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SUDDENLY YOU FIND YOURSELF IN ONE OF THESE CIRCUMSTANCES:
- RELOCATING TO A NEW COMMUNITY
- BEGINNING YOUR JOURNEY AS A NEW BELIEVER
- DEPARTING FROM YOUR CURRENT CHURCH
WHAT DO THEY HAVE IN COMMON?
It’s time to begin the search for a new church! But not just any old church will do. Finding the right one can be the difference between blessing and spiritual disaster. Where do you begin?
Enter How to Find the Right Church. Pastor Donald Thomas draws from Scripture and 35 years of ministry to serve as your companion and guide during this time of transition. In these pages you’ll discover:
- Four good reasons for leaving a church
- A hands-on strategy for planning your search
- Eight essential marks of a good church
- What to do when you find the right church
- What to do if you can’t find the right church
Each short chapter also includes helpful questions to pose to church leaders, along with suggested resources for those who want to dig deeper. These timeless principles will help equip you, and your family, with the tools to find a good church now and in the future. Let the search begin
“In this book How to Find the Right Church, written by Pastor Donald Thomas you will find biblical and practical principles that will help you to make one of the most important decisions that you will ever make. For the spiritual growth of you and your family choosing the right church must be done in the right way and for the right reason. You will be guided in making that right, biblically based choice by the wise counsel you will find in this book.”
Dr. Wayne Mack,
Elder/pastor at Lynnwood Baptist Church in Pretoria, South Africa, ACBC (Association of Certified Biblical Counselors), Member of the Academy, Director of ACBC Africa, Author of numerous books on Biblical Counseling and Christian Life Issues
“This book is full of Scriptural wisdom as it presents practical steps to finding a church home. I am sure that many will be blessed by it.”
Associate Professor of Counseling and Practical Theology, Reformed Theological Seminary, Charlotte.
“My friend Don Thomas has written a very readable guide for people who are church-hunting that is broad in scope, brief in words, and biblical throughout! As a pastor for almost 50 years, I have watched many people come and go, often for reasons that were inappropriate or insufficient. Thomas discusses when it is right to join a church, and the circumstances in which it may be right or even necessary to leave a church. He provides solid counsel on what essential characteristics to look for in a church that will become your home, and how to distinguish essential issues from non-essentials and personal preferences. Especially helpful were sections at the end of each chapter on “Questions to Ask” and “Digging Deeper” (resources for further study). If you’re looking for a church, let this help guide you to the right people. If you’re a pastor, keep some on hand to give to visitors and to members of your flock who may be moving. Thank you, Don, for this practical and helpful tool!”
Bruce A. Ray,
Pastor and police, fire & ems chaplain, author.
“Why don’t we start attending church?”
After seven years of marriage, my wife Mary shocked me one day with this suggestion. At first her request fell on deaf ears: I thought if I just ignored her it would go away— after all, neither of us had a churched background. At the time, I was attending law school in Chicago and working two part-time jobs; Sunday was the only day of the week that I could catch up on sleep and slip in a little tennis.
Mary was persistent. Until then, the only time we had attended church was the day of our wedding. Neither of us had a clue what to look for in a church; I couldn’t have articulated the difference between a Buddhist and a Baptist. But in a moment of weakness, I caved in.
That first Sunday we started with the church that was within walking distance of our apartment: a mainline denominational church that met in a drab-looking brick building with white antebellum pillars framing the front door. Strangers in a strange land, we sat on a hard oak pew in the back row. I have a faint memory of singing a few hymns out of a musty-smelling hymnal; after reciting the Lord’s prayer, we endured a short homily that had more in common with a sociology class than the scriptures. The final amen was the cue for everyone to exit, which reminded me of a crowd of movie-goers robotically leaving a theater. No one greeted us or acknowledged our presence, and we left with a sense of emptiness.
Several more false starts followed, leaving me certain of one thing: if this is what going to church was like, I didn’t want anything to do with it. Finally, one Saturday I opened the Chicago Yellow Pages to the “church” section, closing my eyes and running my finger down the column to about halfway. When I opened my eyes, my finger was pointing to a church in Naperville, more than 15 miles from our home. I stubbornly told Mary, “If this doesn’t work out, neither of us are to mention going to church again!” Little did we know that the kindness of a sovereign God had guided my finger to stop on that little church in Naperville where we would hear the Gospel, be wonderfully saved, and grow in the early days of our Christian walk.
Our journey is certainly not a model to follow—but I share it as an illustration of the importance of knowing what to look for in a search for a new church. When there are no guideposts in the pursuit of a new church, it is easy to feel adrift with nothing more than fleeting emotions and vain imaginations as guidance. The good news is that the same God who saves his people and places them in his church does not leave them alone to figure out which local church they should attend; throughout the New Testament, he has given the clear marks of a biblically sound and ordered church to guide his sheep to the right flock.
Whenever visitors have come through our church doors, I have made inquiry as to what they are looking for in a church. Many, if not most, have been just like Mary and me, without a clue as to what they were looking for.
Recently, a single mom came to church with her son. She was new to the community and searching for a church “like the one back home.” When asked about the beliefs and practices of her previous church, she bowed her head and said, “All I know is that it was the place where we learned about Jesus.”
Some have walked into our midst because they felt drawn by the welcoming sign outside. Others have indicated they were looking for a program-driven church filled with activities for their children. Other prospective visitors have inquired if we have a “Spirit-filled” worship service. When pressed, however, most are unable to articulate any doctrinal non-negotiables. Most visitors appear to be searching for a church like they would shop for a new pair of shoes: it must be in style and feel good.
As I have grown in my love for the church, I have come to see her as the beautiful bride that Jesus loves, died for, and now heads. Christians are not free to turn the local church into a den of self-pleasure; rather, it is the gathering of his blood-bought flock, with the overarching goal of glorifying God and delighting in him forever. Anyone who is looking for a new church should search for one that faithfully pursues this ultimate end.
It is my joy to offer this guide through the scriptures for those essential marks that will help you discern the right church. As you read, keep the following in mind:
- First, this book will serve as a personal handbook to aid in your search. Use it as a travel guide of sorts: when you find yourself in a time of church transition, it can serve as a personal guide to find the right fit.
- Second, I have kept each chapter fairly concise; if anything provokes you to dig a little deeper, a recommended reading list is included at the end of each chapter.
- Third, there is no perfect church this side of eternity, and most churches are located in small towns where your options may be few. You might not find a church that meets all the marks listed in this book.
- Fourth, the process of finding the right church will require you to understand the principles found in this book, and inquire of their presence with the leadership of each church under consideration. A list of suggested interview questions is included with each chapter to help you through this inquiry.
- Fifth, it is helpful to teach these principles to your children, helping them to understand why you select a certain church. You will be equipping them with the resources to find the right church for themselves when they leave home.
- Lastly, this book is intended to serve as a resource for churches to share with visitors as a helpful tool to guide them in their search for a church home.
May God direct your steps as he leads you to a place of spiritual growth and happiness, unto his glory!