CHOOSING A CHURCH
Choosing a church that is suited to us
and our personal faith journey.
Before reading this particular article, please note that
a lot of it is based on my knowledge, experience and evaluations. As real as the events – experienced in fellowships/ communities of faith over the years – were
to me, they can only be hearsay at best to you. My primary aim, in this
website, is to guide you in your own search for faith and belief.
So ... please read on with an open mind. (The who's, how's and why's of this website are presented on the home page.)
choice of a fellowship of faith, i.e. a church, is an issue
for God and each of us. There are many Christian denominations/ church groupings, each
approaches and points of view. It is best to pray for
guidance on this matter of choice.
And the church that suits us now may
not suit us at a later time. I, for
example, have been ‘led’ through
different areas of the greater Christian Church as the
years have passed. They all proved to be beneficial to me in their own
ways. No matter what area of the greater Church we
choose, our lives should still be changed for the better, especially in
that area of ‘building belief and faith’ that is the underlying theme of
But, that all said, our chosen church can and will have an impact on our faith journey.
denominations and the way they relate to each other do vary from country
to country to some extent, so it is not possible to
provide a complete and definitive listing to guide all readers in choosing
a church. Be aware that many if not most denominations, to varying
consider themselves superior to others. We cannot completely take human nature out the
Church! And of course
each denomination has its own reasons for
believing why it is superior.
do consider though, that most Christian denominations have elements
that make them more suitable than others for each of us, when taking
personalities, positions of faith journey (e.g. beginner Christian) and
environmental backgrounds into account.
What follows is a brief
overview of available church options, based on my experience of
fellowship within them, and how they may be
grouped for selection. Note that not all churches openly refer
within these categories and their names may not totally reflect their true
or agenda. Many churches have websites and these can be accessed to
gain some understanding of their approach. Their placement within the
greater Christian Church (as in my categories below) should become
obvious after one or two attendances of their services.
I have one major prerequisite to offer you, the reader, in
search of an appropriate church: I
would hope that any church selected should hold to
Christian Beliefs” as presented in the website’s final section’s first article, “Christianity
It is only a small sub-section (Heading 2) to read in that article,
so I recommend it to
you before going in search of the church that is ideal for
2. TRADITIONAL PROTESTANT AND CATHOLIC CHURCHES
Traditional or mainline (as they are known in the USA) Protestant, together with
churches are included in this grouping. These churches, by and large, present
views to their congregations. Catholics have a little extra doctrine (i.e. the way beliefs are presented and conceptualised) than do Protestants, but that
does not create any conflict between these two major areas of the Church.
Bear in mind that a small minority of
traditional/ mainline Protestant churches hold very liberal views on the
Christian New Testament (Jesus bits of the Bible), and I
advise against joining those particular churches for that reason. I do
much point at all with
strong Christian liberalism,
e.g. having Christian beliefs diluted
to a point where
even spirituality itself may not have a place. A rational thinker can
largely accept New Testament (NT) events, as written, based on available secular (non Christian)
information and personal experiences still accessible within the
Church. More details on that later.
Although there is no need to ‘water down’ the
NT, there is a need to hold
in the context of the bigger NT picture, i.e. balanced
theology. And the vast majority of traditional Protestant churches offer this view. This also applies to Catholic churches. Membership in these churches, by and large, provides an exposure to: balanced Christian
theology; an understanding of faith and its outcomes within Christian
some evidence of God’s
presence in that setting; a good proportion of caring supportive
Christians in their congregations.
believe people who like to make their decisions
on faith, after analysing facts presented to them from their church,
should feel comfortable within traditional Protestant and Catholic
example they do not generally hold fundamentalist
views on the pre-Jesus, Old Testament (OT), e.g. they are more accepting of
scientific theories such as the ‘Big Bang’ and evolution, not considering such
theories conflict with their theology, or faith for that matter.
But their theologians undeniably accept that solid links of wisdom exist between the two sections of
the Bible. God did ensure that the NT was built on the foundations of the
Services in traditional churches (incl Catholic) are usually formalised and follow established rituals, i.e. spontaneity
limited throughout services.
Therefore, services are often limited in their passion and excitement.
But to my mind they can be a good starting point for beginner
Note however, that some of
these traditional Protestant and Catholic churches do offer services relative to the Charismatic movement and these are discussed later in this
article. Those particular churches generally deliver a bit more ‘energy’
and emotion in their related services.
presence is certainly more obvious in these types of services as well.
The next article in this section of the website, “Experiencing the Holy Spirit”
expands on that aspect.
Remember though it can take a few
enquiries to locate traditional/ mainline churches that offer these so-called “Charismatic” services in
your area, i.e. locally.
