Nathan Millican is the teaching pastor at Oak Park Baptist Church in Jeffersonville, Indiana. He is married to the beautiful Lauren and has three little ones: Lucianne, Lydia and Samuel. Nathan is a two-time graduate of the University of Kentucky with a Bachelor of Business Administration and a Master degree in Education. He also has a Master of Divinity from Southern Seminary and is currently working on another degree in biblical counseling.
If you were to explain to someone how to find a church, what would you say and where in the world would you start? Is finding a church family a lot like some of the criteria we put forth when looking to date someone? “Yes, I would like a church that is witty, always available for me to talk to when I want, interested in serving my every whim and desire, wants to be involved in my life (but not too much), thinks I’m pretty special, accepts me exactly for who I am and is particularly thankful for the privilege of knowing me?”
Okay, so some of those aren’t what you or I would hopefully put forth, but you get the point. Typically, most people have thought through in some capacity about what they would and would not prefer in a church. And though preferences can be a good thing, they can also be a major deterrent in finding a good, solid church if that church becomes more about you and your preferences than it does about the person of Jesus.
Questions to ask when looking for a church:
Does this church believe the Bible is God’s perfect Word?
A church should recognize the Bible as the final authority, in contrast to the subjectivity of feelings and experiences or the constant fluctuation of culture (Psalm 19:7; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Timothy 3:16). You should find a church where the leadership lets the Bible be their guide, not personal likes and dislikes, political agendas or the latest cultural fad. The Bible is the most relevant book because it’s God’s Word to us about who He is, who we are and what we need to do in order to have a right relationship with Him.
Does this church preach and teach the Gospel, a message that proclaims Jesus is the hero?
The gospel is the power of God to save sinners or to put it another way, the gospel is the effectiveness of God to do for sinners what no human philosophy or wisdom can do – raise spiritually dead men and women to spiritual life (Romans 1:16; 1 Corinthians 1:18, 2:1-5). You should regularly hear and see the gospel being preached and lived out in the lives of the members of the church.
Does this church seek to love Jesus, love fellow Christians and love those that are not Christians?
Does the love that they display towards one another and those that are not Christians reflect the love explained in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7? Love that is patient, kind, not arrogant or rude, not resentful or irritable, rejoices in truth not wrongdoing and is a love that is resilient in that it believes, hopes and endures all things?
Does this church practice scripture within community?
In the Scriptures you have dozens and dozens of commands outlining specific actions that Christians are to take towards one another, such as love one another (Romans 12:10), be at peace with one another (Romans 12:16), serve one another (Galatians 5:13), be humble and patient with one another (Ephesians 4:2), encourage one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11), pray for one another (James 5:16), be hospitable to one another (1 Peter 4:9), etc. Therefore, part of finding a church should be an observation of whether or not they’re involved in each other’s lives.
Does this church love and care for me enough to tactfully and lovingly come alongside me when my life does not match my profession of faith (Matthew 18:15-20; Galatians 6:1-2)?
This is for our protection. While at moments it can be humbling and painful, having brothers and sisters help us as Christ has called them to is for our benefit (as well as theirs) on our journey with Christ. It's not shock we would need help doing this; we are sinners.
Is the leadership (pastors or elders, deacons, etc.) accessible and approachable?
Are they individuals that genuinely care about you and would you pattern your life after them (Matthew 9:36; Acts 20:28-32; 1 Thessalonians 2:7-12; 1 Timothy 3:1-7)? You don’t want to become part of a church where the leadership is never present or even worse, unwilling or unreceptive to anything you ever share, as if they’re above being accountable to anyone. You want a church where the leadership will seek to be involved in your life, continually pointing you to Jesus (Colossians 1:28-29) because they love you.
We all know finding a church can be hard and intimidating; trust the Lord and press on in your search. Remember, no church is perfect because pastors, elders, deacons, or members are not perfect... and neither are you. Seek a church that will challenge you to become more like Christ and provide opportunities for you to be equipped and for you to equip others.