Feedback from You

Here's a question to consider. I'm curious what your opinions are on the subject.

What do you look for in a church? What areas are important to you, and what areas do you think you could "settle" on? (teaching, fellowship, ministry, kids' activities, support groups, location, outreach, missions, size) Does denomination matter to you?

ashley's signature

17 Comments:

  1. twiga92 said...
    What the church believes - their statement of faith is important to me. I need to believe the same in the basics as the church. Ideally, the sermons would be meaty, worship would be a style I enjoy and fellowship would be there. We've tried many churches where 1 or more were lacking but were able to serve anyway. It's important to me (to us as a couple) that we are at a church where we can use our gifts to serve and where we grow spiritually.
    beth said...
    The fellowship is really important to me, especially since we move every two years. :-) I need to feel the "family" aspect of the body of Christ. I look for small groups and bible studies and opportunities to get close to the people right away.

    The worship style of our previous churches have varied tremendously, from robed choirs to bands that could get their own recording contracts (and bands that... could not). So I can't say that's a deciding factor.

    The sermons preferably would have a lot of background information and application to life today. And I love it when pastors go through an entire book at a time. Or at least a large section of scripture rather than just one overdone verse (or a scattered collection of verses that support his point).

    Location doesn't seem to matter as we usually choose the churches that take over 30 minutes to get to rather than the one across the street.

    Well, that's as much thought as Olivia will let me give to the matter. :-D
    Lydia said...
    Interesting questions to ponder.

    The preaching is very important to me. I prefer an expository style rather than an "experiential" style with lots of stories and cutesy examples or just based on topic alone. I like messages where I am convicted of sin but also pointed back to the Cross of Christ for the solution. I love to hear the true and full Gospel proclaimed.

    Children's programs- are not much of an issue at this point sense I don't have any children. :) I am not entirely gung-ho about the "family integrated church" concept. I do think it is preferable for children to be with their parents during the bulk of the worship service. Children can pick things up at a very young age. And the Word teaches that children can learn scripture early on. Sometimes I find that a set-up where the children seem to be neglected in the teaching can be detrimental. I believe it is primarily the parents (esp fathers) to train and teach their own children from the scriptures. I just see that this is often not done or else grossly overlooked by them. I can go either way on Children's programs at this time.

    Music- Ooooh that is a hot-button issue. I enjoy the more traditional, hymn and Scripture based music. I don't like a lot of show and distractions from worshiping God. I realize some people feel like the more contemporary music draws them closer to God. I can't really speak to that. It doesn't for me. The words are very important in the music but so is the music itself. I want my thoughts to be directed to God himself and what he has done for his people rather than how I feel about him or how I relate to him which is what I often perceive in the more contemporary worship music.

    I also want an assembly where I can use my gifts. BSF has greatly provided this for me. I have had a difficult time determining what my "spiritual gift" could be. I think it is a combination of 3 or 4. I guess it partly depends on your application of the passages that teach on spiritual gifts. Sometimes I feel that young, unmarried people are neglected in the service of the church. At least it has been that way for me. I guess that is partly my own responsibility to seek out opportunities to serve rather than waiting around until someone asks. :)

    Doctrine is important to me. I would pay careful attention to the church's adopted statement of faith but it also comes out more clearly in what is being preached each Sunday. Some doctrines are non-negotiables in that if someone differs in their thought then they are outside "Orhodoxy." Examples would be Christ's virgin birth, his sinless life on earth, the basic nature of man, the Nature of God, salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, etc.

    Fellowship is important too. I have never been in a church where we did not have good fellowship so this is hard to imagine for me. I guess having closer relationships with like-minded people who exemplify a growing, grace-filled faith is what I look for. I don't like being around people who are constantly nit-picking at every little thing they don't agree with in another believer.