3. EVANGELICAL PROTESTANT CHURCHES
Protestant churches, particularly those founded in later times, are
more upbeat than most traditional churches.
are very positive advocates for Christianity. My understanding is that the founding evangelical
churches in the USA actually broke away from traditional Protestant churches in
the late nineteenth century.
normally offer more
intimate connections with God. Prayers within their
services almost seem to converse with God
as a loving friend. Their songs of praise have a similar nature.
Some evangelical churches have a Charismatic theme (again, more on this
element will follow in this article).
Although many evangelical churches hold to similar balanced theological views
as found in most traditional Protestant and Catholic churches, others are very ‘fundamentalist’ by nature. I understand that that this is more likely in the USA. Fundamentalist
churches, as their name suggests, are very dogmatic with their
doctrine and at odds with some modern scientific theory for example.
I definitely accept that fundamentalists have a right to their opinions!
These fundamentalist churches do sit well with people who
prefer everything to be
laid out in so-called
“black and white”,
with no need for analysis
or ‘soul searching’.
Evangelical churches, whether fundamentalist or
moderate, appeal to people who want to feel good about
and be uplifted by their experiences there. This works well for a lot
people after all. I know it does for me.
These churches also place
importance on their Biblically based theology, so are also a good
starting point for beginner Christians.
4. PENTECOSTAL/ CHARISMATIC CHURCHES
Almost all Pentecostal churches are linked to the Pentecostal/ Charismatic movement.
They have become particularly prevalent since the 1960s. Most
Pentecostal churches present balanced theology once again to their congregations.
there are some Pentecostal churches where theology is not a focal point
at all, i.e. they do go a bit too far in this direction,
overly concentrating on experiences of the Spirit at the expense of
limiting lessons on the use of faith in life itself and related Bible teachings. And this can impact on the overall growth of our faith and belief.
On the other hand I recognise that many people are ‘wired’ in a way that attracts
them to that type of church. Firstly, they enjoy the ‘rush’ of being
touched by the Spirit, and experiencing him in action there in the service. Secondly, not
everybody does want to study the Bible in great depth. This often applies to people who have a ‘hands on’ approach to life in general. They may only want to know the essentials.
And I guess God knows that, and works around it accordingly.
In any case, Pentecostal churches are certainly more likely to centre their services around the Christian
experience, i.e. the direct observation of God’s
As an ex-atheist I understand how non believers might react to such a
statement. But when you do open yourself to actually experience this
stuff, you will find yourself asking what else can it be there other
than the Holy
interacting with the congregation? I add more on this in following articles within this section of the website.
Their services are again emotional, energetic
They are often led
by the church leader in a manner that encourages an
openness, within the congregation, to the presence of God, in the person of the Holy Spirit. And I mean
in a definite manner that other church groupings do not (including
Charismatic fellowships in Protestant, Catholic and Evangelical
enjoy the company of
Pentecostal worshipers when I attend their services.
Their Pentecostal/ Charismatic outlook, which focuses directly on the Holy Spirit in action,
does encourage very strong belief and faith among followers. The
emotional and overtly spiritual nature of
services may be attractive
for some folk, but not for others.
mentioned previously, some
traditional/ mainline Protestant, evangelical Protestant and Catholic
churches provide so-called Charismatic services, i.e. they too are members of the Pentecostal/ Charismatic movement. These churches offer events relevant to ‘the movement’ but
generally operate within the confines of a definite balanced Christian theology. I
spent a number of years in Protestant churches, which were
in ‘the movement’, and
witnessed/ experienced the same sort of events that I had in Pentecostal churches. My own
belief building in particular went completely ‘gangbusters’
As I have also mentioned elsewhere in this website,
from my experiences, a period of fellowship spent within
Pentecostal or so-called Charismatic
congregation can be very useful to ramp up the growth of our belief which in turn supports our faith. The Pentecostal, and other churches that belong to the Pentecostal/ Charismatic movement, provide the
events as they would have occurred in the early Christian Church 2,000 years ago. These
events often result from the so-called, “gifts
of the Spirit” that manifest themselves within their
Please do not rule out the possibility of those events detailed above actually happening. I
know I did, and I was wrong! I admit it. The following article, in this section of the website, describes the use of these ‘gifts’ and their outcomes.
moving on though, I really want to make it clear again that I do not
intend to downplay the relevance of traditional/ mainline or
evangelical Protestant and Catholic churches, which have no involvement with the Charismatic movement, in these current times. Without
doubt, even in this moderate Christian setting, some serious although more subtle faith
and belief building stuff can be experienced. And it is further explained later in
this section of the website.
Continue to the next article, “Experiencing the Holy Spirit”.