Perhaps the most important decision you’ll make affecting your sanctification is which church to join. How much you mature in Christ will probably be influenced more by your choice of a church than even a spouse.
I’ll never forget ~20 years ago, a pastor asked me, “Where do you attend church?” After I answered, he asked me, “Is it reformed?”
Later, another pastor asked me, “Where do you attend church?” After I answered, he asked me, “Is God saving sinners there?”
Notice the contrast between the 2 pastors’ marks of a good church.
I wish God gave us a simple list of questions, marks, or a confession of faith to distinguish mature churches from immature ones. But, both personal and corporate (church) sanctification are too complex for reductionistic, simplistic signs. A church may have all the right doctrine and signs, yet the leaders’ hearts are hardened by sin. How do you measure things like heart, and brotherly love?
With those limitations in mind, here are 12 questions designed to help you find a church body where you will grow in Christ…
1. In the past 3 years, how many conversions have you seen here, and are they temporary or permanent?
True and lasting conversions are a strong sign of God’s approval. He often leads His elect to churches where He is pleased to draw them to Himself through the clear gospel preaching, and lives of the members. This question will screen-out those who assume decisions = conversions. And, it will reveal their views of evangelism, regeneration, and salvation.
2. What is your rate of baptisms to perseverance/apostasy?
This is a follow-up to question #1. Do they have a 90% apostasy rate like many churches today, or a 90+% perseverance rate like the apostles in the New Testament? A high apostasy rate is usually a sign that their evangelistic message and methods are different from the apostles.
3. How many members do you have, and how many of them attend weekly meetings?
Do they tolerate sin or keep the body pure by practicing church discipline?
4. What % of your members show signs of regeneration?
Are they more interested in numbers or regeneration?
5. How much of the Bible do you teach: All of it, or part of it?
Is the teaching selective, or do they teach the whole Bible like Christ and the apostles?
6. In your preaching, do you merely quote Bible verses, or explain their context, interpretation, and application?
Do they preach expositionally, topically, or do they merely quote verses out of context?
7. What is the Bible’s main message?
The gospel about Jesus Christ. How balanced is the teaching? Do they have a hobbyhorse topic they repeat every week? Is the pastor unable to preach for 45 minutes without returning to his favorite words every week: Election, rapture, prosperity, etc.?
8. What is your summary of the Gospel?
Jesus Christ the Son of God came to earth, did many miracles, died, rose, reigns, and will return. Repent of your sin and believe in Him.
9. Who are your favorite authors and preachers?
Bad company corrupts good character, and good company influences good character.
10. What is your favorite denomination, group, or movement?
Independent, non-denominational churches are often less-restrained to change their doctrine and grow. But, there are many good men in some denominations or movements. It all depends on the leaders’ hearts.
11. How much of your favorite authors, preachers, and groups do you agree with: Part or all of them?
Are they following men or Christ?
12. Do you ever pray and ask the Lord to correct you if you’re wrong about any doctrinal views?
How humble and teachable are they?
Below are 5 church directories that may help you find a church. If you can’t find a church in your area, start praying that God will build a church there. Perhaps He will transform an existing church, or maybe even use you to plant a new church.
P.S. See more Bible studies, blogs, and books at JesusSaidFollowMe.org