In our first six months of marriage, my husband and I lived in four different apartments. I had finished my college degree before our wedding day, but my husband still had a few terms to go. He went to a university with an engineering co-op program where all students alternated between terms of academics and an internship, so we were in our first apartment only two months during his second-to-last intern term.
I still unpacked and decorated that place in our hometown in Ohio like we were staying for years because, well, it was our first home and I was a new, overexcited bride. But we soon moved to our second apartment in Michigan for his final academic term. Three months later, we moved again when we went back to Ohio for his final intern term. Then finally three months after that, my husband completed his degree, accepted a job in Michigan, and we moved into our fourth and final apartment.
During all those moves, we attended a few different churches. Since we weren’t in a place more than a few months, we didn’t have an opportunity to really get connected. So when we made that final move to Michigan, we were anxious to get settled. We were away from most of our family and beginning to establish our own. But we had one family member in the area who invited us to begin our search for a church home at their church. When we found solid, biblical teaching and a class for newlyweds forming the first Sunday we visited, we never went anywhere else.
Now in many cases, making a decision that quickly may not be wise! But for us, it was one of our best decisions. While, admittedly, it was based a lot more on our need for a “home” rather than a more careful and prayerful choice, by God’s grace, it was a strong foundation for our marriage and family. Now looking back eighteen years later, I realize how that foundation was built.
How We Found Our Church Home
1. We knew our need.
With all those moves our first months of marriage, there was a lot of excitement. New people. New places. New experiences. But we also longed for some routine. To know and be known when we went somewhere. Church was a great place to start. We also knew we needed clear teaching from God’s Word. While we considered other aspects of the church—groups, classes, outreach opportunities, worship—we knew the foundation of a church must be the inerrant Word of God.
2. We started out informed.
We had a personal invitation from someone we knew well and trusted. We asked questions and went in with heightened awareness—looking not only for information but also for evidence within the people of the church that they were living out what they said they believed.
3. We got involved, and we committed.
The most essential starting place when searching for a church home is to be certain its foundation is the Word of God and to see evidence of that being lived out through the pursuits and people of that church.
The next step? Get involved. Talk to people. Go to a class or event. Invite someone over for or out to lunch. Be part of a Bible study. Serve in some way. I’m not talking about frivolously filling your calendar with stuff. What I’m saying is that you are not going to form the relationships to grow in all aspects of your walk with Christ if you’re merely attending the main worship service at a church.
Look for opportunities to respond with words and action to teaching. To see and hear the experiences of other believers in a more intimate setting. You need relationships where the encouragement, exhortation, correcting, and training described throughout the New Testament can happen. Then be committed to those people and consistent in your attendance and involvement.
My husband and I began our involvement in that young marrieds class we heard about on our first visit, and eighteen years later some of those relationships are still some of our closest. I signed up on a sheet that went around our class one Sunday to help out in the nursery. Serving there trained me in the “practicals” of ministry. But it also provided opportunities for me to get to know other people in my church family as we served together. All kinds of mentoring and relationship-building happened as we rocked babies and I heard stories, counsel, encouragement, and challenges from others serving with me.
4. We were impacted, and we made an impact.
As we committed to that local church body and consistently learned and worshiped, God shaped us. While our backgrounds regarding church and the Bible were different, we began a step-by-step process of building our own family’s foundation of knowledge, trust, and following Christ. That came with some complicated circumstances and conversations. But we were seeking wisdom from the Word and new mentors as we learned and worshiped together and became involved in groups and classes.
Why was finding a church home one of our first steps as newlyweds? Why is it important? Because Christ loves the Church. Yes, He loves the “big C” church—all those who believe and follow Him. But we also see clear evidence of His love and purpose for smaller, specific groups of believers and the value, influence, and importance placed on the local church throughout the New Testament.
Beginning right after Christ’s ascension and the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost in Acts 2:44–47, we see the pattern for a committed, connected group of believers coming together for teaching, encouragement, exhortation, and just general living life together. Then it’s developed and described throughout the book of Acts and other books—many that are letters written specifically to local bodies of believers—in the New Testament. We see God’s instruction for the structure, the mission, and the day-to-day life of local churches in passages like Ephesians 4:11–16:
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.
Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
So if God places this kind of value on the local church, shouldn’t you? Whether you are beginning a new season of life, in a new location, or just have a new understanding of why you should pursue committed, consistent involvement in the local church, trust and follow Christ with other believers. Learn, serve, grow, and love with them to display the power of Christ and the truth of the Bible in and through you.