15 June 2010

How to find a church

by Dan Phillips

I've made the case that all Christians are bound by God to be personally involved in a local church. All three of us see this issue pretty much the same. We're not going to reinvent that particular wheel.

I'm moving on to the question: how do you find one?

Some of you are blessed. You had an easy time of it. You veritably tumbled right into a passionately Christ-centered and Biblical ministry where you could be discipled, and you could dive right into service.

Others, not so much. You are forced to live in a blighted area filled with the three C's: Charismatics, Cults 'n' Catholics, plus a few faddy emergent wannabes here and there, among scores of apostates.

So perhaps a faithful church might not have a big, well-situated building. It might not have billboards and radio ads, or blimps. Maybe they're just getting going, and aren't even in the yellow pages.

There, then, is the purpose of this post. Let's have a brain-dump on ways to find a church. I'll start off, you take it up — and please stay on-topic.
  1. Pray, committing yourself to attending a church; and attend somewhere while you look.
  2. Yellow pages. (But what to look for?)
  3. Ads in Saturday newspapers.
  4. Map out all the schools in the area, and drive around between 9:45-11:15am taking down names to follow up later.
  5. Bulletin-board in local Bible bookstore.
  6. Ask around, any Christians you can find.
  7. Denominational web sites (— like GARBC, PCA, Reformed Baptists)
  8. Nine Marks church search site.
  9. Founders-friendly churches.
  10. Gospel-centered churches (from The Gospel Coalition; thanks to Justin Taylor for the reminder).
  11. FIRE churches.
  12. TMS grads.
  13. BibleBB directory.
  14. Google maps, go to your area, enter church
  15. Ask pastor friends in other areas if they know anyone in your area.
  16. Call Seventh Day Adventist churches and Jewish synagogues, and ask if any church is renting their facility on Sunday.
  17. Check out community centers and YMCAs to see if any are rented by a church on Sunday.
Add to the list your suggestions and anecdotes. I'll update the list with any great suggestions.

One more time: how can I be blunt enough?  I have no patience with "Note-from-God" people — so don't even try it. You know exactly who I mean: the 99% of professedly Christian non-attenders who have some sob-story that they vainly imagine gives them a "note from God" excusing them from obeying the categorical imperative the Lord gives His people to be involved in a local church.
There is minuscule fraction of people who have a legitimate reason for being unable to attach themselves to a local church ministry. Are you reading this page? If you are, if your ICU nurse isn't reading it to you above the whining and clicking of your life-support machinery, almost certainly you aren't one of them.

This meta is not for figuring out ways to rationalize non-attendance, nor even for listing off legitimate reasons for not doing what the Lord commands all His slave/sons to do.


This is strictly and solely about ways to locate, identify, and get joined to a local church.


Clear enough?


(Just watch; someone is going to test me. It always happens, no matter how emphatic I am.)

Dan Phillips's signature

116 comments:

DJP said...

So what's the over/under on how soon I have to delete a comment?

Hayden said...

I also look to websites of Sovereign Grace Ministries, The Master's Seminary, Bible Bulletin Board and Harvest Bible Fellowship.

I would start there and call any churches within a 30 mile radius and ask them for information.

I get calls like this frequently from others looking for a church and love to help them.

I think there will be one commenter, who always shows up in church discussions, that will appear to denounce the 'institutional church'. He will remain nameless but you will know him by his words :--)

cy said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
DJP said...

The answer to my question is, "One comment." I really am sorry, but I really did warn you.

Why does this always happen?

DJP said...

If so, Hayden, he will be swiftly deleted.

So, are you assuming attending a church close to those institutions? So it wouldn't apply if you're not near one? Or am I misunderstanding you?

Johnny Dialectic said...

I agree, Dan. Local church, elder led.

What is your view of someone starting a house church?

DJP said...

My primary view is that you're trying to make a comment that stretches my warning to its limits.

My secondary view is that the English word "church" primarily means "building," while the Greek word never has that meaning. So I'll say a legitimate church can meet just about anywhere.

HAVING SAID THAT, I will not allow this meta to turn into a debate about the merits/demerits of house churches. That's an interesting topic, and we may take it up.

But this is just about... well, see the title!

Anyone have ideas about how to find a church?

donsands said...

God brought me into His marvelous light in the 1984.
I first went back to St. Mark Catholic Church. Next, I went the Holiness Full Gospel Pentecostal route. Then AofG. Then Calvary Chapel/Non-denom. Then EFCA. Then Non-Denom again.
Now, I'm at Bishop Cummins Episcopal Reformed Church. It's 6 minutes from my home. Not like my last church, which was 45 minutes from home.

Man, what a journey. But, I must say, I love church, becuase I love the Lord, and I have a desire to worship Him, honor Him, and be blessed by Him, especially with His beloved people.

Don't have any ideas to add really. You have some good ones.

DJP said...

What moved you to these churches, Don? Friends' recommendations? Yellow pages? Seeing them as you drove by? What was the method?

Luke said...

To go along with Johnny Dialectic. . .

There are places in this great country where there is no Bible Preaching Church within a close distance. These would mainly be small town or rural areas. This is not an excuse but a challenge. Evangelize and start a church. It may start in your house but eventually it should outgrow it. There is a missions organization, Rural Home Missionary Association, which specializes in either strengthening or planting churches in just such areas. My family is looking at going to Nebraska with them to strengthen a church there.

All of that to say that there are times when there is no Bible preaching/teaching church for someone to go to. This doesn't excuse someone from worship, it just lets them be on the front lines.

Thanks,

Luke

JackW said...

The Bible Bulletin board Biblebb.com has a listing of reader recommended churches. I don't know how actively he updates it, I submitted my church about a year ago and it's not on it yet though it meets all his standards.

cy said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Eric said...

There is always the possibility of starting a church if you can find other passionate, like-minded, Bible-believing Christians. This, of course, would only be in the event that you were unable to locate a Biblically sound church within a reasonable distance.

A side note that I would make is that I believe looking for and finding a sound church is prerequisite to moving, unless one essentially has no practical choice in the matter of moving.

DJP said...

I understand the question, cy. It's off-topic and a sure derailer. Look at the tags in the sidebar, it has been written about (particularly by Frank Turk — email him, if you want, his email's at his blog).

I really was clear, I think.

Tom said...

I think full disclosure is necessary when looking for a church. There needs to be transparency on both sides. I joined a church once where things seemed on the up-and-up. Doctrinally, ecclesiologically, etc. Once I got more involved in the church, I discovered that the pastor and elders were at war with each other, which ended in the pastor being ousted and a church split.

I'm not sure what questions a prospective member should ask when looking for a church and before joining it. Obviously, questions regarding doctrinal issues, church government, etc. But, how do you discover if there are other issues going on in the church that are poisonous and sinful?

Tom

mikeb said...

I've gone from the "cool" megachurch with experiences to the smaller Bible based church that has expository preaching. After being a Christian 9 years, I'm finally readying and study the Word every day. My wife is also, plus my 4 children are participating in our family devotional nightly. I'm even teaching Sunday School classes, whereas before I wouldn't even park cars at the megachurch even when they begged me.

