Several years ago, everything at our home church changed. The first sign of trouble was when the chairman of the elder board resigned and left the church. Then our pastor resigned. The search committee selected a new pastor, but not only did his sermon delivery differ from our previous pastor (a matter of taste), he also differed theologically on several key points.
After praying about it for three months, my family and I felt prompted to move on. So we began our long, sometimes tiresome search for a new church home.
According to the Barna Research Group, we aren't alone. One in seven people will look for a new church this year. In case you're among that one in seven, here are five important things we learned are critical to a search process.
1. Does This Church Preach the Right Message?
In Acts, the New Testament church was described as a group who "joined with the other believers in regular attendance at the apostles' teaching sessions and at the Communion services and prayer meetings" (2:42, TLB). And the apostle Paul encouraged his young protégé Timothy simply to "preach the word."
This mandate may sound like a given, but some preachers strive to make the gospel more appealing by watering down its message. According to pastor/church-growth consultant Richard Krejcir, "A healthy church will never sacrifice the integrity of the Bible or neuter its message." So first look for a place where truth is preached from the Bible—where God's Word is seen as living, relevant, changeless, and inerrant, rather than just a "good book" filled with advice on how to be a more loving, moral person. Look for a place you can invite friends to and feel confident they'll hear the gospel truth directly from Scripture, a place where difficult passages as well as straightforward ones are preached with clarity.1