Saturday, September 20, 2014

Finding Our Church Home

Moving churches can be difficult. I know this firsthand because I've done it twice in the last year and a half. The first move was due to our marriage. I had grown up my entire life in one church, my "preference." I moved to my new husband's church when we got married, and it was very difficult because it was his preference. Both taught the Bible, but were organized very differently. The second, and very recent, move was as a couple weeks ago to a church that God has fitted for us perfectly, together. I'm in awe of what God has done in our lives over the last two months, and because this has been such a big part of our life lately, I wanted to share with you what I've learned. I've jotted down a few things that I believe are very important in a "church search." Many of these are my preferences, but if you are truly lost in your search and looking for some practical, easy guidelines, I invite you to read on. I hope that what we've learned over this time will help someone else! As a quick preface let me just clear one thing up: I do not believe there is one church for everyone, which is why this isn't a post about how everyone should come to Grace, but rather, I hope these principles will help you as you determine what ministry is best for you and your family. As long as it is a Bible-believing and teaching church where you can grow spiritually, more power to ya; I can't argue with you about what that looks like for you. :) I do believe that God has a place for every single person, it's just a matter of finding that place! Find a place that makes you "glad" to go. (Ps. 122:1)

Eleven Practical Things to Look for in a Church Home

1. Biblical and Practical Teaching and Preaching: Are you able to learn more about the Bible when you attend classes and services? And, are you able to apply the teaching practically to your life? Sure, Bible facts are very important, but it is also extremely important that you are able to learn how to apply the Bible to your daily life! Some teachers are great at giving facts, but you walk away thinking, "but what does that mean to my life?" It's important that the teaching affects your daily walk.

2. Spiritual Mentors: Are there men and women older than you that are willing and able to teach you about life? When you look around at the people older than you, do their lives reflect Jesus in a way that you desire to imitate? (1 Thes 1: 6) If you look around and can't find an older believer that you respect and desire to be like in their walk with God, their marriage, their child-rearing, etc., that should be a red flag! The Bible is full of examples of spiritual mentorship, and I have found this to be a huge desire of my heart to have Godly older women who can "teach the younger women (me)."

3. Spiritual and Uplifting Worship Music: Is the music a concert or personal worship to praise God? Does your heart feel uplifted in worship to God when the music begins? Do the musicians purposefully or subconsciously draw attention to themselves over the songs? Music is such a preference item. I prefer hymns in church, Tim likes hymns but is more familiar with the contemporary stuff. For us, Grace is the perfect combination. Sunday morning is a combination and Sunday nights are solely hymns. I personally love holding my hymnbook singing the beautiful lyrics from the past! No matter your style preference, do you lose yourself in worshiping God?

4. Growing, Thriving Ministry: Are there visitors? Is the church growing? It doesn't have to be a mega-church, I'd prefer it not to be lol, but if it's been the same people for 20 years, that might be an indication that it is not a thriving ministry. This also is important with what we refer to as the "core families." If it's the same 5 people doing everything, that's not good, and it's certainly not healthy for those 5 people. The work has to be spread around or you will have 5 burned out people. There's nothing I love more than seeing "surprise" people show up at a work day or ask to serve in a ministry! It's so encouraging and believers desiring to serve is a sign of their personal spiritual growth. 5 people can't do everything--they will get burnt out or the ministry will never expand because there isn't enough manpower. Also, if you only have a few people doing all the work, they subconsciously can get more and more into the "ministering" and less and less into being "ministered" to. That's a dangerous place to be, and often the person serving doesn't even realize they are getting burned out until it is too late!

5. Leadership is Involved and Available: Is the leadership involved in non-teaching ways? If there's a work day, a prayer breakfast, serving ministry, is the pastor, assistant, deacons, elders involved or attending? I believe it's dangerous for a pastor to believe his only responsibility is to preach. It's very hard to get members to be involved when the pastor or leaders are no-shows except when they are preaching/teaching. It's so much easier to serve and be involved when the leadership is right next to you. Who wants to attend a Bible study on an extra night of the week when no leadership ever attends? It's hard to get members to attend a Bible study when you don't attend yourself. It's like my job, when my boss asks me to do something extra, like work late into the night, but he is right there with me working as well, it just makes the whole experience better because there is comradery among "the troops." :) Additionally, is the leadership available when you, as the congregant, need them? If you can never get ahold of your pastor or leader, then maybe that congregation isn't the place for you. It's important for us as believers, as we go through every day life, to have that support system and leaders who are there for us. 