How did I find this Bible church? First on the internet. Then wrote out a list of questions. Emailed them to the pastor. Met with him and went through his answers 1-to-1.

Daryl said...

This may dovetail a little with the comments that you will ban, but it seems to me that finding a church begins with the commitment to find one, no matter how far away it is.

I appreciate this post, because I often wonder how I would find a church. With small children it seems extra difficult somehow.
Seems like it might be easier for a couple or a single.

cy said...

Oh right, sorry I didn't really read the last part of the post carefully. My bad.

DJP said...

It's a decent question, cy; it's just not a this-post question. Thanks for understanding, truly.

(c:

Johnny Dialectic said...

Dan, I really wasn't trying to stretch anything. It's a sincere question. Do take it up another time.

I found my church 25 years ago via the yellow pages. My wife and I were looking, and were going to visit a bunch. Our church had a small ad, not just a listing, so we went. The preacher was preaching right out of the Bible. We thought that was a novel idea. The people were lovely to us, and still are. We do live in an area with a lot of churches to choose from.

Tom Chantry said...

Two comments on things already said on this thread:

Hayden brings up the important matter of networking. So you find yourself in a place where you don't know of a good church. Maybe you know of a good church 100 miles off, but you realize you cannot involve your family properly in the life of the church at that distance. Well, contact them anyway and ask, "What is there closer to me that you would recommend." Seminaries are particularly helpful in this regard because they might have alumni in the ministry just about anywhere. The graduate of a sound seminary may or may not be faithful, but his church will certainly be worth a look.

Secondly, mikeb raises a good point: think through what you want to know about a church and put it in the form of some carefully thought out questions. By carefully thought out I mean questions that will get beyond the public facade of a church (we all have one) and into the real life of the church. For instance, rather than asking, "What are your doctrinal standards?" it would be better to ask, "How are the doctrinal standards communicated to the membership and utilized to produce unity in the church?" The answer to that will either be a coherent statement of Christian educational philosophy or a blank stare; either way you've learned a lot about the church.

love God... said...

To find like minded churches...one great resource is John MacArthur's website for his ministry Shepherds Fellowhsip.

https://www.shepherdsfellowship.org
/sitelogin.aspx?returnurl=/membermap.aspx

you can go there to find the churches where the members of Shepherds Fellowship attend or pastor.

Ron said...

We found our current church by looking online at http://ncfic.org/ . I agree with some of the commenters here in the importance of interacting with the elders, especially before attending the first service with your family. Website descriptions can sometimes be misleading or incomplete.

One thing I would mention as well: I believe that more should be said about how to leave a church, since most people looking for a church would be in the position of leaving another. A relationship with a local church is not one way, with the church providing us with all we need. We are responsible to the other members of our church, to love and edify one another. Leaving should be handled biblically just like joining.

VcdeChagn said...

Well, since we recently left our church of 10 years, we are in this exact situation.

Here's what we're doing.

1. Praying for our old church
2. Praying for the Lord's will in finding a new one
3. We've made a list of things that we will not compromise on when finding a church (example: Gospel, expository preaching, family integrated)
4. Pray some more
5. Have a plan to find one and narrow down alternatives. I won't go into details but we have four alternatives in our case and I am actively investigating three of them with a fourth as a last alternative.
6. Pray some more.
7. While you're looking, start talking to godly men in your life and have them pray with you about your search and provide accountability during this time.
8. Set a time limit to make a move somewhere and try something. In our case, it's 3 weeks (we just finished our first Sunday).
9. In our case, we are gathering with another family that is searching on Sunday Mornings and listening to a good preaching sermon (John MacArthur so far).

Finally, a couple of sites to add to the search list:

1. Family integrated churches
2. House Church Registry

Disclaimer: There is a good chance that there are some bad apples in the links above. They are just lists of churches that are either house churches or family integrated.

Tom Chantry said...

By the way, let me say I am very disappointed that you had to delete a comment (1) before we set the over/under, and (2) before we actually had some money down on it. It would have made Phil so happy.

pennedpebbles said...

"You are forced to live in a blighted area filled with the three C's.... faddy emergent wannabes.... among scores of apostates." Scary thing for many of us! However, my husband and I prayed and God was ever so faithful!

We searched websites, read pastor's blogs, listened to their online sermons, read their mission statements, etc., and called or emailed. We visited some of the more promising of these and other churches via suggestions and quickly found those we could eliminate.

After about three or four months, we were able to narrowed our search down to two, and after only a few visit were able to stick with the right one.

Chad V. said...

Apart from the usual google searches, looking at church websites etc. I would suggest that being in regular attendance for a time is crucial in finding a church to join. Here's how I went about choosing my church.

1. Attend all the services regularly so that you can get to know the preaching and teaching. Get to know the pastor and the church officers. Get to know people in the congregation.

2. Ask questions of the officers of the church. Ask them direct questions about doctrine and practice. If the church is truly following and walking in the word of God then the officers should not be evasive or shy about answering your questions. A church that is vague or evasive about answering questions is not to be trusted in my opinion.

3. Be sure to attend the prayer meeting, regularly. What is the prayer meeting like? (After examining the doctrine and the preaching at my church attending the prayer meeting was the clincher for me). The prayer meeting will tell you a lot about whether the church is truly relying on the Lord. I would be wary of a church that did not have any prayer meeting at all.

4. Finally, be patient. Get to know the church and let the church get to know you. Somethings can only be discovered by time and being a part of the church's life.

JustMe said...

A timely post as we are looking for a new church after deciding to leave a mainline denomination which we joined shortly after relocating 4 years ago. I confess that I feel as if I am "shopping" for a church rather than being in church for God. "Great sermon but no one talked to us before or after the service." "Praise band seemed more like a performance instead of leading the singing." "Small groups but no adult Sunday school."

I'd appreciate thoughts on whether it is best to dive into one of the most promising congregations for an extended period or continue to rotate between them?

This is worse than dating!

Hayden said...

Dan,

That is where I would start in asking their 'lay of the land'. I do not think that driving 30 minutes is too far but I think in just about any area of the country there is a church within a 30 mile radius that at least gets the Gospel right. That is where I would start.

Sometimes, I think that people elevate secondary issues to primary issues. They try to level them all and make them all equally important. Gospel centered, Bible exalting teaching is a must.

DJP said...

JustMe, I totally agree. I hate the process.

Let's not go there with this meta, though. That might be worth a post all its own. Here, I'm just talking methodology for locating decent prospects.

DJP said...

Hayden, your comment (equating 30 miles to 30 minutes) makes me think you're in a rural area.

Here in Sacramento, six miles can be thirty minutes!

TM said...

That is a pretty good list. In our church search which we conducted when we moved out-of-state, I started with asking pastor friends, which gave some ok leads.

But we ultimately found our church (and a number of other good churches) on biblebb.com. Called the church, spoke with the pastor (wow - the fact that I spoke to him personally said volumes about the church in and of itself) and pegged him with questions. Visited a couple times (a 7 hour drive on Sunday morning is not fun, btw). Rest is history.

