Church

Recommend a Church

UPDATE 2: Your response has been overwhelming! Thank you so much for your recommendations! At the moment, over 100 churches have been recommended. As I mentioned at the end of this article, I am vetting each one individually, so that will take some time. Thank you for your patience.

UPDATE 1: Folks, I really appreciate all of your recommendations, but I’ve already deleted about half the comments I’ve received so far because the commenter did not include the name of the church and/or the website. I don’t have time to track these things down for multiple recommendations. Please read and follow the directions below. Thanks.

If you’re searching for a new church (rather than wanting to recommend one) click here.

If you’ve followed me for a while, you know I’m passionate about helping people find doctrinally sound churches to join. I’ve recently been updating my list of Reader Recommended Churches, but we can always use more recommendations for doctrinally sound churches, church search engines, and church planting organizations, especially in the states that don’t have very many recommendations and in countries outside the United States. So I’d love it if you’d help out by making a recommendation!

Please read this part before recommending

Here are the guidelines for submitting a recommendation:

  • You must have a personal connection (ex: you’re a member or recent former member, you know the pastor personally, etc.) to the church you’re recommending
  • Please check this list to see if the church you’re recommending is already listed. (It takes time for me to weed out recommendations of churches that are already listed.)
  • Please check this link to see if the church search engine or church planting organization you’re recommending is already listed. (Read carefully. The Master’s Seminary, Founders, Grace Advance, and several others are already listed.)
  • The following types of churches, church search engines, and church planting organizations will not be added to the list (due to doctrinal or other issues)1:

~ United Methodist churches
~ Calvary Chapel churches (continuationist)
~ Continuationist churches
~ Churches that consider Calvinism/Reformed theology to be false teaching
~ KJV Only churches (Churches which consider the King James Version to be the only acceptable and/or inspired translation of the Bible. Churches which merely prefer using the KJV are fine.)
~ Any church that uses music from Bethel, Jesus CultureHillsongElevation, anyone connected with these groups, Catholicsnon-Christians, or any other musician who isn’t doctrinally sound.
~ Any church that does not have a statement of faith (“What we believe,” “Doctrinal statement,” etc..) on its website.
~ Any church that does not have an actual website (a social media page alone is not sufficient).

If the church, church search engine, or church planting organization you’re considering recommending meets the criteria above, I’d love to consider it! Please comment below (it would really help me if I could have all the comments below, in one place, rather than scattered between this article, social media messages, social media comments, and emails) with:

  • The full, correctly spelled name of the church, church search engine, or church planting organization
  • The city and state, or city and country the church is located in
  • The church’s, church search engine’s, or church planting organization’s website. Submissions without websites will not be considered.

Just a reminder – as it says above the comment box, I handle all comments manually, so your comment will not appear immediately. When I add (or decline to add) your church to the list, I’ll post your comment.

I vet every church that’s submitted, so it may take me a while to get to your recommendation. Your patience is appreciated.

Thanks so much for helping your brothers and sisters in Christ find a good, solid church!


1I am not saying any church or person who falls into one of these categories is automatically a heretic, unsaved, or a horrible person/church. These are merely the requirements for a church to be on this particular list because these are the requirements most of the people who use this list are looking for.

Mailbag

The Mailbag: God saved me out of a false “church” … what do I do now?

God recently saved me out of __________ “church” / religion. I’m not sure what to do next. I’m scared to start looking for a new church because I don’t know what to look for in a good church, and I’m afraid I’ll choose another bad one. And how do I “do” this whole Christianity thing, anyway?

I’ve received some variant of this question dozens of times, and it makes me so happy every time I do. God is still saving people, y’all! Doesn’t that thought just encourage your socks off and fill you with joy?

Whether it’s someone coming out of the New Apostolic Reformation, Mormonism, Catholicism, a liberal/progressive “church,” or the New Age, walking through the doors of biblical Christianity is thrilling, but can also be a bit daunting.

As someone who has been in church since my parents brought me home from the hospital, it’s difficult to wrap my mind around being new to the church and the things of Christ as an adult. It must be like landing on Mars, or at least in a foreign country where you don’t know the customs and don’t really speak the language.

