How Do You Choose A Church If You Don’t Know What You Believe?

Vineyard Christian Fellowship
Yakima Vineyard Christian Fellowship

While vacationing on the Oregon coast in the dearest cottage by the sea, we found ourselves with the dilemma of choosing a church for the fast approaching Sunday. Not wanting to drive out of town left three choices.

  1. Yachats Community Presbyterian Church preschurch

My personal top choice, based on the brochure that reads: “The Church of Agate Windows, ” not because Sandy thought it might be a Pizza Hut.

  1. Yachats Baptist Church bapchurch

Maybe a better choice since choosing a church for the building is rather lame. Then again, I have a tainted view of the Presbyterians, based on childhood profiling, gained from a few sporadic visits. I assumed they were cranky because they had to get all dressed up to sit still and quiet on hard, slick pews. I see from the sign reading: Come As You Are,” they’ve fixed that problem.

  1. Little Log Church and Museumlogchurch

The most intriguing choice, but there’s a slight glitch- they don’t actually have a service. It’s just to look at… hmmm… sort of like owning a Bible for display only.

Over the years, while away from home, we’ve crashed a few random churches, but we are far from experienced shoppers. Choosing a church for a single hit and run Sunday service is not a huge task, if you are strong in your doctrine and faith and believe God will be there, if you seek Him. Worse case scenario, you walk away grateful for the church back home. Contrarily, if you’re searching for a church to call home, you’d best put some thought into it.

I’m grateful for God’s hand in my church hunting expedition, which began with a list of six churches in Yakima, Washington, (our home town), recommended by various concerned friends over the years. It was some time in September 2001, before the collapse of the Twin Towers that brought hordes of new and returning temporary relief seekers to church. Keep in mind, at the time, I, like many who walk into our churches today, was ill equipped to know what I should be looking for. How do you know what doctrine to adopt if you’ve never read the instruction book? Maybe, like myself at the time, you weren’t even sure the Author existed? What then? I knew one thing only… I was hurt, broken, out of solutions and the only thing I hadn’t tried was church.

I entered the first church on my list, the Vineyard Christian Fellowship of Yakima, donning my best “I’m invisible, better back off” suit of armor, slipping through the doors undetected. The building itself was my ideal, thus holding the number one place on the list. It was built in 1904 using huge impressive looking stones. Inside, under a domed ceiling the stained glass windows provide a kaleidoscopic light show of jade and gold dancing round the mahogany columns, beams and majestic 24 foot tall sliding doors.church4

That day I climbed the stairs to the balcony, studying the angelic crowd below, with their seemingly perfect lives, born into idealistic Christian homes that made the right decisions, day in, day out. I wondered if they could see or sense the mess of my past, and shuddered they might have some kind of religious telepathy, capable of hearing the non-pure thoughts renting space in my head. I was confident they wouldn’t have the nerve to throw me out, stone me or point fingers my way, mouths agape. I figured they must have been taught this behavior is considered poor etiquette in “Being a Good Christian 101.”

Fast forward 12 years. The second church on my list still has no check mark next to it. Much has changed, and I’ve learned a few things. One being that, the angelic looking people that first day had some messes for God to work on also. Another, being that although the building is worthy of awe, it’s what’s inside that counts, or rather who’s inside.

At the time of my first visit, Wayne Purdom was the pastor, whom later ushered my husband into the fold with his down to earth sincere concern and genuine interest in others. Four years later, God moved the gifted Purdom family cross state to plant a new church and bless others. That left us a church in a lurch. I had one foot readied for escape as I pictured some worn out constipated-looking guy alongside a screeching soprano “everything is hunky dory” type wife, abducting our cherished “come as you are” church family.

Much prayer and several months later, no one answered the call. With a tremendous team of church leaders, our church body suffered no neglect, but time was ticking with no potential candidates in sight. Then one Sunday, a surprise announcement was made… Jimmy John Morris, our talented worship leader, would be stepping up as senior pastor.

Honestly, we were concerned. He was a super guy, remarkably talented musician, devoted worship leader, and he was funny. Even so, he didn’t seem like an obvious shoe in for this position. We asked God to show us what He planned to do with this young man, but frankly, doubt is a noisy occupant, and neither of us could hear any kind of response. So, we made a pact with God and ourselves to stick it out and see if He would show us more than a great guy with a good sense of humor and a hillbilly name.

The following months, we sat stiff necked with arms crossed in a defensive pose, but we kept our promise to suit up and show up. Neither of us could say when or how it happened, but shortly after the initial shock, we recognized the man standing at our pulpit was undeniably anointed to pastor this church. We’re grateful God didn’t ask our advice, knowing who would best serve His church. Today we’re blessed with Jimmy John and his wife Donna, who vigilantly seek His guidance under the care and protection of the Holy Spirit. Whether enjoying a season of prosperity or one that appears hopeless, they practice the positioning statement on our Sunday program “Love God, Love ALL People.” A tall order for some of us… well at least it is for me. I know… I know… it should be easy, but our church is all about authenticity, so get over it.

