March Madness

This past week hundreds of people filled out their NCAA Tournament Brackets. The reasons for choosing teams can be quite entertaining. Some will pull up the statistics of what seeding numbers win more often or common ­opponents. Some (like Peyton Francis) choose occasionally based on which mascot they like better. One person was described on the radio as choosing Chattanooga to defeat Indiana simply because they had once driven through the city of Chattanooga. The most interesting thing is that sometimes people who choose their winners foolishly ­actually have more successful brackets than those who try to do so scientifically.

Choosing a church doesn’t work that way. It’s not as easy as liking the location, liking the color of the carpet or pews, liking the building, like the mascot (a.k.a. preacher or preachers), like the name, etc. Sadly, that’s how many people choose a congregation.

How should one choose a church? What should someone look for?

Do they teach the truth? Does this church teach the truth? In Ephesians 4:4–6, there are seven things that God’s people must agree on: one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one Father. If a ­congregation does not teach and practice the truth on those seven things, you simply cannot have fellowship with that group.

Do they have a good reputation? The church in Thessalonica was so open with their faith that their ­reputation had spread even beyond Macedonia and Achaia (1 Thessalonians 1:6–8). Good churches should have a good ­reputation among God’s people in other places. What do other Christians think about the group you are ­considering being a part of?

Are they evangelistic? Christians are told to teach others (Matthew 28:18–20; Mark 16:15–16). That means churches should be evangelistic. Before you join yourself to a particular group, consider what they have done for evangelism. Don’t ask how many baptisms they have had. That’s not evangelism. Ask what they are doing to share the Gospel with the world around them. That’s what evangelism truly is.

Will they help you grow? In Ephesians 4:11–16, Paul shows that God has designed the church in a way that should train and equip its members. A local church should help its members grow in their knowledge and work in the Lord. Do their classes challenge you? Are the sermons scripture based and helpful in your growth? Make sure you will grow as a part of the group.

Choosing a congregation is one of the more stressful decisions any Christians make. It is far more difficult than filling out a tournament bracket. Before one makes their final decision, they should certainly pray for wisdom and understanding. Always include God in your planning—especially when it comes to choosing a congregation.