Looking for a church is one of the most important things you will do. In an age of consumerism and church-hoppers, we need to regain the brevity that comes with finding a church home. When doing so, several factors should be involved.
When I became a Christian, my then-girlfriend (now my wife) and I began attending a local Pentecostal church. One reason we did that was because her grandparents were members. We also just thoroughly enjoyed it! However, as time progressed and I deepened my theological understanding, the moment came for us to leave. Theological differences were popping up like in a game of Whack-A-Mole. They were all secondary issues, but issues nevertheless.
We then turned to a nondenominational church in town we knew was somewhat Reformed—at least the pastor was. We stayed there for eight months and, due to unfortunate circumstances, left the church and have now been at our current church for five years and are happy covenant members.
Each decision was difficult but necessary. One should not find or leave a church frivolously, but do so prayerfully. One shouldn’t determine to move hastily.
There are a plethora of things to look for in a new church, and I would like to talk about them for the next six blog posts. They include: sound doctrine, expository preaching, church discipline (when necessary), congregational singing, plurality of elders, and a culture of grace. No church is perfect. The church you attend may not have all of these, but most need to be present.
The first one I want to focus on is, quite possibly, the most important: sound doctrine.
If the church you’re thinking about attending doesn’t have sound doctrine, forget about it. Don’t give it a second thought. A church that doesn’t have sound doctrine isn’t a healthy church—and maybe not a biblical church at all.
With that said, what do we even classify as sound doctrine? That is a good question, and one we must ask in order to be faithful to the gospel. At the very least, a church that has sound doctrine would be one that affirms the essential doctrines of the Christian faith.
Here are some diagnostic questions to help with that:
- Does the church affirm salvation by grace alone through faith alone, in Christ alone?
- Does the church affirm the Trinity, virgin birth, and resurrection?
- Does the church believe in the inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture?
- Does the church align with a general Protestant confession (e.g., Baptist Faith & Message 2000, 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith, etc.)?
There are certainly more questions to ponder but those are a good starting point. If the church misses any of those, they are not even considered orthodox. The lesson here is this: you will not grow as a Christian if you don’t belong to a church that has sound doctrine.
John MacArthur one said that
Purity of doctrine is the crucial foundation upon which everything else in the Christian life rests. If we would be people who practice personal holiness and show forth true integrity, our doctrine must be sound and unwavering.
Purity of doctrine is the foundation. MacArthur is spot on. If sound doctrine is not present, everything else falls apart. We cannot pursue holiness faithfully if that pursuit is not grounded on sound doctrine.
So, pick your church wisely. For example, I would advise against attending Bethel Church in Redding, CA or say The Potter’s House, which is where T.D. Jakes pastors. Bethel has become notorious for their deception, “glory clouds,” and other nonsensical antics. T.D. Jakes doesn’t even believe in the historic Trinity.
I don’t use those examples to bash them. (Though you should stay far away from both ministries.) That’s not the point. Point is, find a church that teaches sound doctrine, for it will be where you learn and grow.
Be discerning. Be picky about what church you attend—but not too picky. Be particular about the church’s doctrine; don’t be picky about the style of the rugs, or whether it’s chairs or pews. There is a difference between picky and petty.
Do you seek to grow in Christ? Get yourself plugged into a church that has sound doctrine. Make sure they affirm the historic, essentials of the faith. And then grow to be more like Jesus.