Finding a local church home can be a stressful, anxiety-riddled exercise for many people, especially if the seeker doesn’t have any prior connections to a particular congregation. Which factors are important? What do you look for? How do you know when you’ve found the place? To help answer all of these questions, we've come up with a list of five factors to consider when looking for a home church.
Getting Started: Understanding The Importance Of Attending A Local Christian Church
Unfortunately, not everyone’s experience at a local church is positive. Many people find themselves visiting a church that is not following God’s blueprint for what a church should look like, or perhaps there were individuals who did not act very Christianly - the end result is that many times people are left with the question “Is joining a church even Biblical?” We can rest with ease knowing that although there are sometimes poor examples of local churches, the Bible not only supports the existence of local churches but even gives a clear pattern that there should be local churches.
Throughout the Bible, numerous references highlight the significance of the local church community. In Matthew 16:18, Jesus declares,
"I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (ESV). - Matthew 16:18
This statement reveals the divine establishment and enduring nature of the church. But funny enough, when we learn more about what the church Jesus was referring to ended up looking like in the New Testament, it ended up falling into two categories:
The “Church Universal” meaning the connection every Christian has to the body of Christ (Romans 12:4-5) when they become a member of the church
The “Church Local” meaning the individual congregations that meet in specific geographic areas (Romans 16:16 “All the churches of Christ greet you.”)
The reason we know that God wanted there to be local churches is because of the churches written to (or talked about) in the New Testament books of the Bible. A few easy examples of the local church format are the seven (7) churches in Asia found in the book of Revelation:
The church in Ephesus (Revelation 2:1-7)
The church in Smyrna (Revelation 2:8-11)
The church in Pergamum (Revelation 2:12-17)
The church in Thyatira (Revelation 2:18-29)
The church in Sardis (Revelation 3:1-6)
The church in Philadelphia (Revelation 3:7-13)
The church in Laodicea (Revelation 3:16)
Below, we will explore why God structured the church to exist in local congregations and how that factors into our spiritual lives.
First, The Local Church Helps Build Your Relationship With God Through Spiritual Growth, Support, And Accountability:
The local church plays a pivotal role in the spiritual growth of believers. Ephesians 4:11-13 explains that God has given leaders within the church to equip the saints for the work of ministry and for building up the body of Christ. The local church provides a nurturing environment where believers can receive biblical teaching, guidance, and encouragement, enabling them to mature in their faith.
Additionally, the local church serves as a source of support and accountability. Galatians 6:2 instructs believers to "bear one another's burdens" (ESV), highlighting the importance of community and mutual support within the church. Hebrews 10:24-25 further encourages believers to "consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some" (ESV). Regular fellowship and accountability within the local church community promote spiritual growth and provide a foundation of support during life's challenges.
Second, The Local Church Helps Provide Opportunities To Contribute To The Lord’s Work In Your Area:
Being part of a local church community is instrumental in fulfilling God's purposes for His people. The church serves as a visible representation of Christ's body on earth, embodying His love, grace, and truth. As believers come together, they can collectively worship and glorify God, expressing their devotion and gratitude. Acts 2:47 states, "praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved" (ESV), emphasizing the transformative power of a united and vibrant local church.
Furthermore, the local church serves as a platform for believers to use their talents & resources to serve others and make an impact in their local communities (and beyond!) The church becomes a beacon of hope, extending compassion and meeting the practical needs of those around them. In Ephesians 2:10, Paul states that believers are "created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them" (ESV). By actively participating in a local church, believers have the opportunity to fulfill God's call to serve and be a blessing to others.
So now that we know why the local church exists, let's answer the question, “How do I choose a church to attend?” Here are our 5 factors to consider when choosing a Biblically-sound church.