Also Master's Seminary (tms.edu) has a list of grads and where they now pastor/serve.

In Christ
Tom

TM said...

Oh, and another suggestion when finding a church: if the church you're looking at has 'em, LISTEN TO THE SERMONS online. It will save a LOT of time especially if you're like me and you are moving in the process. You won't have any surprises when you hear the preaching.

Tom

TM said...

... or ask if the church can supply tapes/CD's.

I think that's it.

Tom

Hayden said...

Dan,

Thanks for showing me my inconsistent use of words. I live outside of Gainesville Florida in a semi-rural place called Micanopy.

What I am really getting at is that people should make a choice of church and really plug into it. I have people that come to our church from 45 minutes away but most of them are here for everything we do.

I think the list that you started is an excellent way. What I find more often than not when people say 'I cannot find a good church in my area' what they really mean is 'I haven't really put alot of effort into thinking what is important in a church and the importance of being a part of one'. (Before you bring out the hatchets and stone me, read Ephesians 5 in light of how Christ 'feels' about His church and then take a breath and consider what I said)

Trevor said...

Wait a minute! God spoke to me in his still small voice and said I don't need to attend a local church becuase they are all big stinky, hypocrites!

*KIDDING* (Don't delete me Dan! Just yanking your chain. :-P)

On a more serious, advice seeking note, I am a recent college graduate looking for a church in my hometown. I have attended a A29 plant in the past few weeks which is solid and I could definitely attend there exclusively.

My questions is this: Seeing I am lucky enough to have a few biblical churches in my area that interest me, how do I go about making a final decision? (Assume my motives are good.)

Hayden said...

Dan,

What about the radical idea of looking for a church before one moves to a new area and letting that factor into whether or not one moves??? (Hope that isn't a derailing comment)

Paula said...

We had committed to attending church every week, even during the transition. Our kids were 15 & 17 at the time, so we didn't have the liberty of spending two years church hopping if there was any hope of getting our teens connected before they left home.

Fortunately, [maybe not the right word] we were able to eliminate about 90% of the churches in our area just by checking out their ads & websites. We found out rather quickly that seeker sensitive churches are more plentiful than dandelions in NE Ohio!

After eliminating the obvious mainline liberal denominations, Catholic & charismatic churches & cults, We were left with a few dozen others. When I started reading newspaper ads, there emerged a clear pattern of phraseology common to the seeker sensitive model (which we had just left):


"Loving God & Loving People"

"Real Hope for Real People in the Real World"

"... the atmosphere is unlike any other. It’s not church-as-usual... I can relax and be at ease. The coffee is great. And … I can wear what’s comfortable. "

"Our messages, creative arts, and classes are meant to be impacting and relevant – helping you to navigate through life issues."

"Non-threatening atmosphere; Upbeat contemporary music; practical Biblical teaching; casual dress acceptable. Offering hope to a hurting world."

We eliminated these immediately as well as any church that emphasized "purpose," "come as you are," and, "relevant." Also eliminated were churches featuring sermon series' on sex, movies, The Simpsons, or basically, anything but a book of the Bible.

Perhaps that's unfair and perhaps we eliminated some good, solid churches, but as I said, we didn't have a lot of time & we were DONE with seeker sensitive.

Finally, we found a GARBC church whose website said that in the youth group they "teach the Bible aggressively, verse by verse." We visited, they delivered what they promised - praise God!

TM said...

Hayden, that is exactly what we did! We moved from MD to NC and, before deciding what city to settle in, we found out what churches were in our desirable areas. Finally, we chose the church, I found the job, and we moved to within 15 min of church and work. Not saying it always works out so well, but finding the church first definitely helped us fearlessly settle on the rest of the decisions.

Great advice.

Tom

Paula said...

DJP said, "Hayden, your comment (equating 30 miles to 30 minutes) makes me think you're in a rural area."

ROFTLOL!! There's a saying, "You know you're from Ohio if you measure distance in minutes."

I always read this and thought, "Yeah, so? Doesn't everyone?" Thanks for finally clearing up that mystery for me!

Josh said...

Pardon me if this was already mentioned but I find asking for a statement of faith is especially helpful as well when you visit a church.

Here is how that helped my wife and I - I asked for one at a particular church - their response - "We don't do doctrinal statements because they tend to be too divisive" - that made it real easy - keep looking!

Tom Chantry said...

What I am really getting at is that people should make a choice of church and really plug into it.

Bear with me - I promise this won't be off topic:

Perhaps the best reason anyone ever gave me for leaving a church was someone who had needed to move just a bit further away for genuine and godly reasons. He said, "I don't want my kids to grow up thinking that showing up for service once a week is as good as truly committing to the worship, teaching, fellowship, and service of a church."

That raises a good point about finding a church. Find one in which you can truly enter in. That is a question of geography (can I get there frequently and participate wherever there are opportunities), and also of the character of the church (is the whole life of the church consistent with the preaching on Sunday?)

Scott said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
naturgesetz said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Scott said...

(Take 2, because Scott can't proofread.)

My two cents in looking for churches.

Dan, would you consider YMCAs under community centers? My church meets in one.

At least in my city, people are allowed to put banners up in the medians to advertise their businesses. A lot of churches around here do the same.

Finally, I noticed you expanded the font size in your warning. Maybe you should add flaming letters and post pictures of cats warning of the wrath of Dan.

DJP said...

Scott, if you think it'd work, I'd do 'er.

YMCA, good idea. I'll add it.

ethanasmith said...

You can find biblical, Reformed churches from the Acts 29 website.

I do take exception to lumping "Charismatics" in with Catholics and Cults. While I wouldn't consider myself a Charismatic, there are plenty of sound charismatic churches (I think someone mentioned Sovereign Grace earlier in the meta).

Chris Cole said...

I want to reinforce what Luke said. If there is no good church within practical distance, that isn't providential leading from God that you are too spiritual to need a local church. Rather, it is providential leading that He intends for you to start one.

In my case, I am happy to say that I live in a large metropolitan area, so I could actually find a church where I had an unusual level of compatibility. The pastor and I even like the same music and political issues! But even more providential was my personal circumstances at the time I first started attending there. I have a heart condition, which was especially severe. I literally expected to die any day. This church has a number of cancer survivors, so they were experientially prepared to help me through that time (the situation has eased).

DJP said...

Well, Chris (and I may have to delete my own post for going off topic), that's fine apart from issues of where to meet, what to have the kids do, where to find the time to do it, etc.

Give me ten families ready seriously ready to put their shoulders to it, and maybe we have something to talk about.

(c:

Tom Chantry said...

Here is another directory. Johnny isn't able to update his material quite so often, but good churches can still be found. The standard on this particular one is adherence to the London Baptist Confession.

Robert said...

I was particularly blessed to have a childhood friend who went to The Master's Seminary and directed me to the churches in my area with pastors from there.

One thing I have noticed in looking for churches for friends in other areas is that most churches will have a website. You can usually look through their doctrinal statements, what they believe, and bios of their pastors/staff. In addition to sorting through that, I highly recommend contacting the pastor and seeing if he is in line with your beliefs. I saw a link for family integrated churches, and I think people need to call those churches and understand that concept before jumping into it.

