My thoughts are only my thoughts. When you read my words, don’t read them as instructional, see them as what my process looked like. Anything that strikes you as useful as you read it, contemplate that thing more.
The purpose of church isn’t strictly to meet your personal needs, that’s God’s department. You might find a church that is a wonderful fit for your children, an online ministry that takes you through Bible studies in a way that speaks to you, worship down the road you go to once or twice a month, authors you connect with. Your Christian walk really happens at home. All that to say don’t look for a perfect church and if you feel like you find a church that God is leading you to, trust the process not the church. And give the people the grace to be human. Because they are.
- Church hop! Make the determination that until you’ve sampled 3 or 5 churches you aren’t going to make a decision about where to put down roots. Don’t fill out cards or give away your personal information, just gather information and see how the service, pastor and flavor strike you. The Holy Spirit might make you feel right at home almost immediately and great if He does! Friendliness of congregants is not the Holy Spirit by the way. Or He might need you to commit somewhere that isn’t your personal dream church but His ways are trustworthy and you being in church isn’t always all about you. Take your time!
- Find a Biblically based church. My pastor has a brilliant way of using Bible text as the foundation for his messages and incorporating illustrative stories as supplemental to God’s Word. In my church hopping moments I visited churches where the pastors’ messages and ideas were supported by a couple of verses. I prefer the former, personal preference.
- What if I don’t know what a “Biblically based church” is? When we moved to our new hometown we sampled a few churches but couldn’t find my bucket list. So we took a sabbatical, made brunch every Sunday morning and watched a pastor on television. For about a year and a half! His messages were a mixture of scripture and anecdotal stories so they were easy to understand and very uplifting. Very healing! Not very deep or challenging but sometimes you need a church that is more spa than boot camp. If you read the Bible a couple times a week and really practice praying and hearing the Holy Spirit, He will help you out in this area, for sure. I love Dr. Tony Evans. He is someone you can find on YouTube, through live streaming, podcasts, all sorts of ways to connect. Extremely Biblically based, in fact, I suggest start with him so you recognize what Biblically based means. A few weeks or a couple months getting your relationship online with God and it will be easier to figure out where He wants you to worship.
- Don’t overthink the church thing. I’ve changed churches several times in my life! The most important part of finding a church is hearing from God. He literally WANTS to help you with this, and He will. Maybe you will start out in a more storytelling church than I prefer? Go with it!
- You are not in a rush. Your Christian walk is a lifelong process. Don’t pressure yourself to make fast decisions. Start reading and praying, find an online ministry you identify with, better to find several, and just keep moving in the right direction. In addition to Dr. Evans several to get you started are: Joyce Meyer Ministries Joyce is a wonderful place to start for a new believer. Her engaging messages are completely practical and yet filled with substance. I’ve been to several of her conferences and watched her on YouTube. Living Proof Ministries with Beth Moore Beth Moore’s Bible studies really challenge and motivate you to dig deep both within the Bible and within yourself. She’s amazing and all over social media as well. Don’t limit yourself because this is new. God is also in the fast tracking business and that might be your path. The gospel isn’t tricky or complex and you ARE God’s beloved. He will help you.
- Are the church people going to judge me/my lifestyle? That’s hard to say not knowing the details. If you have to ask then my answer is maybe a few of them but mostly not. Again, it must be repeated. Church people are people in a church and people are flawed. Most won’t but if I were the devil and I wanted to trip you up or make you rethink your commitment I would definitely try to throw some negative experiences and people your way. Most Christians don’t worry about your lifestyle, nobody I personally know would no matter what your story. We all have your story. Jesus certainly won’t and one of his great-great-great-something grandmothers was the prostitute Rahab. God is in the redeeming business and most Christians realize we all have our own battles to fight.
- What if I can’t find a church? Cast the net wider. I definitely believe we are each necessary pieces to a local church puzzle. It’s how we connect with potential like-minded friends or mentors, how to get connected to local service opportunities, and the easiest way to find and commit to Bible study/small groups. Having said that, I have friends who live in the country and none of their local churches were a “fit.” If you find yourself in this position, perhaps finding a church farther away is more ideal for a season. In that case I recommend finding one large enough to have a great media department. Can you attend twice a month and supplement by watching the messages online? Your service opportunities don’t necessarily need to come through your church, my husband’s don’t. I love my church but 99% of my learning and growth happen through books and YouTube pastors at home! We live in the age of technology, take advantage! Eventually you might discover God brings you home to be a part of a local church in a transformational way.
This decision isn’t just important to you, it’s important to God and He will be there to guide you on your way.