During my life I have visited many churches and received a different experience in each. It is not my mission to criticise or show favouritism towards any one denomination but rather highlight these experiences in order that you may be helped to identify a church type that would best suit you. I am aware of the type of church that is more suited to me at this point in my life, but this is not a one size fits all situation. Taking the above into account, let us look at the different styles.
There are so many different churches out there that it can be difficult to know which is the right fit for you. I think I would be accurate to say that the majority of Christians are not perfect and only when we ascend to heaven will we find the one true church of God.
As I only have an understanding of churches in the UK, this is all I can advise on. Different cultures of course make for different styles of worship. In the UK, the majority of Christian churches would fall under Church of Scotland, Church of England, Free Church, Baptist, Independent and Catholic.
Catholic services can be conservative, with traditional hymns and sermon etc. It is important to note that Catholic doctrine differs from that of the rest of the churches above quite significantly. This is something I can go into more detail about in another blog. Cathedrals are often incredibly beautiful buildings which are often open throughout the day for private worship, confession etc.
The closest service to that of the Catholic service would be the Church of England or Episcopalian Service. The Church of England was formed when Henry VIII broke away from the catholic church and so many of the features still exist. The service is again very traditional though it is important to note that styles will differ depending on the minister as some may be more flamboyant and extravert than others! Again, these churches are often open for private worship. There is no confession within the Church of England.
The Church of Scotland again tends to be very conservative, the congregations belonging to the churches I have visited were generally of an older demographic. The hymns are usually of the traditional variety accompanied by an organ although there may be some variations at times.
The Church of Scotland and England are held accountable to a national assembly which is positive in that there is a body of accountability in order to protect the Word of God. If a minister is seen to misrepresent Scripture or abuse his position, he is likely to face the assembly.
In recent years there has been a huge rise in independent churches. These may be called Community Churches, Fellowships, Vineyard etc. These are usually found within halls, schools etc although there are purpose built, modern buildings, housing these churches also. Here you will tend to find modern worship which may be accompanied by guitar, drums etc. The congregation will tend to be more visibly involved in praise which to an outsider can seem a little strange until you get used to it and realise that this is likely how worship was undertaken in Biblical times – with hands raised up to God and eyes closed in adoration! It was within these churches that I first discovered the role of the Holy Spirit. Again, this is completely Scriptural given that God is both one and three, Father, Son and Spirit (I will leave the Trinity explanation for another blog!). In my experience the brothers and sisters that belong to this church tend to be more involved with one another, they are commonly divided into small groups who fellowship together and are there to support one another. They also have frequent events and get togethers.
I have tried not to sway readers in any direction but instead give a testimony of my experiences so what I would say is read the passages about the church in the New Testament and come to your own conclusion of which church meets these expectations. There are also other factors to consider. If you have young children, for example, it is especially important that there is a good Sunday School for the children to grow up in the Lord. It is important that you connect with people of your own age so that you can support one another through life’s ups and downs. Worship is a valuable time to connect with your brothers and sisters and if you do not connect with old fashioned hymns or modern worship is too loud for you then this time will be wasted and ineffective. If you have an insular nature, then perhaps the exuberant and heavily involved modern church may be too much for you and you may be more suited to a quieter church with a more traditional feel.
Of course, by necessity I have generalised somewhat, but I hope that I have given an example of what is out there, what to expect and what is important when choosing a church. The most important aspect is that the Word of God is preached. I would suggest taking your Bible along with you to church and you can always have a look and check the accuracy of the sermon or better still take some notes during the sermon, go home and read along with the passages referred to.
Every word of Scripture is important and should not be overlooked or added to, 2 Timothy 3:16 “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.”
If you feel daunted by walking into a church I would suggest you try and get someone to go with you, if this is not possible then why not message the church before you plan to go and I am sure they will get someone to look out for you at the door and show you the ropes. Another idea is to let the people at the door know that this is your first time and they should make you feel comfortable.
Finding the right church for you is so important as your place of worship has the capacity to fuel your faith or ultimately extinguish it! I have experienced both. The profoundly important aspect is your relationship with God so please let this be your true guide. Happy Worshipping!
Love and Blessings