I hope that those of you who are looking for churches are able to prayerfully consider good churches in your area and commit to one soon. And I am deeply sorry for the painful decision to remove yourself from the church you had been committed to.

Robert said...

DJP,

this might get deleted, but I have to ask about the Acts 29 church...does Acts 29 know and still lets this church stay affiliated with them (which is basically recognizing them as a faithful church and condoning this activity)? I guess this is relevant to the post because would that call into question using them (Acts 29) as a guide in choosing a church? (Sorry in advance if this is getting sidetracked)

Tobias said...

Contact the Gideons or a solid missions board you support, and ask for recommendations in the new area.

That Crazy Christian said...

Wow, good topic. Also one of the worst things in life. I hate it when the time comes to find a new church.

I found my church (for those of you in the North Pittsburgh PA area www.cbcofcranberry.org ) through Master's Seminary Alumni Map.

Prior to attending the church, I sent the Pastor 25 questions that I got from Wretched Radio. They were going through this topic at the time and had put together these questions which I thought were very good. I can't seem to find it on their site now, but those guys are usually really good about helping out if you politely e-mail them.

I also attended a bunch of services and talked with everyone that would talk to me before deciding to officially join. (we have membership at my church)

So, I guess what I'm saying is that you have to start with good foundations. Figure out what kind of leadership you want, what kind of theology, etc. For me, Master's Seminary more or less covered it.

Then get specific and don't be afraid to ask a bunch of questions. Any Pastor or Elder who can't answer some theological questions (or any reasonable question) for someone new to their church isn't worth putting yourself under for leadership anyway. I'm not saying you ought to be a pest and perpetually ask unimportant questions. I had a person at another church who was attempting to join that kept e-mailing the pastor about who he thought the 144,000 are in Revelation. Come on dude.

Finally, just like any big decision, don't rush into it. Be patient, and give it a good solid try for a while.

Also, know your limits. If you aren't willing to travel 50 miles to go to church, don't waste a churches time that's 61 miles away. If you aren't willing to go to a church that has drums in it's worship band, then don't spend your "getting to know each other" time trying to convince the church of getting rid of the drums. It's better just to move on in your search or take the "no drums" restriction off of your list. You get the idea.

Good topic, Dan.

Write@titude said...

Ways to find a church:

1. Call local chamber of commerce.

2. Check out the F.I.R.E. (Fellowship of Independent Reformed Evangelicals) web site for member churches. http://www.firefellowship.org/

3. Contact local seminaries.

A way for non-churched people to find your church: distribute "business" cards to your members with your church info, a simple message like "You're invited" and a place for your members to write their name. Then they can give these to friends, family and the server at their favorite local coffee shop. We're going to do this at the end of this month.

-- Scott Ferguson

DJP said...

Thanks! Updated with sites for TMS grads and FIRE.

stratagem said...

The list given in the article is a great way to identify potential churches to start culling from.

My suggestion is that once the list of potential churches is identified, ask the Senior Pastor(s) what they believe about certain doctrines. Any who won't give you a straight answer are politicians or doctrinally unorthodox. Scratch those off the list.

Ed said...

I would go to calvarychapel.com and click "find a church near me"

DJP said...

...and then don't go there?

That works.

Ed said...

whats wrong with calvary chapel?

DJP said...

Charismatic, and usually anti-Calvinistic.

John said...

T4G has a network that attenders can sign up with, that might be a help.

I found my current church because it was pastored by a prof at my seminary. That's another thing you might check - any local seminary for ideas and suggestions.

Citizen Grim said...

I found my current church by using the 9 Marks search, which I highly recommend.

Going to denominational websites and using their church-search function is a good way, too.

In the Bible belt, where churches are every 20 feet, I feel like more generic searches (like Google Maps) aren't as useful.

Herding Grasshoppers said...

We changed churches 2 1/2 years ago and found the church websites VERY helpful. Many have sermons online so you can get a feel for the style/content.

While looking for a church can be grueling, it was definitely a time of growth for us. Forced us to think long and hard about which criteria really mattered (actually preaching the Bible, rather than pep talks), and which were just stylistic preferences.

Another option for searching is using the AWANA website (they have a club finder). Certainly not foolproof, but might provide a list of churches to start looking at.

Julie

Julie

Tom Chantry said...

In the Bible belt, where churches are every 20 feet, I feel like more generic searches (like Google Maps) aren't as useful.

True, and funny. When I was in college in South Carolina we used to invite other students to come to our church. We told them (no joke) "You go down and turn on State Park Road, and it's the fourth Baptist church on the left." Sadly I don't imagine I'll ever have to give directions like that in Milwaukee.

It does point out, though, that the answer to this question differs markedly based on geography. I first thought that about Hayden's 30-minutes/30-miles comment. No place in America without a good church in that radius? My first thought was "There's someone who hasn't ever driven across the moonscape that is central Nevada."

Frank Turk said...

As a person who has, after 18 months of looking, found a church, here's what I think one has to do:

ZERO: All the Biblical pre-qualifications and admonitions. Don;t join a cult, and don't join a club.

1. Be serious. This is not a game, and it's not a choice about how you can join a social club. Be serious that you can, will, and must fellowship with other believers.

2. Be active. Passively walking into a place and waiting to be memberized is frankly thinking too much of yourself. If you want to join a church, you need to be doing something so that you will actually meet the people in that church.

3. Expect all the churches you find to be flawed. On one end of the spectrum is New Jerusalem (rated: 100 holy points); on the other is Sodom (rated: 0 holy points). The churches you will find will be rated someplace between 45 and 55, with daily gusts up to 60 and doldrums down to 35. Given that on most days you yourself are probably a 35, that should be your basis for comparison.

3a. Seriously: when you visit can you say, "I probably will not harm this church?"

3b. Seriously: when you visit can you say, "I will humbly work to serve this church?"

3c. Seriously: when you visit can you say, "I can live with the fact that I am not in charge of this church?"

4. Know your denominational biases. My wife and I are, at the core, Southern baptists. We want to join a Southern Baptist church. The problem we faced was that none of the SBC chucrhes we found (except one) really wanted "us" to join it. But when we went to non-SBC churches, we found that those churches had other priorities besides missions and local personal discipleship -- and that's unacceptable (IMO). So we had to keep looking.

5. You must make friends in the churches you are remotely serious about. This was, perhaps, the greatest aspect of the visits we made: we met people who we could love and who loved us because we were committed to Christ's church and His will for those who believe.

If you're not going to do that, you're going to find a church that you will join. You will only find a church that you attend.

It's hard to find a church. I am pondering why this is so, and the answer I keep coming up with is my own heart. I hope for the rest of you there is a more-actionable answer.

Chris Hobeck said...

