January 20, 2022

How Can I Find a Good Church?

Burk Parsons & Nathan W. Bingham
How Can I Find a Good Church?

What should Christians look for when they’re seeking a good church? Today, Burk Parsons discusses the biblical criteria for a sound and spiritually healthy congregation.


NATHAN W. BINGHAM: Joining me on the Ligonier campus this week is the Senior Pastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel, Dr. Burk Parsons. Dr. Parsons, how can I find a good church?

DR. BURK PARSONS: That’s a question that many Christians ask—and are asking especially now, when it seems that good churches, faithful churches, are harder and harder to find. In fact, Nathan, I don’t even really recommend churches to people anymore unless I know the church extremely well, know the pastor and the elders well. I have found that I can’t even recommend churches anymore, and part of the reason for that is because churches are changing so rapidly, and I don’t know what they believe or what they affirm. And so it’s a very important question. And I trust that most of our listeners are in good churches. They are faithful in their membership and their attendance of those good churches.

But these are some things that I think would be helpful for those who are looking for a good church and don’t know where to start. Well, firstly, we need to make sure that the church is founded, grounded in the Word of God—the whole counsel of God. Not just a New Testament church, but the entirety of God’s Word, and that the ministry of the church—from the preaching, to the teaching, to the Sunday school classes, to the Bible studies—that it is a church that is grounded in the Word of God, the whole counsel of God. And that concerns me at times, because sometimes I hear about churches that are maybe really only preaching excerpts from certain passages in the New Testament. The people of God need the whole Word of God. And so we need to make sure that we’re looking for a church that exposits God’s Word, where there is clear exposition of God’s Word, where the Word of God is everywhere. It’s in the prayers, it’s in the singing, it’s in the hymnody, it’s in the affirmations—that the Word of God is saturating that church and its people.

The second thing, and it’s similar to that, is that we really want to see a gospel-preaching church. That’s to say, it’s a church that preaches the gospel—from the pastors, to the Sunday school teachers, to the children’s Sunday school teachers—that everyone is preaching the gospel, and they’re preaching it clearly. It’s not a confounded, muddled gospel. It is the clear, simple, good news about what God has done through Christ by the power of His Spirit for us. And so that needs to be prominent in the church: the preaching of the gospel throughout, weaved into sermons and teachings. It’s not just something that’s like a stamp that’s rubber-stamped onto the church. It’s rather something that is throughout everything the church does.

Thirdly, I think we certainly need to understand that a church, a good church, is going to be committed to a consistent administration of the sacraments of the Lord’s Supper and baptism. Now, some might say, “Well, that doesn’t sound really important.” But it really is. In fact, the more we grow as Christians—the more we grow in our understanding of God’s Word and the theology of God’s Word—the more we come to understand that a consistent practice of the sacraments is very, very important as a sign of a healthy church. Now, I’m not going to go into that in more detail right now, though I could, but just simply for our purposes today, you want to find a church that does that consistently.

The next thing is that we want to see a church that is committed to truth—that cares deeply about the truth. Now, that might sound superfluous to being concerned about the Word of God. But sometimes I have found that churches can exposit the Word of God, but they’re not always concerned about proclaiming, defending, and teaching God’s truth in all its fullness to the entirety of the body of Christ. And sometimes you find churches that are so committed to truth, they don’t really seem to be committed also to peace and unity. And we want to see both. We want to find a church that is committed both to truth and a church that is gracious—a church that is committed to the peace and unity of the body of Christ as well. Christ came in grace and truth. We are called to be a people who are committed to grace and truth. A church that is also concerned with purity—purity of its members, the purity of the church itself for the glory of God.

Also, something that is very important is that the church would have a plurality of elders: elders that are ordained men, both from within the congregation, and ordained pastors who are well-trained. Not self-appointed men, but men who are well-trained. Men who have true accountability with those other elders that have come from within the congregation. Another thing that we need to look for in looking for a good church is we want to find a church that is committed to the mission of God—the mission of God internationally, nationally, and locally, and even in our own homes. That means evangelism, but it doesn’t just mean evangelism. It means a church that truly is concerned for the all-encompassing mission of God for the world.

And lastly, I’ll just mention this. We want to see in a good church both humility and boldness, and oftentimes we don’t find those things together. And we want to see that from the pulpit. We want to see that from the church’s pastors and elders. We want to see that these men are walking with the Lord, and they’re humbly striving to be good stewards and servants of God and His people. And they are men who are willing to speak boldly and defend and proclaim what the Bible teaches. And that a church that doesn’t move, that doesn’t change, that remains steadfastly committed to the Word of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ.