In last Sunday’s post (see here), I related the history of my church membership/attendance. The three Gospel churches my wife and I attended after we were saved all had unacceptable problems that motivated us to leave: legalistic fundamentalism, Rome-friendly ecumenism, and seeker hipsterism.
I retired from my weekend job at the end of October and was looking forward to finding a new church. My wife was not as enthusiastic in light of our previous church experiences.
There are many churches in the Greater Rochester area, but how to find a “good” church? What constitutes a good church? Does a believer just start attending any ol’ church they happen to drive past on Sunday morning? There should be godly, Biblically-solid criteria used in selecting a church.
Foremost, a possible church home must preach the genuine Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. Secondly, a possible church home must uphold the Bible as God’s inspired and infallible Word. Those two criteria eliminate all Roman Catholic churches and pretty much all old-mainline Protestant denominational churches, which now teach a Bible-denying social gospel. I think I just disqualified about 75% of Rochester-area churches (or rather they disqualified themselves).
What other criteria? There’s no such thing as a perfect church just as there is no perfect congregant, but I desired to find a Gospel church that closely matched my beliefs on secondary and tertiary doctrines and values.
⚠️ Please note: I will be getting down into the nitty-gritty details of my own beliefs in regards to secondary and tertiary doctrines and values, something I generally avoid for harmony sake. I realize some readers are going to have contrary views. My intent is not to offend, but to be honest and transparent about my own personal beliefs and values as we searched for a church.
I’m admittedly a square peg when it comes to secondary and tertiary doctrines and values. I’m too conservative for “hip” non-denominational mega-churches and too “liberal” for fundamentalist churches. Most of the criteria below were shaped by our three previous church experiences. For me, a possible church home…
- …can’t be independent fundamental Baptist. I won’t sit under IFB legalism again.
- …can’t be KJV 1611-only. Use of the word-for-word ESV or NASB translations would be preferred.
- …can’t be Rome-friendly ecumenical. I won’t sit under a compromised, Rome-friendly pastor again.
- …can’t propagate Christian nationalism. The Gospel has nothing to do with nationalism. In conjunction with this, a church can’t propagate political (or otherwise) conspiracy theories.
- …can’t be Southern Baptist. That denomination is currently embroiled in a tug-of-war between theological conservatives and liberals. Praise God if you’re attending a solid SBC church.
- …can’t be seeker/church-growth/hipster. I won’t sit in a rock concert-style church with blaring electric guitars, laser light shows, and a pastor in skin-tight skinny jeans again.
- …can’t be a church that doesn’t value its older members.
- …can’t be a sprawling mega-church. I want to know the pastor and I want the pastor to know me.
- …can’t be Pentecostal or charismatic. I’m a cessationist and believe the apostolic sign-gifts ended with the apostles. In conjunction with this, a church can’t teach the “health and wealth” prosperity non-gospel.
- …can’t be Presbyterian or Lutheran-based. I don’t believe in paedo/infant baptism or in any degree of “real presence” in communion.
- …can’t be Wesleyan/Holiness based. I don’t believe a genuine Christian can lose/forfeit salvation or achieve sinlessness.
What’s left? Are there any conservative evangelical churches in Rochester that uphold the Bible, preach Jesus Christ and the genuine Gospel, and align to a good degree with my secondary and tertiary beliefs and values? My long list of square-peg criteria probably eliminates 98% of Greater Rochester churches.
I had a couple of church candidates leftover from my 2015 church-search list and on Sunday, November 20, we visited what I thought might be the more promising of the two. Praise God, the church (photo above) upholds the Bible as God’s Word, preaches Jesus Christ and the genuine Gospel of grace, and “appears” to “largely” (not completely) align with my secondaries. The congregation was friendly and embraced us warmly. We had an edifying phone conversation with the pastor several days afterwards during which we discussed a few of our concerns with evangelical churches in general. We have attended the church several more times. We are pleased and we are blessed.
The tone of this post may appear more self-serving than God-serving, but I strongly believe (after past experiences) that a believer must be cautious and discerning about what church they attend.