How to find a good church

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Click here for a good checklist.  I should have used a checklist like this 10 years ago when we were switching churches.  At the time I was a little naive about such things and didn’t think there was much of a difference between Protestant denominations. 

Things have worked out fine, because the church has generally become more orthodox over the years. 

21 thoughts on “How to find a good church”

  1. Gah. Good checklist for membership in a specific brand of fundamentalism, maybe. Good list of things to use to keep “certain” people out, perhaps. Good list of things to concentrate on to the detriment of the Gospel itself, for sure.

    Here’s a better list:

    1. Jesus Christ is Lord.

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  2. Here’s a better list:

    1. Jesus Christ is Lord.>

    How does He become Lord is the next question and exactly what does it mean to make Him Lord of our lives?

    I’m learning as I live. Neil, your list sounds good to me.

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  3. “Here’s a better list:

    1. Jesus Christ is Lord.”

    Obviously, I can find no fault with what is on your “list,” E.R. It’s what is missing that is odd to me. I remember you mentioning earlier the struggles that you deal with each day (If you wish to better illustrate, please do…this is not meant to be speaking for you, by any means) and how that interpretive dance video Neil posted was an excellent depiction of many of our struggles. To me, this speaks well beyond just “Jesus Christ is Lord.” If it is all so simple, then where do the struggles come from? What are we struggling against as Christians who accept Jesus is Lord?

    As someone who has recently had to search for a solid church home, I can tell you many churches who claim Jesus as Lord do not offer enough the key points that make that true. You seem to scoff at fundamentals, but Jesus Himself preached fundamentals…which includes sin, penalty for sin, and principles on how to live our lives. So, yes, Jesus is Lord, but the churches we seek should be practicing the fundamentals that our Lord taught. Neil’s (or whomevers) list (again, not to be speaking for anyone…) is not about exclusion or fundie rubbish, IMHO. It’s questions that seek out proof that a church that claims “Jesus Christ is Lord,” really practices that sentiment. And, yes, that sentiment includes love, forgiveness, hope, peace, and generosity…wouldn’t want you to think that this “fundie” only believes in the so-called “negative” aspects of Christianity.

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  4. “Jesus is Lord,” sounds so ignorantly fundamentalistic, and reductionistic. You cannot reduce sound doctrine to a simple one-liner. Jesus wasn’t into one-liners. He would preach for days the great truths of God, and to reduce them is to reduce Him.

    Hopefully, we will all examine where we do attend in light of the list to see how we are doing. It’s a good list.

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  5. Timothy again is coming dangerously close to addressing me directly. Timothy’s cultlike doctrine is his own. Timothy thinks he has handed me over to Satan. What a joke. Timothy is a caricature.

    As far as “Jesus Christ is Lord” not being “enough” — tell it to the first believrers. Y’all are perpetuating a RELIGION. Y’all can have it.

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  6. This post was about what a believer should ask the pastor when considering visiting the church when in the position of looking for a new church. It is a list a list of guidelines for a mature believer to use in the search process, not a list of things “barring” someone from attending the church.

    Not all churches professing to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ actually do. Not all churches actually believe the Bible other than a history book and/or one filled with teachings of good morality. Not all teach the meat for the Gospel, but the feel good, health and weath prosperity mess. Those “Christian” churches are the ones not worth a Christian wasteing his time upon.

    “And I stand with my puny fist up, and shaking it in God’s face, DEMANDING that God explain God’s self!” ER
    It is easy to find what the joke is, and it is not Timothy.

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  7. BTW- Neil, great post. When I was looking for a church a few years ago, I had no idea of how to go about it. I just looked at the times that the service started. (I like to sleep in. 🙂 )I didn’t realize that outside of the new members’ class that I could, and should, interview the pastor. The search takes more effort and time (and prayer) than just enjoying the sermon and that the people are really nice.

    May I print the list and give it to my pastor to use? We have a brochure for visitors who are looking for a church that has some guidelines on it as well. It would be good for our chruch to address these issues. Something like this, if used by the church of itself, would be a good evaulation tool to see if we’re accomplishing what God has called us to do and be.

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  8. “This post was about what a believer should ask the pastor when considering visiting the church when in the position of looking for a new church. It is a list a list of guidelines for a mature believer to use in the search process, not a list of things “barring” someone from attending the church.