When you’re doing something new, it’s always best to start by reading the directions. So here are a few basic directions that might be of help to you if you find yourself newly saved out of an unbiblical system and you’re not quite sure what to do next:

1.
Believe the biblical gospel.

The first priority is making sure you understand and believe the biblical gospel. I know you’re saying you’re saved, but, considering your background and my limited knowledge of where you are spiritually, and considering the fact that sooooo many churches and professing Christians do not know or rightly teach the gospel according to Scripture, I’m not sure what you’ve been told about how to be saved, or “become a Jesus follower,” or however it was put to you, but here’s the truth:

What must I do to be saved?

I strongly urge you – even if you’re 100% positive you’re saved – to take your time and slowly and prayerfully work your way through everything on this page to make sure you understand and believe what the Bible says about how to be saved.

Once you’ve done that, if you still need some reassurance that you’re saved, you might want to work your way through my Bible study Am I Really Saved?: A First John Check-Up.

There are two reasons nailing down your belief in the biblical gospel is the first and most important priority:

  1. If you’re not genuinely saved, you need to be, or you’ll die in your sins and spend an eternity in Hell. Even if you think you’re a Christian.
  2. If you’re not saved, you’re not going to understand or accept the things of Christ, and pretty much everything in Christianity and the church is going to rub you the wrong way. First Corinthians 2:14 says: The natural [unsaved] person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.

2.
Find a church.

The next most important thing is getting you into a doctrinally sound church where you can be taught God’s Word properly.

For Christians, membership in and faithful attendance at a doctrinally sound church is not optional, and is non-negotiable. The Bible knows nothing of “Lone Ranger” Christians. For 2000 years, even in places of harshest persecution, like first century Rome or current day North Korea, the church has found a way to meet together, even if it had to be in secret.

And yes, this means physically attending worship service and other gatherings, not watching it on Zoom, assuming you are physically/medically able to do so and a decent church within achievable driving distance is open. (If not, you’ll have to find another way to meet together with fellow Christians.)

(Notice, I did not say, “If you’re not afraid to go,” or “a church that’s nearby”. There are Christians in the world today who, every time they meet together, are risking imprisonment, torture, and execution. And some of them travel for hours in very primitive modes of transportation just to meet with the church. Prayerfully consider, just between you and the Lord, if you might need to sacrifice your fear or drive a bit longer for the privilege of meeting with His people. Jesus didn’t promise us a bed of roses. He promised us a cross. It’s time to pick it up and carry it. This is what we signed on for.)

Go to my Searching for a new church? tab in the blue menu bar at the top of this page. Start your search for a church by reading all of the resources under What to look for in a church including all of the links contained in those resources.

When you’re finished with that, go back to the top of that page and use the search engines to find a good, solid church in your area. Personally, I would recommend starting with the Founders search engine first, then the The Master’s Seminary search engine, then the others.

When you’ve found a church, start visiting it. Set up an appointment with the pastor to ask any questions you might have. Prayerfully consider whether or not this church is a fit for you – a place where you can learn, grow, and serve. If it is, join it. If not, go back to the search engines and find another church to start visiting.

Helpful hint: You’re not going to find a perfect church. Churches are made up of imperfect saints who still sin and make mistakes. Find the best one you can and help make it better.

3.
Get plugged in.

Don’t just sneak in to the back of the sanctuary just as the Sunday morning worship service is starting and sneak back out during the final prayer.

Get invested in the life of your new church. Find a Sunday school / Bible study / small group class to join. Go to midweek services or prayer meeting. Go to fellowships and special events. Get to know people. Find a place to serve.

Be faithful in your attendance. Don’t just go only when you feel like it. Be there at least every Sunday morning unless you’re unavoidably detained. If you wanted to learn chemistry or math or underwater basket weaving, you’d show up for class, right? Well, if you want to learn and grow as a Christian, you’ve got to show up for church.

And if you ever have any questions, never be afraid to ask your pastor, elders, or teachers.