    Does denomination matter? Yes and no. Since there are such diverse differences between denominations on key issues it probably would matter to me but I could see myself possibly attending a "non-denominational" church. I would most closely adhere to either Reformed Baptist or maybe Presbyterian although I have never attended a Presbyterian church besides a few special conferences. I could also maybe go with Southern Baptist but it would have to be a somewhat unusual Southern Baptist congregation. :)

    Location is somewhat of an issue but in our current assembly along with people I know it is not uncommon for a family to drive 30-45 min even an hour to reach their church. Other elements of an assembly are much more important than how far away it is or whether or not it is in your neighborhood. Our current assembly takes about 15-20 min to drive. I could "settle" on this. Unless the drive was like 4 hours away!

    On size, our current assembly is a little over 200 people with large families. I wouldn't necessarily oppose a larger assembly but I think accountability and fellowship is important for a local assembly and sometimes that seems to be lost in the larger congregations. I like the idea of small groups or cell groups for these situations. It can be nice to attend a large congregation so that you don't feel like everyone at church knows your business. :)

    I would like to attend a church with more of an outreach focus. It seems that often times in Reformed congregations that there is very little emphasis on evangelism or sharing the gospel. I think it is clear from scripture that all believers are to be about this in one form or another whether through prayer/giving, going to a distant location, or even being an evangelist right where you are in your neighborhood or community.

    One last thing, a strong emphasis on the authority, supremacy and sufficiency of Scripture is very important to me in a local assembly. We always need to be pointing people back to the Word itself for our pattern for all of life and conduct. And never should ideas be made to "fit" in the Scriptures but rather every area of our lives should be conformed to Scripture.

    After reviewing my responses I think I am pretty opinionated when it comes to what to look for in a church. LOL!

    Thanks for the topic suggestion. Hope my response wasn't too detailed or long. :) This was a great exercise to get me to think about what is really important in a local church.

    I would be interested to hear what you think, Ashley, along with Susan. :)
    Nichole said...
    Well, I guess I shall preface by saying that I do not prefer the Southern Baptist tradition but my FIL preaches the gospel with integrity (and in a very clear, succinct way that is easy for me to follow), I go to listen to him and be a spiritually supportive member of the congregation (it's tough to be a pastor!) and I have a calling in the Praise Team. So I suppose doctrine, teaching and calling the most important things to me.

    In fact, now that I think about it, those were the primary things I was looking for in college. Number one was definitely teaching the gospel with integrity. I could hardly get my head around the number of churches in the South (hundreds and hundreds in one city!), yet I was surprised -- shocked, many times -- at either the lack of substance or just plain extra Biblical matter. And I always looked for a sense that I was "supposed" to be there -- maybe that there was a need I could fill.

    Denomination was never really important, although I have learned that I don't like the governing structure (I forget the technical term for it) of the SBC. I won't get into it here, because I don't want to offend my brothers and sisters but suffice it to say, I think it is the cause of a lot of its faults. But EVERY structure is going to have SOME faults. As long as the doctrine is in line with the Apostle's Creed, a church is for consideration from me.

    Fellowship for me has never had to go beyond a ministry I can get involved in and work alongside others. I don't necessarily look for Bible studies, etc. although it would be NICE.

    And worship style is not so much important as content and spirit. I love love love spirituals. I felt totally at home in a mostly African American congregation during the singing part of the worship service. But I went to one in particular in which there seemed to be a disingenius spirit and I just had to cross it off the list. I admit, sometimes the songs chosen by our worship leader leave me with a confused feeling, but Pastor Nelson usually corrects the doctrinally ambiguous lyrics. :)

    I believe outreach ought to be high a church's list of priorities. I think it's important to not get caught up just in internal ministries. But the church I attend now does not do as much outreach as I would like. Or maybe it's just the attitude of a lot of the members. There always seems to be an expectation of "When is the next potluck?" rather than "What are we doing connect with the community?" Still, I don't feel like I ought to leave the congregation.

