By Joshua Winslett, Pastor of Beulah Primitive Baptist Church in Leeds
There are various reasons that we hear people choosing a church to attend. Typically, the standard reasons I often hear are “it feels good,” “I like the music,” “it had the best programs,” and “our children like it.” Church worship should feel good. Worship hymns should be engaging to the experience. Congregations should be active, or living. Children should enjoy worshiping God. However, these are not the primary reasons to join an assembly. We should not choose a church like we pick where to eat. Especially concerning letting children choose a church, we rarely regulate important decisions to the tastes of children. Life would be chaotic, even unhealthy if that practice was followed. As it pertains to our feelings, the heart is described by the Bible as wicked and unknowable (Jeremiah 17:9). Emotions can often be deceiving. When we base our decisions on any of these guidelines we are choosing according to preference and not conviction. We then are unknowingly approaching God on our terms and not on biblical convictions.
How then should you determine where to attend? First, have you read the statement of faith of the assembly? Is it bare minimum? Does it avoid actually addressing topics? This may show a problematic tendency to not articulate what they believe. What does the church believe about God? Does the church believe in the biblical doctrine of the trinity? What do they believe about the word of God? What does the leadership believe about doctrines concerning man, original sin, salvation, Christ, and the second coming? Someone may reply, “but the church is fun and loves Christ.” That may be very true, and there may be many Christ loving believers in that assembly. However, we must know which Christ is being presented each Sunday.
Second, how does the assembly worship and practice the church ordinances? Does the church itself follow the prescribed methods in the Bible? Can you find what is being done equally exampled in the gospel and Acts?
Third, is the word of God being taught and lived out? This means that the pastor is actually teaching the Bible and the church is disciplining themselves to be living sacrifices for Christ.
Every Congregation does have a different personality. All three of the above methods are working under the idea that the congregation is a living, zealous community that is willing to minister to you and have you minister with them. Sometimes we may not feel at home with a group of individuals that meet the above qualifications.
In the final analysis, these qualifications take choosing an assembly away from what we want and our personal tastes. It equally forces us to know the Bible enough to have biblical convictions. It is true that many people will come to a different set of convictions. With that said, our conscience should be guided by convictions and not preference. Preferences often change and can lead to church hopping. Convictions turn the world upside down.