My husband and I are looking for a new church. The last one didn’t meet our needs in several ways: we didn’t feel fed by the pastor and we didn’t like the direction the worship music was going. Can you help us with some thoughts about what to look for?
We are such a consumer oriented people, aren’t we? It even spills over into our expectations for the churches we attend. Is the pastor meeting my needs? Will I be fed here? Do I like the music? Is it too loud? Not loud enough? Too traditional? Too contemporary? Are there people my age? Are there activities that appeal to me?
For the 30 years we were in pastoral ministry, we were invited to every church we served, and we were always welcomed with wide open arms and every matter of help getting settled and feeling at home. After retirement, and moving to a new state, we suddenly found ourselves on the same playing field as everyone else looking for a new church. We came up with our own set of questions that we used as benchmarks in our search:
- Is the gospel the most important thing?
- Does this church have an outreach mindset, focused on serving both the body and the community?
- Is there a place we can serve here?
- Is this a place where we could feel at home?
Do you see the difference between these questions and the consumer driven questions above? You are either looking for a place to be ministered to that meets your felt needs, or you are looking for something bigger than yourself – a place where you can be a part of a community of faith, sharing a vision, using your gifts, and making a difference. What can you give to a church? This is a much more important question than “what’s in it for me?”
Again, at the end of the day, what we can give to a church is more important than what we think we should receive. Charles Spurgeon, the 19th century English preacher, said this: “The day we find the perfect church, it becomes imperfect the moment we join it.” I pray that as you look for a new church you will consider how you can serve God and others. It is, to be sure, important to be able to connect to the messages you hear on a Sunday morning. But in this world there are limitless ways to be fed. As you realign your priorities with Jesus’ priority to be other-centered, you will find it easier to fulfill your calling in a local church.
“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” — Mark 10:45 (NIV)