You Belong in this Family!
The moment you are saved you are welcomed into the family of God. This promise is given in the Bible, “To all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.” (John 1:12). This family is called the Church. It is important to know a few things about how to find a church in your community.
The Church is so much more than the four walls and roof of a building. The Church is every believer, young and old, all across the world who have called out to God and asked to be saved. In fact, the Church is a chosen people, God’s very own possession.
But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light, who once were not a people but are now the people of God. 1 Peter 2:9-10
So, you belong to the broader idea of the church, but how do you go about finding a local church in your community? Here are some tips:
Finding a Local Church
How do you get connected to this family? As a Christian, you are automatically part of God’s large family called the Universal Church. God also has a smaller family for you to be a part of called a local church. A local church is simply a group of believers in Jesus who have committed to support each other and follow Jesus together. God knows you need the guidance of a pastor, the care of other Christians, and the safety and support of a good church home to help you grow as a Christian.
We have talked about church being like a family. It is important to understand that no church is perfect, just like no family is perfect. In fact, it is best to think of the local church as a hospital. It is full of broken people who are forming a community of believers while finding hope and healing from the Lord.
Where do you start?
Practical Steps to Finding a Local Church
Most communities have plenty of churches available, but where do you begin your search?
- The internet. It's not bad to start the same place we search for everything else in our lives - Church Finder is a great website for finding a Christian Church in your community. Check out the websites of many churches. Read any reviews. What church appeals to you? Check those out.
- Ask Around. Do you have any friends/teachers/co-workers/family members who attend church? Get curious and ask around to where people go to church.
- Drive around on a Sunday morning. You probably pass by many churches every day. On a Sunday morning are the parking lots full? Find out what time the service starts and go next week.
- Visit more than one church. It's o.k., even good, to visit a few churches before choosing one. Trying different churches allows you to see where you feel most comfortable, what worship style you like, where you think God can teach you the most and where God can use you. If the first few you visit, don't feel like a fit for you, don't give up. Keep searching. If you love the first one you visit, keep going!
Is On-Line Church Enough?
God's purpose for the church is not to simply hear a sermon. Sermons are good, and, in fact, as you are looking for a church, listening to some on-line sermons may be helpful to see what that church believes. But there is so much more to Church than a sermon. God's purpose for the church is to build community and support...to learn from others and care for one another...to serve together and share the good news of Jesus together. You can't get that on-line. This isn't about checking a box on Sunday morning. This is about being a part of a family.
They joined with the other believers in regular attendance at the apostles’ teaching sessions and at the Communion services and prayer meetings... met in small groups in homes for Communion, and shared their meals with great joy and thankfulness, praising God. Acts 2:42,46-47
So, how do you find the right Church that teaches the right stuff? The following questions might help guide your search:
What Makes a Good Church?
1. Does the church believe that faith in Jesus is the only way to be saved?
Jesus himself tells us that He is the way, the truth and the life and that no one can come to the Father except through him (John 14:6). Jesus is the only way to be saved. Some churches teach that faith in Jesus is not enough, but rather that there are extra things that need to be done to be saved. This is not what God intended. We can never do enough, on our own to be saved. The salvation message presented should be that the only way to God is through believing in His son Jesus. Believing that he came to earth to die for the sins of mankind and that he also rose again after three days. Death, burial and resurrection. Salvation through grace by faith alone.
2. Does the church believe that the Bible is 100% true and teach from the entire Bible?
Some churches only believe that certain parts of the Bible are true. Others reject the Bible altogether in favor of the writings of their church founder. This is a red flag.
You will want to find a church that respects the Bible as God’s complete Word. Keep in mind that all scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. (2 Timothy 3:16). It is essential that, in addition to the message of salvation, the church teaches about how you are to grow in the Lord and applies the Bible to our daily life. Look at the information on the church’s website and see if they offer small group Bible studies. Also, many church’s post the pastor’s sermons on their website. You may want to listen to a few.
3. Is the church active in the community?
Do they reach out to the community to be the hands and feet of Jesus and serve those in need? Does the church tell others about Jesus? If not, then it is not following one of Jesus’ direct commandments. Jesus tells us to go out into our communities and tell them about God. We should all want to share what God has done for us. It is important to find a church that does the same. “Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.’” (Matthew 28:18-20)
4. Does the church also have times of fellowship for its members?
Become part of a church that has ways for you to get involved for your own personal growth and encouragement. Do they offer Bible Studies, Sunday School or Small Groups? Small Group ministries within a church are very helpful for connecting you to other people so you feel a part of the community. Also are there opportunities to serve within the church and be involved?
5. What are the Foundational Beliefs of the Church?
Just as you would want your home to have a solid foundation to support the structure, a church also needs a solid foundation. Here are important foundational beliefs.
- Belief in the Trinity. One God in three persons - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
- God the Father - Creator of Heaven and Earth
- God the Son - Jesus who paid the price for our sins
- God the Holy Spirit - the counselor sent to live within us when we believe.
- Baptism (infant or adult) is taught as representation of your salvation. Baptism does not add to your salvation, it does not save you. It is a showing to others that you have accepted Christ into your heart and life and that you want to follow him in your life from this day forward.
- Communion or The Lord’s Supper is practiced. The Lord’s Supper is a reminder of Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins. Jesus told his disciples this during his last supper before he died:
While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins." Matthew 26:26-28
Ask God for Guidance
As you start your search for a church, ask God for guidance through prayer. God wants you to find church where you will grow in your faith, be encouraged by other Christians, and serve Him. As you pray to God for direction in this process, trust that He will direct you to exactly where He wants you to be.
Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.