We need to join a church that suits our real needs.
That can help us on our journey of faith.
Help build our Christian faith. Grow our belief in God.
Christian ‘denominations’, and the way they relate to each other, do vary from country to country. Therefore it is not possible to offer complete and exact advice to guide all readers, across the world, in choosing a church to visit.
And look, the fellowship of faith that suits us today may not suit us at a later date. I, for example, consider that I 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 to attend, our lives should still be changed for the better, especially in that area of ‘building faith and belief’. And that is the underlying theme of this website.
(I am from a senior auditing background and the majority of my advisory team are Christian clergy. To glimpse the ‘who’, ‘how’ and ‘why’ of this website please click here.)
2. GUIDING THE DECISION
That all said, our chosen church will have an impact on our faith journey.
And I do think most Christian denominations have some ‘elements’ that make them more suitable than others for each of us. That particularly applies when taking our individual personalities and our positions of faith journey (e.g. beginner Christian) into account.
What follows is a brief summary of available church options, and how to compare them when trying to make a choice. Many churches do have websites, facebook accounts etc. And these can be viewed to gain ‘some idea’ of their approach. Their actual position within the greater Christian Church should also become obvious after a few attendances of their services.
I only have two MAJOR requests for you, the reader, in search of a suitable church. Firstly, I would hope that any church chosen by you should follow the “Essential Christian Beliefs” as presented in the article, “Christianity explained”. I am suggesting you just read one sub-section (Heading 2) in that article. Yes, I recommend it to you before going in search of the church that is ideal for you. The second MAJOR request is included under the following Heading 3.1.
Finally, I must add that the choice of a fellowship of faith, i.e. a church, is an issue for God and each one of us. Although it might look a bit ‘foreign’ to a beginner Christian, I suggest you the reader ‘ask for the Lord’s guidance‘ on this matter of choice through prayer.
Let’s have a look at the types of churches on offer then.
3. TRADITIONAL PROTESTANT AND CATHOLIC CHURCHES
Traditional/ mainline Protestant, together with Catholic, churches are included in this grouping. These churches, by and large, offer ‘moderate’ Christian views to their congregations. Catholics have a bit of extra stuff (‘doctrine’ and ‘sacraments’) in their historical approach to services than do Protestants. But that does not create any serious conflict between these two major areas of the Church.
Membership in the majority of these churches, offers an exposure to: balanced Christian theology; an understanding of faith and its effects when applied within Christian life; ‘some evidence of God’s presence‘ in that setting; a good proportion of caring supportive Christians in their fellowships.
3.1 Avoid ‘over-liberal’ Protestant churches
However, bear in mind that a very small minority of traditional/ mainline Protestant churches hold over-liberal (TOO liberal) views on the Christian New Testament (Jesus bits of the Bible). And I do NOT see any point at all with very strong Christian ‘liberalism’. That will include having Christian beliefs ‘watered-down’ to a point where even ‘spirituality’ itself has no basis there. And to me, that is just plain crazy.
I write that because, as the auditor that I was at the time, I analysed and evaluated spiritual stuff available throughout many Christian denominations. And some of what is on offer, courtesy of the Lord, can be very recognisable; quite potent (discussed later in this article). Please read the article, “Is this ‘Holy Spirit’ stuff real?” for the results of my final evaluation of these stronger spiritual experiences, that are on offer from God.
3.2 Will it suit you?
I believe people who like to make their own decisions on faith, after analysing ‘information’ offered to them from their church clergy, should feel comfortable within traditional Protestant and Catholic churches. For example these churches do not generally hold ‘fundamentalist’ views on the pre-Jesus, Old Testament (OT). And, they generally accept modern scientific theories such as the ‘Big Bang’ and ‘Evolution’ as the ‘real deal’. They do not consider such theories conflict at all with their theology, or faith for that matter.
But their guiding 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 OT. Please see the article, “Our amazing Bible” for a simple explanation of how Bible contents should be interpreted and how they do fit together.
3.3 Types of services offered
Services in traditional churches (including Catholic) are usually formalised and follow set routines, i.e. ‘spontaneity’ is limited throughout services. They are usually ‘cool, calm and collected’. Therefore, services are often limited in their passion and excitement. Hmmm … yes … they can be a bit ‘flat’ at times, as far as I am concerned at least. But I can personally put up with that, because I am a ‘thinker’ myself, and the basis of their theological outlook fits with my personality.
