And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18).

Try as you may, you will never find the mention of a church in the Old Testament. You will find similar terms, however–assembly is one of them. Many theologians believe the first instance of the word ecclesia (church) is found in Deuteronomy 4:10 in which His people are gathered together. This notion goes back to Genesis when God calls Abram out of his home country so he could travel to the Promised Land as part of God’s chosen people–His Church. The church, then and now, is a body of believers who have a covenant with God.

Church is not a museum for saints, but a hospital for sinners (Unknown).

Though we’ve all heard the quote, which has conflicting attributions, we don’t always take it to heart. When we’re looking for a church family we can sometimes fall into the extremes of looking for a church family filled with people like us (if we think we’re a saint) or looking for a place that will accept us despite our shortcomings. Though this “hospital for sinners” idea is often interpreted as such, our churches shouldn’t be a clubhouse for sinners, but a hospital. A support group, a rehab, a place where sinners go to get clean–this is a hospital for sinners. After polling my Facebook friends, I’ve discovered just that. Though our churches may sometimes feel like a museum for saints (especially for people on the outside looking in), what we need and want is a hospital for sinners.

What We Look for in a Church Family

According to my Facebook friends, the most important characteristics we seek in a church family are friendliness, inclusivity, and devotion to God and Biblical Truth. Other characteristics included welcoming, caring, Christ-like, and trauma-informed.

No one stated that they’re looking for specific exciting children’s programs. No one stated that they look for a concert-like praise experience. No one stated that they want free financial support or a group where they can be and do whatever they want. According to what I’ve read online and through numerous responses on social media, what we look for in a church is love and shared belief and devotion in the author of Love, God.

  1. Biblical
    When looking for a new church family, make sure it is one that believes in what you believe. A church where Biblical truth is evident in both their doctrine and procedure is one that makes God’s Word a priority.
  2. Loving
    A loving church family will be welcoming, friendly, and inclusive. When you find this in a church family you will be happy to bring your family to this church no matter how flashy the programs or how much money the organization may have.
  3. Mission-Minded
    A Christian church should have God’s mission in mind, not critiquing and censoring members to make a museum for saints, but reaching out to the community and the world to become a hospital for sinners–for all.
  4. Body of Christ
    The church is the Body of Christ and should be cared for. Look for a church that takes care of itself just like we should take care of our bodies. Putting all resources into outreach and not taking care of existing members is a dangerous imbalance that will hurt everyone in the end.

What draws you to a church? Is it the location, the congregation, the speaker? Our church is unique in that if you want to attend one, there is likely only one in your area. The Seventh-day Adventist Church is structured in a way that leaves little choice but to drive or relocate if you’re unhappy with your congregation. So then what can you do when you’re dissatisfied, discontent, complacent, or hurt by your church?

First, pray. The truth is that God may be calling you out of your church for some reason.

Open yourself to God’s will. Whatever has happened in your home church, or if you’re looking for one for the first time ever, open yourself up to God’s still small voice and guidance. He will place you exactly where you need to be or use you exactly where you end up if you stay connected with Him throughout your search.

Be exactly what you need. The saying “if you build it, they will come” is true of churches. Build a house of worship, build a loving supportive family, build a judgment-free, trauma-informed, friendly, and welcoming environment. Be exactly to your church family what you need in a church and watch it change.

Do you need someone to invite you to Sabbath dinner? Invite someone to Sabbath dinner. Do you need someone to share in your interests and your pains? Share your interests and pains with someone. Do you need someone to listen and teach and love, but not judge? Be that for someone else.

Whatever it is you want in a church family, it exists in us, the Body of Christ. I  hope you find it, in yourself and others.