How To Find a Church
My wife and I have struggled to find common ground in our marriage on a number of things. Finances, child-rearing philosophy, schooling preferences, work-life balance, and how much to pay a babysitter have all been sources of tension at points in our ten years of matrimony. By God’s grace, we have made tremendous strides in those areas! But there is one area of our decade together that has never been a source of contention—church.
I realize our situation is somewhat unique. Many people struggle to find a church when they make a cross-country move, transition into college, or leave an unhealthy church. Some of us are confused and are not sure where we should even start in our search for a church home. What’s more, every situation is unique. Some areas can be described as church deserts, where there is simply a scarcity of gospel-centered, biblically minded churches. Others are saturated with healthy churches, causing us to suffer from decision paralysis with so many good options.
The First Question to Ask of a Church
So, where should we start in our search for a church?
In our culture, it’s easy to view church as a consumer product. We tend to begin our church search with certain questions in mind—questions that center around our preferences and tastes. Does this church sing the songs I like? Does this church have a good children’s program? Does this church make me feel inspired? Does this church talk about cultural and political issues I’m passionate about?
However, when searching for a church home, there are more important questions to ask that go beyond personal preferences. The first question we must ask is, “Does this church preach the gospel clearly?” In other words, “Does Jesus’s person, life, death, resurrection, ascension, and second coming take center stage in this sermon, or does something else?”
This should be our first question when we visit a church because, after all, this is how Jesus preached and taught. After Jesus was resurrected, he approached two disciples who were leaving Jerusalem on their way to Emmaus. As they made their journey, Jesus opened the Scriptures to them, “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27).
Jesus could have taught these two disciples many things. He could have given them insight on how to alleviate poverty. He could have taught them about the best economic policy to pursue or which political philosophy to promote. He could have given them ten helpful tips on how to have a healthy thought life, or seven ways to alleviate anxiety. While these are important things to think about and consider, Jesus demonstrated to these disciples that something else was much more important. He opened the Scriptures and showed them the things concerning himself. He showed them he was the promised Savior of the world who came to die for sinners. That is the gospel message our souls need, week in and week out.
In fact, when you scan through the earliest sermons in the book of Acts, they follow Jesus’s teaching pattern as well. In Acts 2, following the coming of the Holy Spirit, Peter opens with the words of the prophet Joel, “And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh” (Acts 2:17; cf. Joel 2:28–32). Peter then walks his hearers through a clear and explicit explanation about how Jesus fulfilled this ancient promise of God. He tells his Jerusalem audience, “This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing” (Acts 2:32–33).
Make Sure the Gospel Takes Center Stage
Oftentimes, in our search for relevant and relatable Bible teaching, we can lose sight of what Jesus and the earliest preachers made of central importance, namely, Jesus himself. Because of this, it’s not uncommon to hear sermons where we take center stage instead of Christ. Sermons can flip the mighty and saving acts of God into moral stories about what we should do.
As you seek out a new church to call home, start here. Make sure the clear teaching of the gospel takes center stage and keep the words of the apostle Paul in mind:
Now I remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you … For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15.1-5a).