By God's grace, for the last five years I've been attending a Calvary Chapel in northern Virginia whose pastor is a huge fan of James White and John MacArthur, and is a phenomenal expositor in his own right. Case in point: When going through Romans 9 three years ago, he did a lot of quoting from Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology. So to be fair, not all CCs are anti-Calvinism. Just 99% of them. ;-) And the charismatic stuff was in a special meeting once a month, so pretty easy for a cessationist to ignore.

However, I'm starting a new job tomorrow, 150 miles from that church. I did find a church a few miles from my job and (temporary) hotel via 9Marks (in fact, the only church near me among the resources listed so far), so hopefully it'll turn out well. I fully intend on listening to their current sermons in Revelation before checking them out.

All that to point out another supplemental resource: Todd Friel's questionnaire to use when looking for a new church:
http://www.wretchedradio.com/favorites.cfm

DJP said...

Frank, that's terrific. Thanks.

Cyrano said...

When we were essentially driven from the church we'd been attending for years, we spent some time calling around, asking questions at churches, plus doing a fair bit of research on denominational web sites. Took awhile, but we found a church about 25 miles away that's a strong Christian fellowship, warts and all.

I don't know if this is off topic, but it's something I struggled with while looking for a church and continue to chew on, so maybe others would find it helpful.

Dan, I'd like clarification on what you mean by "be involved," particularly whether it differs from "become a member." I ask because we attend regularly, participate in the services and ministries, and I teach adult class as I'm given the chance. I place myself under the authority of the leadership there, and act accordingly.

However, we are not members, because that would mean claiming full agreement with some confessions that I can't affirm in good conscience (but I'm studying them to see if I'm the problem there). I consider us to be quite involved, but there are some things we cannot do because of being non-members.

Just wondering how your definition of "involved" might impact your list.

SandMan said...

Maybe this has been said already... but I really did not read all 68 comments carefully. And, maybe this is naive, but here's my 1/2 a cent.

Obedience is the best place to start. As in many things, like-minded people are often your best resource. If you are in a church, that is the best way to find another, IMO. Pastors often know other pastors and can usually guide you to a church or another pastor that knows a guy that knows a guy. Of course, I am assuming that you are only looking for a church because you have moved.

A new believer should have support of a discipler (the one God used to draw you to Himself).

In the case of leaving a church because of apostasy, maybe look up that family that left first because they smelled it before the rest of you and see where they are going.

For those left, obviously Dan's suggestions are good.

Also, I am taking Dan's title literally: How to find a church, not: How to select a church. That could be a much lengthier process... but really follow the same steps... later, rinse, repeat.

Rachael Starke said...

In the category of don't do;

Don't automatically dismiss a possibility because you have a judgemental, critical attitude about a person making the recommendation - you don't like their parenting, their FB statuses,etc., and are convinced the church must have something to do with it...

like I did about the church we now attend and love - it was a humbling lesson on a lot of levels.

But we also just joined the aforementioned Acts network and now your comment about the one in your area has me hyperventilating. Oy.

Maybe someone would like to do a subsequent series about warning signs when the church you joined is in danger of becoming a church you'll be tempted to leave, and what to do about it??

Dave Sherrill said...

At the risk of being seen as overly inclusive: http://www.efca.org and use their "find a church" tool right on the front page.

Hayden said...

Rachael,

I am no apologist for the Acts 29 network, but from what I know they are supposed to be staunchly complementarian in view and practice. Again I am not a Driscoll apologist, but he has taken tremendous heat for this stance.

Tobias said...

Sandman has a good point that finding a church is quite a different story that selecting the church. After becoming a Christian, I attempted to find a good church in my hometown to attend while visiting family. Granted, I didn't put in the concerted effort I would have if I were considering a move, but it took years. I used many of the ideas suggested here, but ultimately the little church my wife & I fell in love with there just appeared as we were driving around visiting old haunts. Turned out it had been in that spot (along the commute route to the local community college we both attended less than 10 years earlier) for more than 20 years. The site was an old Grange hall, and they had finally decided to give it a facelift - make it look more like the Baptist church it was.

Only after the fact, did I learn that my local church had sponsored and assisted with more than one service project there in the past.

Point is, sometimes serendipity plays a part, as well.

JackW said...

This is a process that I’ve found takes some faith. Faith that when Jesus said that He would build his church, that it might mean that despite you being as thick as a brick, He will place that brick where He wants you and it probably will not be what you expected.

St.Lee said...

Having gone through the process of finding a new church within the last four years, I thought I'd add my 2 cents.

The first thing my wife and I decided, was that we would attend some sort of church service every Sunday while we searched for one to join. Why would one not do that?

Today's yellow pages is the internet, and I didn't give much thought to any other method. I did nearly all my initial searching there.

Most churches today have a web site and usually there was enough info on them to either cross them off the list or keep them on as a possibility. (if you belong to a church without a web site, maybe its time to volunteer to create one)

From there, it was just a process of elimination, attending a different church each week, crossing off the list or marking as worth another visit. Eventually, we found ourselves returning more and more to one particular church, despite the fact that every detail did not line up with what we might have wished for. The clincher was when my wife pointed out that sometimes you need to consider not just whether you need that church, but whether that church needs you. (don't mean that to sound self important, but it is a small church, so opportunities to serve are plentiful) Turns out both were the case; we needed them and they needed us.

After about 6 months of full time attendance and several meetings with the pastor and other leaders, we became members.

Brad Williams said...

*greedily adds his fellowship to all the lists DJP had up that New Covenant wasn't already on*

Really, those sites work. We've had at least two families join our fellowship who first found us at either 9 Marks or on the Founder's site.

Barbara said...

My son - God bless him - factored in the availability of sound, solid churches in one area vs. lack of said availability in another - into his choice of where to attend college. He was all set to go to one college, but we couldn't find a good, Bible-based church within 40 miles to save our lives. Did all the searches you mention, plus Sovereign Grace. Looked up all the area churches' websites and they were filled to the hilt with Osteenism and Furtick-ism and if they weren't filled with it, their members' blogs were. Not even an RUF on campus.

Next thing I know, he's decided to go to a good school closer to home, with RUF on campus and a few sound churches around there. When I asked what influenced his decision to change, the first thing out of his mouth was, "a good church".

God is so good.

Brad Williams said...

Here's an anecdote that should be safe to post at comment 79. Recently, a fellow called the office on Wednesday and asked if we would be having services that night. I said we would. He asked what we would be doing. I said, half-apologetically for fearing to use too "Christiany" words, "We are going over Systematic Theology, which is basically the study of the teachings of the faith of Christianity. Tonight, we will be learning about the creation and condition of mankind." The caller said, "Will you be using Wayne Grudem's theology then?" Stunned, I said, "Yes, actually that is the book we are using as a general outline." He then said, "What do you think of his views on the gifts of the Holy Spirit then?" I thought, "Whoa, what a great question! I hope this guy comes." He did, and he brought his wife. I am so glad we put our church on those sites!

James Joyce said...

I have nothing to add, but just wanted to say thanks.
My brother-in-laws' family moved from the Philippines to the L.A. area and need to find a good church.
This should help us help them.

Merrilee Stevenson said...

