Pastor and Christian Leadership Resources

10 Dangers to Look Out for When Church Shopping

  • Rhonda Stoppe Speaker and Author
10 Dangers to Look Out for When Church Shopping

2 Timothy 4:3: “The time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine...”

I remember when my husband and I moved out of state how hard it was visiting churches to find the right one. While it was tempting to visit only large churches with great programs, we wanted the Lord to guide us to where He would have us grow and serve Christ. 

While searching for a church we:

  • regularly asked God to guide our quest
  • prayed for wisdom
  • carefully weighed the sermons to discern if the teaching was sound doctrine from Scripture
  • watched the people interact to observe their love for one another
  • attended small groups and fellowshipped after services

The Lord drew us to a small church on the corner in a little town called Bee Caves, Texas. If we were looking for a big church with great kids’ programs, this little church certainly did not fit the bill. In fact, the first Sunday we attended, they pulled the pastor’s wife out of adult class so she could teach our youngest children––since they had no kids attending the church at that time. 

In the end, this little church was a perfect fit for our family. Steve soon began leading worship and youth ministry where many teens came to Christ. This church is also where God led us to Tony who would eventually become our eldest adopted son

It’s easy to become self-focused while church shopping. Rather than looking for what a church has to offer to you, consider how you might be able to serve the Lord as a member of that congregation.

With the Bible to guide us, let’s consider some questions to help you discern dangers to look out for when church shopping.

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1. Have they forgotten their first love?

1. Have they forgotten their first love?

In Revelation 2:1-6, Jesus addressed the church of Ephesus. He acknowledged their good works, but warned they’d left their first love. One commentary explains: “To be a Christian is to love the Lord Jesus Christ. But the Ephesians’ passion and fervor for Christ had become cold, mechanical orthodoxy.”  

When looking for a church, ask God to help you discern if the pastor and people minister out of a deep love for Jesus. Beware of a church that emulates Ephesus’ characteristics of being more committed to teaching rituals and traditions than they are in helping you deepen your love for Christ and others (see Revelation 2:4). 

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2. Do they rely on good deeds to please God?

2. Do they rely on good deeds to please God?

Sometimes churches can become so focused on doing good works they forget what God really wants from them––a relationship with them through His Son Jesus Christ. Sadly, many churches falsely teach that God requires good deeds to appease His wrath and assure entrance into heaven. This teaching could not be further from biblical truth. 

Even the religious leaders of Jesus’ day convinced the people of this fallacy. Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life, no one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). The priests and leaders called His teachings blasphemy––which is why they eventually put him to death. 

Of course God wants His people to be characterized by good works. But true goodness will flow out of the hearts of people who are transformed by their genuine love for Christ. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God not of works lest anyone should boast” (NKJV). No good actions can earn God’s favor and forgiveness. 

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3. Does their teaching line up with Scripture?

3. Does their teaching line up with Scripture?

Regarding salvation, a healthy church will teach:

  • The only way to become righteous is by agreeing with God that you are a sinner in need of His grace and forgiveness. 
  • Forgiveness of sins comes once and for all when a person turns away from sin to fully surrender to Christ as their Lord and Master.
  • There's hope in Christ for a changed heart and eternal life to anyone who believes and receives Jesus’ free gift of salvation.

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4. Do they care about sharing the gospel?

4. Do they care about sharing the gospel?

Jesus said, “For the Son of man has come to seek and to save that which was lost… As the Father has sent me, I also send you” (Luke 19:10, John 20:21). A healthy church will support efforts to share the hope of the gospel. Jesus’ final instruction to His followers is, “Ye shall be my witnesses… unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8 ASV). 

If God sent Christ to find those in need of a Savior, and Jesus now sends His disciples to do likewise, then sharing the gospel will be a natural outpouring of a church’s ministry. You would do well to join a church that trains its people to make Christ known. 

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5. Are they more interested in being culturally relevant than preaching Truth?

5. Are they more interested in being culturally relevant than preaching Truth?

"Relevant" is a buzzword in churches these days. While the church should be a place where people of all backgrounds feel welcome, we cannot differ from preaching biblical Truth.

The purpose of the church is to teach and edify saints to do the work of the ministry. If churches are so focused on being “seeker friendly” that they water down teachings that might offend, they’re not following Jesus’ example. When Jesus preached, His teachings either opened the eyes of the lost to salvation or offended those who refused Him. For example, after hearing Jesus teach, the people said, “This is a hard saying.”

Jesus replied, “‘Does this offend you?… The Words I speak to you are spirit and they are life. But there are some of you who do not believe’… From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.” (see John 6:60-66)

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6. Are they focused on sensationalism?