From my experience in these churches, development of Christian ‘faith and belief‘, for us people attending fellowships, happens regularly during weekly services. Firstly Bible readings, usually from both the Old Testament and New Testament are read to the fellowship. Then a talk, or sermon, is often given by a member of the clergy to explain how those readings relate to our Christian faith and its use in everyday life.
In other words, people attending are advised how to engage, or connect, with the Lord during daily life through the use of that advice. And of course how to be faithful Christians. The subjects of those talks can for example relate to articles, on this website, under the Menu Bar heading, “God in our lives”. The article, “God’s presence in our lives” gives a summary of the ‘overall contents’ found under that “God in our lives” heading.
Note too, 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. God’s presence, in the ‘person of the Holy Spirit‘, is certainly more obvious in these types of services as well. And yes, ‘old auditor me’ really does mean that! 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 find traditional/ mainline churches that offer these so-called “Charismatic” services in your area, i.e. locally.
4. EVANGELICAL PROTESTANT CHURCHES
These churches can be very positive advocates for worldwide Christianity. They concentrate on messages from the Bible. And knowledge gained there does influence how followers live their lives. They are usually very committed Christians.
4.1 ‘Born again’ Evangelical churches
Born again Evangelical churches seem to me to have crisp, clear Bible-based beliefs that place demands on their fellowships. For example, they emphasise the importance of us accepting Jesus as ‘our Lord and Saviour’; and changing our way of life as a result. That is we are expected to try hard to ‘turn away from sin‘ once we commit ourselves to Jesus in that way. They maintain that we are thereby ‘spiritually’ reborn. And I agree with all that. Absolutely.
The services, of many of these Evangelical churches, can also offer more intimate connections with God for the fellowship. The songs the fellowship sing during their church services can have a similar nature.
Clergy in born again Evangelical churches also often give talks, or sermons, about engaging with God during everyday life, as happens in traditional/ mainline/ Protestant and Catholic churches. That is, as discussed under that Sub-heading 3.3 above.
4.2 Theology-based Evangelical churches
Without doubt there is a lot of complexity within the Bible.
There is stuff in the Bible that can really help us to believe in God’s very existence and understand his overall purpose for humanity. Yes, I am writing about complex messages, links/ themes that run right through the Old and New Testaments. That highlight its important underlying guidance for followers.
And remember the Bible was written by dozens of writers over many, many hundreds of years. I personally recognise that a ‘powerful influence’ had to be behind it all. Mind you when I was an atheist I DID NOT have clue about this stuff!
And some Evangelical churches concentrate on these incredible Bible themes, linkages and its ‘deep’ messages. That is during their Bible readings, and talks from clergy, during fellowship services.
In the written words of Jesus’ apostle Paul, “All scripture is God-breathed… ” Essentially, knowledge gained through the Bible’s messages to us, is intended by God to seriously ‘inform’ our loving relationship with him and our fellow human beings. Give us direction!
4.3 Will it suit you?
Most of these churches, both ‘born again Evangelical’ and ‘theology-based Evangelical’, are not fundamentalist by nature. So, open minded people should ‘feel at home’ there.
It is important to carefully choose which style of Evangelical church will suit you though. ‘Deep thinkers’ for example may be attracted to the Evangelical churches that concentrate on theology. I have spent quite some time in one of these churches, and it has definitely improved the ‘clarity’ of my knowledge of Christianity itself: my overall faith.
On the other hand, committed and ‘intimate’ relationships with the Lord may be the objective of those people who join born again Evangelical churches. Again, I ‘feel at home’ there.
Many Evangelical churches, particularly in the USA, also have a strong Charismatic theme. (Again, more on this element follows, under Heading 6.)
5. FUNDAMENTALIST PROTESTANT CHURCHES
Fundamentalist churches, as their name suggests, are very ‘dogmatic’ and demanding with their doctrine. For example they are at odds with some basic scientific theory (both Evolution and Big Bang as examples again). But you know, I definitely accept that fundamentalists have a right to their opinions!
Essentially, they maintain that almost every word in the Bible is to be accepted as “The exact Truth”. That is, there is little need for interpretations of scripture. This includes both the Old Testament and the New Testament.
Members of these fellowships are led towards developing deeply faithful Christian lives. 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’.
Again, Fundamentalist followers do normally become very committed Christians.
6. PENTECOSTAL/ CHARISMATIC CHURCHES
As expected, almost all Pentecostal churches are linked to the larger Pentecostal/ Charismatic movement.
Most Pentecostal churches offer balanced theology to their congregations. And I understand that they are not normally fundamentalist by nature.
Finally, I have added details later, under this heading, about churches in the ‘Charismatic movement’.
