It is interesting to me that commercial terms are often used to discuss the search for a church home. While consumerism has overtaken Americans and is now part of our DNA, I am still taken aback by the idea of “shopping” for a place to worship and serve. This mentality indicates a cheapening of one of the most spiritual and important decisions a Christian makes.
For the consumer-driven individual, a certain set of criteria seems to govern the choice of a church in which to invest one’s life. Consumers are very prone to make decisions based on cosmetic factors. What looks good, sounds good and feels good is essential. The most important words in the decision process are “I like” or “I don’t like.” Do I like the music? Do I like the way the preacher speaks? Do I like the church building? Do I like . . . ad nauseam.
Although personal preferences may have a place in one’s choice of a church I doubt that there is a biblical basis for those issues to head the list. While I am not proposing that we invest our lives in a place we dislike or find repulsive, I am suggesting that “likes” are secondary.
Someone recently told me about attending a particular church. The person then said, “I don’t know what denomination they are or what their doctrine is, but we love it.” Whew! How can anyone take such a cavalier approach to a decision that will significantly impact their spiritual growth and maturity? Easily, it seems, because I frequently meet people who do just that.
Perhaps the choosing of a church should take on a different set of criteria. I would suggest that such requirements as commitment to the truth of the Word of God, doctrinal integrity, spiritual dynamic, uplifting worship and a heart for evangelism and missions should dominate our church shopping experience.
Why would I want to attend or join a church where the choir sings beautifully or the worship band rocks, the preacher’s sermon captivates, and my small group gives me support if the truth is not preached and doctrine is not sound? The local bar can provide great music and friends. Cults can do that. No, I think determining a church’s doctrinal position is very important. The Bible calls upon us to stand on sound doctrine.
I am a Baptist, and I attend a Southern Baptist church for these reasons. I believe we teach and preach the truth of God’s Word. I believe our approach to doing missions cooperatively is the best and most efficient mission delivery system in the world. I do not believe Baptists have a corner on truth, but on the whole, we stand on sound doctrine. Once these conditions are met, then I may take into account the touchy-feely things; only then may my choice of a church be influenced by the preacher, music, youth program, children’s ministry or a myriad of other factors.
One other thing-I believe that our church home should be chosen by the guidance of the Holy Spirit. He may lead us to join a church with weaknesses that our gifts can help to strengthen. Rarely would He lead us to unite with a church that does not hold to sound doctrine.
When “church shopping,” the appropriate questions to ask are not consumer driven, but Spirit and truth driven. What is the stated doctrine of the church? Is the whole counsel of the Word of God proclaimed? Does this church love the lost and seek to win them? Now we’re on the right track.