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What are some "Red Flags" when visiting a church for the first time?

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This is from a discussion that came up in our church. We all have had to search for a church at one point in our life. Whether it is going on vacation and looking for a church, or simply just moving to a new location, we mostly had to do research and find a church that is of like faith. 

I know the first thing we do in this age is go on the internet and look  and maybe shoot an email to them, but sometimes church websites are so vague that you don't know the beliefs or style of the worship service, but my question for you is when you first walk into a church for the first time, what are some of the first things you look for?

 

For me the first thing I do is look and see if they have Bible pews, and if they do, I check to see what version they are. Not a fully telling sign, but its a start.

 

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Australia is a little different - much smaller community of IB to choose from, so mostly I know someone who knows a half decent church in an area (If there is anything close to a decent church - heaps of places in Australia with no IB church of any shade).

But church websites are always interesting - how hard is it to find the statement of faith or "what we believe" section?

And when you do find it, half the time it is so vague as to tell nothing of real use anyway.

 

As to a walk in - a handshake is a good start.

The decor of the place tells you a bit. There is a trend to make the "sanctuary" all black - black walls, black curtains, etc. Just like a concert hall.

Other pointers are the music setup.

Just first impression things.

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17 minutes ago, DaveW said:

As to a walk in - a handshake is a good start.

The decor of the place tells you a bit. There is a trend to make the "sanctuary" all black - black walls, black curtains, etc. Just like a concert hall.

Other pointers are the music setup.

Just first impression things.

Yes, the decor is one of the first things that you can't help but notice.  You are correct that too many churches are trying to look like a worldly entertainment venue rather than a worship center.

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When I'm looking for a vacation church, I'll creep the Internet until I can find something - the website, a Yahoo review, Facebook, the pastor's blog.. anything with reviews or pictures. The statement of faith or other written information can hint at Calvinism (blogs are great for this) - once I figured out a reformed connection by the paragraph that stated they had some Reformed books in their church bookstore (actually went to that one anyways - it was in Wales, where all the conservative churches seem to have some reformed in them, and it was the best gospel preaching option in the area). Ministry listings or Facebook events can hint at the kind of music accepted, Facebook photos show standards as well. Guest speakers listed can be googled to see their doctrinal stance. Missionaries supported - do I recognize any? Do we have any in common? External ministries mentioned, or the pastor's alma mater can hint at doctrinal leanings as well.

And yes, doctrinal statements can be ridiculously hard to find!

Walking into a church, it's the music setup, like DaveW said - what instruments are on the stage - is there a big fancy screen display setup as the main focal point instead of hymnals - do they have theater seating? For me, the dress of the ushers or those who appear to be leaders is also something to look for. Usually by the time I walk in though, I know what to expect. I once attended an Evangelical church on vacation (in the mountains - nearest Conservative church was 2.5 hours away), so I knew going in what it would be like. 

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This is not typical I know. But my experience was a change of church out of medical necessity. I say this because there was no "choice" involved in changing my church.

My original church was in Alaska. Because of my wife's terminal medical condition we had to move the a small town in Northern California. Unfortunately here was no Independent Baptist church there at all. I held services for my wife and myself in our home with friends attending also.

My wife passed away and I was left in this far away place with no church and no ability to move from here.

Fortunately an Independent Baptist pastor took over a failing community church and made it an Independent Baptist Church. I found it quite by accident one day when I drove by it. I talked to the pastor, who was quite young and I determined that he had indeed started an Independent Baptist Church that I could fellowship with. I soon became a member.

I say all this to say that in my case there was no real option to choose. There are no Independent Baptist Churches for 150 miles in any direction.

I do like what Salyan said and would consider all of those things if I did have to choose a new church.

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Churches I’ve been to in the past I would call and talk to the pastor. If I were on vacation or move I would look at their website and statement of belief. Like others have said they’re correct that they can be very vague so I would call. I’d be disappointed if I walked into a rock concert or liberal church or female pastor and would just leave. 

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Here are the "Red Flags" I look for when visiting a church for the first time.  

   1.  The church has jettisoned the King James bible and any (per)version of the day will do.  

   2.  The church flier if they have one with order of service.  If it says something like "10:45 am Praise and Worship service" followed by 11:45 am devotional message and then 12 pm sharp end time.  

   3.  You look for a "missions board" displaying supported missionaries and prayer letters and find instead a board listing the church softball league schedule, the praise band practice times, and social events calendar.  

   4.  The church has 400 average attendance but 275 of them are under 25 years of age.  Almost no elderly.

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Another red flag, to me, is even if they use the AV of the Scriptures, the preacher or Pastor may use the words, "the translators chose this word or phrase.. A better word/phrase would have been _______"  Nope, thats not for me. Either believe and obey the Word, or not.

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 I like to give any vacation church I may attend my own appraisal.

 

First, its appearance inside, as others have mentioned.

Next, it it says "KJV Only" or similar on its external shingle, I won't set foot in it, as it has at least one false doctrine.

 I'll listen to at least one sermon, weighing its content against Scripture. Any false doctrine, I won't be back.

If the emphasis seems to be more on music, etc. I won't be back.

If it rejects some people because of their past, I won't be back.

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