As a Christian, you know that churches are where God’s children gather to learn about him, participate in community praise and worship, find fellowship, learn to encourage each other, and provide an avenue to be a blessing to your community.
There are churches in almost every community in America and many of them have kind, caring, loving followers of Christ with leadership that teaches sound Biblical doctrine. But not all do.
Maybe you find yourself in a church that is less than ideal for you and you really want to pray about looking for a new church home. If so, you are not alone. If you google this topic, you will find 288,000,000 searches (as of this writing). That is a lot of people searching for a new church home!
Why Can’t People Just Go To A Local Church And Stay Put?
No one wants to pick up and go somewhere new. It’s risky and leaves you vulnerable. But sometimes you might feel you have no choice. Everyone’s reasons for wanting a new church varies but are legitimate to them even if those same reasons seem petty to someone else. No two people will have the same reason for looking for a new church and no two people will be searching for the same things.
I asked on social media about this topic and a few of the reasons given for wanting to find a new church home were:
- They are new to their faith and need a church home.
- They have moved and need a new church.
- God is moving them out of the church they have been attending.
- They have had issues in their current church and a resolution has not been forthcoming.
- They are seeking a change as they seek God for a renewed fire.
- New leadership has stepped in that turned the teaching from sound doctrine to questionable teaching (or even outright unbiblical opinion and pop psychology) and it’s not up for discussion.
All the above are very legitimate reasons. When I asked this question on social media I received so many messages with sweet souls complaining about the overwhelming feeling of guilt and condemnation for daring to look for a new church. That is so wrong of us to do that to each other. It’s not up to anyone else to decide who should be in what church, for how long, or if their reason for leaving (or staying) are “good enough”. Those are things that are between them and God. After all, they will answer to God for it, not us. We are to seek to please God, not man (Hebrews 11:6).
We all want a church that will teach us sound doctrine, will not lead us astray and has a group of people that we can become friends with. Beyond that, our “must haves” in a new church vary. But it’s hard to find a good fit without trying a few churches for a period of time each to get a feel for them before committing to one. It should not be a quick process. After all, you are looking to make a commitment to a church home and a commitment should never be taken lightly.
Trying Different Churches Without Committing? Doesn’t That Make Them A Church Hopper?
No. In Christian circles, if someone visits our church and doesn’t commit but moves on, we brush them off as a church hopper and never think about them again. I won’t go into church hopping too much yet. I plan to cover it more in depth in a future post in this series. For now, just let me say that it is biblical to seek out a few churches until you find the church home God has planned for you.
In the early days of Christianity, things were not the way they are now. Christians gathered together and met in each other’s homes to learn about God. Over time, churches moved out of homes and into buildings built for that purpose. Today, it is becoming common to have a combination of holding church in a building and small groups which are held in each other’s homes.
What Does The Bible Say About This?
Who Or What Is “The Church”?
A church is anywhere a body of believers in Christ gathers. God isn’t in the building, he is in and among his believers. If they sat around a bonfire learning about Christ from each other, lifting each other up, praising God and practicing his love…they just had church!
In 1 Corinthians 1:12-13, Paul reprimands the church for following after a man and a church rather than Christ. He goes on to explain that we have all been given different purposes in the kingdom and that Jesus doesn’t divide but gives an increase. He says “For we are laborers together with God. Ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building.” We, the whole body of Christ, are the church. Whichever physical building we choose to learn about God in isn’t what matters.
Let’s look at Luke 9:49-50. John wanted Jesus to smack down a follower who was about God’s business but who was not in their group. Jesus said to leave him alone “for he that is not against us is for us.” He was obviously a true follower of Christ as he was casting out demons in Jesus’ name (which the disciples were reprimanded for not being able to do in Matthew 17:19 by the way!) and Jesus told them to leave the man be. If the man was of Satan Jesus would have rebuked him and sent the demons away.
We divide ourselves by saying we belong to that denomination or sit under that preacher or never miss attending this church. It’s wonderful to be committed and stand by your commitments. God tells us to do that when he tells us to let our yes be yes and our no be no (Matthew 5:37).
But what happened to our saying I am a Christian, a follower of Christ? Why do we insist on dividing ourselves and being the judge and jury when someone doesn’t want to stay in our church? Why do we think only our denomination or our preacher is the anointed one? If we have given our life to Christ and asked him to be Lord or our life, we are all “in God’s group”.
Who Is In Charge Of The Church?