4.
Study up / Pray up

Bible study and prayer are crucial for the Christian. They help you grow, and they foster sweet fellowship with the Lord. Don’t let them loom as some big, scary, new thing that you don’t know how to do. They’re both very simple.

Prayer is simply talking to God. Tell Him what’s on your heart. Ask Him to help you and provide for you. Ask Him to help others. Thank Him for all He’s done for you. Confess your sins to Him and ask Him to forgive you. You might find some of my articles on prayer or my Bible study on prayer to be helpful.

Studying your Bible isn’t as hard as it sounds, either. Start by making sure you have a good translation. Then, pick a book of the Bible. Start at chapter 1, verse 1, and make your way through the book, verse by verse until you get to the end. Then start over again with another book. A few tips:

  • Many Christians find that about a chapter a day is a good amount to study, but take your time and study the amount of Scripture that seems to be a fit for you.
  • You might want to have a notebook and pen handy for jotting down any notes or thoughts that occur to you about the text as you’re studying.
  • If you’re new to studying the Bible, I would recommend starting by reading one (or maybe all four) of the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John – the first four books of the New Testament). Genesis is also a good book to read as you’re getting your bearings in Bible study.
  • If you need help studying your Bible, click the Bible Studies tab in the blue menu bar at the top of this page. There are lots of resources to help you learn how to study the Bible, plus all the Bible studies I’ve written. My studies are designed to help you learn how to study the Bible in a “learn by doing” sort of way. Maybe you’d like to work through one of them until you get the hang of studying your Bible on your own.

In addition to Bible study and prayer, I would suggest reading the articles in my Basic Training series. This is sort of a “Christianity 101” series of articles. If you’re new to Christianity and the church, this should help explain some of the things we do, why we do them, and the proper biblical way they should be done.

I would also recommend that women read my Rock Your Role series of articles. This series explains what the Bible says about the role of women in the church.

Welcome to the family, and may God richly bless you as you seek to grow in Him.


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Mailbag

The Mailbag: Potpourri (Unfollowing iffy teachers, Teacher training, Church search & 9Marks, Charitable giving, SBC21, AWFS transcripts)

Welcome to another “potpourri” edition of The Mailbag, where I give short(er) answers to several questions rather than a long answer to one question.

I like to take the opportunity in these potpourri editions to let new readers know about my comments/e-mail/messages policy. I’m not able to respond individually to most e-mails and messages, so here are some helpful hints for getting your questions answered more quickly. Remember, the search bar (at the very bottom of each page) can be a helpful tool!

Or maybe I answered your question already? Check out my article The Mailbag: Top 10 FAQs to see if your question has been answered and to get some helpful resources.


I’m currently listening to a [Bible study] podcast. I have enjoyed it so far because after I read, I’m able to hear a different perspective, maybe the speaker goes over something I didn’t catch, or maybe the speaker says something that isn’t how I interpreted the text. I always go back to the Scripture and compare when her opinion and mine differ to see what the scripture says. There’s now been two issues that I just believe she is plan wrong about. At what point would you cut ties? My husband has told he wants me to really ponder if the teacher is trustworthy if she adds to Scripture or changes God’s intent. I’m all for testing everything I read/listen to against Scripture, but at what point would you consider not following a teacher due to misleading or just plain wrong information?

At the point at which my (doctrinally sound) husband expressed concern, if I hadn’t already unfollowed her on my own.

Ladies- if you have a godly, doctrinally sound husband who knows his Bible, be thankful (as I’m sure the reader who sent in this question is). What a wonderful gift God has given you! He’s able to give you a biblical perspective on things you might not have thought about before, he can give you godly counsel on those things, and he cares about your spiritual life and growth in holiness.

If you have a husband like that and he’s saying, “I don’t think you should listen to that podcast, read that author, etc.,” I would urge you to give serious thought to what he’s saying. I would also recommend heeding his leadership and unfollowing that person, even if you don’t totally agree with him. It’s very likely that one day, you’ll look back at that author or podcaster and see your husband’s concerns more clearly, and be glad you took his advice. And even if you don’t, or even if he turns out to be wrong, you’re still demonstrating respect for, and submission to his spiritual leadership – and that’s worth way more to your marriage and to being a godly wife than any podcast, book, YouTube channel or anything else.

