After spending time with many college students, young adults, young couples, etc., I hear time and time again how the church seems to be losing its identity, its passion, and its mission.  You want to give up on church!  I don’t blame you.  Since I was a small child, I have been a part of many churches, and sadly many of them ended in disputes and lots of anger.  I think I am still processing how these church experiences have impacted me both positively and negatively.

Though I may feel jaded and calloused about church, I cannot give up on church.  Neither can you.  Here are 5 reasons why church engagement is vital to your growth:

  1. You are created to be in fellowship with others (Hebrews 10:24-25)
  2. You are a unique and integral part of the body of believers (Romans 12:5)
  3. You are responsible for one another like a family (Ephesians 4:2)
  4. You are called to celebrate the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus (1 Cor. 11:24-27)
  5. You are sent out to change the world as a community (Acts 1:8)

I know what you are thinking!  “Show me a church that remotely resembles the ‘community’ described in the above-mentioned statements, and then I’ll consider going there!”  Haha.  However, take a closer look — notice that these statements do not describe the church, but these statements describe you.

It is subtle, but you can easily fall into the trap of consumerism if you look for churches that “fit your taste”.  You may be on a wild goose chase for many months – even years.  Instead I encourage you to examine your heart.   Are you ready to fit into the church to which has God has called you?  You will need to pray and be honest before God and yourself.  Where is God leading me?  Which church should I join?

Photo Courtesy of Todd Klassy (cc)

Photo Courtesy of Todd Klassy (cc)

My family and I are right in the middle of this process.  It has been painful and tiresome, but also very enlightening.  I hope that our journey encourages you to do some soul-searching.  Even though it can be difficult, don’t give up on church.  Here are three steps that I suggest in order to find the church that God is calling you to join.

Step #1:  Get clear on the essentials.

I think it is important to have a set of diagnostic questions that you ask while visiting a church.  Questions like, “Did I like the pastor’s speaking style?” or “Was the worship good enough for me?” or “Does the church have the right vibe?” are pointed in the wrong direction.  Instead consider these 5 questions:

  • Do I believe what this church believes?

    Doctrine isn’t everything, but it is important to know where a church stands on specific issues.  Do some research and check out the church’s website or ask one of the pastoral staff.  Pay close attention to items that interest you.  Be honest now, so you don’t have to be awkward later.

  • Do I agree with the vision (or direction) of this church? 

    Vision is huge.  If the church wants to become something that makes you cringe or indifferent, then you are not meant for that church.  There is nothing wrong with you or the church, just a difference of vision.

  • Will I connect at this church? 

    Place yourself in the community that is being formed in that church.  Picture yourself joining a small group.  Consider race, ethnicity, demographics, location, etc.  There may be tons of opportunities to connect, but the intrinsic motivation to join these groups must be in your heart.

  • Will I grow in this church? 

    Consider if there are any people in the church that you aspire to become.  If there are, then you might be in the right place.  You should seek out their wisdom and get mentored.  My attention is drawn to the senior pastor.  Leaders reproduce who they are in their followers.

  • Will I be able to serve in this church? 

    Search for opportunities to take action and not be a spectator.  If there are spots open for you to activate your gifts, then you might be right for the church.  However, this question must be answered in the context of the previous questions.  Don’t get burned out by an unhealthy church.

Step #2:  Initiate your 6-8 week plan.

Pick 4 churches in your area.  I would recommend picking 2 churches that are familiar in nature, one church that is moderately familiar, and one church that is completely different from your prior church experiences.  I think the variety will be great for your discernment process.  You will have more to compare and contrast.

Next, create a schedule in your calendar for these 4 churches.  I suggest scheduling your visits like this:

  • Week 1:  Church A
  • Week 2:  Church B
  • Week 3:  Church C
  • Week 4:  Church D

Ask yourself the 5 diagnostic questions mentioned above.  Now, rank these churches.  Take your top 2 churches and go visit them again.

  • Week 5:  Church B
  • Week 6:  Church C

Take time for another round of asking the 5 diagnostic questions.  Now rank these 2 churches.  Make your top choice and go visit one more time.

  • Week 7:  Church C

Make this your new home church.  Unless you noticed a major discrepancy with your prior observations, you should be satisfied that God has called you to join this community.

Step #3:  Make a decision and commit.

Crazy – you’ve got a new home church! Sadly, your temptation will be to bail, the moment anything goes wrong.  Don’t do that.  Remember this is not all about the church, but this is about God calling you to be a part of a community.

Commit to the church for at least 6 months and see what happens.  Pray and ask God to reveal His plan for you.  The church needs you just as much as you may need it.  You are called to one another.  Therefore, wait on God and His timing.  You will be satisfied that you are not another church connoisseur.

Photo Courtesy of Sibi Thomas (c)

Photo Courtesy of Sibi Thomas (c)

I would like for you to pray for my family as we are in the middle of executing this plan.  We want God to lead us to the right church.  In the meantime, we want God to shape our hearts to be ready for our new church.  I know God does not waste anything – even the ugly moments of past church experiences can be redeemed.

Have you felt like giving up on church?  What has your church experience been like?  Do you have advice to help others find a good home church?  Please comment below.