“Where do I go to church?”
Before I offer a couple things I’ve learned to look for, let me start with this: Stop going to church. You read that right.
Stop going to church.
Church is not a place you “go.” Church is not a building. It is not a show. You “go” to the mall. You “go” to the movies. You do not “go” to church. It is not a place for consumer needs to be met, even spiritual ones.
A church is something you are with others. It is a community with whom you participate. A church is not a place; it is people, and you are one of them.
You need a place that loves people. I mean, really loves people. Don’t content yourself just dropping in, sitting in the back, and slipping out before anybody can catch your name. People should know your name. You should know their names. You can’t really love your neighbor if you don’t know you’re neighbor’s name. It matters that a pastor knows your name.
If you find door greeters that grab your hand but are already looking to the next person before the “Hello, how are you, good to see you” is out, that’s a bad sign. If total strangers invite you to a meal, that’s a good sign. This is, unless, of course, you’ve wandered into a cult.
Contrary to some opinion, what happens in a worship service does matter. A worship service is for one thing: declaring God’s mighty acts. Worship services are for God and not for us, so “What does God get out of this?” is a much better question than “What do I get out of this?” Style of music or media is far less important than the fact that the Word of God is proclaimed and communion is celebrated. If there’s more movie clips than Scripture in a sermon, that’s a problem.
Bottom line? Find people who grow your ability to love God and neighbor and that allow you to grow theirs. I dare you to find one church and commit yourself to that group of people your entire time in college.