If you’re in a position in which you’re having to decide for yourself whether or not to continue following a certain “iffy” teacher, here’s what I’d recommend:

  • Make sure the “red flags” you’re seeing are actually biblical issues (as this reader’s red flags were), not personal preferences. You may not like that a pastor likes hymns instead of more contemporary (doctrinally sound) worship music or that a (doctrinally sound) female teacher has really short hair, but that’s personal taste, not being unbiblical.
  • Be sure you understand and can rightly handle Scripture well enough to make sure it’s the teacher who’s the one in error, not you.
  • Make certain that what you’re hearing as a red flag wasn’t just a “one and done” instance of the teacher accidentally misspeaking, flubbing her words, or not being as clear as she could have been.
  • If you’re seeing red flags and you’re a new Christian or you know yourself well enough to know you could be easily swayed by this teacher into believing something wrong, stop following her.
  • Consider that for every red flag you’re seeing, there could be another red flag that your’e not recognizing or that this teacher hasn’t revealed yet.
  • If you’re a mature Christian who’s following this teacher for biblical instruction and you’re increasingly seeing red flags, that’s God’s way of telling you -through what you know from His Word- that you don’t need to be receiving teaching from this person.
  • If you don’t want to follow or are uncomfortable following a certain teacher, that doesn’t require you to make any sort of public declaration that others shouldn’t follow her or that she is a false teacher. You can simply make the quiet, personal decision to stop following her.
  • Remember, there’s no law that says you have to follow any particular teacher, or any teachers at all for that matter. Christians have been doing just fine for 2000 years simply being taught by their own pastor, elders, and teachers at church.

While reading your article, McBible Study and the Famine of God’s Word, I finally realized my struggle with leading the women’s study is because I haven’t been trained to teach. Unfortunately, there aren’t any strong teachers in my church – a big problem. Do you have any suggestions or recommendations for learning how to learn? Online, books, etc.?

The first thing I would recommend is that you explain your dilemma to your pastor and ask him to train you (and others in your church – One on one meetings between a pastor and a woman are not a good idea. Plus, it sounds like a lot of people in your church need to be trained.) to teach.

If your pastor is not a “strong teacher” or is incapable of training others to teach, you probably need to start looking for a new church. One of the biblical qualifications for pastors is that they be “able to teach” (1 Timothy 3:2) and be “able to give instruction in sound doctrine” (Titus 1:9). Paul exhorted Pastor Timothy: “what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.” Pastors ought to be able to teach others to teach.

As your pastor is training you, you may wish to work through some of my Bible studies, or use them as studies for your women’s class. My studies are designed to teach women how to study or teach straight from the text of Scripture in a “learn by doing” sort of way. Once you get a feel for the kinds of things you should be seeing in the text and questions you should be asking of the text, you can take off those “training wheels” and fly solo.


Are you suggesting that the churches listed at the search engines at your Searching for a new church? resource are the only churches that are teaching biblically?

Not at all. That resource is not, nor is it meant to be, a comprehensive list of every doctrinally sound church on planet Earth. That would be impossible. I’m sure there are thousands of other perfectly doctrinally sound churches out there (and if you are personally connected to any others, please let me know.) That resource is merely a suggestions of some of the doctrinally sound churches in various areas of the world that Christians can check out if they’re looking for one to join.

I would like clarification on 9Marks website.

It’s a little hard to “clarify” when I’m not sure what the question is. :0) I can only infer that, like others, you’ve noticed Mark Dever and a few other pastors/teachers in that circle who, over the past few years, seem to have occasionally dipped a toe into the social justice waters.

I added the 9Marks “church search” to my list of church search engines several years ago before that became an issue. I believe that the majority of churches that are listed at the 9Marks site probably also applied to be listed before this became an issue or are not aware that it is currently an issue.