    One thing my church does have down is missions! The SBC keeps track of who gives what where and our church is near the top of the list for the most to missions offerings. And we have sent out several missionaries, which is no easy feat for a congregation of its size (which is smaller if you take into account the fact that 90% of it changes with summer deployments). For that I am really thankful. But I think as long as there were a local outreach, a lack of emphasis on missions wouldn't bother me too much. There just needs to be SOME kind of focus on others for me to feel comfortable that the church is doing good work and isn't just some social club.

    Hmm, I forgot what else you asked but I think that is more than sufficient! And I think Micah is hinting for me to start dinner. He he.
    John Dekker said...
    Wow, this post has certainly provoked some weighty comments!

    Beth: I love it when pastors go through an entire book at a time.

    Yes, I think that's the best thing to do, for a number of reasons which I don't need to explain here.

    Lydia: I also want an assembly where I can use my gifts.

    Yes, I can see that's this is important, though it raises the question, should all gifts be exercised? What if, for example, you had the gift of preaching, Lydia?

    Do you know everyone in your church, Lydia? 200 is a bit on the large side, in my opinion. I think 100-150 is probably optimal. :)

    I think the denomination is important - a church should be accountable to other churches, and therefore should not be independent. But if it is part of a denomination, it has some degree of responsibility for what the denomination is like, so I'm of the opinion that Bible-believing churches should leave liberal denominations.

    Anyway, I'm happy with the traditional criteria from the time of the Reformation - preaching the Word (and we can include evangelism in this), celebrating the sacraments and discipline. The others are pretty negotiable. :)
    Susan said...
    Um, I'm confused, John. If we're talking about spiritual gifts, then clearly Lydia would not have the *spiritual* gift of preaching, since the Spirit does not give gifts that are antithetical to Biblical doctrine.

    Anyway, no shock please, anyone. I'm actually going to post a comment that is longer than three sentences! That's a first in a long while. I'm currently procrastinating by blogging, something I haven't had the luxury of doing in a while, nor do I really have the luxury of doing now, but I will anyway. *guilty grin*

    I look primarily for three things in a church:

    (1) The faithful preaching of the Word. This includes a strong Gospel emphasis, right doctrine, etc. And this includes the living out of the Word by the leadership. Grace should permeate the exposition of the Word.

    (2) The correct exercise of church discipline. A church that does not discipline is dangerous. A church that abuses this is also dangerous. I like how the PCA handles church discipline :-).

    (3) The right administration of the sacraments. In other words, we're not bowing to the elements in communion, or viewing baptism as sufficient or necessary for salvation. On the flipside, a church that rightly administers the sacraments will also have a proper reverence for these institutions that God has ordained, and not treat them flippantly (e.g., no grape cool-aid and pop tarts for communion).

    And yes, for anyone who is wondering, I realize and freely admit that I just shamelessly stole the three marks of a Biblical church from the reformers. They were smart people.

    Other things that would be important, would be a welcoming atmosphere, where I can feel like I'm part of a family. After having been in the past part of churches that seemed like they were entertainment-driven, it is also important for me to go to a church with a worship service, not a participatory concert. I would not want to attend a church where I would not be eligible for membership, since I think church membership is important, so that would rule out most churches, since I'm paedo-baptist. Hehe. (Most presbyterians welcome credo-baptists as members, by the way.) So, that would narrow me down mostly to Presbyterian churches, which is fine by me. I really think the PCA is a nice balance of Biblical doctrine, good leadership structure, and a gracious dealing with fellow Christians. A church that does not hold to the innerancy of scripture is not a church, so to say I would not attend a church that holds that seems to me a bit redundant :-).

    Oh, and I'd ultimately pick the church my spiritual head chose, barring any huge and glaring heresies. So, that means that for now I go where my dad goes. And Lord willing, soon I will go where Adrian goes :-).

    And those are my ramblings on churches :-).
    John Dekker said...
    The right administration of the sacraments.

    It is, however, a bit of a fuzzy category. Does it exclude credobaptism? Paedocommunion? Granted that we exclude cool-aid, does right administration mean the wine needs to be alcoholic?