1. Motivations: What are the core motivations of the church?
Where does the heart of the church lie? Does it seem to be into selling merch? Being the “hip” church in town? When you leave, do you feel like you’ve been to a worship service or more like you’ve been to a concert? Finding a church with the right motivations to serve and worship God is key to choosing the right church home. If the church you’re visiting seems like it will not lead to tough questions and spiritual edification, you might consider the two standards below:
Faithfulness to the Gospel: Ensure that the church proclaims and upholds the central message of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ alone. Galatians 1:8 warns against any distortion of the Gospel, emphasizing the importance of holding fast to the true message.
Sound Doctrine: Assess whether the church teaches and affirms essential biblical doctrines such as the deity of Christ, salvation by grace through faith, and the authority of Scripture. Titus 2:1 emphasizes the importance of sound doctrine and its impact on the lives of believers.
2. Leadership: What is the church’s leadership like?
Next, what sort of impression do you get from the leaders of the congregation? Are these Godly people, people to whom you think you could look up and learn? There are numerous Biblical passages about what Godly leaders look like and how congregants should look up to them as examples to emulate (1 Timothy 3 and Hebrews 13 are a couple of examples). When you speak with congregational leaders, what sort of impressions are you left with? They should care about following God and leading the congregation.
"It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do." (NASV) - 1 Timothy 3:1
3. Engaged: Is the congregation working to evangelize the community?
One of the more common sentiments among those outside the Church today is how churches have become "clique-ish" and exclusive: they only care about those within the fold of their building. That’s not a healthy way of practicing ministry and is certainly not the behavior we see from Jesus. If you’re looking for a new church home, how does the church you’re visiting engage and seek to teach the gospel in the local community? Are they involved in works to help needy saints, or do they seem more interested in self-preservation and isolated efforts?
"And Jesus came and said to them, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.'" (ESV) - Matthew 28:18-20
4. Faithful: Do their worship & doctrine align with the Bible?
How does your potential church home worship? Do they worship and preach in a Biblically-accurate manner? As mentioned earlier, is the heart of the church for serving God, or is it for doling out the feel-goods? An important factor to consider in the search for a church home is how their worship and teachings align with the Bible. Do their worship services include Biblical elements such as prayer, singing hymns, reading Scripture, and teaching from an accurate interpretation and application of the Bible? Galatians and Titus (among others) emphasize the importance of sound doctrine and not distorting the Gospel. Biblically-sound worship, preaching, and religious education should be among the top factors you consider when deciding on a spiritual base.
5. Geography: Where is your church located?
Many may remember that old real estate mantra of “Location, location, location!” Well, the same holds true when selecting a regular place of worship as well. Location does matter in terms of a church’s proximity to your house and work. This ties in well with another consideration for a church: fellowship. Ideally, if you’re a regular attendee of a church, you also get along well with the other members of the congregation. Acts 2 provides an excellent example of the body of Christ functioning as it should, caring for each other and providing for the needs of others. This could be anything from partaking in a meal together to having a game night at someone’s house to bringing a meal to someone who is sick or has recently returned home from the hospital and is in recovery. Fellowship is vital to the health of a congregation, and the location of the church is an important factor to consider when contemplating how easy it would be to be in fellowship with other members.
To put all of our 5 factors together, use the checklist below as an easy reference point when you are visiting local congregations.
This list is not comprehensive but is a launch point for those looking for a place to worship and belong. As you embark on this journey to find a local church home, remember that your choice will significantly shape your spiritual growth, relationships, and contributions to church work. Keep in mind that no church will be perfect, as it is composed of imperfect individuals seeking to live out their faith together. Strive to find a congregation where the core motivations align with the Gospel, where the leadership exemplifies godly qualities, where the congregation is engaged in evangelizing the community, where worship and doctrine align with the Bible, and where fellowship is encouraged.
We invite you to join us for services if you live near the Norman, Oklahoma area. The Norman Church of Christ (1660 24th Ave SE Norman, OK 73071) meets on Sundays at 10:00 AM and 2:00 PM and Wednesdays at 7:30 PM. We hope to see you soon!