As a Christian, church membership is not an option, but a glorious, joy-filled gift reality of what we have in Christ. Through Jesus, we have become members of His body (1 Corinthians 12:13) and that spiritual reality must give way to practical manifestation. That is, all Christians are obligated to commit themselves to a specific local church where Jesus is worshiped.
However, how can we know which church to join? What should we be looking for when we are looking to join a fellowship? What are the kinds of things we should be hoping to see and hoping not to see? What should draw us into a congregation and make us put roots down for the long haul?
Questions to Ask When Joining a Church
Thankfully, we aren’t the first to ask these questions. In an excellent post, Pastor Brian Croft gives four questions to ask when considering joining a church. His four excellent questions, worthy of reflection, are as follows…
- Is this a church where my family will be regularly fed by God’s Word? “Not just are they faithful to the Word of God, but will this church preach and teach in such a way that my soul and the souls of my family will be nourished?”
- Is this a church where I am convinced the care of my soul will be a priority? Will your soul be cared for by the pastors and congregation? “Just because they have powerful, biblical preaching does not mean your individual soul will be tended to on a regular basis.”
- Is this a church where my family will experience meaningful Christian fellowship and accountability? Church is not a building to visit or a service to attend, but a family to commit to. Will this family lean into your life for your good or will you get lost in the crowd?
- Is this a church where I can serve God’s people and use my gifts for its benefit? Don’t only ask what a church can do for you, but ask what you can do for the church?
There is more to be said and maybe that can be another post on another day. But, nonetheless, my friends, those are very good questions to ask. I encourage you to read the whole post here.
Questions Not to Ask When Joining a Church
There is something else I think would be helpful to give word to while we are on the subject of joining a church. In addition to knowing what questions we should be asking when thinking about joining a church, it is also good to know what questions we shouldn’t ask. Just as there are very good questions that will help us choose a fellowship wisely, there are also very bad questions that can make us choose a church foolishly.
So, what are some questions we should not ask when thinking about joining a church? Below are a few I think are particularly unhelpful and dangerous. When thinking about joining a church, do not ask…
- Is it cool? What is considered “cool” only lasts a few years before it changes into something else. This is like choosing a wife based on what clothes she wears. She may be the most well dressed hipster at the ball, but is that really going to make you put a ring on that? Alas, there is more than outward adornment to consider.
- Is the pastor funny and engaging? This isn’t a bad thing. Humor is a gift from God. But, it is a dangerous criteria for choosing a church. A lot of false teachers are very funny and enjoyable to listen to, but their teaching kills nonetheless. Poison served in a golden goblet. They may make you LOL, but do they make you holy? Also, you will need a lot more from your pastor(s) than laughs on Sunday, make sure they are able to fulfill all their pastoral duties (e.g. shepherding, counseling, disciplining, etc.).
- Are the people just like me? It’s ok to look for people who share things in common with you (culture, stage of life, etc.), but taken too far, it can keep you away from good churches. Don’t demand that your church be filled with your clones; people with the same likes, dislikes, preferences, and of the same age. The good news of the cross is for all nations, classes, races, ages, and genders and that should inform our church choice.
- Do I like the building? If you need explanation for this one, there is no hope for you.
- Do they play the music I like? When it comes to content of the lyrics, have a strong standard: I want to sing undiluted, unashamed, beautiful biblical truths. Stick to that hard. But, when it comes to style, although I think there are still certain standards to be maintained, I think it is prudent to have a little more flexibility. It seems that each generation of the church brings certain musical preferences with it and Christians would be wise to allow for a little flexibility here.
- Is it inspiring? I’ll be careful here. There is a good inspiration to look for such as being inspired to follow Christ in radical, uncompromising obedience and to desire the glory of God above all things. Most certainly look for that! But there is also a bad inspiration to look for. If by inspiring, you are looking for Hallmark Card-ish, American Dream-ish, make-me-live-my-best-life-now-ish kind of inspiration then you are in trouble because you may get what you are looking for. Don’t look for your church to make you be excited about and focused on you and your life. Demand your church to help you be excited about and focused on the life of Jesus Christ, His work on your behalf, and His glory above all. Be inspired to look to Christ and away from self.
It should be said, most of these questions are not necessarily bad, but if they are the primary questions we ask and let guide us then we are in trouble. If your pastor is funny, that’s fantastic! If God has blessed your church with a nice building, excellent! These are good and it’s ok to enjoy these things, but these matters must not be primary for us in choosing a church. Don’t make the minor things the major things and the major things minor.
Make Sure to Get Yourself in a Church
At the end of the day, we all need to know this: we have to join a local church. In this vein, I can’t improve upon the exhortation of Pastor Croft.
You and your family should feel a sense of persistent unease knowing that you are not in covenant fellowship with a local church and are not under the authority of undershepherds caring for your souls. The freedom and absence of accountability many experience in the search for a new church can cause a sinful complacency.
In other words, you do not ever want to become comfortable being one of God’s sheep who has wandered away from the fellowship of the flock and the accountability of shepherds to care for you, even if that journey at the time feels fun and exciting.
As they say, nuff said.