6. Are they focused on sensationalism?

Continuing in John 6, we see the crowd dispersed when they realized Jesus was calling them to more than observing the display of His greatness through His miracles. 

Beware of the “strange fire” of false worship (see Numbers 26:61). If a church’s goal is to stir up sensationalism and emotional frenzy, their worship may not come from hearts trained to worship God in Spirit and in the Truth––for the Father is seeking such to worship Him (see John 4:23-24). 

Of course God wants us to praise and worship Him, but be cautious when a congregation’s more interested in the positive feelings they get after a “worship” time than in wholehearted devotion to knowing Christ through the preaching and teaching of His Word.

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7. Do they preach an easy believism?

7. Do they preach an easy believism?

John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the World that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” The word “believe” in this verse is not talking about a mere mental assent to the Truth of who Christ is. The word “believe” speaks of a one time action with a continued result. 

Jesus is calling people to realize He is their only hope for salvation, to turn from their sin and enter a life long relationship with Christ through His sacrifice on the cross. When someone realizes their need for a Savior and surrenders their heart and life to Christ, God promises to give them a new heart and cause them to walk in His ways. This is the evidence of Christ in you––the hope of glory (see Philippians 2:13, Colossians 1:27). 

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8. Is their teaching all about comfort and prosperity?

8. Is their teaching all about comfort and prosperity?

At the risk of stepping on toes, I must address the unfortunate prosperity teaching being taught in many churches today. Does God bless His children?––yes. Does He promise to meet our needs?––of course. But you must study Scripture to know God’s true character. Over and over in the Bible we see God’s people endure difficult seasons, uncomfortable situations, even torture and death. Romans 8:28 promises that God works all things together for good, but it doesn’t say we will not face difficult times. 

Like a good Father, He will not withhold from His children what we ask. But if you have kids you know that being a good parent means you won’t give your child everything they demand. Rather, you withhold what’s not good for them or their character development. To teach that God wants to make your life easy and prosperous goes against His true character as revealed in Scripture. When God’s people assigned to Him wrong qualities He said, “You thought that I was altogether like you; But I will rebuke you…” (Psalm 50:21).

Second Timothy 4:3 warns, “The time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall heap to themselves teachers having itching ears.” While it’s pleasant to hear that God wants to make you healthy, wealthy and prosperous, this simply isn’t God’s highest priority for you. He’s more concerned with your holiness than your happiness, so He’ll transform you through any means necessary––and He promises to give you joy and strength to endure what He will allow for your good.

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9. Are they tolerant of sin?

9. Are they tolerant of sin?

In 1 Corinthians 5 Paul warned, “A little leaven leavens the whole lump” and he chastised the church for tolerating a man who slept with his father’s wife. While it may seem kind to look away when a Christian actively pursues a sinful lifestyle, Paul taught us to truly care by lovingly confronting sinful actions––to help them break free from choices that will quench God’s Spirit in their lives and lead them down a devastating path.

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10. Are they characterized by superficial love for one another?

10. Are they characterized by superficial love for one another?

1 John 4:7 says, “Beloved let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of god and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” 

When true believers fellowship together, the Spirit in their hearts will spill over Christ’s love for others. If the church you visit is characterized by gossip and unloving behavior, you can know they’re either lacking a true relationship with Christ or struggling with spiritual immaturity. 

It is vital for churches to display Jesus’ kindness and deep love for others if God is going to use them to shine brightly His love to a world who desperately needs salvation.

In nearly 30 years of ministry, my husband and I have observed people visiting churches. Some are looking for a place to help them mature in faith. Some are seeking answers to spiritual questions. Others are hoping to be entertained and made to feel good. 

When looking for a church, I pray you seek the Lord’s wisdom and follow the Spirit’s leading to fellowship in a congregation that preaches the sincere Word of God and equips the saints to do the work of the ministry for God’s Kingdom and His glory.

Rhonda Stoppe is the NO REGRETS WOMAN. Rhonda is an evangelist and speaker at her No Regrets Woman Conference where she helps women break free from the regrets that hold them back––beginning with a genuine relationship with Christ. As a pastor’s wife, author, favorite radio guest, and speaker, Rhonda’s authentic teaching, grounded in sound doctrine, helps women discover significance and become more influential than they ever dreamed possible. To learn more about Rhonda’s messages and to book her for your next women’s event visit her at: NoRegretsWoman.com. You can also find Rhonda on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter. Sign up for her monthly newsletter at NoRegretsWoman.com.

Rhonda’s books (Harvest House Publishers):

-Moms Raising Sons to Be Men

-If My Husband Would Change I’d Be Happy & Myths Wives Believe

-Real Life Romance

-The Marriage Mentor (to release 2018)

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