Tuesday 28 August 2018

What should a student look for when seeking out a Church?

This is a crucial question! It may be a question that you have never considered. You may be going off to university, just simply assuming that the church you desire will be waiting for you, when you arrive. However, this may not be the case. Perhaps you can ask yourself, what criteria are important in choosing the right church to worship in? Your answer should be based on more criteria, than simply personal subjective taste.

For example, as a student you may want a church that is the same as the one you knew back home, but what if the church back home did not display a biblical basis for a church? Sometimes it is sad to see professing Christians wanting a church with the largest band, no matter what the the content and quality of the preaching is like (Did New Testament churches have large bands to attract people? The answer is a firm no.). So let us look briefly at some biblical criteria for choosing a church.

"Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve".
(1 Corinthians 15:1–5).

1. The church should be Gospel focussed. This is sometimes a slogan about being "gospel focussed", but what does the term mean biblically? The gospel is to be preached and to be centred around the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus. Is Christ and this message spoken of during preaching?

2. Pastoral care. Does the church desire to pastor people? This can be a difficulty with large churches where you come and go without accountability. We need to be pastored as sheep of the Lord. You need to be planted where elders will watch out for your soul, especially during a time of ferment and temptation which can happen, while being at university.

3. Warm-hearted. A biblical church should be serious minded in its worship (not entertainment driven), but also warm-hearted. Welcoming should not be a method run by a well organised team, but part of the life of the church.

4. The Lord's Supper must be administered properly if a church is to be a true church. Feel free to take time to ask the elders some questions before you make your final decision.

5. Do not just follow the crowd and necessarily go where all the other students go. A church needs a robust statement of faith in order to defend the faith. I am a Reformed minister and we hold to the Westminster Confession of Faith, which is our guide for preaching and for the church.

6. Hopefully, the church where you will worship will have a prayer meeting and that you will go to it regularly.

7. Above all, pray for the LORD to direct you, but do not look for mystical confirmations of guidance. If you pray for a doctrinally sound and godly church, we can be confident that our Lord will answer, even if it means you have to travel a little bit further on Sundays.


Darren Moore said...

Amen. You could go further. Should students be thinking about where to go to uni by church options (or anyone moving anywhere for that matter)? I think most people make emotional/gut choices to most things. A good list of criteria, perhaps with them then prioritised, makes things far clearer.

Darren Moore said...

Big times of change (leaving home, going to Uni, marriage, having kids) seem to be times when people get really sorted out Christian wise... or go off the rails.

Kevin Bidwell said...

Some great comments Darren! I love the comment should students be thinking about where to go to University based on finding a church? Great point, well said!
Perhaps I should write a similar blog post "what adults should consider when moving house or location?". First point, do not move unless you have established the right church, do not assume that there is a solid and godly church to the area where you are moving. Food for thought!

Emma said...

Great blog, I completely agree. Being a student myself, I'm going on an exchange to England next year, God willing. I am a bit confused about the churches here though, I thought the Free Presbyterian Church or Strict Baptist would be a good option in London, but they aren't settled in Sheffield. Is your church different from these churches, somewhat more liberal perhaps? I'm from The Netherlands, where I'm attending the least liberal church I'd say. But it holds on to the Word of God and gives God (and not men!) the glory, which I find most important. Looking forward to your reply!

Kevin Bidwell said...

I do not know the churches you are referring to. We are committed to the inerrancy of Scripture (not liberal), reverent worship, presbyterian church government and the office bearers subscribe to the Westminster Standards.
Our website is www.sheffieldpres.org.uk
Hope that helps a little, Kevin Bidwell