Before we can know what to look for in a local church, we must first understand God’s purpose for the church—the body of Christ—in general. There are two outstanding truths about the church. First, “the church of the living God [is] the pillar and foundation of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15). Second, Christ alone is the head of the church (Ephesians 1:22; 4:15; Colossians 1:18).
Concerning the truth, the local church is a place where the Bible has complete authority (It is the truth). The Bible is the only infallible rule of faith and practice (2 Timothy 3:15 3:16 3:17).
Therefore, when seeking a church to attend, we should find one where, according to biblical standards, the gospel is preached, sin is condemned, worship is from the heart, the teaching is biblical, and opportunities to minister to others exist. Consider the model of the early church found in Acts 2:42 2:43 2:44 2:45 2:46 2:47, “They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer…They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”
In regard to the second truth about the church, Christians should attend a local assembly that declares Christ’s headship in all matters of doctrine and practice. No man—whether pastor, priest, or pope—is the head of the church. All men die—how can the living church of the living God have a dead head? It cannot. Christ is the church’s one supreme authority, and all church leadership, order, discipline, and worship are appointed through His sovereignty, as found in the Scriptures. Is Jesus proclaimed as the Christ, God's only begotten Son? 1 John 4:1, 4:2, 4:3
Once these fundamentals are in place, the rest of the factors (buildings, worship styles, activities, programs, location, etc.) are merely a matter of personal taste. Before even setting foot inside a church, some homework is in order. Many churches have websites where one can get a feel for what they believe regarding the Bible, God, the Trinity, Jesus Christ, sin, and salvation. Doctrinal statements, What we believe, About us, or anything that will give insight into what a church believes should be carefully looked over. Do they backup their beliefs with God’s Word or some mans word? While on their website, look for pictures of the members. Are they alive and happy or do they look stiff and like they’ve been sucking lemons? Are they people you would like to know?
Next should be visits to the churches that seem to have the fundamentals in place. Attendance at two or three services at each church will be helpful. Try their Sunday School or Bible classes. Do they meet on Wednesday? Try that also. Church evaluation should be based on the principles outlined above. Is the Bible held as the only authority? Is Christ exalted as head of the church? Does the church focus on discipleship? Were you led to worship God? What types of ministries does the church involve itself in? Was the message biblical was it the gospel? Or was it a "feel good message"? How was the fellowship? You also need to feel comfortable—were you made to feel welcome? Is the congregation comprised of true worshippers?
Does the style of music fit with your taste or preferences? The older hymns are often rich with truth and important doctrines that can bolster our faith, and there are also many newer songs and choruses that are uplifting and encouraging. The purpose of music in a church should be to lead the people closer to the Lord in worship and adoration. Many of us are used to one style of music as opposed to another, just out of habit or childhood experiences. While music style should be taken into consideration, it should not be the deciding factor in finding a good church.
Finally, remember that no church is perfect. At best, it is still filled with saved sinners whose flesh and spirits are continually at war. Also, do not forget the importance of prayer. Praying about the church God would have you attend is crucial throughout the decision-making process.
We of course are hoping that the Lord will lead you to Solid Rock Missionary Baptist. But if He doesn’t, then you must go where He sends you.
What to look for in a church
The Bible tells us we need to attend church so we can worship God with other believers and be taught His Word for our spiritual growth (Acts 2:42; Hebrews 10:25). Church is the place where believers can love one another (1 John 4:12), encourage one another (Hebrews 3:13), “spur” one another (Hebrews 10:24), serve one another (Galatians 5:13), instruct one another (Romans 15:14), honor one another (Romans 12:10), and be kind and compassionate to one another (Ephesians 4:32).
For a church body to function properly, all of its “body parts” need to be present (1 Corinthians 12:14-20). Likewise, a believer will never reach full spiritual maturity without the assistance and encouragement of other believers (1 Corinthians 12:21-26). For these reasons, church attendance, participation, and fellowship should be a regular part of a believer's life. Church attendance is not required for salvation, but someone who belongs to Christ should have a desire to worship God, receive His Word, and fellowship with other believers. Can you imagine a man and woman getting married but then have no desire to be with each other? Eph 5:30-32
Some people claim that church attendance is a waste of time and for wimps. My Lord is not a wimp and He did not think it a waste of time. Read what He thought of His church: (Eph 5:25) He volunteered to die for it.
The plan of salvation / way of salvation
As we have seen church membership is important. Baptism is important. But nether of these things will get you to Heaven or keep you from Hell.
When Jesus was crucified, there were two other men hanging on crosses beside Him. One rejected Him. The other acknowledged his own sinful condition and asked Jesus (the only one who could do anything about a sinners condition) to remember him. This sinner did not have the opportunity to be baptized and then join a church but he is in heaven today with his Lord and Saviour, Jesus. (Luke 23:43)
Are you hungry? Not physically hungry, but do you have a hunger for something more in life? Is there something deep inside of you that never seems to be satisfied? If so, Jesus is the way! Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty” (John 6:35).
Are you confused? Can you never seem to find a path or purpose in life? Does it seem like someone has turned out the lights and you cannot find the switch? If so, Jesus is the way! Jesus proclaimed, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).
Do you ever feel like you are locked out of life? Have you tried so many doors, only to find that what is behind them is empty and meaningless? Are you looking for an entrance into a fulfilling life? If so, Jesus is the way! Jesus declared, “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture” (John 10:9).
Do other people always let you down? Have your relationships been shallow and empty? Does it seem like everyone is trying to take advantage of you? If so, Jesus is the way! Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me” (John 10:11, 14).
Do you wonder what happens after this life? Are you tired of living your life for things that only rot or rust? Do you sometimes doubt whether life has any meaning? Do you want to live after you die? If so, Jesus is the way! Jesus declared, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die” (John 11:25-26).
What is the way? What is the truth? What is the life? Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).
The hunger that you feel is a spiritual hunger, and can only be filled by Jesus. Jesus is the only one who can lift the darkness. Jesus is the door to a satisfying life. Jesus is the friend and shepherd that you have been looking for. Jesus is the life—in this world and the next. Jesus is the way of salvation!
The reason you feel hungry, the reason you seem to be lost in darkness, the reason you cannot find meaning in life, is that you are separated from God. The Bible tells us that we have all sinned, and are therefore separated from God (Ecclesiastes 7:20; Romans 3:23). The void you feel in your heart is God missing from your life. We were created to have a relationship with God. Because of our sin, we are separated from that relationship. Even worse, our sin will cause us to be separated from God for all of eternity, in this life and the next (Romans 6:23; John 3:36).
How can this problem be solved? Jesus is the way! Jesus took our sin upon Himself (2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus died in our place (Romans 5:8), taking the punishment that we deserve. Three days later, Jesus rose from the dead, proving His victory over sin and death (Romans 6:4-5). Why did He do it? Jesus answered that question Himself: “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). Jesus died so that we could live. If we place our faith in Jesus, trusting His death as the payment for our sins, all of our sins are forgiven and washed away. We will then have our spiritual hunger satisfied. The lights will be turned on. We will have access to a fulfilling life. We will know our true best friend and good shepherd. We will know that we will have life after we die—a resurrected life in heaven for eternity with Jesus!
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
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