Welcome back to my faith-journey tracking page. This month’s blog post was inspired by the recent self-evaluation I had as I sought a new church away from home.
Recently, I moved to a new country for my studies and one of the first things I had to do was find out where I’d worship. As I considered one church versus the other, I found that this was a learning experience as to my needs as a Christian and my perceptions of what worship services should be for me.
As I did an assessment of the options presented to me, I found that I looked for some four main features in a church.
1. I can’t even pretend and claim I went far and wide to look for the most “spiritual place”. I’m practical. So, of course, I first considered churches depending on who recommended it and how. Especially if it’s a church I’ve never heard of before. In that instance, the best advert a church can have is its members. Now I’m not saying you should judge the whole congregation by one or two members. But, it remains that when it comes to a church you know nothing about, what determines if you cross the threshold into that place of worship or not is the member who invites you and what impression they give you of their church. Once you get in you can make a decision for yourself, but you wouldn’t even enter without them doing something right. Even if that something is just piquing your curiosity. Other pragmatic factors include “how far is it?” Would I be able to attend regularly? How large? Will I get lost in the crowd or can I actually fellowship? How is the service program set up? Is it comprehensive for me? That is will the program have me feeling like we covered all bases in terms of fellowship or is the program sketchy, something I could have done at home on my own?
2- Next, I looked for if the Church had some guidelines, a charter, a welcome pack that explains to visitors how it was established? Who it is accountable to? On what foundations are the ministry is founded etc. If they don’t have this, I would research the establishment and pastor myself. Afterall, if you do background checks on someone babysitting your kid, why not research the person you are about to give yourself over to for spiritual guidance?
3- Perhaps most importantly, I looked at the messages the church chooses to focus on. If the sermons are usually inclined to the benefits fo belonging to God as opposed to the requirements of those who seek to be called his own and how we can grow more like his son then I become wary. I also look at how the message is passed? Do I learn new scripture, do I come away feeling like my knowledge of the Word grew? Or do you feel like I could have stayed at home and read a self-help book?
4- I likewise looked at how does the church is structured. You’d be surprised what the seating layout at a church would reveal. Look around and take note, do people from all walks of life mix? Aside from the possible areas reserved for the choir, are there seemingly no-go areas? Is there some sort of position of prestige for those supposed more spiritual, better off economically? Speaking of which, do you note where the children are? Are they given a chance to mix, a part of the service? How does the church share the word to the children? And if (like me) you’re in a society with some social divide; class, linguistic, racial etc. does the church address social justice issues? If the church doesn’t then that would be problematic for me. After all, we aren’t existing in a vacuum
5- Finally, as I assessed churches I forced myself to remember that the church is a hospital for the spiritually sick and I shouldn’t expect it to be perfect. No one here is perfect, and as an institution made up of flawed people, the establishment will have its flaws. It should matter more that these flaws are recognized and hopefully openly addressed to be worked on as one body in Christ.
So what do you look for in a church? What attracts you to a new fellowship or turns you away? What are you deal breakers? (Consistent prosperity preaching and blatant sexism are my dealbreakers by the way)
Drop a comment below and let me know what you think!