So far, as far as I know, Mark Dever and 9Marks haven’t turned rabidly woke, given a full-throated endorsement of Critical Race Theory, spoken out in favor of clear progressivism or liberalism, etc. I’ll continue to keep an eye on them, and if and when that happens, I’ll remove the 9Marks church search. But right now, they’re still at the stage of being decent brothers in Christ who every once in a while make an iffy statement or two. The churches on the 9Marks list aren’t required to agree or align with everything Mark Dever and 9Marks say, and, at the moment, I believe that the majority of the churches on that list are doctrinally sound.

If you have misgivings about 9Marks, by all means, skip that church search engine and use the others I have listed. And, as the disclaimer on that page says: “Please use this list only as a suggestion of churches to check out using biblical wisdom and discernment.” You are responsible for personally vetting any church you choose to visit or join.


Do you know of, and/or recommend, any particular causes or charities that are… well, Godly (moral and ethical)? There are so many charities that don’t use their donated funds for their advertised causes (you know, instead the donations go to support the CEO’s million dollar mansion and such). I want to give, I just don’t know to whom or what.

The first place you should be giving is to the offerings of your local church – to support your pastor and staff, pay the bills, contribute to the upkeep of the church, support missionaries, etc. This is part of being a faithful church member.

If you still have money left over after that, ask your pastor about the missionaries and other Christian organizations (ex: a local crisis pregnancy center, orphanages, church plants, etc.) your church supports financially, and give more money directly to these organizations. You should follow your pastor’s leadership and work hand in hand with your church in supporting these entities.

And if you still have money left over after that, would you adopt me? :0) Just kidding. If you follow any doctrinally sound podcasts, pastors, teachers, or authors, find out which parachurch organizations they support. For example, two of the ministries I follow are Grace to You and Wretched. I would love to be able to support The Master’s Academy International, which trains indigenous pastors all over the world to minister in their context. One of Wretched’s sponsors I would contribute to is Pre-Born, a pro-life ministry that emphasizes sharing the gospel.

(And just FYI: I do not recommend Samaritan’s Purse / Operation Christmas Child.)

May God bless your generosity.


Will there be a 2021 version of the Arrive Prepared resource for this year’s SBC Annual Meeting?

I thought about that a couple of weeks ago, but to be perfectly transparent I am so disillusioned with and depressed by the state of the Southern Baptist Convention at the national level right now that I just don’t have the heart for it.

Last year, I was in more of a “Let’s charge into hell with a water pistol and DO this thing!” frame of mind. This year, that has been replaced by a heaviness of spirit. Though there are many individual (and autonomous – for those not in the know, all SBC churches are autonomous) doctrinally sound SBC churches out there, including my own (and I’m so thankful for all of them), I just don’t have any reason to believe that anything is going to change at the national level. I think it’s just going to continue to get worse – more false teachers, more false doctrine, more egalitarianism, more Critical Race Theory, more liberalism, more biblical ignorance, more tolerance for sin, more 11th Commandment, more erosion of the authority and sufficiency of Scripture, and continued disdain for those of us in the Calvinist ghetto of the SBC.

I have never in my life more fervently hoped to be proved wrong, and I completely support my doctrinally sound brothers and sisters who are still standing in the flames brandishing their water pistols. But I’m shell shocked. That’s honestly just where I am right now.

In my estimation, about 85% of the information in the “Arrive Prepared” article is still accurate and relevant for this year’s annual meeting. Since the 2020 annual meeting was canceled due to COVID, my thinking is most of the same issues will be addressed this year, particularly abuse and Critical Race Theory / Resolution 9 (if you haven’t yet checked out the CRT video series I posted a few weeks ago, that would be a great resource).

I imagine issues surrounding COVID and the vaccine, the Equality Act, and persecution of the Western church will also be brought up. I hope the issues with NAMB (the North American Mission Board), including their church plants that have employed female “pastors” and co-“pastors,” will be biblically addressed, but my guess would be that that issue will be tabled or sent to committee or buried under procedural regulations and nothing will really be done about it clearly and publicly.

If you want to keep up on the issues, I would suggest following the people and organizations listed at the end of that article.

