Someone asked me about how I evaluate the suitability of a church, not understanding the Churches I chose not to attend. I think my standards are reasonable.
1. They must have a faith in God as their core faith.
Many churches publish a statement of faith, which is very useful to me. Some show that they believe correct things about God while statements consistent with traditional Christianity begin “We believe in one God” — I choose the second. There is a huge difference between building a faith in your own knowledge and a faith in God. One is Gnostic, the other is Christian. (I am willing to give a worship group with no statement the benefit of the doubt) I also feel, to be Christian, they should recognize that God showed Himself to us in the divine person of Jesus Christ.
2. Church worship must be sacramental.
While I think that education, and music are important, the center of Church worship should be sacrament, that is a real connection with Jesus Christ and a means of continuing grace. If a meeting is built around something else, it is not a worship service — it might be a good lecture / educational hour or a good and edifying song service, but it fails to be worship. Examples of sacramental services I’ve experienced are the Eucharist service on one side, and traditional Quaker worship on the other.
3. The scripture should be read publicly
I don’t require this to happen at the same time as worship, it works perfectly well in an education hour, but it should be done. The church existed before we had a Bible, however, our Bible was chosen from what people read in church over the centuries — it is something the Church has always done. Whether we read scripture by several people choosing scriptures to read, or by following the lectionary, it does not matter. Reading sentence fragments to proof-text a sermon do not count, we need to read whole sections of scripture and let the prophets, evangelists, and apostles speak for themselves.
4. The Church community needs to be devoted to ethics, and have a system of accountability.
Too many churches are personality cults, where a very few people are above suspicion. Too many churches are embezzled, too many pastoral care givers abuse their congregations, whether emotionally or physically. The church needs a system to enforce ethical guidelines for the protection of the community and the individual attenders. The ethics committee should hold no one above suspicion, but should continue to evaluate leadership. There should be trustees, and they should carefully audit the books, and report fraud. If fraud or abuse occurs, there should be a system of discipline.
Personal Preference — I would not leave a church because these were missing
5. I think that as God is creative, we should express our creativity.
I love music, I love art, and while I think that the worship of art is idolatry, I think art is an important part of life, and is often worshipful. I want to see a church community encouraging the artistic talent of its members, and finding ways to incorporate all kinds of art into its various programs. Art should not be the center of worship, but it can and should contribute.
6. A Christian Education system where people actually learn something
I know this is a lot to ask, because there seems to be a strange social preference to remain ignorant, but I actually want to learn and I want to be challenged. The thing about an infinite God is that finite minds always have more to learn — I find the attempt meaningful, and stimulating.