This post is a follow-up to my earlier, “What to Look for in a Church,” and it’s meant to help you discover a church like the one described there.
1. Use trusted resources for narrowing the field. I would recommend two very highly. The first is available through 9Marks, Mark Dever’s ministry based on the title of his book. Nine Marks has a tool that allows you to search for churches who have affirmed both the 9Marks mission statement and the T4G (Together for the Gospel) Affirmations and Denials. I also recommend the list of churches available at The Gospel Coalition. The churches who are included on the list must affirm TGC’s foundation documents.
2. Visit the church’s website to glean as much information as you can about its doctrine and practice. Many, if not most, churches these days make lots of information available via the web, not least the audio or video of their sermons. Take time to listen to a few messages and to read the relevant pages of their website to get a sense of what the church is all about.
3. Visit the church’s public worship service when both the main preacher and main worship leader are there. You certainly don’t want to make a judgment about the quality of the public ministry of a church on the basis of substitutes, especially in a small church setting and if the substitutes rarely take leadership. So give the church a call or send an email to find out the schedule for public worship.
4. Be a part of the church’s life for six straight weeks. This is what I call “the Six Week Test.” It is virtually impossible for you to get a real sense of the church’s life through even two or three visits to their Sunday morning worship. Instead, you need to be part of the church’s body life for a significant period of time in order to catch the congregation’s ethos. I recommend that for six weeks you attend anything and everything – from church work days to the social at the ballpark.
5. Pray, pray, pray for wisdom. You should take very seriously your decision to join a local church. After all, your membership communicates a willingness not only to serve the church family in a given locale, but it also commits you to submit to that church’s leadership. Prayerfully consider your calling to a particular local church.
6. Pull the trigger. This is the counterweight to #5. Too many Christians put off their decision to join a local church far too long. In this life, you will never find a perfect church – ever. Even the Westminster Confession says that “the purest churches under heaven are subject both to mixture and error.” Every church has its flaws, just like every family. And just like every family, you know a healthy church when you see it. So when you do, don’t wait. Join its membership and enjoy the privileges and responsibilities of life in the local church.