    Personally, I believe in weekly communion, but I no church of which I've been a member has ever done this. Am I fudging this criterion?
    Susan said...
    I purposefully left it a bit open. I prefer weekly communion with wine (coincidentally, my church just moved to this). That's very unsual for a Dutch-reformed guy to favor weekly communion, is it not? I think there is room for difference. Just like there is a difference between preaching heresy and not always preaching 100% accurate truth. No, I don't think right administration means that the wine needs to be alcoholic. I do think it needs to be close to the Biblical elements.
    John Dekker said...
    That's very unsual for a Dutch-reformed guy to favor weekly communion, is it not?

    Is it? Calvin preferred weekly communion, of course. And we've always stressed the covenantal nature of corporate worship, and I think it follows from that - the Lord's Supper is the covenant meal, which ought to be celebrated when God's covenant people gather to hear his covenant Word.
    Susan said...
    Oh, I know Calvin preferred weekly communion, but then, he also believed in the perpetual virginity of Mary, so "Calvin believes ____" does not imply that a typical reformed person believes ____ nor that particular types of reformed folk do. I thought I had heard that Dutch reformed generally (realizing that there are exceptions to almost every rule) prefer quarterly. That was all my comment meant. *shrug* In the PCA, we are required to have it at least quarterly, if I remember correctly, but most churches have it monthly, and a few have it weekly.
    John Dekker said...
    Well, as it turns out, Susan, my Mum doesn't believe in weekly communion - I imagine it must come from all the Federal Vision theology I've imbibed.

    Anyway, sorry to get off topic, Ashley.
    Lydia said...
    I don't have the time for a long comment but just briefly, I agree that women should not preach in the church. That is very clear teaching of scripture. But I also side with Susan that if a gift is a spiritual gift given by the Holy Spirit in conjunction with salvation, then a woman could not have the gift of preaching because that would go against the scriptures. But can a woman have the gift of teaching and can she exercise it within a proper context such as teaching her own children or teaching other women or maybe teaching a children's Sunday school class? Especially if she is under her authoritative head and acting in accordance with his wishes. BTW, I don't think I have the gift of "preaching."

    It is men who clearly need to be the leaders in the church and in the family. Woman are to serve in a supporting role.

    Thanks for the comment. I do want to be sensitive to what scripture teaches and not to participate in something just because it makes me feel good or acceptable. And I enjoyed hearing both Susan's and John's take on what is important in the church.

    Well, I gotta "git" to work. :)
    By for now. :)
    John Dekker said...
    And obviously I knew that you believed that. But the concept of wanting to exercise one's gifts has been a cause of much trouble. Especially when other people don't agree with you about what your gifts are.

    Come to think of it, who does one work out what one's gifts are? I don't think the Bible tells us. I'm open to correction on this, but as far as I recall, it only tells us to desire and pray for gifts - and not to try and discern what gifts we do have.

    And then there's the issue of gifts vs. general obligations. All older women are told to teach younger women, aren't they? Whether they think they have a gift for it or not? Or am I misreading Titus 2:3?
    Ashley said...
    Well, as far as that last thing you said, John, I feel like you can follow that rather broad "commandment" in the specific way that God has given you skills for. Perhaps some women are gifted at teaching; they can lead a young women's Bible study. Others may be better one on one: perhaps they can reach out to younger women through a music ministry, or service opportunity, or cooking together.

    But I don't necessarily want to get on the subject of spiritual gifts because I haven't thought in depth too much about them. :-)

    And I don't mind the digression about communion. :-) I had always been to churches that did monthly or weekly communion, and my church now does it quarterly - which I thought was weird. But again, I haven't thought too much on the subject.

    Thanks for all the responses, y'all. I plan to write a post on my thoughts today or tomorrow.
    Joanna said...
    Thanks for making us think about this Ashley!

