If you are in the process of choosing a church, or know someone who is, some sort of criteria for the decision-making process can be helpful. But there’s no reason to nit-pick until the cows come home. Every church has its flaws. If you find a church that’s perfect and then become a member it will, then, well, no longer be perfect.
So where do we start? In his book, Rescuing Ambition, Dave Harvey proposes four questions — to go along with follow-up questions — as a helpful guide. These questions are certainly not exhaustive nor comprehensive, but they do portray a healthy outline for what we should primarily look for.
Harvey suggests that we ask the following questions:
1) What are the church’s values and vision? What does the church teach? It is sound, biblical doctrine? Is the gospel at the heart of what the church is about? And how is this doctrine applied in the church’s values and vision? Does the church practice what it preaches?
2) How is the church pastored and governed? Is the governing structure of the church one that can be supported by the Scriptures? Are the leaders (elders and pastors) qualified to hold the positions they have, based on the biblical qualifications found in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9? Are the teaching, pastoring, and pastor care of the church done with faithful and gracious application rooted in the hope of the gospel and consistent with God’s Word?
3) Is there true fellowship among the people? Do you see evidence that membership in the church goes beyond attendance at meetings and acts of service? Though these are important, church membership should lead to developing relationships and deepening fellowship. Each person should find a spiritual family and home in the church (Heb. 10:24-25).
4) Does the gospel move the church toward those outside the church? A great evidence of a good church is that they see beyond themselves. We don’t turn inward and construct church cocoons. Nope, the Great Commission is real, it’s potent, and it moves us toward the lost.
Harvey concludes by saying, “Those are the four ways we ask visitors to evaluate our church. Notice that a lot of things we might think are important — size, worship style, socioeconomic makeup, denominational affiliations don’t make it on the high list.” Indeed, it’s not that those things aren’t necessarily important, but that they’re simply not preeminent.
So, find a church. Become a member. Serve and sacrifice … and get ready to experience a lot of joy and annoyance.
Hey, it’s a family after all, right?
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