement of faith “on paper” but they do not adhere to it in practice, or they are unbiblical in an area the statement of faith doesn’t cover. The best a statement of faith can do for you is to weed out some of the really bad churches. It’s not a guarantee that a church is good.) A lot of churches also have their pastor’s sermons and/or their music on line, so you can get a feel for how things go on Sundays. You’ll also be able to find out when services start, what kinds of programs are available, whether or not they have a nursery, etc.
6. “Interview” churches. Most pastors I know would be thrilled to death if a prospective visitor would call up and make an appointment to come in and talk to them about the church. Ask him whatever you want, find out what’s required for membership, share your concerns, etc. He should be able to answer your queries openly and honestly. I would be very leery about attending a church if the pastor seemed secretive about general doctrinal issues, his own background, or church activities. Sometimes just meeting with the pastor will give you an idea of whether or not you want to give the church a try.
7. Try it on for size. You might fall in love with the first church you try, or it might be like shoe shopping and you have to try several before you find one that fits.
Don’t give up. God has a place for you somewhere.
Searching for a new church? Lots of great church search engines, plus check out the “What to look for in a church” section, especially if you’re a new Believer or coming out of an unbiblical church background.