Two of the most important decisions you will make this side of eternity involve who you marry and what church you join. One is certainly more permanent than the other, but both are vitally important and should not be viewed as disposable decisions. Are you planning to move out of state and will need to find another local church in your new city?
Perhaps you find yourself looking for a new church—it should be obvious that the decision should be based on more than the relevant name or the church’s online presence. As you plan this very important decision, consider asking some important questions prior to making your decision.
- Is the doctrinal statement of the church clear and precise? If the statement of faith is unclear, could this reveal an intentional ambiguity by the leadership?
- What is the main preaching philosophy of the leadership? Is it based on an expository or topical methodology?
- Does the church practice church discipline? Are there any instances of church discipline on record in the last 10 years of the church’s existence?
- Is it too easy to join and too easy to leave this local church? Is there a membership class or any other requirement to fulfill prior to becoming a member?
- How is the music ministry of the church used? Is it a tool for worship and discipleship or is the music ministry geared toward an entertainment approach?
- What is the church government structure? Is the church led by one CEO pastor or a plurality of pastors?
- Is the preaching of the church aimed at the heart and the head? Do the pastors of the church expect the members to engage the mind in worship?
- What is the temperature of the church in regard to local and international missions? How involved is the church in missions?
- How does the pastor address unbelievers in his weekly sermons? Does he seem to be too focused on the unbelievers or does he strike a good balance between feeding the sheep and proclaiming the gospel to the unbelievers?
- Does the church have a ministry to children and youth? Who leads those areas of ministry? Are the men who lead in these areas mature and godly or do they appear to be perpetual adolescents?
- Is the church led by male leadership? Does the church platform women in teaching positions within the church? How is this conviction put on display in the leadership of the church?
- What mode of baptism is practiced by the church?
- Is the church a single campus or multi-campus model?
- Does the pastor give a public invitation to respond to the gospel at the end of his sermon? Why or why not? Is there any hint of manipulation in the preaching or call to respond?
- Does the church have a culture of disciple making?
- Does the church take up an offering as a part of the weekly worship? How is this process conducted?
- Does the church seem to be committed to laboring to love one another?
- What is the church’s position on marriage, divorce, remarriage, and homosexuality?
- Does the church have a traditional Sunday school or a small group discipleship ministry that meets off campus? Why has the church gone in their chosen direction?
- Does the church have a Sunday evening service? Why or why not?
- Does the church have a church covenant? What exactly does the covenant communicate?
- How often does the church observe the Lord’s Supper? Is the practice of the Lord’s Supper open, closed, or close communion?
- How many prayers are offered per service? What is the specific purpose of each prayer?
- What priority does Scripture have in the worship service? Does the church practice a weekly Scripture reading? How is that organized and who reads the passages? What place is it in the service?
Before joining, it would likewise be a good idea to meet with the pastor of the church in order to gain clarity on important theological and practical points of consideration that you would not be able to know by merely visiting the church for a few weeks.
While this is not an exhaustive list, it does cover quite a number of vital points of consideration involved in joining a church. Just because a church has your denomination’s name doesn’t mean it’s a healthy church. Take time to pray, discern, and think through the membership of a specific church before committing yourself. On the other hand, don’t just hang out with a church indefinitely—commit yourself to church membership in a local church.