The Best Church for the Military Family
If you have ever done a military move, you know that one of the stressful parts of getting settled is finding a new church. If you are a new believer, finding a good church to call home can be a challenge as well. As a husband and a father, there are some things that I look for in a church that will be a good fit for my wife and kids. There are also things I look for in a church that will be good for me.
The first things that I have looked for in the past have been for selfish reasons. I must admit that I have heard more military families that look for these things before the things that really matter. In my peer group, a church that has a good youth ministry is always one of the first to come up. There are a lot of great reasons for having a good youth group. One of which is a place where like-minded youth will see that there are others that are the same age in the same community who are dealing with the same issues and serving the same God. Another good reason is to talk about youth specific topics in an environment that allows for teaching that specific group. But, is a youth group really the right thing for them? Does playing a game before they learn what Jesus did for them really make it better? Or, do churches sell our kids short? We are all familiar with the Proverbs 22:6 verse that tells us, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Here is the stark reality, our kids need to learn what Jesus did for them while at church. Youth is not there for entertainment. What is seen in many youth groups is what is seen in many sanctuaries, kids come on Sunday to fulfill the requirement, then one other time for a play date.
Some other selfish reasons that drive people to church would be the appearance, the music and the preaching style. If it is the earth tones in the foyer, the progressive Christian Music that recreates the “Hillsong” experience with lights and fog machines or a pastor that preaches topically vs. exegetically are any reasons for staying at a church, your focus is skewed. There is nothing wrong with a nice-looking building, unless it is an expense that is used to draw in the masses, Jesus is enough. Great music is truly a gift from God and should be embraced. But, focusing on the hypnotic experience that so many feel is a Holy Spirit encounter is not Biblical. Everyone wants talented musicians, they should be focused on God, not entertainment. A pastor that is preaching the word of God and is a good leader operating within the boundaries of Biblical principle for elders is qualified. Believers learn more from self-study, rely on your pastor for guidance more than teaching.
So, what to look for then?
A Bible believing, preaching church that practices the principles taught by Jesus Christ through His actions, words and the Bible. There is no other book, there is no other authority.
Leadership. The following three passages are all great starting points for your pastor: 1 Tim. 3:1-7, Titus 1:5-9, 1 Peter 5:1-4. A pastor should have the flock in mind first and foremost. If his service is not focused on reaching the lost, developing them to mature as believers to go back out into the world and reach more lost people, there is a problem. Churches typically have a mission or vision statement that is readily available on their website, if it is a small church, just ask. The primary focus in the community should be feeding the hungry, clothing the naked and reaching the lost. The Bible does not tell a pastor to build a big church.
The church. As the bride of Christ, the church should be striving to become more intimate with its first love, Jesus. What is the church doing in the community? Jesus gave the church very specific missions before He left to be with the Father. One of those was the Great Commission. Although this is preached in churches regularly, it is not followed literally. One cannot make disciples. There is no word in Greek for it. Jesus intends the believer to teach people about Him. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20) Teach people about Jesus, baptize them when they are ready to receive Him and obey His commands. Jesus was also clear what it looked like to be a follower of His. There is a lot of talk about getting special revelation or prayers answered concerning the direction of individuals, groups or church bodies. Matthew 25:35-40 makes this searching very easy, feed and clothe people. When the church comes together to provide for the physical needs of those in the community, the community responds with interest in Jesus. The service is for Christ.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23) The church leadership, servants and congregation should exhibit these attributes. If any of these are in question, there is a sickness within the church. It is not recommended to move into a sick church. If you made it through the front door and no one said hello, there is a problem.
In John, Jesus told us that the world would know who we were by the way we loved each other. Ask this question of members of the church when you begin to get involved. How do the people here love one another? Are there small groups that gather to fellowship, keep each other accountable and serve one another? Does the pastor and leadership love the flock? Or, just preach. Does the leadership allow for open conversation and accountability? Are people in the church that are hurting, dying or in need being ministered to? Is it evident that the congregation is more of a family than a group of Sunday church goers? Did the church serve you when you arrived? Do you feel like you have been served? This is not a selfish question. You may not need any material things or help moving. You may have the kids and household totally under control. If a military family moves into a new church and the first-time people reach out to you is with a collection basket, there is not a proper focus of loving one another.
Does the church give you opportunities to serve others? Is there an active role in being an Acts 1 church? “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) Mission trips to the end of the earth are great, but is the church doing anything to minister to its own community? And if that is the mission of the church, has it developed ways for members to get involved in this outreach?
Do not compromise your love for the God who sent His son to die for your sins. 2 Timothy 3:16 tells us that ALL the scriptures are breathed out from the Holy Spirit. This means we should be leaning our faith on the Word of God and not the words of men. Titus 1:9 makes us sure that our leadership should be teaching from the Word of God alone and that everything he teaches should be Biblically sound. 2 Timothy 4:2-4 tells us that at times we will need to use the Word of God to make sure we are correcting the church and people around us so that we all stay in line with the Bible alone. 1 Timothy 6:3-5 says that anything that is not taught in agreeance with the Bible is evil, period. 2 Peter 1:20- Scripture is not interpreted. Learn to study the Word of God and use the tools provided like concordances and commentaries. Never assume you are getting the truth, study for yourself.
As members of the military, with the possibility of deployments always on the horizon, we should be searching for the best possible place for our family to serve, be served and learn sound doctrine. Remember that your family’s spiritual health is the most important part of the equation. Coffee parties, play groups and fun is not always the recipe for a healthy church that is living out the life of the Body of Christ. Seek first the Kingdom of God (Matthew 6). Let your joy be found in the security of knowing that your family is being fed sound doctrine and is being taught to follow His ways.
At Nation of the Cross Ministries, our prayer is that you will find a great home church that will minister to you while challenging you to minister to others. A church that will teach you and help you grow as a believer. A church that will be a safe place for you and your children during times of deployment, transition and loss. A church that will encourage you to dig deeper in your faith and assist you in making your relationship with the Father more intimate than it has ever been. And if you have found this church, share it with us by message, so we can share it with others.