I have four simple words of advice for you if you’re looking for a church: it’s not about you.
I learned this lesson several years ago. For awhile I had been lazily visiting churches. One Sunday, I decided to attend a church that was off the beaten path a bit. I quickly found out why it wasn’t one of the “cool” churches in town. The worship was dated, the church’s definition of “young adult” definitely included people well into their forties, and more than once I was made aware that I was sitting in someone else’s pew and needed to move.
It was tough.
Yet, once I had finally found an open pew and settled in, sitting in the pew that Sunday I had the unmistakable sense that God was saying to me, “I want you to be here.”
Choosing a church, I realized, is not a me-centered process. It is a God-centered process.
A Discerning Search for a Church
Not all of us will have the same experience of feeling clearly called to stay at a church. With that in mind, here are some key principles that can help you discern what church to attend.
1. Pray through the process. Invite God to guide you into the right church community.
2. Be open to being displaced (and maybe even expect it). God might very well lead you to a community that is different from what you’re used to. Maybe he’ll invite you into a church made up of people from different ethnic or cultural backgrounds than you, or even a different theological background!
That less-than-attractive church God called me to was a place where I developed amazing friendships with men and women in very different life stages than me—friendships that have stood the test of time and enriched my life, but that I never would have sought out if I hadn’t been open to God’s leading.
3. Find a church that will create space for you to lead and serve in line with your gifts and passions. Church is designed to be a place where everyone can express their unique giftedness.
4. Keep it local. The primary calling of a local church is to be a blessing to its community. It’s only very recently that people have even had the option of choosing a faraway church! Find out if the church you’re visiting has a track record of caring for the community and if it is actively seeking to do so.
5. Commit to a church for the long haul. God used that amazing and quirky church to teach me that church is a family you commit to, not a product to consume. Like a family, it may be wacky, dysfunctional, and frustrating, but it’s also a profound conduit of God’s grace.
How has God used your church to shape you?
Image by twentyonehundred productions team member Matt Kirk.