    Not all churches professing to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ actually do. Not all churches actually believe the Bible other than a history book and/or one filled with teachings of good morality. Not all teach the meat for the Gospel, but the feel good, health and weath prosperity mess. Those “Christian” churches are the ones not worth a Christian wasteing his time upon.”

    Kristine, that was the point I was trying to make. The list is helpful to find if the church is giving you what you need. I would like to think that Christians would want a church that promotes spiritual growth, which is why a list like that is helpful. There’s an obvious hostility amongst some, and it’s a shame because I think it’s causing people to miss the point of some of these posts. I, personally, saw nothing negative about trying to help people find a good church…but maybe I’m just crazy.

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  9. PJ, What’s that old cliche about great minds?
    Oh, and I don’t think you’re crazy… of course! 🙂
    I love being in a church that makes me work in understanding more of our faith. I like that the study drives us to prayer, repentance, and a hunger for a more true worship, a hunger for learning even more about our Lord. It saddens me that so many are missing this richness, that they are only getting mush… if that. It is vital to one’s spiritual growth to find a church that responds to those questions as stated in the list. There’s no replacement for sound doctrine preached and practiced in the church except Christ Himself.

    That list has some really fundamental questions. I like that answers are provided as well. Some of these guys (and gals) are smooth talkers and are all about filling pews, not the heart- a numbers game.

    What’s humbling is rewording some of the questions and asking them to yourself.

    I have no idea how this post could be taken negatively. Some things that are written puzzle me greatly. I get very tired of the hostility, too. This time I wrote something in response to the nastiness I saw emerging, trying to stop it. It was meant as a shot across the bow. I’m sorry if the zinger I sent actually added to the hostility.

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  10. I confess that I have a grudge against Timothy. He owes me a apology not for “handing” me “over to Satan” — which is a hoot — but because he lost his cool and deliberately violated my privacy by revealing my identity on his blog, and on my own. Maybe I’ll let go of that resentment someday. But not yet. I will, however, trade it for an apology.

    Re: Kristine. The really funny thing to me is that you are so alarmed by my puny-fist rant! If you’ve never struggled, you should be glad — but I’d recommend that you give a looksee, yourself, to that which you’ve committed. Because Selves do not go down easily. See Jacob. See Moses. See Paul.

    And so, yet again, in CHRISTIAN LIBERTY, acknowledging MY SIN, and MY STRUGGLES, I DECLARE that “I stand with my puny fist up, and shaking it in God’s face, DEMANDING that God explain God’s self!”

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  11. ER- I’m gonna level with you here. You need to fix your personal problems with Timothy yourself and not bring them to someone else’s blog. That’s not right. Maybe you ought to see if you have sinned against Timothy your own self. Usually where there is one finger pointing at someone else, there are three pointing back at you.

    I don’t blame him for not responding to you from the malice I have seen here. I realize that you have a list of wrongs against him. He has some major concerns about you as well. (I’ve been to your and his sites. I have also read where he’s appologised to you for some things, but have yet to see you truely reciprocate.) At this point I don’t want to hear them again. At this point, you posting them here would be gossip and the only purpose being to discredit him. This issue is between the two of you, not us.

    Ask God if there is any merit at all in what Timothy wrote, in whom you were once a friend. Being turned over to Satan is a more serious thing than revealing your identity. This issue is between you and Timothy, and you and God, not us.

    As for your quote, what alarms me is the blasphemy in it. It’s not that you’re asking God why some things happen the way they do, all of us do that. It’s your attitude towards God in doing it that has so much venom and hatred. It’s not only seen in this one quote, but in many other things you have written. It shows a hardening heart. That’s what is alarming. Do you realize that this is the way a lot of it reads?

    This is not an attack in any way, but sincere concern for your spiritual state. This is based on observations of what you have written here recently. Use this note as a chance to examine your own heart- a wake up call. You don’t owe it to Timothy or yourself per se, but predominantly to Jesus Christ in whom you claim has rescued you, to do so. The outcome of this is none of our concern at this point, but between you and Timothy, and you and Jesus Christ.

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  12. The Bible is clear, ER, that the human egos of its greatest heroes had a hard time consistently submitting to God’s will. That is not, however, an excuse for indulging one’s own ego. With all due respect, your repeated, emphatic demand that God explain Himself strikes me as petulant.

    Have you not read Job? When God finally responded, He made it clear that He was under no obligation to answer the man’s questions. For four whole chapters (Job 38-41) God essentially asks the same question: “Who are you to question Me?”