Sorry to sound like a Debbie Downer. I promise I’ll continue to think and pray about it, and if the Lord changes my mind, I’ll write a piece on it.


Could you please provide transcripts for each episode of A Word Fitly Spoken?

No, but we can come really close in two ways:

  1. Amy has started uploading our episodes (audio only) to our YouTube channel. There’s a “CC” button at the bottom of each YouTube video that allows you to turn on captions. (She has posted several of our past episodes as well.)
  2. All of our episodes are scripted, and we stick pretty closely to the script. Going forward, I’ll be posting the link to the Google Doc of our script for each episode in the show notes of that episode. Many of our earlier episodes have been scripted from one of Amy’s or my blog articles, and if you’ll look in the show notes for that episode, you’ll find the link for that article.

If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Christmas, Church

Give a Church for Christmas

This Christmas season, I’d like to offer you an opportunity to help me give our brothers and sisters in Christ a gift – a gift that won’t cost you a dime.

If you’ve followed me for a while, you know I’m passionate about helping people find doctrinally sound churches to join. I’ve recently been updating my list of Reader Recommended Churches, but we can always use more recommendations for doctrinally sound churches, especially in the states that don’t have very many recommendations and in countries outside the United States. I’ve made the list, you check it twice. If recommendations are naught, be nice and make one! :0)

Please read this part…

Please read the guidelines here for submitting a church for consideration. If you have a personal connection to a solid church that’s not on the list, or if you have a recommendation for a doctrinally sound church search engine or church planting organization that’s not listed here, comment below with:

🎄The full, correctly spelled name of the church (or church search engine / planting org.)
🎄The city and state, or city and country it’s located in
🎄The church’s (or church search engine’s / planting org’s.) website. Churches and search engines / planting orgs. submitted without a website will not be considered.

Folks, I truly appreciate your recommendations, but PLEASE click the links above to see if your church or church search engine is already on the list. About a third of the recommendations I’ve received so far are already on the list, and it takes time to weed those out.

How many churches can we add to the list? Let’s add a bunch and make it a merry Christmas for our brothers and sisters who are searching for a new church! Thanks for your help!

(Just a reminder – as it says above the comment box, I handle all comments manually, so your comment will not appear immediately. When I add (or decline to add) your church to the list, I’ll post your comment.)

Church, Mailbag

The Mailbag: How can I tell if a church is doctrinally sound?

Originally published March 11, 2019

 

How do I know if a church is doctrinally sound? Do I base it off their statement of faith?

This is such a great question in a day when you can’t really trust that a building with the word “church” on the sign out front actually teaches and practices sound doctrine.

Because it would be impossible to cover every single aspect of doctrine that churches need to handle biblically, and because many of my readers are new to some of the deeper points of theology, what I want to do is give you some “signposts” to look for as you’re checking out a new church that will help indicate whether or not that particular church is likely to be one that handles those harder to understand points of theology in a doctrinally sound way.

First, check out these resources (and others) under my Searching for a new church? tab in the blue menu bar at the top of this page. These should be helpful if you’re unfamiliar with the biblical issues that a church should be handling correctly:

Looking for a Church Home? by Tim Challies

Church shopping? 35 Key Questions to Ask the Church at Berean Research

4 Questions to Ask Before Joining a Church by Brian Croft

How Can I Find a Good Church? 

Finding a New Church: Starting from Scratch

Six Questions for a Potential Church

If you are a brand new Christian and you aren’t sure what the answers to the questions in these articles should be, ask the person who led you to Christ, a pastor you know to be biblically trustworthy, or a friend who’s a mature Christian to help. You can also use the search bar at the top of this page to see if I’ve addressed your question. And, make liberal use of Got Questions? It’s a wonderful website that gives simple, biblical answers to all kinds of questions about the Bible, church, theology and other issues.

A church’s stance on many of these theological issues can be found in their statement of faith, which most churches post on their websites (often under the heading “What We Believe,” “Doctrinal Distinctives,” or something similar). While you’re on the church website, here are some other things to look for that can give you a fuller picture of whether or not the church is likely to be doctrinally sound.