I haven't read everyone's comments word-for-word, but do have a suggestion that wasn't mentioned: VBS! (Vacation Bible School)

When my husband and I bought our first home 3 1/2 years ago, we decided that we'd find a new church when the "ministry year" ended at our old church (of 9 years). Part of our reason was because we wanted to find a church close enough that we could invite new friends and neighbors to without suggesting they drive 2-3 townships away to go to church with us. (We have a heart for reaching our community with the gospel, and there are plenty of churches to choose from around here.)

So as we started looking, this particular church and another one equidistant from our doorway started posting signs for VBS, which we took to be an indicator that there may be believers there who want to reach their local community with the gospel also. That's a good start. We also checked their websites for doctrinal positions and "what we believe" information to look for any glaring red flags. But apart from those things (location, doctrinal position, local/global mission), we just decided not to "shop around". Shopping around is overrated.

I enjoyed all of Frank's points, and especially enjoyed his discussion last year about reasons to leave a church. I agree with Rachael Starke's suggestion for a series, because we had other reasons for wanting to leave our old church, but our moving was the final green light for us, and unless we move again, we're staying where we are, despite a few typical concerns.

comeinfromtherain said...

Igniter media made a good video clip (short) with some thoughts on selecting a Church home.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HIUaa1P5fTY

It's only 2 min. 24 secs long -check it out

Sir Aaron said...

I moved from Southern California to Houston, Tx in Jan 2006 (partly because we wanted to try to live closer to a Biblically sound church). Here in Houston, there are a lot of churches. just in the five miles between my house and my church there are probably seven other churches (and I mean on the direct route through side streets). The problem came in narrowing the list down. You need to know what you believe and what the catch phrases are for said beliefs. For example, I found that churches with compatible theology were usually listd under the headings "reformed", "Bible", and "fundamentalist." My church was listed on a directory under "fundamentalist." It's a Bible Church. Entering said search terms into Google produced some hits that did not show up on any websites. A young church may not yet be associated with 9 Marks or have a yellow pages entry, but may be found with a general google search. Local Yahoo area groups (like Houston, TX) often have Q&As about where to find a good church.

I started in a five mile area and then expanded. I first explored the website for doctrinal statments, but even then, you must know what to look for. Most seeker sensitive churches have sound doctrinal statements on their website. You have to look a little deeper. What did they use (i.e., what creeds, statements, confessions) did they use as a go-by? London Baptist and Westminister are good things to look for.

Then when you attend, ask for their complete doctrinal statement as well as their constitution and by-laws.

Lastly, as Frank said, if you are looking for perfection, either in practice or theology, you aren't going to find anything.

Penn Tomassetti said...

How to find a church?

1. Pray.

2. Do what everybody else said above.

3. Be exceedingly evangelistic, by which I mean talk to other people about the gospel often. You will meet all kinds of "christians" and Christians that way, and one of them may be going to your future church.

Jenel said...

For us NCT guys, there is a directory at http://www.soundofgrace.com
The founders.org site is very good! Have used it several times in my travels on active duty and now as a retired military contractor. Same with FIRE and Biblebb. Wary of Acts29 since that is a Mark Driscoll product. Attend an ARP body since the nearest SG baptist group is about 14 miles further. David B.

BrettR said...

The man who leads our Bible Study says that he found our church by volunteering at the crisis pregnancy center and asking which churches have made the biggest impact.

Also in our small town, nearly every church that has a website has a sermon or two on the site to download or listen to, so that may be a way to test the waters on a church.

I was born into the church I am a member of so I no real frame of reference of church hunting.

m said...

Sorry in advance for a long post!

What about people such as the deaf, which my husband and I are, who need sermons in ASL? There are three churches that serve the deaf in our area - one is Assembly of God and one of the deacons pointedly told my husband when we visited (we didn't know they were AG at the time) that they would try to make us completely AG and 'eliminate' our reformed beliefs. the other does not preach the word, advocates fornication before marriage, etc - NO.
the last one is one we won't be returning to. the pastor refused to stop harping on us about calvinism vs. arminianism, separating from everyone and anyone who wasn't "with them". There are some other deaf churches in the surrounding areas, but they pretty much fall in the same vein as the above 3.

To add to the mix, we have hearing children who also need to benefit from direct Godly instruction. We've been looking for almost four years, and the bouncing around isn't good for their spiritual well-being. Although our kids do know we aren't 'settling' and desire to find a Godly church we can all grow in.

In the meantime my husband and I are sitting 25 miles away from home (not minutes!) in the back of a sanctuary, bibles open, hands flying and deciphering the sermon, while our children go to a sunday school we know is strong in the Word.
SO -
How about methods regarding us finding a church where my husband and I can benefit as well?

We'd love suggestions!

PS - I'm an avid reader of pyro but never had real reason to post anything. This blog has been wonderfully helpful to us in the last few months - thanks, phil, dan, and frank!

Rita Martinez said...

There are several Church directories online, there's the 9marks one and there's also the Sovereign Grace Church directory of all SGC churches in the US, there's another church directory of Reformed Baptist churches online. I would start there, if the churches in the are have an online website try to listen to some of the sermons and see more or less how the preaching is like and what they believe.
Belief statements on websites I don't find very convincing unless they post a confession of faith (i.e. westminster) or something like that.
If there is no website, I would call the pastor and ask him questions about what they teach, their different ministries, how the preach the gospel, etc.
One advice: don't turn down small churches because they're small.

donsands said...

"What moved you to these churches, Don? Friends' recommendations? Yellow pages? Seeing them as you drove by? What was the method?" -Dan

Of course, when Christ first brought me out of darkness, the only light I had known was the RCC, and so I went back to church. In fact I told the Lord I will go to church every morning for a year to make up for the 15 years of not going to church. But that didn't last. Thank God and His great love and grace.
That lasted a year or so.

Then WRBS, our local radio station fed me the Word, and I looked for another church.
Friends invited me, and so I went to the churches because of friends, yes.

I then became non-pentecostal, and had to leave. that was tough.

I visited a local Calvary Chapel, and it was much more doctrinally satisfying. It was a neighborhood church, and i often would read the sign. And so I visited, and it seemed good.

I was there for 17 years. Half of which we left Calvary, and became EFCA.

Then we broke up. Nasty time that.

I went to a non-denom where I knew the pastor. Excellent pastor, and good church. But too far away.

I then check out my church now, which allows the gym to be used by CAA (Christian Athletic Association), which my grandsons played floor hockey there. As I watched my grand kids one night, I decided to go up to the Maundy Thi=Thursday service, just to pray and stand in the back. I was moved a bit. Wasn't sure about Episcopal Reformed. Found out it's world of difference from plain old Episcopal.

That's the short version, believe me.

The Lord does have a way to lead us to where he wants us; through falure, misery, and all sorts of bumps in the road. But He is with His children 24/7, even when we are not as faithful as we should be. He knows how to discipline His beloved.

God bless your evening.

Jim said...

Go to sermon audio and listen to sermons from local churches.

olan strickland said...

