Updated: Nov 10, 2021
Finding a new church is HARD! If you've ever moved to a new area or just wanted to find a new church community, you know the struggle. #TheStruggleIsReal
After you've scoured the website, you take a chance and go. You notice every detail more than you ever did before at your old church(es).
Was it easy to find a parking space?
Were you greeted with a smile?
Could you choose your own seat?
You also look at yourself more.
Am I overdressed? (that can't just be me)
Should I have grabbed that bottle of water they offered at the front?
Seriously, am I overdressed?
After you've answered all those questions in your head, you observe the worship, the service, the leadership, the people and wonder if you'll fit in with the community. Well, I can't answer that. You need to pray about that, but I can help you and tell you three times you should stop, drop, and run away from a church.
1. If No Scripture is Read
If you make it through the first 45 minutes of a church service and no scripture is read, that's a yellow flag. If you make through an entire service and no scripture is read, don't return. Seriously, don't go back. That is a huge red flag. What was the sermon based on? Where did the information for the sermon come from? Yes, I'm ending these sentences with prepositions, because ya' girl has questions.
Be cautious of pastors that give summaries of the text. Avoid pastors that don't give scriptural references at all. You are in church. There is no reason the Bible shouldn't be read. If a pastor/preacher blames lack of time for not reading scripture, they probably didn't adequately prepare for the sermon or the sermon series.
2. If Giving is Manipulative
This one 'burns my biscuit'. (And we all know nothing good has come from burnt biscuits) I have witnessed and experienced manipulative giving and it is #NotOk
Here are some examples of what that looks like:
If you're in a new church and they use language like 'sowing in the atmosphere'. You may not know much about farming or the Bible, so I'm going to tell you. You don't sow into atmospheres.
If you're in a church and the service doesn't proceed until a certain dollar amount is reached
If there are certain "giving lines" or aisles and they are categorized by a dollar amount; you should not be asked to demonstrate your giving by joining a line based on the amount you're giving. #NotEvuh
If a member of the church's leadership uses language to try to guilt you into giving- this sounds like 'you should be ashamed if you don't give' or 'God is going to be disappointed if you don't give.'
Now, I want to be clear- giving is a part of worship. So there may be a part of the service dedicated to this. The sermon may even be about giving. Those things are considered quite normal, however the examples I gave above are not, so grab your things and quietly walk away.
3. If Church Membership > Discipleship
If the focus is more on enlarging the size of the church instead of preparing disciples for Christ, that's a red flag. For some, you may not notice this on a first visit. For others (usually those who've visited an exhausting number of churches), it may be wildly conspicuous. You may see it during an altar call where, the emphasis is on joining the church or becoming a member of the church instead of giving your life to Jesus. You may observe it on the visitor card or 'connect card' you're asked to complete. If the card has questions about your desire to join the church but does not ask if you'd like to learn more about Jesus, that's a sign. It's an indicator of what is valued at the church.
Growing churches is important, but a greater emphasis should be on discipling people and introducing them to Christianity- not increasing the number of seat fillers or names to a membership list.
Of course, this is not an exhaustive list of things to be wary of while visiting new churches. In fact, it's hard enough to actually have the will to want to visit a new church. This list isn't meant to add additional pressure to the search and/or visit. It's purpose is to keep you alert so that you can make informed decisions when it comes to your new relationship with Christ and the church.