This week, Pastor J.D. welcomes back Pastor Tony Merida, author of Gather, to answer, “How do you find a good church?”
J.D.: Every now and then on Ask Me Anything, I get the chance to sit down with someone who I think can answer a question a whole lot better than me, and that’s the case today. I’m sitting here with Dr. Tony Merida, the author of several books including his newest book, called Gather. Tony, the question today is, how should someone go about finding a good, solid local church? What qualities are underrated and which are overrated in looking for a new church?
Tony Merida: The Reformers used to say there are two marks of a church: the right preaching of the gospel and the administration of the sacraments. Tied to the sacraments was church discipline. That’s not all there is, but those are two starting points by which, if you don’t have those, you don’t really have a church. If you don’t have the gospel, you don’t have a church.
So the first question I’d ask is, what does this church believe that the gospel message is, and do they not just assume it, but preach it all the time? Is it the “main thing?”
Beyond that, you might start with Acts 2:42-47. You have what seems like the “perfect” church. I think you can categorize what Luke describes in that church with four vital signs, so to speak.
- Biblical nourishment
- Loving fellowship
- Radical generosity
- Constant interaction (with each other)
There’s also vibrant worship evident, and then there’s “word and deed” outreach — or mission. Evangelism seemed to be a daily thing. Those are some good starting points to look for in a healthy church.
J.D.: So, you start with the right teaching of the gospel. How important is expository preaching?
Tony: I don’t know that I would say it is necessarily expository preaching that is the absolute requirement; instead, I would ask, is the preaching substantive and is Christ exalted from his Word week by week? Or to say it another way, is there Word-driven preaching present?
I don’t think you have to go through a book of the Bible at all times, necessarily, for it to be considered a Bible church (though I think a Bible-teaching pastor will eventually do a lot of that).
I like to say expository preaching is the “meat and potatoes” of our preaching, but occasionally, we go out to eat.
As far as community is concerned, it’s good to consider if the church is just a place where people simply come and go rather than thinking of the church as a people that we can serve.
If I were looking for a church, I’d be in prayer. I’d do my research. I’d want to try to meet with pastors and leaders… It’s not easy. There’s a whole lot more to church than the website.
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