By Johnny O. Trail — One radio station in Nashville does nothing but talk radio. As an avid listener to talk radio, I am always interested in the questions and comments of those who call in to the radio station. On one show in particular, the host deals with e-mails that are sent in by listeners. Last week, one e-mail in particular caught my attention. The lady who sent the e-mail asked the host, “How do I choose a church?”
The host then gave her some suggestions for finding a church to suit her needs. He proceeded to tell her to look at churches as communities and that she simply needed to find one that had people who most met her needs for friendship.
While friendliness is important, the host’s idea of how to choose a church lacked much in the area of content. The host did not once mention scripture in his response to the lady’s question. Furthermore, the idea of looking at church as a “community” is language that appeals to a postmodern culture.
This is a fair question though: “How do I choose a church?” The only way man is equipped to address this query is by appealing to scripture (II Timothy 3:16).
First and foremost, one needs to choose a church that is founded upon Jesus (Matthew 16:18). Jesus told Peter that He would build His church. Thus, the church is the possession of Christ. It is not a man-made church but the bride of Christ (Romans 7:4).
One also needs to find a church that only offers Christ as it’s head (Colossians 1:18). Many man-made denominations have men who serve as the head of the church (living apostles, the Pope, etc.). As the head of the church, Jesus is the only authority (Matthew 28:18ff) to which a church can appeal for an answer about the work, function, and membership of the body of Christ.
Next, one must find a church that offers the biblical method for membership. One does not “vote” on whether a person is allowed to be a member of the church of God. The Bible teaches that baptism adds a person to the church (Acts 2:47). When a person puts Christ on through faith (Hebrews 11:6), repentance (Luke13:3; Acts 2:38), and baptism (Acts 2:38; Galatians 3:26-27), he is added to the church that Jesus died to establish (Acts 20:28).
Next, we might also note that one must be in fellowship with God before he is in fellowship with other Christians (I John 1). It would be wrong to fellowship one who is reprobate or in rebellion to God’s commands (III John 9-11).
Furthermore, the church one chooses must wear a biblical name (Ephesians 3:14-16). When a church wears a name that cannot be found in the holy writ, it is an offense to God. The “whole family in heaven and earth is named” for Jesus Christ.
The church one chooses must have the proper mission (Ephesians 3:10). The primary mission of the church is evangelism (Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:15-16). I am afraid that many churches have forgotten this important work. While the fellowships and friendships with other Christians are good, and even desirable, that is not the primary reason one attends church. The church should be engaged in benevolence, evangelism, and edification, but teaching Christ and His gospel is paramount (Matthew 28:19; cf. Romans 1:16).
The church one chooses must teach sound doctrine (I Peter 4:11). The only means of teaching sound doctrine is by directly appealing to scripture in a “thus saith the Lord” manner (II Timothy 3:16-17). If a church teaches things that are against God’s word, one needs to find another church to attend.
Finally, the church one chooses must worship God in spirit and in truth (John 4:24). God desires our worship and we need to be absolutely certain that the church we attend worships in such a way that is pleasing to God.
There are many ways in which one could choose a church—from throwing a dart at the map, reading Yelp reviews of how others feel, or even asking a talk show radio host. But, there is only one right way—examine what God desires of the church as revealed in scripture and then seek that model out and attend regularly.
Delve more deeply into this question in our multi-author book, The Right Kind of Christianity: Answering Postmodernism’s Questions.