Those who help churches with their “public image” and help them keep the people who attend as “guests,” emphasize the importance of “putting their best foot forward” and creating “a positive impression” from the moment they arrive in the parking lot until they enter the doors of the auditorium on Sunday morning… Usually 15, maybe 20 minutes. The studies show that most people make their decision whether or to attend again based upon whether their experience was positive in that window of time. Interesting eh? But what if the decision is made later… as a result of the quality of the worship, a time of greetings at the beginning of the service, or the abilities of the pastor in preaching the sermon… Are those the most important benchmarks and measurements in selecting a church for you or your family?
I’m going to suggest, perhaps not… It’s possible to arrange a smooth operation in the parking lot, encourage greeters to present a friendly, welcoming face and greeting, have signage that is helpful, and bathrooms that smell…well “smell good,” and still not be a “healthy church!” It’s possible to hire the finest musicians, have a worship set that is contemporary and well done, and have coached congregation members about how to reach out to guests in a greeting time, and have a sermon strategy that includes media or drama, delivered by a polished, prepared preacher and still lack the qualities of a vibrant, vigorous, healthy, fruitful church expressing itself beyond the Sunday morning services… In fact, I would suggest that choosing a church for yourself or you family may not be best based on simply a Sunday morning worship experience.
Why do I say that? In part because of what the Living Christ said to the church in Sardis, through Apostle John, in Revelation 3:1-2: “I know your works. You have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead! Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of God.” Or what about what he said to the church in Laodecia? “You say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing! But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind and naked!” (Revelation 3:17) And how about the Church in Corinth who in their public gatherings, were not “lacking in any Spiritual gift,” but a church that Apostle Paul later acknowledged, “I could not address you as Spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ… for there is jealousy and strife among you – you are still of the flesh and behaving only in a human way.” (1 Corinthians 1:4-7 cp. 3:1-4)
So here’s a little advice from an old “pastor”… Don’t make your
choice of a church based simply upon what happens in the parking lot, or the next 10-15 minutes as you enter the church building… Don’t make it simply based upon the quality of the “worship experience” in the auditorium either… Take a little time (perhaps several Sundays), poke around a bit, ask a few people in the congregation and in the community about the church… pray about your choice… ask the kids and youth in your family about their experiences… Do they take discipleship seriously for everybody? Is the Bible the central text for preaching and teaching ministry? And to the best of your ability, prayerfully determine how closely the church measures up to description of the “Early Church” given in Acts 2:42-47 (you really need to read it! … It was not perfect… but it was “healthy!”) I think that’s probably a better approach to choosing a church for you and your family!
Hey… just a few suggestions from “an ol’ pastor!”