Tips for Picking a Church

Where would we go to church if we left meetings?

The following are some points I compiled that you might want to consider if you find yourself needing to select a Protestant Church. You may want to make lists of qualities that are “nice to have” and/or “must have.”  Remember, there is no perfect church—likely you will have to compromise on some of your preferences. 

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Religions. The “big five” major world religions are Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam. Christianity is broadly split into three branches: Protestant, Catholic and Eastern Orthodox. Friends & Workers are Protestant Christians.

Denominations, Churches, Sects, Cults. Meetings are not a religion—they fall into the category of a church (an assembly) or sect (a group adhering to a distinctive doctrine or leader that has not organized into a denomination). They prefer to be called a fellowship.

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1. Study cult characteristics and avoid those openly recognized as cults, i.e. Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Scientology, Christian Science; also Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox.

2. Mission Statement & History. Read it and study their beliefs/doctrine. These are often posted online on the churches website. Do you agree with it? Is the church grace-based or works-based (legalism)? Avoid churches that teach Calvinism. Some churches have an introduction class, “What We Believe?” that sets out their history and beliefs/doctrine. When, where and by whom was the church founded?

3. Preaching style. What style do you prefer? There are 3: Topical, Textual & Expository. Workers preach topical style or textual—not expository. The expository method is to study a whole book of the Bible, chapter by chapter, verse by verse, over a period of time, until the end of the book, including applicable history and culture. Picking up each Sunday with where the preacher left off the previous Sunday.

4. Music.  Many churches have two services, same sermon, with different types of music: contemporary and traditional. Some (self included) do not care for the contemporary style hymns. Also, some have choirs; others have a few song leaders with mikes who lead the congregation in singing. Some are accompanied by a lot of musical instruments; others just use piano/organ.  Personally, we love the lively bands! 

5. Size. What size congregation are you comfortable with? Do you want to disappear in the crowd? Or do you prefer the intimacy of a smaller group? The small groups are where you make friends and have close fellowship, i.e. Sunday school classes, cell groups meeting in homes, etc. A single visit to a church will not provide a thorough basis for serious evaluations. Larger groups have more options available, i.e. Bible studies, programs, missions, outreach, counseling, recovery classes.

6. Friendliness. Some rank a church by how friendly the people are; others by the style of preaching (expository, etc.); some by the options available for children.

7. Baptism. Do they baptize or dedicate infants? Are you OK with that?

8. Communion. What style used? How often?

9. Women. What place do they give to women?

10. How does the church handle their finances? Are they transparent? Do they post income/expenses in bulletins for members? Is their building paid for? Do they go into debt or collect money before making construction additions?

11. How do they receive donations? Box in back? Collection plate/bag? Mail in?

12. What style is their church government (beware of authoritarian government). Are they autonomous, independent or part of a larger church government?

13. What’s their history? Who was their founder, when and where did the church begin?

14. Some potential turnoffs: preachers wearing robes, abundance of crosses, Christian pictures, or statutes, asking for money.

15. Listen online to sermons of various churches you’re considering. Examples of good expository teachers:
Gary Hamrick, Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/c/cornerstonechpl
John MacArthur, Grace to You: https://www.gty.org/library/resources/sermons-library/scripture/1?book=1&chapter=0

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FYI: We do not currently attend a Christian church regularly or have what is called a “church home.” However, in the past 30 years since we left meetings, we have visited many in various locations. When our children were at home, we attended a *Christian church regularly, but never joined. The preacher used expository preaching—this style preaching is of utmost importance to us.  My children made their choice and were baptized there—our son both in the same day! They allow fathers or others to baptize if desired. I impressed on our children that their acceptance of Christ as their Lord & baptism became a part of them and that it went with them wherever they went—it was NOT stuck in that particular church.

*NOTE: The original Church of Christ (no musical instruments) split into three churches: Disciples of Christ and Christian Church, all having the same founders, Alexander & Thomas Campbell and Barton Stone. They claim they do not have a name—even tho there is a sign out front with a name! If you’ll notice, their “names” are phrases lifted from the Bible often with another identifying word, perhaps the surrounding area or subdivision. One of their creeds is “We’re Christians only, but not the only Christians.”

 Recommended book: “Finding Church: What if there really is something more?”  by Wayne Jacobsen
https://amzn.to/3YlMOII

By Cherie Kropp
July 31, 2023