A good question to be asking. Whether you get involved at Hillcrest or some other church, it is important that you find somewhere to stick. Why? The church is God’s chosen way of reaching the world with his gospel, and he has put us in community under spiritual authority to help us grow in a healthy way and support and encourage each other while we do life, on good days and bad days. The church is his bride, he loves her passionately, and he created you to be part of it.
Why is it important to find one church and stick?
Another good question to ask. 1 Cor. 12:18 says that God put each part in its place just like he wanted. Eph. 4:16 says that the body is built up by the proper working of each individual part. This makes it pretty clear that God put every person in a specific place for a reason. No one randomly winds up anywhere, and if you are not in “a place,” sticking, then you cannot fulfill the role that God has for you in that particular body.
Also, God has designed us to need community with other believers, and if we are constantly bouncing around or not showing up we cannot develop the relationships that enable us to really do life with people, walking side by side. Ministry and doing life requires proximity and consistency, both of which mean that you need to stick somewhere and grow with people over a period of time.
Many people find some of these things on campus or in a family or group of friends, so why is it important to look for any of this in church?
1) God has chosen the church. God could have chosen any vessel he wanted, but he has chosen the church as his agent in the world (Eph. 3:10,21). Even though this may not make sense to us all the time, it is definitely the best way.
2) Authority. God has set up systems of authority within the local church, and if we are not part of a church we are outside of that spiritual guidance and authority. This authority is for the good of the gospel and the church and also for the good and protection of each individual in it. When we remove ourselves from that, not only are we outside of God’s plan, we are vulnerable to attack.
3) Accountability. With the community and authority that comes in the church comes accountability. There is a system of checks and expectations inside the church and a set way of dealing with people who get outside of those systems.
How do I find a church?
Finding a church can be an intimidating and difficult thing. There are so many to choose from, and most of us don’t really know what we are looking for, or what we should be looking for. So how do we decide?
Unfortunately, there is no perfect system set up to tell anyone how to find the right church. One important thing to remember, though, is that we are not consumers, and churches are not meant to provide entertainment or products. Church is a place to dig in and do life with people, always pushing deeper into Jesus, worshipping, and using our gifts to serve the church and the gospel.
Knowing those things, there are a few things to be thinking about:
1) Look for strong exegetical preaching. A church that does not hold the Bible as its authority above all else and teach from it often is weak. The Bible is our standard for truth and life. Some churches avoid preaching from the Bible. They just talk. Other churches use the Bible, but they are not faithful to what it really says. They twist its words. You want to find a church that exposes the Bible to its people in a way that is both faithful to what it says and understandable.
2) Look for a church that places a high value on missions. Churches that do not focus their efforts on missional causes are usually focused on themselves. This was never the intention of the church. The church is to be a worshipping body, focused on supporting each other in community and extending the gospel message to the world. None of those things has self as the focus.
3) Look for a church that lines up with the Bible in its theology. This may be hard if you are not sure what you believe about some things or what the Bible says about them, but do your best to figure it out and find a place that takes its lead in theology from the bible, not experience, culture or other sources.
4) Look for people that value integrity and authenticity. It may take some time to figure this out, but you will be able to tell in the ways people talk and the things they talk about if they place a high value on these things. It will be difficult to find strong, Godly relationships and leadership in a place that does not value these things.
5) Look for a place where you can serve. Church is not meant to entertain or pacify people. It is a living organism made up of real people who strive for the gospel and do life together. If you cannot find a place to plug into that, serving using your gifts, it will be difficult to grow consistently in spiritual maturity, and you will not be living up to the standard that the bible sets for believers.
There are other things to be looking for and thinking about, but this is a good place to start. As you pray and spend time with people in churches the Holy Spirit will guide you in this decision-making process. If all else fails, assuming you see the right things in a church, just choose and dig your feet in. Over time you will know if you are in the right place or not.