    Thankfully, God in His love has answered the problem of pain with the cross of Christ. The cross doesn’t explain all the reasons why there is death and disease and chaos in the world, but with the cross God makes clear that He has not forsaken us in this world.

    The cross answers the depth to which God hates sin, and the depth to which God loves us. Where is God when we are in pain? Look to the cross.

    I do not think many of us can seriously contemplate the crucified God Incarnate and rant in defiance. We can only worship in gratitude.

    To address the original topic of this thread, ER, I would agree that the essential quality of a mature Christian church is the recognition of Christ’s Lordship. How can you tell that a church recognizes that Jesus is Lord?

    Knowing that Jesus taught in Matthew 7 that not everyone who calls Him “Lord” will enter God’s kingdom, mere lip service to that truth is probably insufficient. No checklist is perfect, and I’m not sure I’d agree with every priority of the list to which Neil linked, but surely there are “symptoms” (for lack of a better word) that give a good indication of where a church’s heart really is.

    If you disagree and insist that “Jesus Christ is Lord” is the only criterion by which a church should be evaluated, just how do you know a particular congregation really believes it and practices it?

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  13. Matthew 7 “clearly” — as much as anything in the Bible is “clear” — refers to fakers, not to those who are mistaken, and we all are mistaken about something. Beyond that, it’s not up to me to judge whether “a particular congregation really believes and practices it.” How can I tell? 1., by profession of faith, 2., by their fruits.

    Kristine: Neil and Neil alone has the authority to tell me to cool it on this blog. But, no need: I am self-cooling now. I’m almost sure, tho, that if I keep showing up here and Timothy keeps showing up here, we’ll clash again. As for reconciliation, I am all ears; it is he who has closed up. One more thing: I laugh at the notion of Timothy “handing” me” “over to Satan” 1., because he is not an apostle, 2., he is not my pastor, which means 3., he has no ecclesiastical authority over me whatsoever. None. For him to have wrote that is farcical. Oh, well, there is one other thing, Kristine: Do you beat up but not “attack” everyone around you who confesses to holding a grudge? Real nice.

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  14. ER, your admission that you would evaluate a congregation that you would consider joining “by their fruits” is an excellent indication that a mere verbal profession that “Jesus is Lord” is — by itself — not a sufficiently prudent way to evaluate a church.

    You have a checklist: perhaps not as detailed as the one to which Neil linked, depending on what you mean by “fruits”, but you have a checklist nevertheless.

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  15. I’ll buy that. It depends on what one means by “Jesus Christ is Lord,” though, now don’t it? 🙂

    I didn’t originally say that profession was the only gauge. I said that “Jesus Christ is Lord” IS the mark of a good congregation — not just saying the words!

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  16. I just saw this, from PJ: “What are we struggling against as Christians who accept Jesus is Lord?”

    Ourselves. See Paul, etc. The depictions of the entrapments of evil in that video, to me, represented the girl’s self — not any outward force that could permanently separate her from the love and protection of Christ.

    And *that* is what Jesus saves us from, mostly!

    Our. Selves.

    Daily. Hourly. Minute by minute.

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  17. “Ourselves. See Paul, etc. The depictions of the entrapments of evil in that video, to me, represented the girl’s self — not any outward force that could permanently separate her from the love and protection of Christ.

    And *that* is what Jesus saves us from, mostly!

    Our. Selves.

    Daily. Hourly. Minute by minute.”

    First of all ER, sorry for delayed response…I stay pretty busy and am a “binge blogger,” so to speak. While my question was mostly rhetorical, I will say I agree that we mostly struggle against ourselves. I also agree that the video is a good depiction of this, in the sense that it’s her inner struggle against outward temptations (not seperating her from Jesus, just creating road blocks). The point was that just STATING Jesus is Lord, does not tell a church’s story…in the sense that you can accept Jesus is Lord and still struggle or fail to grow (as we are all, I’m assuming, trying to do). That’s where gaining a better understanding of His teachings is essential; and for many people those teachings come from their church homes. Now, after reading the exchange between you and Bubba, I think I understand your meaning better. A PRACTICE of Jesus is Lord should be all encompassing, it’s just hard to find if a church actually does practice that sentiment without asking a few questions. That is the main reason I think a personal checklist (of priorities and must-haves for the individual seeking) is essential for finding a church home…or to see the “fruits” of their profession of faith IMHO.

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