Have you been feeling lonely and wish you had more friends? Do you sense God calling you to a more spiritual way of life? Do you wish there were ways you could help others? Then maybe God is calling you to be a part of His church. But with so many denominations, how can you tell which one you should join? While the following list is not exhaustive, it does give you some pointers on where to start looking and how to evaluate denominations and churches as you move toward a decision on which one to join.
How it relates to people
One of the key issues in looking for a church is its relationship to people, both within its own fellowship and those on the “outside.”
Friendship. Jesus welcomed good people and bad people, so you should look for a church that welcomes everyone, where the people treat you like a friend even if your life in the past has been short of the ideal.
Within each denomination are individual churches (congregations) that are very friendly and others that are not so friendly. So look for a local congregation where everyone is welcome to attend, where you feel welcomed and cared about.
Service. The church you join should provide ways that you can serve people both within the congregation and the community outside the church, both physically and spiritually. Look for a church that offers services to the community such as Vacation Bible Schools and help with food and clothes for people in need.
What it teaches
Some people say, “Don’t give me doctrine. Just give me Jesus.” What they mean is, “Don’t give me a bunch of dry theology. Help me learn how to be a happier, more fulfilled person.” Doctrine can be explained in a dry, theological way, but its purpose should be to help people grow into that happier, more fulfilled person you want to be.
There’s a wide variation in the doctrines of different denominations, so one of the critical issues you need to look at in choosing a church to join is what each church teaches. In the following list, I’ve summarized the most important teachings you should look for in a church to join.
The Bible is the foundation of the Christian faith. Without it there would be no Christian church and no denominations within Christianity. So when looking at a particular church or denomination you might join, find out what it says about the Bible. Does it teach that the Bible was inspired by the Holy Spirit, making it God’s guide for how to live? Does it teach that the Bible’s stories are true and not simply myths and legends? That’s one mark of a church to join.
Sin and salvation. Does the church you’re investigating understand that God hates sin and is calling people everywhere to break away from it? Does it teach that Jesus died to save human beings from the penalty of sin and that salvation is by grace alone through faith in Him? Does it teach that good deeds are the result of being saved rather than the way to be saved? Do the sermons or Bible study classes sometimes provide you with insight into your own wrong actions and character defects? Even if this makes you feel uncomfortable, it’s a good kind of discomfort, and it’s another mark of the kind of church to join.
The Ten Commandments. What does the church say about God’s law, especially the Ten Commandments? Does it teach that all of them are God’s law for our guidance today or only some of them? Does it take seriously the other moral instruction in the Bible that helps us to better understand the Ten Commandments? A church that supports God’s laws is a good church to join.
Where sin came from. One of the most critical questions of all time is why a good God can allow evil and suffering to exist. How does the church you’re inquiring about answer that question? If it teaches that evil originated with Satan, who rebelled in heaven and tempted the first humans to join him, it’s a good church to join.
Life, death, and resurrection. Does the church you’re thinking of joining teach that there’s life beyond the grave? Does it teach that Jesus will return to Earth in the clouds one of these days, that He will raise back to life His loyal followers who’ve been asleep in the grave, and that He’ll take all His faithful people home to live with Him throughout eternity? That’s also a good church to join.
When you find a church that does all these things and teaches all these things, you’ve found a good church to become a part of.