Friday, June 28, 2013

How to Choose a Local Church (for incoming freshman...or anyone)

How to Choose a Local Church (for incoming freshmen)

For many of us, prior to college, church affiliation and routine has largely been directed by our parents, so coming to college is a unique time for students to make personal, spiritual decisions for the first time. There is no way to emphasize highly enough how important it is to be immersed in the life of a local body of believers, but hopefully this can help.

PRAY! Seek the Lord and ask for guidance, then trust His leading and make a decision.

What to look for (non-negotiable): 

  • Foundation: There must be a clear emphasis on the centrality and authority of Scripture and on Jesus’ finished work on the cross to be received by grace through faith. Ephesians 2:1-10, 1 Timothy 3:16
  • Doctrine: There must be a consistent emphasis on the gospel in preaching and teaching, worship, family, evangelism, church discipline and love for God and neighbors. Galatians 6:1-2; Hebrews 13:7,17; 1 Timothy 4:13-16
  • Service: There must be an outward focus, working for the good of the local community. Jeremiah 29:5-9; James 1:27, Hebrews 10:24-25
  • Mission: There must be an emphasis on making disciples in the local community and around the world. The Church is vehicle by which God reaches every people group. Matthew 28:19-20, Romans 15:20

The church must be unified around the gospel, sanctifying one another as they gather regularly and live life together.

Personal preference (negotiable):
  • Order: church government, traditional order of service, style of music, views of sacraments 
  • Specific issues: eschatology, etc. 
  • Size: follow the Holy Spirit’s leading 

Very practically:
  • Attend different ministries at the same church (i.e. corporate worship, small group bible study, specific college services, etc.). There is a strong temptation to only spend time with people your age; invest in the nursery and with the senior saints.
  • Give a church two or three services in a row before you make a final decision.
  • Make a final decision and become a member, it doesn’t have to take forever.
  • Look for a place where you can use your gifts to serve and not just consume. 
  • Look for a place where you are challenged and fed.
  • Find leaders that you can submit to, read a church’s Statement of Faith, and then become members. 

JOIN A CHURCH! Church membership is essential to thrive in the Christian life. “Church hopping” does NOT honor Jesus, nor does it help you. It is crucial to covenant together with other believers from different walks of life. God has gifted every follower of Christ with spiritual gifts, NOT AS AN END UNTO ITSELF, but to be used for service in His Church. No church is perfect, so be gracious.

You must seek God’s will in God’s Word and be led by God’s Spirit. 

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