How to Choose a Church in Murphysboro
By Russ Ward - Elder Berean Christian Church
Believe it or not one of the most important decisions a person can make is what church they should attend. Much like buying a new home is important, so is the spiritual house you will be attending, yet often times we neglect the research, prayer and scripture when we make the choice and often base our decision on unimportant factors. Right away you maybe thinking this blog is about you choosing Berean Christian, but it is not. This decision is much more important than just one church in town over another and honestly if you chose Berean and it is not the right fit, you will not only be doing yourself a disservice but you will also not be helping the universal church to the best of your God given abilities.
Whether you are looking for a church due to a relocation or you are a new Christian and looking for a home, you need to prayerfully consider your options and see what the scripture has to say about church. It is in this way you will be able to balance the important things verses the peripherals (pews or chairs). Remember, no church is perfect and some churches may look bright and shiny on the outside but may be filled with rot and decay on the inside. Also, you need to understand that church is not about entertainment or keeping you pacified during a service. It is about being fed and finding a way to use you and your families' gifts. Our hope is that if you apply the following principles you will be able to better find the church home that is right for you.
My son and his wife recently bought a new house and one of the things that the house inspector looked at was the foundation. Without a good solid foundation a house cannot stand. Jesus recognized this truth when he said that the wise man built his house upon the rock and it is the foolish man that builds his house upon the sand. Finding a church with the proper foundation is very important and should be the first thing to examine. It may take some pointed, but crucial questions to the leadership or examining the prospective church's website or literature, however checking the foundation is necessary. Do not be afraid to ask the difficult questions! As a church leader I relish those questions and look forward to talking about Berean in depth, so don't be afraid to ask.
First, you need to find out how the churches you are looking at view scripture - It doesn't matter how good their praise team is if they don't believe that the Bible is inerrant and the Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16 and 2 Peter 1:20-21). Once a minister from a local church told me that angels were a literary device and not a real creation of God. That is the kind of church to steer away from. They may have a great praise team, but exactly who are they praising and why?
More than that, when you bring your list to a manageable few churches to visit, listen carefully to the sermons and lessons, bring your Bible and check their references. Do they teach from the Bible or do they give an opinion based on their own emotions or feelings without support? Again, it helps to hear sermons that are entertaining, but an entertaining sermon should not be the first measure (Acts 20:27, 2 Timothy 4:15). The Bible should be the cornerstone of the teaching at every level, in every class and during the Sunday morning services.
What the church believes is also important. Some churches hedge on doctrinal issues such as the virgin birth, the deity of Christ, the death, burial and resurrection, salvation by grace and through faith and the second coming. Other churches ignore important church and scriptural imperatives regarding baptism and communion. This is where hard work and study may need to take place. For instance, there is a wide variety in how churches deal with baptism, but it is important to look at the Bible as our guide not tradition. How can we call Him Lord, Lord and not do what he says (Luke 6:46)? We are called not to be just hearers but doers or the word and we should be doing the things that are commanded in the Bible, not what we like, or are comfortable with. This may challenge you and your views, but isn't that what Christian growth is about?
Also, do the churches you are looking at actually put the scripture to use as the basic structure their body of believers. I have personally seen tremendous turmoil when a church ignores the biblical standard. And if a church hides its structure and won't clearly explain how and why they organize their church, don't walk but run as fast as you can. The view must be that Christ is the head of the church. Secondarily, the Bible is quite clear about the structure for the local church and the structure should reflect the Biblical standard not some man-made contrivance (1 Timothy 3:1-13, 1 Timothy 5:17-20, Titus 1:4-9).
The churches you are looking at must also be orderly. This can be a difficult balance. For years I led Middle School Bible studies and it became apparent to me that they responded best to things they perceived to be last minute and cutting edge. So in my planning I took that into account and would often start our evenings with a van trip to a person's house to rake leaves or having a canned food scavenger hunt for the local food pantry. This took planning and time, but the kids felt like they were on a spur of the moment adventure. This was just a feeling that the kids had there was always planning. Overall services, teaching, and administration, should be organized and orderly for a couple of reasons. All churches operate with limited budgets and are called to be good stewards of the resources they are given. Disorder creates waste and as importantly can lead to poor doctrine and for that reason we are warned in scripture to do things in an orderly fashion (1 Corinthians 14:40). A disorganized mess is not what God wants for the bride of Christ.
As a check on the orderliness of a church ask the leadership if it has goals or a purpose. As an example at Berean we are a church that has the mission of connecting - connecting with God, connecting with each other and the world and our purpose is to bring people to a relationship with God, through His son Jesus and the Bible is the guide to that relationship.
You will find that statement prominently displayed in many different ways on our website and in our literature and everything that we do gets filtered through that those statements. This helps us stay focused and organized. The church you choose needs to have a clear direction and order. A disruptive service may also be an indicator of lack of organization.
Lastly, if you are certain that the foundation is well laid then you can look at other aspects of the churches you are examining.
- Does the praise time emphasize glorifying God or is it a hollow show?
- Is the church open to questions, about finances, in meetings and regarding participation or closed?
- Is there involvement from several members where they exhibit their gifts or does the minister seem to do everything?
- Is reaching the lost an important aspect of the church or is growth the focus?
- Does the church demonstrate true Christian love?
The church you are looking for needs to be about God, not what is going on, on stage. It should be open about how it operates, and allows for participation. It should be obvious that several members are involved throughout the church demonstrating their gifts. Church growth should be due to reaching the lost not growing for growth's sake or a strategy focused on picking up members from other churches and a loving and caring attitude should be evident throughout.
Lastly, finding the right church is about fitting in so you can contribute to the growth of the kingdom through finding and using your gifts. Feel free to contact the churches you are looking at to and find out what areas of ministry are available. By looking closely at the scripture, going to the Lord with prayer and seeking His will you can find the best fit for you and your family.