There’s a lot of weird churches out there. Unhealthy, conflicted and sometimes dangerously wrong in what they teach. Trouble is, these problems often lie hidden. You can’t tell the condition of a church by how nice it looks, how upbeat the music is or by the size of the congregation. Good churches come in many shapes, flavors and sizes. So, how can you know if you’ve found a good one? What do you look for? Here’s a description of the first church, the initial gathering of people who knew Jesus. I think it describes some of the most important things to look for in a church:
Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace and was strengthened. Living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers. (Acts 9:31)
Good churches will surely have a peaceful vibe and will seem to be growing stronger and adding people. But not necessarily always. For example, what seems like a lack of peace may actually be a manifestation of honest willingness to address a tough problem. And what seems to be peacefulness may be an unhealthy passivity of a congregation that is under someone’s thumb. Same thing with temporary swings in attendance.
But central to the health of a church are the two phrases highlighted above. A good church is very aware of the awesome and somewhat frightening presence of Almighty God. They understand His amazing power and perfect understanding and are reverently responsive to Him in a natural way. And a good church is mostly made up of people who, by having put their faith in Jesus, are alive with the Holy Spirit. Instead of going through religious motions, they are engaged in an exhilarating relationship with the Spirit, being encouraged, strengthened and instructed by Him. A church where these two are present will likely be one where you will be blessed and changed.