When Laura and I had just gotten married we moved to a new city and eagerly began a search for a church. (How we came back to LIFT Church is an incredible story of God’s faithfulness but that’s for another time…). Searching for a church to call home can be a daunting task – overwhelming even. Frustrating, to be sure. But the reward is worth it.
Often we tend to evaluate churches based on a theological bent, preaching style or musical preference. While these may be important I would suggest that they are often stylistic rather than essential. When we make them the primary consideration we may be missing an incredible opportunity and be missing an opportunity to be used for the Kingdom.
Here are 5 considerations of what to look for in a church:
Is it passionate about Jesus and his mission? Is Jesus unequivocally front and centre? Is the church intentionally and demonstrably introducing people to him for the first time/ The primary job of the church is the great commission. It must be. It will always be. If Jesus and his mission is front and centre everything else will come in line behind it.
Are there concrete opportunities for you to invest and carry ministry load? The primary job of leaders in the church is to equip the church to carry ministry – not to babysit your faith. Is the church effective at training, equipping and releasing leaders to continue the mission? I firmly believe that the best way to grow our faith is by testing it in practice.
The apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. – Ephesians 4:11-12
Does that church have a clear vision and a strong leadership structure for carrying that vision? The church was designed to function under Godly leadership that steers and guides it. Healthy churches have healthy leaders. Healthy leaders are leaders with a vision that is bigger than themselves.
4) Open to Creativity:
A resistance to change is a sure sign that tradition has taken priority over mission. Every healthy church I have observed is open to new ideas and changes to how things have always been done. Following Jesus is always scary and involves a sense of the unknown. However, healthy churches will be willing to try new ideas and throw out old ways of doing things.
Yes, theology matters. It matters profoundly. But theology is not just about a set of stated beliefs but about how those beliefs are manifested in the life of the church. More important than whether or not a church is a particular brand of Christian is whether or not their convictions are manifest in the way they live. A church’s theology must be comprehensive and robust. However, this must go beyond intellectual considerations to seeing those convictions expressed in the way the church lives.
A Final Thought:
My final suggestion is this: Finding a church will require commitment. Showing up once or even once a month is not enough. To properly integrate into a church it may take 6 months of intentional, consistent investment. Join teams, go for dinner, be proactive. If you put the work in there will be an abundance of fruit in your life and in the life of your church.