I got in late so I haven't carefully read all the comments to see all that everyone listed or suggested. Just in case it hasn't been listed - Anchored In Truth, the ministry of Jeff Noblit, the pastor of a reformed Southern Baptist Church in Muscle Shoals Alabama has a pastor's network that lists churches that have signed up and claim to be reformed or striving to be reformed.

Here is the Network Map and it has a drop down tab for State.

Aric said...

Here's the process my wife and I went through a couple of years ago:
1. Find possible church through Family Integrated Church website (linked to above).

2. Wrestle with the appearance of the church as a bunch of weird homeschoolers.

3. Attend a church that serves milk each week so you don't have to go to the church your wife wants to try.

4. Discuss continually with wife to try and offer excuses not to try the new church.

5. Finally give in and try the church to please your wife (read: get her off your back).

6. Struggle with the musical portion of the service because it is not what you want (read: start stockpiling excuses not to come back).

7. Get blown away by your first experience with expositional preaching.

8. Still return to old church so as to not get too excited about the weird homeschooler church

9. Tell wife you'd like to go to the church that serves steak each week (making it seem like your idea)

10. Realize you should have listened to your wife

11. Realize you have become that which you feared: a weird homeschooler that loves expositional preaching coming from a reformed-baptistic position

PS - the members of the church were not and are not weird homeschoolers. Well, o.k., I may be a bit off on certain days, but that's life.

Drewe Zanki said...

One more thought - family consensus.

We have recently moved and have been struggling to find a church that meets everyone's needs. We found one that was good for my wife and I - but the kids program was 'terrible' (to quote my two). We found another that the kids program was 'awesome' but there was no teaching at all.

So whilst at some point we need to settle on a choice, we need to ensure that the needs of both 'groups' are met in the family - we don't want to go dry ourselves, but don't want our kids growing up hating church because we forced them somewhere that didn't work. There needs to be kid appropriate teaching and activities - that is just one of our needs.

Also, here in Australia, it is much harder to find anything outside of the few big churches! They exist, it is just finding them! We found another this last weekend that finally might work, but it is hard work sometimes!

B Barnes said...

Sermonaudio.org is a good place to go, and most churches listed have sermons listed, also.

Craig said...

Being in the military, I have had all too much practice in this. It has gotten a lot easier with the advent of the internet. I don't get a choice when/where to move. I usually start looking before we move. Years ago I would get someone to mail me copies of the church pages in the phone book and then I would write letters to pastors of churches that sounded like-minded with me (based on denomination or other words in their phone book add) asking for information. This would give me the opportunity to whittle the number down so we could actually visit fewer. Now I can do much of that same research on the internet. I try to narrow it down to just a few to visit. We started an in-house policy of not giving our personal information on the visitor card on the first visit. Too many times we got the pastor or someone else from the church knocking on the door during dinner trying to tell us why all the other churches were doing things right and how we could only be good Christians if we came to his church. If a church was good enough for a second visit, then we would give our information. Sometimes we have been lucky enough to have a Christian friend already stationed at the base we are going to, and we can just join them at the church they attend.
Leaving a church home and trying to find a new one is always one of the hardest parts of a military move. That is one of the things we will be happy to give up when I finally retire from the Service.

Sir Brass said...

Dan,

A note about your comments concerning Calvary Chapel:

I believe they are unofficially (yet officially) anti-calvinist to the core. All you need to do is listen to their Pastor's Perspective radio program and hear what the calvary pope has to say.

I've heard a number of different folks who have contacted a certain reformed ministry ( ;) ) with stories about how they came to see the doctrines of grace and as soon as they opened their mouths about it at the calvary chapel they were attending (CC's are also officially non-membership churches... if one DOES start membership, it gets it's CC name yanked... it has happened), they were made unwelcome very fast.

So, just something to warn those of the readers looking at a CC.

I'd recommend looking at Harvest Bible Chapel church plants. They emphasize membership, solid eldership to keep the pastor accountable, and while they are contemporary-ish and may sound a bit seeker-sensitive, if most of them are like the one I was a member of in Prescott, AZ, they are only seeker-sensitive in so much as they don't preach pulpit-burning sermons like Al Martin :).

dan said...

Here are a few things my wife and I considered when deciding on our present church:

1. The Word. We wanted a place that had a high view of the Scriptures and taught them thoroughly. Our previous church loved doing things like "Who moved my cheese?" and "The Shack". We wanted the Bible.

2. Kid Priority. We looked for a place that would help us raise our kids in the Lord. That's a big deal for us; we want our children to know God, to love Him, to understand the gospel and to be grounded in Biblical truth. We NEEDED a church that would feed our kids and point them to Jesus.

3. Doctrinal statement. We looked for a place that had a clear doctrinal statement, a robust Biblical theology that they were unashamed to proclaim. We settled on a Baptist church that was adamant about Scriptural doctrine.

4. Participation. We wanted a place where we could contribute and use our gifts. My wife is now part of the worship team and kids development group; I'm helping out with teaching, developing the discipleship program, and other bits and pieces.

5. Accountability. We desired a place that was accountable and open. Our current church is very transparent about finances, plans etc. We appreciate that.

There are other factors but these would be the top 5.

The Squirrel said...

I always recommend churches led by Bibly Arboreal Rodents. The fluffy-tailed kind.

Hard to find many of those churches though, I know...

:o)

Squirrel

olan strickland said...

Squirrel, you might have to move to Pascagoula Mississippi!

Merrilee Stevenson said...

I believe Oland Strictland has a gift.

Paula said...

Drewe said, So whilst at some point we need to settle on a choice, we need to ensure that the needs of both 'groups' are met in the family - we don't want to go dry ourselves, but don't want our kids growing up hating church because we forced them somewhere that didn't work.

Drewe, if you're still reading, we left our last church when our kids were 15 & 17 - a rather risky decision. We trusted that God would lead us to a good church and he provided - over and above our expectations!

However, when we first visited, our older son was not enthusiastic. We practically had to drag him down to the youth room for Sunday school the first week. He hated the music (mostly hymns with organ accompaniment) & was sure he wasn't going to make any friends there b/c the kids were mostly farmers & geeky homeschoolers (not cool homeschoolers like himself) : )

Since DH & I really, really felt strongly that this was a great fit for our family (including solid teaching in the youth ministry), we told the boys that we were going to give it a six month trial; after 6 months we would have a family meeting & re-evaluate.

Again, God was good to our family & it wasn't 3 months before both kids were looking forward to Sundays, Weds. youth group & even the Sunday night service! And they were both signing up for the summer mission trip!

So, what I'm saying, is that sometimes it takes more than a few visits to really get a feel for a church. Sometimes it takes months, especially for kids who don't adjust to change well (new friends, new teachers, new schedules). However, when something becomes a routine & they see the same people every week, their feelings may change.

DJP said...

Acts 29

About my 8:08 AM, June 15, 2010 comment:

It looks like I made a mistaken connection, and a misstatement.

I plan to print a correction tomorrow prominently, but also just wanted to say right away: this was not an Acts 29 church. The pastor admires Acts 29, mentioned it in his correspondence, and sure looked like it... but when I confirmed that his wife shared the pulpit with him on occasion, that was it for me, and I didn't dig deeper. It went in my memory file (WRONGLY) as an Acts 29 church.