    Obviously, what a church believes is the most important. There's no sense in sitting through a service every week where I don't agree with what's being preached. It just makes me mad. Worship style is only moderately important- I just need to feel comfortable and free to worship God, which can mean a lot of things. I've regularly attended Baptist, Evangelical Free, Methodist, and psuedo-charismatic churches in the past, and been comfortable in all of them. The diversity of the body of Christ is beautiful, and I'm sad that people see it as divisive. I'm in the middle of a book, A Generous Orthodoxy, that I'll post about later.

    But I think there's more to 'what a church believes' than their statement of faith. How do they care for the poor? How do they seek to connect people in relationships? How can I serve the body of Christ with my gifts and passions in this community? Are the sermons preached in an angry, haughty, or accusatory way, or is there a humility in the leadership of the church? Does somebody NEED a seminary degree to speak up front, or can laypeople have spiritual insight to share as well? Does the church encourage contemplative and creative worship to our creative God, or does the service seem rote and lifeless?

    As for location, this is a tough one. There are people that drive well over half an hour to come to my church every week. I know of people from Taylor who drove down every week to come to my church... I'm of the opinion that we should worship in our community, where we are, as much as possible. This is a tough decision, as we are looking for a house. If we move 30+ minutes away, we'll probably look for another, closer church, so we can be involved in the community in which we live. I LOVE my church, so looking for a house nearby is a priority. If we don't find one, so be it, we will meet Christians where we end up.

    As for size, I've been in a variety of churches, and see advantages in both small and large churches. Right now, I attend a 100-person worship service at a 7,000 member church. The small churches allow for everyone to know everyone, and the large churches allow everyone to find their 'niche'. At the small church I attended for a time, I served in the children's ministry, because that was all there was to do. At my current church, I can find my niche, and use my passions and gifts in more specific ways. I can help with the special needs ministry, the web site, or the church library. Josh can sing in a fabulous choir and, in the future, choose to help with the car-care ministry. Together, we can be involved in a young-couples small group, and cook and serve a meal downtown every month.

    'Church shopping' is a vain attempt to "hear what I want to hear". For me, what it boils down to is, if a church is a Bible-believing community full of life and genuinely, humbly seeking to love God and others, it's a good church.
    Lydia said...
    Do you know everyone in your church, Lydia? 200 is a bit on the large side, in my opinion. I think 100-150 is probably optimal. :)

    Were you being sarcastic or serious by this statement? I couldn't tell. I assume serious. :)

    Our church is comprised of about 25 families, the vast majority large conservative homeschooling families. And yes, whether you think 200 is large or not I know all of them quite well. Too well in some cases. :) We have four teaching/ruling elders (three of which were recently installed) and one deacon although I would guess that they will be seeking for additional deacon appointments in the near future. There are many, many young people and children but not as many my age since the married couples seem to leave the church once they are married for a variety of reasons. So the age composition is mostly married couples in their 30's to 50's with numerous children ranging from newborns to age 26. I am one of the oldest in the unmarried group. There is also one elderly couple and one widowed older woman. The teaching is Scripturally sound for the most part but not always very in-depth or scholarly.

    Personally, I believe in weekly communion, but I no church of which I've been a member has ever done this. Am I fudging this criterion?

    We have monthly communion at the assembly I attend. I would not be opposed to having communion more often but in my thinking weekly communion would make it seem more of a mere ritual than what it is supposed to represent. Of course, this all depends on the heart response and state of the individual believer. Maybe a less predictable schedule for communion would be good. :) Like not always the 1st Sunday of the month; vary the week it is served. This is not all that critical, at least not in my mind. I think the spiritual focus for the believer in partaking communion is most important along with teaching of what the elements represent and why it is observed and of course just being a part of the observance! We are taught to observe it regularly. Well, that is all I want to get into for now.

    Thanks for the thought-provoking ideas and comments. It is good to know how other believers observe the same biblical practices in their assemblies.
    John Dekker said...
    Yes, I was being serious - though maybe with a twinkle in my eye given the popularity of mega-churches. (Although it's a popularity on the wane according to some observers.)

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