Who is the head of us, the church? It’s not a pastor, an elder, or even a denomination or organizational board. Christ is the cornerstone (Colossians 1:18). Christ alone earned that right. He is the one who died for you by brutally hanging on a cross in your place. He is the one who saved you from your sins. He is the one who intercedes with the Father on your behalf. He is the one who always listens to you, always has time for you, and will never reject you. He is the only one we should seek after. Read1 Corinthians 1:12 again.
What’s This Have To Do With Finding A New Church?
As the head of the Christian body, Jesus is the final authority, not our earthly teachers. In John 10:7-9 Jesus said that he is the door for the sheep, that by him any man may enter in and be saved and “shall go in and out, and find pasture.”
- Jesus is our door. Not a building or an organization.
- Jesus is the one who saves. Not a building or works or baptism by emersion or sprinkles or singing hymns or not singing hymns or attendance at Sunday School, etc…Just Jesus.
- He means the sheep and the sheep means us.
He Shall Go In And Out And Find Pasture
What could Jesus mean by this? We know he isn’t saying that we have his permission to go in and out of Christianity. That would go against everything his Word says. We believe this indicates Christians are free to move in and out of a church building to find pasture they are comfortable in.
Jesus doesn’t say the sheep go in the gate and he slams it shut behind them before they can escape. He doesn’t say the sheep go in the gate and he slams it shut so the sheep can be ear-marked with a tag as belonging to a particular church.
He says they shall go in and out and find pasture.
What do sheep do in a pasture? They stick together and eat on the sweet grass by grazing. If they are scared or nervous they won’t eat or drink until they settle down. Christians are to eat of the Word and drink from the living water. Like sheep, we won’t do this if we are scared or upset or feel threatened. According to this verse, it doesn’t matter which pasture we choose. We just need to keep our shepherd in sight.
God doesn’t want us to forgo church. He tells us in Hebrews 10:25 not to give up meeting together. That can take many forms. It doesn’t mean in a building that looks like this (instead of that) with a steeple (or not), with pews (or chairs or sitting on the floor), with padded kneelers (or not), with curtains open (or closed), with kids church like an amusement park (or no children’s church at all) or….
Nowhere does God say whatever church your walk into (or are born into) is the church you must stay at for a certain period of time. Churches grow just as you grow. That doesn’t mean the entire church will automatically grow at the same time. God might be taking you in a different direction from the rest of the body in your congregation and that is okay.
5 Things To Keep In Mind Before Seeking A New Church
1. Every church has a unique feel and rhythm.
My husband likes to say that churches are like restaurants in that some are casual, some are formal, some specialize in “down home, old-fashioned” and some are streamlined like fancy gourmet food. Some are peaceful and calm, some are loud and spicy. We all have different preferences and priorities. As long as a church is a Bible-believing church, we are free to pick what strikes a chord within our spirit.
2. Nothing in life is perfect.
This includes our churches or other Christians. Look at the churches in Revelation. There were good and bad in every one of them. But some were worse than others. Your goal shouldn’t be a perfect church but a Bible-believing church that you can get comfortable and grow in and is a good fit for you.
3. All churches think they are THE ONE.
They want to believe that they are a family, have the best group of people, and are perfect for everyone. Some live up to that, some fall short and can’t see it. If Jesus tells us not to deceive ourselves, don’t you think it’s possible for a church body/leadership to deceive itself too? You need to use godly wisdom and learn to look past the promotional material in a spiritual way and trust God to reveal what he wants you to know about each church.
4. Do not pick a church based on how you feel.
The first time you visit a church, it’s emotional and a bit awkward like a first date. You are both trying to impress each other. It will take time to get to know if this is a church you want to partner with long term.
5. Do a heart check.
You shouldn’t go into this process with the desire to knit-pick the churches to death. See #2 above. You also want to be careful not to go through this church search arrogantly or in anger. The devil will latch onto those attitudes in a heartbeat and manipulate your feelings. You need wisdom about this that can only come from God.
Final Thoughts To Meditate On
We are to find a church that first and foremost teaches sound doctrine that does not contradict the word of God. We are to seek out other Christians to encourage, teach and worship together. Those are non-negotiable. The rest of the stuff is up to us and our personal preference so that we can be comfortable and enjoy our time of communal feeding.
Have you ever found yourself in the position of wanting to find a new church? Did the desire grow after you took it to God in prayer or did God show you the problem was you and not your church? I have had both happen and I know both instances took praying earnestly about the situation and using my faith that God would direct my path.
In our next post in this series, we will be looking at practical ways we can use our godly wisdom to determine if a church might be a good fit for us. You can read that post by clicking on the highlighted text here: How to choose a new church using Biblical wisdom. In part 3, we look at ways to get involved so your new church feels like home.