Mark D. Roberts

Mark D. Roberts

Choosing a Church: Your Help Needed

A friend of mine and faithful reader of my blog has suggested that I do a series on choosing a church. What should one look for when seeking a new church? What is most important? How should one go about finding a new church? Etc. etc. etc.
I think my friend has an excellent idea, especially since my family and I have just been through the process of choosing a new church. But before I weigh in on this subject, I thought it would be both interesting and helpful to hear from you. What do you think is important in choosing a church? How have you gone about finding a church?
You can answer this question by adding a comment to this post. Or, if you wish, you can weigh in confidentially by sending me an email. I may quote your email, but I won’t reveal your name.
Photo montage above: All the churches (buildings) where I’ve attended worship for a significant length of time. From the upper left corner, moving clockwise: Hollypark United Methodist Church, Gardena, California (1958-1963); First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood, Hollywood, California (1963-1991); Cambridge Christian Center, met in Prospect Street Congregational Church, Cambridge, Massachusetts (1977-1979); Irvine Presbyterian Church, Irvine, California (1991-2007); St. Mark Presbyterian Church, Boerne, Texas (2007-2008); Cambridge Christian Center, met in Christ Church Cambridge, Massachusetts (1976-1977).

  • Thomas Buck

    Hi, Rev. Roberts!
    When I was considering leaving a church 4 years ago, I looked primarily at two things: 1. The church body and clergy must believe in the salvation of Christ as presented in John 3:16. 2. The church must believe in the authority of scripture as a primary guide to its behavior and the behavior of its congregation members as individuals.
    Even in a small town (pop. 20K), I had little trouble finding such a church, which I eventually joined after leaving the previous church.
    I look forward to your series on this topic!

  • E. I.

    When I looked for my last church, I drove around my neighborhood and then went online and googled those churches that I had found around.
    I googled their pastors, and then I visited the churches’ websites and read their about me page, and “what we believe” page.
    You can also see if a church has small groups, a homeless ministry, a prayer team, etc, …
    After you feel comfortable with the church, you can pay it a visit.
    That’s what I did.
    We’ve actually created a guide for choosing a church. This is a list of basic orthodox christian beliefs (non-negotiables).

  • Mark D. Roberts

    Tom and E.I. – Thanks for your input. E.I. I checked out your guide for choosing a church (PDF). It’s a helpful tool. I appreciate knowing about it.

  • Chris Giammona

    The comments above are helpful and I would like to add one or two more.
    While the checklist mentioned baptism it did not address communion or the sacraments as a broader category. As one who has served in Presbyterian Churches (PCA), weekly communion is preferred (though I understand less frequent due to church size). Understanding the sacraments as means on grace is important depending on what you believe about them.
    I am curious to see how the community of believers fits into your thinking. What I mean by this is how important is it to worship/minister with those you live in close proximity too. For example, I live in Irvine (your old stomping grounds) and we were attending a church in Newport Beach and found it difficult at times to develop friends as everyone lived in a large area around the church and very few from Irvine. As a result, we started looking for churches near our home in Irvine and for now, have settled on IPC (assuming that many of the attendees live in Irvine).
    I am looking forward to your article.

  • Mark D. Roberts

    Chris: You’re right on the sacraments. Good issue to raise. Also the issue of proximity. Thanks.

  • Bill Goff

    Although proximity is important to me, I would drive a long way to attend a church called St. William Presbyterian!

  • KS

    My main requirement was that the pastors teach the Bible accurately (as far as I can tell). The church that I’m attending now also appealed to me because I saw people of every income level and race and background, which wasn’t true when I attended an Irvine megachurch. My last church was close to my office but over 20 miles from my home. Since I now attend a church that is less than 10 miles away, I’ve asked neighbors to church, and they have started to attend too.

  • KWK

    To determine what church one should attend, one first needs to ask what “the church” should be doing. In some ways, I think that’s even trickier, but to me the basic idea is that the church exists to equip the saints to do the good works that God has prepared in advance for us to do, both individually and collectively. So, solid teaching is a sine qua non of any church that I attend. The strength of the community is another important aspect.
    On a practical level, however, choosing a church based on “teaching” or “community” is hard because it can take a long time for the true character of a particular church to become clear. In a way, I think it’s like any other intimate relationship that we develop. We might be able to figure out that certain people (or churches) are not a good fit for us fairly quickly, but to know if they are right for us takes quite a lot of time and effort.
    On a personal note, I’m looking forward to receiving a lot of good ideas from series, as I still have not found a church home with which i am completely comfortable since I moved across the country 7 months ago.

  • David

    I appreciate the usual emphasis on orthodoxy and teaching; however, there is another aspect equally important: is the church actually _committed_ to living out their Christianity. Many of the churches I’ve visited in Tucson, and unfortunately the one where I’m at now, have great, solid, Biblical teaching, but the people are satisfied with being taught, and do little to nothing to actualize what they are being taught. Mere religious clubs. Not much real life-change.
    Also, I’d like to know your thoughts on whether you need to actually “join” a church, with exclusive membership, rather than being part of the Body of Christ locally in your area, and supporting more than one entity, even across denominational lines.

  • Mark D. Roberts

    Friends: Some great comments here. Thanks. I hope we can keep this dialogue going.

  • Carol

    The main thing to look for is what they are teaching. Are they true to His Word,are they going off the scriptures and adding there own idea and traditions to what the Word says. Are they puffed up and boasting or are they humble. Talk to those that are the leaders of the congregation and ask them were they stand on scriptures. Also ask what they do in the congregation about discipline. Do they just ignore a problem or do they do what the bible teaches about it.Some congregations can be great but when it comes to discipline they do not want to hurt feelings so they do nothing at all, which goes against the scriptures.
    Most people think that attending worship is all about socialization and nothing more, they wear there fancy clothes and talk the good talk. Then they leave the building and do not even come close to acting like they should. Though no one is free from sin at least they you should try to do the best you can and when you realize you are wrong you should know to repent.

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