By Hope Bolinger, Crosswalk.com
Whether you just graduated college, moved to another location for a job, or need to find a different church than the one you’ve attended for several years, locating the perfect-fit church for a single person can be, well, less than a perfect process.
We might grow discouraged by church members who want to play matchmaker, or feel out of place trying to find our next church home for the next few years, or decades.
Some singles question whether they should attend a church at all.
After all, they might find more community in a coffee shop or in a service group in their city. Although the church has flaws and shortcomings, the author of Hebrews encourages Christians to attend regular church services (Hebrews 10:24-25).
- A family of believers who spur one another on in the faith. This keeps us accountable to one another and helps us to remain strong in our faith.
- A place where we can regularly remind ourselves about the importance of God, and our need to serve Him and the world around us. Although we can find these opportunities on our own, church helps to alert our convictions in the world of service and need.
- A community where we can lift each other’s burdens, cry on one another’s shoulders, and celebrate each other’s victories.
Church isn’t supposed to be the only Christian thing we do on a weekly basis.
We should regularly engage with small groups, daily devotionals, and should find ways to serve often. But to get a taste of what heaven is like, we should find a church family to bring an inkling of heaven down to earth.
Although no perfect church truly does exist, as a single person establishing a church relationship that's really "your own," consider seeking the following criteria:
1. Is biblically-based, sound doctrine being preached?
Scripture warns against false doctrine (2 Timothy 4:3). We come to church to gain a greater understanding about God. Although we engage with Scripture through devotionals and groups, if the preacher of a church only says what people are itching to hear and not the true Gospel, run.
This does not mean that if the preacher bores you, or doesn’t do sermons with three points, that you should leave.
Look for whether a preacher avoids more “negative” topics such as sin. Or, if a pastor makes claims that you know don’t line up with Scripture. If they butcher passages of the Bible to fit a certain mold or sermon, or if they don’t crack open the Bible once during their service, flee as fast as you can. A pastor represents a shepherd of the church. You don’t want him or her leading you to a wolf.
2. Are there are a variety of ways to get involved?
Church should equip us to serve or be ready to serve in the community. Faith without works, after all, “is dead” (James 2:20).
If a church talks a good talk but doesn’t walk a good walk, that might wave a red flag to indicate a dead church. Service opportunities can arise from helping out with kids during early or late services or a church which partners and participates in local ministries.
If a church seems fine with you entering, listening to a sermon, and slipping out without having done anything else, this may show you they don’t have a strong vision when it comes to involvement and service.
3. Are similar stage-of-life affinity groups available?
When I left college, I had difficulty finding a church which had a group of people with whom I could discuss Scripture with on a weekly basis. I wanted to explore faith and life with people who truly understood my struggles as a post-grad. Sometimes churches create affinity groups such as parents, singles, men, teens, etc., to have those who are in similar stages in life meet together and discuss the Bible.
Although Scripture does not specifically say, “You must join a life group” or “Paul started a youth group amongst the teens in Rome” it did say that the early church met on a daily basis (Acts 2:46). They knew that if they neglected to engage with the word of God every day, they could run the risk of entering into temptation or falling away.
Groups provided by a church can create a community of accountability to ensure no brother or sister falls away because they only engaged with Scripture on Sundays.
4. Is the emphasis on worshipping God, not ourselves?
This isn’t what we should be looking for:
- Whether the church sings hymns
- Whether the church sings the latest hits
- Whether a church sings only 2 songs or easily does 8+
- Whether the band members could perform in the Grand Ol’ Opry or if any hit one sour note too many
- Whether or not we feel a certain emotion or burning within the chest when we sing
We have to remember we come to worship God, not ourselves (John 4:23). If a church seems focused on the latter, it might show their heart isn’t in the right place.
Worship should direct our hearts toward God, not toward the performance of the band itself. Talent can praise God, but it's wise even to pay attention to the lyrics of the songs chosen. Do they praise God or draw attention to ourselves?
5. Is there a sense of humility like sheep, or discord and gossip like goats?
We can never know the hearts of people, but often we can see the fruit of one’s inner condition (Mark 11:13).
A church represents a family, and if we treat each other the way many families do in the secular world, we’re in trouble.
Granted, maybe some congregation members had a bad day and unleashed fury or gossip upon another church-goer. But if the majority of the congregation you see produces more fruit of discord and chaos than fruit of the Spirit, then this could testify to the inner state of the church itself. Remember, bad company corrupts good morals (1 Corinthians 15:33). This can and does include churches.
No church will check off all the perfect boxes.
You may want a large congregation, and the weekly attendance barely scrapes 100. You may want a church that’s five minutes away and end up driving to one at a 20-minute distance, on a good non-traffic Sunday. Maybe you even judge churches based on their coffee offerings in the foyer.
Although one might hold the above items in one degree of esteem over another, we should approach each church with a sense of grace. Not every church has the budget to have an awesome light display for the worship team or provide great refreshments out in the lobby.
Keep in mind the reason you attend church.
Church is for seekers and believers to find a community to love, to hold accountable, and to serve together with.
If a church doesn’t fit the criteria of core doctrine, or any other essentials listed above, do not feel guilty for choosing otherwise.
It is a big decision to determine which church family you will call your own for several years, or perhaps, even a lifetime.
Hope Bolinger is a literary agent at C.Y.L.E. and a recent graduate of Taylor University's professional writing program. More than 300 of her works have been featured in various publications ranging from Writer's Digest to Keys for Kids. She has worked for various publishing companies, magazines, newspapers, and literary agencies and has edited the work of authors such as Jerry B. Jenkins and Michelle Medlock Adams. Her column "Hope's Hacks," tips and tricks to avoid writer's block, reaches 2,700+ readers weekly and is featured monthly on Cyle Young's blog, which receives 63,000+ monthly hits. Her modern-day Daniel, “Blaze,” (Illuminate YA) comes out June 3. Find out more about Hope here.
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