Monday, January 22, 2007

What Makes A Church Good?

My readers (both of you) know by now that Gret and I are searching for a new church home here in Louisville. This raises some questions. What criteria should we use to make this decision? What should we be looking for? What does the Bible say a church should be like? I have some ideas, of course. I've spent a lot of time in recent years thinking about these questions. But I could be missing something.

So give me some help. If you were us, what qualities, characteristics, or distinctives would you be looking for? What makes a church a "good" church? Leave me a comment listing the qualities you would look for in a church. Rank them in order from most important to least.

PS: Those of you who read our blogs but don't have a Blogger account can still leave comments. Simply click the "comments" link at the bottom of this post, choose "Other" or "Anonymous" and type your comment! I recommend the "Other" option, which allows you to type in a name if you want (and just skip filling in the "web page" field which also appears when you choose "Other").


GloryandGrace said...

Forgive me for not providing an actual list--one key thing comes to mind, something to at least be mindful of when weighing the strengths and weaknesses of churches you are attending. The pastor at my church emphasizes this a lot: the local church being faithful and committed to both word and deed. How often is the case when you visit a church and find that it's heavy on one, but weak with the other. And inevitably, such an imbalance does not work when all is said and done.

I think it's also important, maybe on a more practical level, that you resonate with the philosophy of ministry at a given church. And if there are some disagreements in this area, one must weigh how much this will effect the decision to become involved in this particular body of believers.

Lastly, not necessarily in order of importance, I have seen the biblical model of elders and deacons for the first time in my experience here in Louisville. Before coming here, I hadn't seen the proper model and how it's lived out in the commitment to both word and deed. This model has also effected how women, both married and single, are involved in the life of the church as well.

Josh said...

So your list looks something like this:
1.) Faithfulness in word AND deed - a church that talks the talk AND walks the walk

2. Philosophy of ministry (Orthopraxy! Amen!)

3. Biblical church government - in your view (and mine) defined as a plurality of elders

GloryandGrace said...

Yes, but as you can see, I'm rather long-winded...

Dad said...

I think the selection of a church and weather it is "good" is largely a matter of perspective. For instance a young Pastor seeking his first church, would look at it differently than perhaps a senior Pastor thinking about retirment. A young family may say a nursery would be good.Families with teenagers need good teen ministries and empty nesters may have a whole different definition of good. So what do I think is Good? Well since the church is people good can't be that there are no problems. Since we live in the world, good can't mean complete serenity. So what is good? To me LIFE is good. Have you ever been in a dead or dying church? Activity is very limited and strongly discouraged like a man with a bad heart not allowed to move. Absolutely no good! I think FAITH is good! Ever been with a bunch of christians that won't trust God for anything? Can't do, can't go, can't try anything. Definately NO good! Lastly I think having a spot to fit in is very very good. I believe strongly in the body and gift concept found in Ephesians and other places. The need to be needed is a part of of everyone's inner man. Therefore a church no matter how imperfect, no matter how it may vary in meeting different perspectives can be GOOD if individuals have a place to serve. We all need a place to try on our christian wings, take our first steps and eventually run. If there is a place for us to work while we practice our faith, a church can transcend from good to GREAT! So find a place that is alive, a place that demonstrates faith by living for God's future leadings, and most of all one that has a place for you to work. That will be GOOD.

Josh said...

So your list is something like this:

1. Life - the church has vitality, a sense of mission

2. Faith - the people are willing to embrace changes and challenges to further the gospel ministry

3. Participation - a place to serve others by using one's Spiritual gifts

Yeah, I like those. Number three seems most likely to be missing here, or anywhere where a big school floods the local churches with students and their families. One quality Clifton has going for it is that it's relatively small (maybe 400 or so I suppose)and close-knit, so we would definitely have opportunities to serve there, and feel a part of the family. Thanks for the feedback, Pops! (PS: I've added 512MB of RAM to the laptop. We're flyin' now!)

Gretchen said...

My very unbiblical and imbalanced answer has to include a sense of "family". I realize that can be WAY abused (as we've seen even with dearest of pastors), but maybe that is what I am longing for most, and knowing that I really miss that where we came from.

I also highly value a quality music. I really don't care how upbeat, as long as the words are true and it is lead in a spirit-filled way. Maybe that is something that I've been missing since David got hitched! :)

I know you already know the REALLY important things like being correct in doctrine, God-centered, virtically focused and Bible-based. So I'll leave those out. :)

GloryandGrace said...

I'm with Gret on the quality music, this coming from someone who has had a varied range of experience in the area of praise teams. A praise team shouldn't be performing, but they should also be prepared to lead in worship. This means humbly refining the skills they've been given by God alone, and using those in a way that leads and does not distract.

Dad said...

So add Gret's singing to my list as well. I always really enjoyed what you had in Danville. In general though I think younger or more techy churches do better with the music portion of the service. It just seems to flow much better with the use of screens and power point etc. Kind of makes the whole opening really feel like all singing. Very worshipful and uplifting to my spirit. Last thing I'll say abut a GOOD church. A good thing about having a little bit larger church is that you don't have to touch everything. It would be nice to kind of concentrate on one effort and then just enjoy the ministry of others as they serve where they like. Not sure if this is age or wisdon speaking, you decide.

bookpress said...

Well, as a member of CHBC, how can I not point you to

Actually, we know some Danville people in common, and I know a few people out at SBTS, and at Clifton and other Louiville churches. I'll pray that you find the right church.

If you ever head over here to DC, I'd love the chance to meet you. Or maybe I'll see you at T4G 08. Study hard!

Josh said...

Dad: Yeah, in a smaller fellowship where you all have to team up on every project it's easy to feel like you're always putting out without taking in a whole lot. Personally, I would want to focus on deepening the relationships among church members and forgo some things that larger churches do. It's an opportunity to be less formal and more intimate.

Bookpress: I'm a 9Marks devotee. The audio interviews have been HUGE in my spiritual growth. Have to read Dever's Polity this semester for Baptist History. Who are our common friends? I have some friends interning at CHBC this semester, Ben and Kevin.

David said...

Expository Preaching and Teaching- Biblical exposition is something I long for in a church ministry.

Services that cultivate "vertical" worship - as one of my friends says often. The church is not designed to produce a show or performance each week, but rather to give worth to someone else - namely Christ.

A biblical pattern would include corporate prayer - which has been replaced in the church. A midweek prayer time would be important to me.

Josh said...

I prefer topical sermons in which the preacher uses the text as a "jumping-off point" for the thing he really wants to say, followed by a repeat-after-me-if-you-really-mean-it-
in-your-heart-of-hearts sinner's prayer. ;)

I'll take two of those, as one of MY friends says often.

bookpres said...

I've known Ben for years, Kevin for a couple of weeks. Back in D-Vegas (isn't that what the kids call it these days?), we probably both know Stephanie, Sandy, Amanda . . . I'm sure we'd discover plenty more if we spent time on it.

I'll pray for you as you get back into the swing of academia this semester.