⛪ Be wary of a church with no statement of faith on their website at all, and be cautious if they have a very simplistic statement of faith with few or no Bible verses cited to support it. Generally speaking, in my experience, the longer and more detailed a statement of faith is, and the more Scripture references it has, the more likely it is to be a doctrinally sound church. (Here and here are some typical, good statements of faith, and this one is particularly detailed.)

⛪ A few things to look for in the statement of faith:

•The Trinity: You’re looking for language along the lines of, “We believe in one God in three persons.” If you see three “modes” or three “manifestations,” that’s the language of modalism, and it is not a doctrinally sound church.

•Some churches have a section of their statement of faith on spiritual gifts or the Holy Spirit and include wording indicating whether they are a continuationist (ex: “we believe all the spiritual gifts are in operation in the church today”) or cessationist (ex: “we believe supernatural gifts such as healing and tongues have ceased”) church. Generally speaking, a church is more likely to be doctrinally sound if it holds the cessationist view. (No, I am not saying every continuationist church is heretical. I’m strictly talking probabilities here.) If there is anything in the statement of faith that indicates that a Believer will or must speak in tongues in order to be saved or as a result of salvation, or that the “baptism of the Holy Spirit” occurs separately from salvation, it is not a doctrinally sound church.

•Some churches intentionally indicate that they are complementarian in the “Marriage and Family” or “Church Leadership” section of their statement of faith by stating that the husband leads the family and the wife submits to her husband, or by explaining that the roles of pastor and elder are limited to men. It’s usually a good sign when a church makes a point of saying these things.

⛪ If you find the pastor’s name listed here, it’s not a doctrinally sound church.

⛪ If a church subscribes to a creed/confession/catechism you know to be biblical (ex: 1689 London Baptist, Westminster, Heidelberg, etc.) there’s a better chance they’re a doctrinally sound church. 

⛪ Some churches have a page on their website where they recommend books, blogs, and other resources. If they’re recommending doctrinally sound materials by trustworthy authors and teachers (click here for a few), that can be a good sign.

If they have a women’s ministry page, check out who’s speaking at the next conference they’re going to and who is the author of the Bible study materials they use.

⛪ Check the staff page and make sure they don’t have women serving as pastors/elders. (Be aware that some churches are now using titles like “Coach,” “Director,” “Facilitator,” etc. to disguise the fact that women are serving in unbiblical positions of leadership. Regardless of the way the position title is worded, women are not to serve in pastoral or elder offices or in any position in which they will be teaching or exercising authority over men.)

⛪ Check the sermon archives for a couple of things: 1) to see if they invite women or false teachers as guest preachers, and 2) does the pastor preach mainly expositorily or topically?

Keep in mind, however, that there are lots of churches out there who look perfectly doctrinally sound “on paper” but are not practicing what their website preaches. Take a look at these statements of faith for example: Lakewood (Joel Osteen), North Point (Andy Stanley), and Bethel (New Apostolic Reformation). (You can find out more about these churches/pastors here.) On the surface, and especially to those newly saved or not very familiar with the Bible, these statements of faith look fairly decent (although…notice that no Scriptures* are listed, and they are short and/or somewhat vague), but the practices of these churches may be surprising in comparison. *(Update: Since I originally wrote this article about a year ago, Lakewood has actually beefed up their statement of faith with a few Scripture references.)

Because churches’ practices and teachings often differ – sometimes significantly – from what you see in their statement of faith, you’ll have to dig deeper in order to get a better feel for the church’s doctrine. If the website posts the audio or video of their worship services, listen to several sermons. Make an appointment to go in and talk to the pastor about what the church teaches and ask any questions you might have. And visit the church for a while before joining to see how things actually go. The most a church website can do is help you weed out the churches that are definitely bad. The website cannot tell you that a church is definitely good.

If you’re looking for a new church but you aren’t sure where to start, check the church search engines and churches recommended by my readers at the Searching for a new church? tab in the blue menu bar at the top of this page.


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.