It feels good knowing our home church, with our family of incredibles, is a safe haven with sound doctrine, an incubator for hurting souls not knowing what they need. Number two on our shopping list may never happen – so much for comparison shopping.

We still need to make a decision for this Sunday since we cannot drive 339 miles back to Yakima. For fun, we put the choices to a vote on Facebook. Phew… not the best idea I ever had. I didn’t mean for it to become a yay or nay on any given denomination. In retrospect, I see my error and apologize for the lack of thought given prior to posting the ballot. I don’t regret what I learned from this.

Whether a mature Christian ready for solid food or an infant needing pablum, the church you select should serve healthy portions of Love.

1 Corinthians 13:1

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

As it turns out we attended both church services, consecutively. When your faith and beliefs are strong, you can give glory to God under the roof of any church. I don’t think he’ll mind if you raise your voice and heart in worship, even if you disagree with the doctrine. Granted, it may be best to find another choice for your home church.

On the other hand, if you’re a new believer shopping for a church, your first task is to read your Bible and test what is being taught based on His word. Look for someone you can trust to help. A good pastor will be more than happy to answer questions and find you the help you need to gain understanding.

 In the meantime, whether a newbie or not, keep seeking Him.

In Spite of Us - Chapter Preview

14 thoughts on “How Do You Choose A Church If You Don’t Know What You Believe?”

  1. You obviously truly love your church home. I hope your blog inspires other Christians who may still be looking for a church to call home, to continue looking, asking questions, seeking truth, and eventually to find a church to call home too.

  2. find a church to call home. when traveling, find a church. God will show up. i found a church (VCF of Yakima) by watching my wife change and wanting what she had found.

  3. My comment shouldn’t have just mentioned Christians, but those all important people still unsure of what they believe, but curious and wanting to find out more about this great God of ours.

  4. Having never really attended Church as I grew up and into the broken alcoholic I became I had no idea what I was doing or looking for when it became apparent in 2003 that I needed more than fellowship and good deeds in my life to find peace from the demons that had haunted me and controlled me my entire lifetime.
    I tried Baptist as I had a keyboard teacher that attended and invited me. I tried Catholic too for the same reason. Other as well. I was finally lead to a bible study class in a treatment center I was at and altho most would attend the bible study so they could leave residence to go to Church on Sunday I would not go. I only wanted to learn what the literature said, I didn’t really care who was saying it.
    The guy there doing the study was patient w/ me, as most peopl;e who have touched my soul have had to be, and so when I left treament I went to Memorial Bible Church in Gleed. The day I went they had people doing testimony. I know God touched my heart that day in that building and I continued to try to attend when the madness of alcoholism would allow. I could not stop the disease and the control it had on my own.
    I went thru jails and other Churches as well over the next few years and jail Chaplains & Pastors really took time w/ me to teach me things. The first being that most denominations use the same Bible and so are basically all alike. Men make the differences as they cannot keep their fingers out of God’s pie.
    I saw Church as I know AA to be. We all use the same book and men within each group, as within each Church, add little rules and whatnot to suit their needs and ideas as to what it should be. It no longer mattered the name on the sign outside. I only go for The Word. If whatever Church you attend is teaching out of The Bible you are going to be okay in my opinion.
    Today I rarely attend Church but attend AA daily and find fellowship, service in abundance there. More than enough to do His work well and keep my Faith. God is wherever I take Him. If I have not asked Him into my heart all the Churches in the world will not produce Him. Just my opinion. Good stuff Deb. You have familiar philosophy and you know He goes as we do if He has been asked into our hearts

  5. This is such a cool way to explain how to choose a church. I love how you describe your feelings and thoughts. Can you please pray that God will teach me how to use humor in my writing? I was born with too many serious genes. They crowded out humor so she ran away. Also your parting advice was excellent: read the manual and ask someone who seems able to steer you in the right direction.

    1. Thanks for your comment. I would be honored to pray for your ability to use humor in your writing. For me it helps to ease the pain. If I’m writing something that hurts or makes me uncomfortable, I can hardly wait to write a little comedy relief. I’ve heard that most comedians have lived tragic lives and use humor to cope. Thanks again for your kind remarks.

  6. I had a wonderful church that I absolutely loved! Then I moved… Now I’m on the hunt again, but the only churches around here are strict Catholic. My husband loves it, but I’m more of an Assembly of God type-gal. So now I’m left with bible study on TV– It’s just not the same!
    This seems silly to say now… thank you for stopping by my Murder Blog, your interest in my interview with an Undercover Operative, and for the follow. Have a great week, and God bless.

    1. Thank you back. If my husband and I had to choose a church together, it would be difficult to agree. He followed me and stayed. so we were spared that task. Blessings on your search.

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