I came up with a list of four characteristics, four things I would be looking for. Now, different people rate these characteristics in different ways. I suppose, in the end, if all four are present it doesn’t matter which most impressed you in your search. So these are the things I thought of as of first importance, in no particular order (or maybe only, my preferred order).
Doctrine. What are they teaching? Is Jesus lifted up? Are the great definitions in the creeds actually followed? How do they use the Bible, and how seriously do they take it?
Worship. Making disciples may be the primary task of the Church, but worship is the first thing we do. Is the worship well done? Does it bring us into communion with God, or can we just brag about its production values?
Program. Beyond the weekly worship service, what do we do? What activities are there to build up the people in the church, and what activities are there to minister to people in the community? Is there a solid missions program? Christian education?
Relationships. Do these people actually love each other? More to the point, will they love me? How do they operate with each other? Too many of our “friendly” churches are riven by jealousies and driven by complaints.
Well, that’s my short list. And when I set it down, I remembered the four Marks of the Church from the creeds: the Church is One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic. And I thought, Doctrine: that’s catholicity. Worship: that’s holiness. Program: that’s apostolic. Relationships: that’s unity.
How well does your congregation or denomination stack up against these criteria? What could you do to make it better?