In the year 2010, there were approximately 300,000 Protestant churches in America. In an average-sized town, this can mean over 25 churches from which to choose. With such a selection, how do we determine the best place to go? What should we look for in a church? A good church will be identifiable by its adherence to three P's: proper theology, proper perspective, and practical matters.
Of those 300,000 Protestant churches in America (as well as countless churches worldwide), not all teach proper theology. A good church will teach that Christ is the head of the church (Ephesians 1:22). It will not rely on the teaching or personality of the pastor or a denominational leader (1 Corinthians 1:12-13). It will teach that the Bible is the inspired Word of God (2 Timothy 3:15-17). No other book, teaching, or tradition can take the place of Scripture (Galatians 1:6-9). And a good church will have the proper view of salvation. Salvation is through Christ alone (Galatians 1:6-9). Salvation cannot be earned through works, rewarded for tragedy, or received through any other method or teaching than Christ and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2; Ephesians 2:8-9).
A good church will also have the proper perspective about the Christian life. The Christian life is not characterized by guilt or unrealistic burdens (Matthew 11:30). Conversely, Jesus teaches that Christians should not expect an over-abundance of worldly blessings; persecutions and trials are guaranteed—health and wealth are not (2 Timothy 3:12; Matthew 6:19-21). The Christian community should reflect this. A church should not be controlling; members should not make demands of fellow believers, but should accept them as fellow brothers and sisters and be willing to live in a relationship that encourages blessings as well as loving confrontation (Galatians 3:28; 1 Thessalonians 5:11). A good church will also encourage, train, and equip members in their spiritual responsibilities (Ephesians 4:14; Hebrews 10:24). The church is the place where the power of the Holy Spirit is manifest in the service of its members, leading to mutual growth and a passion to reach the lost world for Christ (Matthew 28:19-20).
Finally, a good church will meet its members' practical needs. It will have a place where each member can serve the others (James 1:22-27; 1 Peter 4:10). It will have a worship style that fits the congregation—neither needlessly clinging to old tradition nor embracing every new fad without discernment. Instead, the worship style will accurately reflect the God-given personalities that make the church their home (1 Corinthians 12:14-27). And a good church will be willing to meet the needs of its members (James 1:27). This could include adequate childcare at gatherings, meals for the sick, or transportation (Acts 2:44-45). Always, it will include an atmosphere of love and caring, forgiveness and reconciliation (1 John 3:11; Matthew 18:21-22; 2 Corinthians 5:18-19).
The church is the spiritual family of the believer. We should look for a church that presents proper theology and has realistic expectations of its members. But it's also important that the church be a place where each member is cared for and appreciated. This might mean something different for each individual, family, and culture, but, ultimately, the church is established by God and should reflect Him.
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