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I had to leave my old church (due to unbiblical teaching, because I moved, etc.). How can I find a new, doctrinally sound church?

I get this question a lot, and it’s one of my favorites, because it means the person is thinking about what constitutes a healthy, doctrinally sound church and seeking one out instead of going somewhere she can get her ears tickled. There are a lot of churches out there that have gone off the rails, but there are still a lot of good churches out there as well.

First, you need to know what makes a church doctrinally sound or unsound, which means you have to know what the Bible says about salvation, the Trinity, creation, sin, etc., all the major doctrines, well enough to know whether the church you’re considering believes and practices what the Bible says. I’m a little partial, but I think my denomination’s statement of faith does a decent job of succinctly outlining and giving an overview of the biblical position on the major doctrines, in case you need to study up a little (of course there are some finer points of doctrine you’ll want to take a look at, too).

In addition to what we would think of as the church’s main doctrines, there are some other vital things you’ll want to take into consideration when considering whether a church is healthy, such as whether the church is complementarian or egalitarian, what, if any, connection the church has with false teachers or their materials, whether the church is cessationist or continuationist, how the church handles the music portion of the worship service, and so on. Here are some things my husband and I wanted to know the last time we were looking for a new church.

Ready to start hunting for a new church home? Here are a few guidelines:

1. Pray. Ask God to give you wisdom as you search and to guide you to the right church for your family.

2. Ask around. Do you have friends or family in the area who could point you to a good church? If your current church is doctrinally sound (i.e. you’re only leaving it because you’re moving), ask your pastor for recommendations.

3. Find a good “church search” web site. The best one I have found is the one on Paul Washer’s site. It has several church search engines: 9 Marks, Sermon Audio, Founders-Friendly Churches, and The Master’s Seminary.

4. Put social media to work for you. Ask for church recommendations on your own Facebook and Twitter pages, and ask friends to share your posts with their friends. If you’re in any Christian Facebook groups, ask the group for recommendations. Post on the timeline of any doctrinally sound pastors, ministries, or churches you follow to ask for recommendations. Perhaps the admin of the page or a reader in the area will see your post and answer it.

5. Put me to work for you! I’ll be happy to ask my social media followers for recommendations for you (keeping you anonymous, of course). I’ve heard back from a few people who have found good churches that way. Drop me an e-mail (MichelleLesley1@yahoo.com) or a private message on social media and let me know the city and state/country where you’re looking for a church.

6. Found a church you think might be a good one? Examine its web site well. Does it have a solid statement of faith? Any female “pastors” on staff? Is the small group Bible study using a book by a false teacher? Are there pictures of members attending the latest gay pride rally? Are there sermons on the site you could listen to? Look for what the church is doing right and any areas that are red flags you should ask about (Be careful not to jump to conclusions, you could be mistaken about something. Ask.)

7. Did the church pass the web site test? Try it on for size. Visit a few times and see if it seems like a good fit.

8. If you’ve been visiting and think this church might be “the one,” schedule an appointment with the pastor (preferably during his office hours, if possible). Ask any questions you still have and ask how you and your family can get plugged in and serve.

Don’t forget- you’re not going to find the perfect church. Any church you join is going to have some problems. Our goal is not to find a place where we’ll be completely comfortable with never a ruffled feather and all of our preferences catered to. Our goal is to find the most doctrinally sound church we can, roll up our sleeves, and get to work serving, loving, and worshiping.

Additional Resources

Finding a New Church- Starting from Scratch

Six Questions for a Potential Church

Looking for a Church Home? by Tim Challies

Church Shopping? 35 Key Questions to Ask the Church at Berean Research


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

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