How to Visit Churches Pt 3 – It helps to do some research

Most churches nowadays have a web site and that website will likely answer many of your questions. Not all Baptist churches are alike and not all community churches are alike, and not all Presbyterian churches…well, you get the picture.
I’m not suggesting that you accept or reject a church on the basis of their website alone, only that you can use it to eliminate many right off the bat.
For example, if you are a staunch King-James-Only advocate, check the website to see what version they use. If their FAQ’s page says, “Pastor So-and-so preaches from the NIV,” you can scratch it off the list. If they talk about their praise band and you aren’t into that, you’ve just saved yourself some time.
I can’t tell you how many people have visited our church looking for one thing or the other and the people got upset with me about such-and-such when the information they were looking for was on the website. Our website has our statement of faith, our philosophy of ministry, FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions), and a whole host of other information about our church that can help you determine where our church falls on various things.
I know that some churches don’t have a website or, if they do, it’s not very good or it’s not up-to-date. You can ask around or call the church (see my suggestions for talking to the pastor in a later post) or just give it a shot.
One thing that cannot be conveyed in a website is how friendly or caring or loving the people are. Some people are very friendly but not very caring in the long run. Others may be a little stand-offish simply because they’ve had troublemakers come through in the past. Grace is always important and that means being gracious with people.
Remember, however that a church’s statement of faith and their philosophy of ministry may not necessarily reflect the way they worship or “do church” or “do ministry.” I know, I know, it’s supposed to, but we’re talking about the way things are, not the way they should be.
This is especially true of a philosophy of ministry or ministry statement. Many times these reflect what a church would like to be rather than what they are. They may have a big section in the ministry statement about youth ministry but only have a few teenagers. Maybe they aren’t trying to be deceptive, it could be that they’re anticipating having many teenagers one day and want to be ready for when they do.
With regard to statements of faith, sadly, many churches hold to one standard and then practice something that is not in line with their statement. Still others hold to a statement but don’t actually preach what they hold to. Ironically, some people are looking for a new church precisely because of this.
Next Post: Unrealistic Expectations are bad for everyone

About Michael R. Jones

Pastor and PhD candidate writing on Paul's theology of suffering.
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