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How to Choose the Right Church

My parents and grandparents generations put a great deal of emphasis on church attendance.  In some cases, they emphasized to to the point that they lost sight of Jesus.  I remember a time when I left home to attend college at Northwest Missouri State in Maryville, Missouri.  I attended a Baptist church for a while, but I wasn’t welcomed a single time in an entire year so church-hopped until I ended up at the church I now pastor, Living Hope.

When I returned home for visits the members of the congregation I grew up in would often ask me about the church I was attending while at college.  Some of them were put off by the fact that I attended a church that didn’t belong to the Baptist denomination, but most of them were just happy that I was going.  They made it seem like church attendance was everything.  In fact, I would often hear people say “it doesn’t matter where you go to church, it just matters that you go to church.”  That statement couldn’t be further from the truth.


It absolutely does matter where you attend church.  The goal of the Christian life is to glorify and enjoy God by faith in and obedience to Jesus.  If you attend the wrong church you will inevitably believe the wrong doctrines, live the wrong way and end up in the wrong place.  It’s critical for every Christian to choose the right church; a one that will help you become a Bible believing, Jesus loving, God-honoring disciple. Frustrated by the “just go to church” mentality, I studied the Bible to see what it had to say.  Here’s what I found:

6 Principles for Choosing the Right Church

1. Jesus. In Matthew 16:18 Jesus says the he is building his church.  This means that the church belongs to Jesus.  He is the Senior Pastor and the leaders are to submit to him.  When choosing a church ask yourself: what place of leadership does Jesus have in this church?  Is he treated like the leader or like a consultant to the congregation?  If Jesus isn’t highly esteemed, whole-heartedly believed in and intentionally obeyed, then the church you’re at isn’t the right one.

2. The Gospel. The gospel is the good news about the person and work of Jesus Christ.  It is the truth about humanity’s sin and God’s willingness to deal with it by sacrificing Jesus on the cross.  In 1 Corinthians 15 the church leader Paul says that the gospel is of “first importance.” Does the church you’re considering clarify and emphasize the gospel in all of its ministries including preaching, small groups, worship and children’ work?  If not, the church is sadly missing the point and will certainly cause you to miss the point as well.

3. The Bible. The Bible is God’s literal, perfect word to us.  It is through the Bible that we know the truth about who God is, what God has done for us in Christ and how we are to live in light of those truths.  As 2 Timothy 3:14-17 says, the Bible makes us “wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” and it helps God’s people become “equipped for every good work.” If you want to truly know and live for God, you must make it a priority to attend a church that highly values the Bible and its teaching.

4. The Great Commandment and the Great Commission. In Mark 12:30-31 Jesus says that the two Greatest Commandments are to love God and to love people.  In Matthew 28:18-20 he says that the Great Commission is to make disciples. Disciples are people who are learning God’s ways by believing in and experiencing the work of Jesus in their lives.   The right churches are the ones that are making disciples in love.  

5. Community.  All throughout the New Testament the early church is gathering in community. Acts 2:42-47 says that the early Christians were meeting in the temple for teaching, but they would meet in homes as small groups throughout the week.  The early church wasn’t defined by attending a religious gathering one day a week, they were intentional to do life together daily.  It’s in community that we see Jesus most clearly.  If you want to go to the right church, go to a church that consists of an authentic community of people who are encountering Jesus together in a way that is both relevant to the culture and welcoming to new-comers.

6. The Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is often the forgotten member of the Trinity.  Some churches avoid the Holy Spirit altogether for fear that they will end up like some weird cult, passing snakes and drinking purple punch. The truth is the Holy Spirit is God.  Acts 1:8 informs us that it is through the Holy Spirit that Jesus is revealed to us and that we are empowered for Jesus’ mission.  You don’t need to attend a church full of charismaniacs, but it’s important to attend a church that enjoys the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.

The church you attend doesn’t need to be perfect, but it does need to be biblical.  These 6 principles will help you choose the right one.

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