6. Godly Friends: Life is hard, and it's incredibly harder to go through it without Godly friends to encourage and pray with you. This point is not necessarily only found in your church, you might have friends from the past or college or someone who moved away, but a really great place to find friends should be your body of believers. This "friendship" is not "I'm kind to, I pray for them when they mention a request in church, I try to be friendly to her..." I'm talking about someone you communicate with outside of Sunday. Someone you can call when you need prayer, and someone you lift up in prayer throughout the week. Do you have a friend like this? As you look around your church, do you see even a glimmer of hope to having this type of spiritual friend?

7. Structure and Order: This is soooo important! There is actually a point where disorganization can distract from ministry. For someone with a personality like mine, that point is much sooner than for someone laid back like Timmy. The Bible says that order is good (I Cor 14:40). If you are unable to hear the preaching because of the disorderly atmosphere of the service, or the distractions going on, then that's a clear sign that you are not in a good environment to learn. And if you can't hear the preaching, it doesn't really matter how Biblical it is, now does it? Church doesn't need to be solemn and cold, but structure and order are mandatory for a church to reach it's full potential.

8. Age-appropriate and Topic-appropriate Classes: Are there classes for your kids? Is there a nursery? Is there a class for you to learn about marriage? Child-rearing? Classes are such a great way to fellowship and learn from others in your same age-group or life-group. I think it's so important for your toddler to be in the nursery because they are learning age-appropriate lessons and learning to interact with kids their age. Both lessons are so important! We have been so blessed at Grace to have the opportunities to be involved in men's Bible study, ladies' Bible study, and a marriage class! These classes are perfect for who we are and where we are at in life~I'm loving it! And someday when we have a family, there are classes for our kids and teaching on raising kids to love Jesus! Specific teaching is a wonderful blessing!

9. Opportunities Throughout the Week: Are there opportunities to get refreshed and rejuvenated throughout the week or is it one time on Sunday, and you have to take that fellowship and try to spread it out throughout the entire week? Of course, personal devotion time is imperative to making it through the week, spiritually, but opportunities for learning and fellowship throughout the week really get me through working in a secular environment. This family of believers is my refuge, and I love the opportunities all day Sunday and throughout the week to spend time with them and be refreshed. 

10. Near Your Community: Is your church near your community? It's very hard to get your neighbors or coworkers to visit your church when it's 45 minutes away from your community. The New Testament shows us an example of churches in every city (yes, I'm aware that they didn't have cars to travel distances...), and I think that's a very practical example for us to follow. Grace is somewhere between 5-10 minutes away from us (depending on Monroeville traffic!) and this closeness allows us to often invite our neighbor, old man Dave, to join us. He hasn't accepted yet, but it's close enough that we feel like we can invite him. Also, it is easier for us to be involved throughout the week when it's near to our crazy lives. Our last church was almost 30 minutes away. We lost about an hour in travel every time we were there....makes it hard to want to make that trip when you are tired after a long day at work... We have really enjoyed being so close, and therefore easily involved at Grace.

11. A Refreshed, Blessed, Encouraged Heart: Do you leave each service feeling refreshed, blessed, and encouraged? Not much explanation needed here. It's a simple question. I love that every single week when we leave church on Sunday morning, I have a big smile on my face, and we talk the whole way home (7 minutes or so lol) about how much we enjoyed every aspect of the morning service. We feel spiritually refreshed from the worship and practical preaching, we feel blessed to have interacted with our new friends and family in Christ, and we feel encouraged in our heart about the gift of this church and how God is already using it in our lives. Every week I leave with a sigh of relief.

In summary, these aren't all straight from the Bible, these points are more practical and mostly my opinion. But, we've put much thought in the last few months of what we desire in a church, and I just felt like maybe our list would encourage you. We have found all 11 of these things at Grace, and I believe that God can direct you and your family to the perfect place for your family as well. Don't settle for things that make you uncomfortable or that aren't Biblical; don't settle for a mega church where you will get lost if you don't like that; don't settle for where everyone else thinks you should go; please don't settle for mediocre teaching, and don't settle for less than God's best for your family. And if you are looking for a church home and you live anywhere near Monroeville, we would strongly encourage you to check out Grace Baptist Church, ( because we love it! :)

Praising Him for directing us to our church home,

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