6.1 Pentecostal churches’ positive spiritual nature
Their services are again emotional, energetic and uplifting.
They are often led by the church leader in a way that encourages an ‘openness’, within the fellowship, to the presence of God in the ‘person of the Holy Spirit‘. And I mean in a DEFINITE way that other church groupings do not.
In any case, Pentecostal churches are certainly more likely to centre their services around the Christian ‘spiritual’ experience, i.e. the direct connection with ‘God’s presence‘. As an ex-atheist myself, I understand how non-believers might react to such a statement. But when you do deliberately open yourself to actually experience this stuff, you will ask what else can it be there OTHER THAN the Holy Spirit interacting with the congregation? You can feel it, at times, if you are ready to open yourself to it. Absolutely yes! And some stuff happening in front of you, at services, can absolutely ‘rock your socks’. In fact I add a lot more about this in following articles, within this section of the website.
Their Pentecostal outlook, which focuses directly on the Holy Spirit in action, does encourage very strong ‘faith and belief‘ among followers. The emotional and spiritual nature of services may seem great for some folk, but not for others.
I really enjoy the company of Pentecostal worshippers (and the Holy Spirit of course) when I attend their services.
6.2 Highly ‘spiritual’ or ‘musical’ themes in some Pentecostal churches
But there are some Pentecostal churches where theology is not much of a focal point at all.
They may seriously concentrate on ‘experiences of the Spirit‘ at the expense of limiting lessons on Bible contents or the ‘use of faith in life‘ (also based on Bible scriptures).
On the other hand, some other Pentecostal churches really concentrate on their songs … again at the expense of limited Bible teachings etc. And they may even limit their Holy Spirit interactions as a result too.
Mind you, in the case of churches concentrating heavily on the Holy Spirit, it is unlikely that it will slow the development of ‘belief in God’ for church members who attend. Clearly because of the Holy Spirit’s more obvious interaction within services etc.
On the other hand, people who are drawn to churches that concentrate on ‘songs of praise’ normally enjoy the deep loving atmosphere, between the Lord and themselves. It just builds up and up during their services. These churches offer super-bonding experiences as such.
So yes, I do realise that many people are ‘wired’ in a way that attracts them to these types of church. Firstly, they may enjoy the ‘rush’ of being touched/ anointed by the Spirit and experiencing him in action there in the service. OR they may feel really uplifted by singing songs of praise to the Lord. 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. I believe that most of these churches do in fact deliver that level of understanding to their fellowships.
And I guess God knows that too, and works with it as a result.
6.3 Charismatic churches
As mentioned previously, some traditional/ mainline Protestant, Evangelical Protestant and Catholic churches offer so-called Charismatic services. That is they too are members of the Pentecostal/ Charismatic movement. These churches offer events relevant to ‘the movement’ but generally operate within the boundaries of a definite balanced Christian theology.
I did spend a number of years in Protestant churches, that were in ‘the movement’. And I witnessed/ experienced the same sort of ‘powerful‘ and ‘spiritual‘ events that I had in Pentecostal churches. My own belief building, in particular, went completely ‘gangbusters’ there. Seriously so!
As I have also mentioned elsewhere in this website, from my experiences, a period of fellowship spent within any Pentecostal or so-called Charismatic congregation can be very useful. It can effectively ramp up the growth of our ‘belief in god’s existence‘ which in turn supports the growth of our ‘Christian faith‘ and its use to ‘transform our lives‘!
Not surprisingly, people belonging to these churches are normally very committed Christians.
The Pentecostal, and other churches that belong to the Pentecostal/ Charismatic movement, provide the opportunity to witness events as they would have occurred in the early Christian Church 2,000 plus years ago. I mean as clearly described in the Bible! These events often result from the so-called, “gifts of the Spirit” that manifest themselves within their services. Yes, begin to read about it in the following article. Please firstly read on with this article though …
Now, do NOT rule out the possibility of any of those spiritually based 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, as I keep repeating, describes the use of these ‘gifts’ and their outcomes.
Before 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 belief building‘ stuff can be experienced. And that is further explained later in this section of the website.
But, although not mandatory at all, if you do want access to events and even experiences to build solid ‘belief in God’s presence or his existence’, then the movement is the place for you to attend and worship. The fellowships of faith there should provide you with sound evidence that, when evaluated within the ‘framework‘ offered in this website, will deliver rock-solid belief in the Lord. Of course that will come through actually ‘experiencing’ the Holy Spirit for yourself.
Continue to the next article, “Experiencing the Holy Spirit”.