It is imperative Christians not approach the local church as a consumer. The church is not a place where I am to be perceptually entertained with little to nothing expected of me. The church should call us to holiness, worship, and spiritual growth. Consumerism cannot produce that.
Therefore, let us consider four (we could add more) of the most important things to look forward in a church.
1. A Church That Faithfully Preaches the Logos and Gospel
If the gospel is not preached, then go somewhere else. Only a church that is Christ-focused and gospel-centered is worth joining. Without Christ and his gospel there is no church. Period. Observe the songs that are sang, the preaching that is delivered, the goals that are set, and the prayers that are offered. If Jesus is rarely mentioned and if the gospel is barely recognizable, please, for the sake of the church, go somewhere else.
But if Christ is the focus, then go and grow in the gospel.
2. A motivated church ready to reach its community
Strong leadership will be short-lived if the congregation is complacent and unmotivated. I am convinced many churches have lost great pastors simply because they were unwilling to be led by either the Spirit or by their pastor. The church must reach its community. This work requires each member to engage its immediate context.
When visiting a church, survey the church's annual and monthly calendar and its budget. If it spends all of its time focused on itself, then it unlikely is very engaged or motivated to become engaged with its community. But a church that cares more about reaching its neighborhood than regular potlucks is one worth joining.
3.Genuine joy and worship throughout the congregation
The gospel establishes genuine, unshakable joy in the believer. Thus a congregation serious about the gospel is evident in how they interact with one another and with guests. A lifeless church is a joyless church. A joyless church is a loveless church. A loveless church is a dead church.
If you see very few smiles among the people, look elsewhere, but if their joy is contagious, then it might be a community worth joining.
4. Strong servant-leadership
All "church growth experts" will emphasize the importance of strong leadership from elders, deacons, and pastoral staff. Weak leadership produces a weak church. That much is true and the pastor (along with other leaders in the church) are called to lead the congregation.
Yet leadership is described in servant-like terms. Jesus' model of washing his disciples feet makes this evident. Look for a church that models servant-leadership from its recognized and unrecognized leaders. If the people lead by serving, then that is a church God may be calling you to join.
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