Monday, July 07, 2008


I recently came across a list of criteria to consider before attending a church. Apparently it's taken from a book called 'Stop dating the Church'. Not having seen the book (and the website was offline) I am sure the author explores more than is stated here, but as a stand-alone list, here it is:
  1. Is this a church where God's Word, the Bible, is faithfully taught?
  2. Is this a church where sound doctrine matters?
  3. Is this a church in which the gospel is cherished and clearly proclaimed?
  4. Is this a church committed to reaching non-Christians with the gospel?
  5. Is this a church whose leaders are characterised by humility and integrity?
  6. Is this a church where people strive to live by God's Word?
  7. Is this a church where I can find and cultivate godly relationships?
  8. Is this a church where members are challenged to serve?
  9. Is this a church that is willing to kick me out [i.e. exercise proper church discipline]?
  10. Is this a church I am willing to join 'as is' with enthusiasm and faith in God
Notice anything? For a start, it's obviously coming from a specific theological background - a reformed protestant and probably conservative evangelical view. That's why there's a lot of emphasis on word, doctrine and logic rather than worship, symbols, mystery, etc.

The really interesting thing was the complete absence of the words prayer, love or community / fellowship (point 7 might cover the latter!). Given Jesus' two most important commands to his followers were love God and love each other, this seems to be a bit of an omission. A community of love committed to loving God and showing his love to the world really ought to be in the mix somewhere [please note, General Synod!] I would very much hope that the book itself explores these issues, but they're not in the list I came across.

The earliest recorded Church meetings are recorded in Acts 2:42-4 - the early followers devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and fellowship, the breaking of bread and the prayers, and also shared what they had with the poor. So a Biblical list ought to include communion, prayer, a quality of internal relationships as well as social concern for the wider community.

I just object to having a check-list before you start anyway. Wouldn't it be better to inspire people to get stuck in to whatever church they are near and to put some life into it?

By the way, the old advice from my vicar when I was a student was this: don't look for the perfect church, because if you find it and join it, you'll only spoil it. (In other words there are no perfect churches; only communities of imperfect people like you and me actually exist in the real world)

Rant over. Normal service will be resumed asap
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Emma said...

Those criteria worry me. I'm worried a lot about the church at the moment. Ho hum.

Mike Peatman said...

Indeed. The author himself looks more interesting than the list would imply - his blog features movies, an environmentally friendly house and other stuff.

Wonder what an Anglican list would look like?