Second Chance at a First Impression

When you are searching for a church home, and you have already done the research to know that you are a good fit for a church’s main beliefs, you should commit to attending the service for three or four weeks. These do not have to be consecutive weeks. Maybe you are in a season of searching that includes multiple churches. Visit them in sequence so that you are able to prayerfully discern the healthiest worship environment for you and your family. Also, if you are visiting over time, you will likely hear messages from different sermon series and you will be able to get a better feel for the teachings of the pastor.

The exception to visiting a service multiple times is if there is something theologically off-putting that shows up during one of the first few weeks. If something happens, or is said, that is contrary to the teachings of the Bible, I would encourage you not to subject yourself to that teaching again.

I once visited a church that had a guest speaker that Sunday. He made some comments that I thought were not entirely in line with Scripture, so, just like I suggest in Following Up, I called the pastor to ask him some questions. Unfortunately, this pastor was unable to provide me an appropriate response for the guest’s sermon choices. For me, a lead pastor that is not going to protect his congregation from errant teachers when he is absent is not a pastor that I want teaching me or my family. In that case, we did not return for a second service.

In most cases, though, you will not be exposed to blatantly errant teaching in the typical Christian church. Rather, a church family reveals more and more of itself over time, and the church searcher should attend long enough to get a good feel. You may begin to see a fuller picture of worship within that particular context. Sometimes, this will confirm your initial impression, while other times, you will come to understand that the first service you attended was an anomaly, either good or bad. You will also become more familiar with the congregation and, hopefully, you will be able to discern the heart of the body by interacting with them.

I know that many of you will begin to feel a strange feeling of guilt when you attend a service multiple times, love the people, but you do not feel like the service is where you will worship God most freely. Do not feel like you have obligated yourself just because you have gone back a handful of times. Especially if you have stretched your visits over a couple of months, many people will accept your decision without a second thought. Another way to alleviate that pressure is to be honest with the congregation and the pastor. If they are tracking your intentions and your discernment process, they should be supportive.

Separately, committing to additional attendance will provide you an opportunity for growth. It will give you the chance to be a part of corporate worship that you may not have experienced otherwise. It may even show you that suitable worship can take a form that you had not anticipated, which is a crucial part of spiritual maturation.

I hope that you seek and see God in worship.

Pastor Byron

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