The following was taken from a pre-1997 issue of The Berean Call.
Question (composite of several): We can't seem to find a church in our area that has godly leadership and biblical preaching. We feel so alone and now just read the Bible and pray at home. What should we do? How do we find a "good" church?
Response: It is a sad commentary on the state of the church that we receive many such queries.
What marks a "healthy" church? Crucial to the answer is Matthew:18:20: "For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst...." Christ himself must be the central focus—not a pastor, gripping sermons, a strong missionary emphasis, exciting youth programs, compatible fellow members, or even agreeable doctrines, important as all these factors are. A fervent love for Christ and a heartfelt corporate worship of His Person must be the primary mark of a healthy church.
The early church was thus characterized. It met regularly on the first day of the week in remembrance of His death. That weekly outpouring of praise, worship, and thanksgiving had one purpose—to give God His due portion. It isn't primarily a matter of my need, my edification, my enjoyment or my spiritual satisfaction, but of His worth in my eyes and the eyes of the church.
As I see it, our secondary focus should be our opportunity for servanthood with a corporate body of believers. I give myself to a needy, imperfect people for whom I can pray, for whose needs I can concern myself in practical ways, to whom I can be an encourager and a minister of the Word, and among whom I can demonstrate and work out Christ's desire that His own "might be one." This fellowship is commanded: "Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together" (Heb:10:25). Is it our joy to gather with God's people in intercessory prayer and study of the Word, or is Sunday-morning-only quite enough? A healthy church will not only gather unto Him, but with each other.
Lastly, I need to assess my own spiritual needs. The shepherds must provide the spiritual food that will nurture the flock, that it might be "throughly furnished unto all good works"(2 Tm 3:17). That's a big order and requires, of course, a teachable flock that loves the Word and is in willing subjection to it. The shepherds must also guard the flock of God by keeping out false and dangerous doctrines contrary to the truth. They must adhere to the pure Word of God as the only authority for faith and morals.
You say, "Wonderful! Lead me to such a church." Remember, however, the order of priority: Worship (do you worship sincerely, wholeheartedly, and in a manner satisfying to the object of that worship?); Servanthood (do you serve, even as Christ gave us an example, with humility and with joy?); Personal needs (are you growing, maturing, taking on Christ's character?).
The final decision as to your church affiliation must be, prayerfully, yours. Is your personal worship of the Savior so joyful and satisfying a thing both to you and to Him that it supersedes other considerations? Do your opportunities for service render your fellowship sufficiently meaningful and significant? Or do doctrinal concerns or lack of biblical preaching and teaching cancel out the other two? You must seek the Lord for His answer. God's comforting assurance remains: "For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them."