I am undecided whether to delete my previous comment, for fear anyone will stop reading there and come to the wrong conclusion. But I don't want anyone to think that I'm sweeping my mistake under the rug. I'm not. I was mistaken, I apologize, and I want to set the record straight.

DJP said...

BTW - I found that out by corresponding further with the pastor, asking him straight out. He's considered joining, uses their material, likes them, identifies with them -- but there's no affiliation.

The Molters said...

You can also check out Calvary Chapel

http://calvarychapel.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=5&Itemid=69

lee n. field said...

>You can usually look through their doctrinal statements, what they believe, and bios of their pastors/staff.

One thing I have noticed is that a lot of churches don't have on their websites anything about adherence to any particular creed or confession, or any homegrown statement of faith. Either they're assuming a low common denominator Christianity, or there's something a little fishy.

That's a red flag for me.

>3. Expect all the churches you find to be flawed.

Amen.

---

Here's a negative filter: If the pastor is one of C. Peter Wagner's gaggle of "apostles", avoid. That, I guess, would come somewhere between 2 of DJP's Cs (charismatics and cults).

trogdor said...

I've had to church shop a few times, here's how I found each.

1) My parents took me, so I didn't have a choice. They found it by being invited by one of my dad's coworkers. My mom's still there 40 years later.

2) When I went to college, I hooked onto a campus ministry and was invited to church by one of the leaders. Went there for about a decade, never felt the need to look anywhere else.

3) Moved for work. First I contacted several old college friends in the area and visited their churches. Then I checked with my old churches for others in the denomination in the area. Found one of those, liked it, stayed a while.

4) Transferred to Chicago, had no idea where to go. Was going to visit the church a block from my apartment, noticed that the sign mentioned that week's sermon would be by pastor Mary something, decided to pass. Found out that the new pastor at my first church had lived in Chicago a while ago, got some referrals from him. Visited one the first week and liked it. The next week I had like-minded friends visiting, took them there, they approved. Stayed there a while.

5) Got married and moved into a house about 30 miles away. No problem getting there on Sundays, but tried to make it to my Bible study mid-week... well, after about 2 hours I gave up and decided we needed to switch, unfortunately. So, we now lived a block from Harvest Bible Chapel, and between what I'd heard on the radio and read in some books I knew the teaching there would be solid. We decided to go there while we researched other churches in the area, looking for something smaller. Then we decided to stay there. And so we did.

boyd said...

For a mature Christian with settled doctrinal positions, from honest study, probably 90% of the Churches in any area are not suitable. If one has to move or relocate, it is just a matter of visiting some of the remaining and prayerfully considering your choices. One of the questions I ask is the financial situation and how long the pastor has been there.

Rachael Starke said...

Thanks for doing the work to clear that question up Dan. I will now resume a regular breathing pattern. :)

But on the plus side, this post got picked up by Boundless - the Focus on the Family podcast/blog for college and single yoots. Yay!

Mercy Reformed Baptist Congregation - SWINDON said...

You could even check out social websites like facebook for likeminded Congregations...
Or Blogger

DJP said...

I deleted my erroneous comment on Acts 29, to be sure nobody just read that far and got the wrong impression. I'm about to post an apology for it.

RMF said...

I actually moved for work, and during the job search process whether or not there was a decent church was really important, i.e. it was the first thing I checked when I got a request for an interview.

By the way, some of this becomes really hard when you are looking at jobs all over the country or even between continents (Canadian looking for work anywhere).

I was looking for a reformed presbyterian church (currently in the ARP), but was open to reformed baptist or non-denominational if that was all there was (being very convicted of the truth of continuing covenants). Checked the denominational websites for all of the denominations I was considering (RPCNA, ARP, URCNA, PCA, etc), and asked my previous pastor for suggestions.

After checking candidate church websites, then sent them a list of questions based on:

http://www.worldviewweekend.com/worldview-times/article.php?articleid=1499

with a few extra thrown in for good measure. Based on answers to that, would listen to sermons, and then enter more dialog with the pastor.

If there was not a decent (expository preaching minimum) church within an hour, then I was resolved not to accept a job offer. Thankfully I only had to go through this complete process twice (only had three job offers total, and two of those didn't come through), and we are now attending a wonderful ARP church in Louisville.

This actually kept me from applying to many jobs in mainland Europe, due to a lack of English speaking reformed churches with weekly expository preaching. I will definitely keep some of these resources in mind when I move again (probably in 2 years).

AuthenticTruth said...

All of these are helpful suggestions. The 9Marks church search is how I found out about the church we are now members of. And it was a church that previously I would not have considered; I actually visited many years ago. But a new pastor with a solid biblical vision for the ministry can make quite a difference. So keep in mind that God can transform a church that previously you would not have considered. Also, don't overlook the fact that God may actually choose to use you to stand behind good leadership and help bring about that transformation! Don't just expect to find a "perfect" church; roll up your sleeves and labor with the leadership. It will prove beneficial for your own spiritual growth and transformation as well. It was certainly beneficial for my wife and I. And often, news of a solid biblically based church travels and attracts people looking for the right things in a church. Our church is experience that kind of growth right now. So listen to what other biblically sound Christians are saying and make use of web sites like 9Marks and the Gospel Coalition.

Rob said...

I think this is an excellent resource, Dan, and definitely something that can be put to use by anyone who is in a new area and needs to find a church home to become involved with. I was personally blessed enough to be able to do a google search for my city name with "reformed Baptist" and was able to locate our church home.

thefirst46 said...

Although I am pretty stoked that I didn't have a hard time finding a church I liked (and subsequently joined), I occasionally wonder what the other churches in my area are like. As I've poked around various church websites, I've come up with a few ideas about things to look out for.

1) Does the church website talk more about Jesus or God? I was surprised at how many churches don't mention Jesus that much (or at all!) and still call themselves Christian.

2) Is the mission statement/beliefs section relatively easy to locate? There were some churches where I couldn't find it, even after clicking through several links.

3) What's their implied view of Scripture? I am a sola scriptura, no pick-n-choose type, so I noticed that some things just made me stop and go, "Wait a second..."

4) How many lead pastors has the church had in their history? This may not be on the website, but prowling around, you can put things together. Often (but not always), having a quick change-over of lead pastors isn't always a good sign.

I knew I was lucky to find the church I did, but I now appreciate it so much more.

bp said...
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Jim Pemberton said...

I've used the web site method pretty successfully to find churches to attend while traveling. I've found some solid churches that were perhaps more obscure than more popular ones, but also more faithful in many ways.

You just have to use discernment. i.e. Prominence (or even existence) of key teaching info, staff profiles, ministry opportunities. Some churches have web sites with all pizazz and no substance. It tells you something of the demographic they think should be coming to their church and therefore something of their ministry format (i.e. "seeker" or depth-of-teaching combined with strong missions interests).

A church that doesn't have a web site isn't necessarily bad, but in this day a church without one is a bit out-of-touch and is missing an inexpensive opportunity to communicate its message to the community at large.