How should I choose a church?

Updated: Jul 18, 2021

There are many churches and Christian denominations in the world today, and each has different beliefs. How do we know what church to attend? Finding the right church may seem daunting, but God gives us guidelines on what to look for in the Bible.

The church must have God’s complete truth of salvation

Finding the true church does not just mean choosing one congregation over another, but finding the church that preaches the true gospel. There is “one faith, one baptism” (Eph 4:5)—that is, only one gospel of salvation. Two churches with different beliefs on salvation cannot both be true.

  • The church is “the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.” (1 Tim 3:15) For any church to be the church of the living God, it must uphold God’s complete truth concerning salvation.

  • The church has to be “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone.” (Eph 2:20). The church must uphold all of the Lord’s commandments and the apostles’ teachings.

  • God, not man, is the head of the church. The church has to submit to Him by obeying His complete truth (Eph 5:23-24).

Although we may declare our love for Jesus, ultimately, it is through keeping Jesus’ commandments that He recognises we love Him (Jn 14:21).


Relevant article: Doesn’t everyone just interpret the Bible differently?



The church must have the Holy Spirit

With the Holy Spirit, we belong to God

But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.” (Romans 8:9)


To belong to Christ, the church must have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. “The body apart from the spirit is dead” (Jas 2:26); likewise, a congregation without the Spirit of God has no spiritual life.

The Holy Spirit bears witness that we have eternal life

Finding the true church does not just mean choosing one congregation over another, but finding the church that preaches the true gospel. There is “one faith, one baptism” (Eph 4:5)—that is, only one gospel of salvation. Two churches with different beliefs on salvation cannot both be true.


The Holy Spirit makes water baptism effective in removing our sins

The water in 1 John 5:8 refers to water baptism, where our sins are washed away (Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16). The blood refers to the blood that Jesus shed on the cross for the forgiveness of sins. When the Holy Spirit is present in water baptism, only then is the blood of Christ present to remove our sins. Through the Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ gives the church the authority to forgive sins (Jn 20:22-23).


We need the Holy Spirit’s witness and authority for our sins to be forgiven through water baptism administered by the church so that we are no longer separated from God (Isa 59:2).


Learn more: What is water baptism? Why should I be baptised?


How do we know if a church has the Holy Spirit?

It is essential to know if a church genuinely has the Holy Spirit as there is only one Spirit (Eph 4:4), and Elder John warns us that not all spirits are of God. False prophets have gone out into the world and the spirit of error works (1 Jn 4:1).


What we have to do, as Elder John teaches, is to test the spirits: we must discern if the spirit that a church has is genuinely the one Spirit. Not only must the spirit confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh (1 Jn 4:2), but also a person with that spirit must, as Elder John wrote, “hear us” (6).


How does one “hear” the apostles? By following their complete teachings.

We hence have to study a church’s teachings and see if it accords with everything the apostles taught.


The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth who reveals the truth of salvation (Jn 16:13). In the true church where God’s spirit abides, people can receive and follow the full gospel of salvation as revealed in the Bible.


Related: Do I need to pray for the Holy Spirit?



Conclusion

We need to select based on truth: compare a church’s beliefs against the Bible and test the spirits. Hence we cannot simply dismiss denominational differences. Instead, consider the Bible’s teachings: the complete truth of salvation and the church of the living God must have the Holy Spirit. Only through the Holy Spirit’s presence can a church belong to God and effectively remove sin through water baptism, reconciling believers to Christ.


Every Christian needs to seek the one faith that the apostles once shared and preached. Let us not fall into the trap of choosing a church based on superficial factors, such as its speakers’ eloquence and how its choir sings.


Although all this may sound effortful, the outcome is worth it—choosing a church that is true to God gives us the promise of eternal life.