How do you choose where to go to church? “We like the kids’ programs.” “I’ve been here for years—I’m not leaving.” “They teach the Bible here.” “Folks are so friendly—I feel at home here.” “The preacher is easy to understand.” “It’s close and easy to get to.” “It’s big enough I can be anonymous.”
We have all kinds of reasons for making the choices we do; going to church is no different. And yet it is different. By engaging our spiritual nature, regular church attendance shapes who we are and how we think more than other activities do.
May I suggest some Biblical criteria for evaluating whether a particular congregation is being/doing what church should?
Acts 2:42 “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”
The Apostles’ Teaching
Does Scripture prominent place in the assembly? Is the preaching Biblical, or more self-help and the power of positive thinking? Does the church look to Scripture for guidance in times of crises and for making decisions? Are the leaders Bible students and teachers, and to they welcome questions as a part of growth? Do you find healthy teaching here—not twisted doctrine that leads to warped ideas and frustrated lives? Does the church both provide occasions for studying the Bible together and encourage individual Bible study? The church should always be devoted to the Apostles’ teaching.
Do the members of this church enjoy being together? Do they welcome each other into their homes and lives, celebrating the inter-dependence of faith? Do they help one another to mature in Christ by lovingly admonishing when needed? Are they able to confess sins to one another and receive forgiveness and guidance? Do they cooperate in reaching out to the world around them? Are church finances managed with appropriate accountability? The church should be devoted to fellowship in the full Biblical sense of the term.
The Breaking of Bread
We’re not talking about just a church potluck here, but THE fellowship meal—the Eucharist/Lord’s Supper/Communion. Does this church come together each Lord’s Day to partake of the body and blood of Christ in a weekly celebration of salvation? Do they assemble to worship (not to have a worship experience), offering prayers for the nation and its leaders, singing praises to God and words of edification to one another, and hearing the proclamation of the Word of the Lord? The church should be devoted to the breaking of bread, and all that goes with assembling as the church of our Lord.
Does this church pray together (corporately) and individually? Is there a place in the assembly (and other church activities) for structured prayer, and are spontaneous prayers offered naturally by church members on various occasions? Are the prayers only for physicals health and economic well-being, or do they also focus on the need for spiritual health, walking with the Spirit and growing into the image of Christ? Do members of this church ever practice intercessory prayer? The church should be devoted to prayer in all its rich variety.
How well does your church fit the picture given in Acts 2:42? None will be everything you might want it to be; but look at the general focus and direction. And ask yourself what small, specific step(s) you can take to improve the situation.