Last week I wrote about my salvation experience and how long I was haunted by fear and doubt. If you missed it, you'll find it here: Haunted
Not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:25
Goin' church shopping - we all dread it. When we move, it's easy to say, "I'll start visiting churches next Sunday." When my husband and I moved a few years ago, it took us a long time to find one we were both comfortable with.
As a baby Christian, I longed for a church where I could rejoice in this new love I'd found. As I look back, I see the critical steps God used to guide me and I hope these will help you if you're looking for a church home.
1. Know what you believe. I believed God loved me and, because Jesus died on the cross, I was forgiven and accepted by Him. I craved to know Him more deeply. I had a small King James Bible with Jesus' words in red. Surely, I thought, Jesus' precious words were the best way to the Truth.
I skipped from red words to red words, painstakingly making a list of what I believed He taught.
I remember Mom occasionally saying, "Paul said..." At that point, I didn't know for sure who Paul was and I wasn't interested in what he said! Cocky, huh?
For me, truth was found in Jesus' words and in His only.
As we look for a church home, we should search God's Word and allow Him to speak to us. That was especially important for me because I had no foundation. Even if we happen to belong to a certain denomination, we need to reaffirm what we believe. Above all, base what you believe on God's Word. He alone is the source of Truth.
2. Listen to the Holy Spirit. Where to start? I had no idea so I went with my friends' families. Every Sunday I asked God to show me if that was where I belonged. Of course, I hoped my best friend's church would be the perfect one, but it didn't turn out that way.
Sometimes I was confused and uncomfortable with the ritual. Other times I heard teachings that didn't match my list. This was simplistic and even dangerous; I could've ended up anywhere - even with someone as horrible as James Jones or David Koresh. But, as I look back, I see how God guided me and protected me every step.
Some of us don't identify with a particular denomination. We can trust God for discernment to find teaching that's consistent with our beliefs. Others might be part of a certain one, but be wary because the name on the church sign doesn't always mean the doctrine's true. Listen to God; depend on Him and His Word to guide you.
3. Trust God to meet your family's needs. I needed a church with a strong youth group that would love me and challenge me to grow. Most of the ones I visited met that criteria but many of them weren't consistent with what I believed. It was hard to move on when the youth group was fun but I was uncomfortable with the teaching.
Every family's different. We usually choose churches to visit based on our needs: an active youth group, a nursery that will teach our little ones about Jesus, an inviting, supportive senior-citizen's class. It's easy to focus on those things and forget to seek God's leading. It's tempting to jump into a church that ministers to our families but give second place to doctrine.
God's taught me that nothing is more important than the Truth. Ministry can become hollow when the teaching's weak or even incorrect. Above all else, we need to grow in Jesus.
God knows our needs and He'll guide us to a church that balances our ministry needs and our needs for His Truth. I praise Him because He led me to a church that loved me, involved me in activities that strengthened the gifts He gave me, and challenged me to grow in my knowledge of Him.
Stand on His Truth, listen to His guidance, and trust Him to lead you to a church that will truly become home. Then rejoice in Him!