Hello there dear Rosary lovers! In this post, I shall answer a common question Christians ask: What is the right Church for me?
A great question! And one so many of us have asked before.
My confession …
Let me come clean immediately and say that I am unashamedly and boldly Catholic, as is clear from this website. But I have known Catholics who have left the Catholic Church and not been sure where to go next. I’ve asked them, ‘What Church have you decided upon?’ and a common response is: ‘I’m not sure yet.’
I am a former Protestant Evangelical and I know what it’s like to feel like you are not sure where you should belong Church-wise. I understand that feeling.
In the end, when I was Protestant, I used to settle on wherever God had providentially put me, which usually meant the closest church to me location-wise. I was never in a hurry to move onto somewhere else and usually it was forced upon me.
I’ve never been a fan of church-hopping, or ‘choosing’ which church to join. I’ve never liked the idea of surveying a few churches and then making a decision based on which one I like the best. I’ve always just tried to be faithful attending the church and location where God has put me at that time of my life.
For instance, when I was younger, my family went to an independent and rather off-the-wall Pentecostal church. Highly unique, the people there were very likeable and good to be around. I learned a lot there, and the Bible was central.
I went away from Christianity for about 6 years, but when I returned in my 19th year, I just returned to that church and was warmly received. I didn’t even think of going anywhere else. It was an ideal starting point for me in my new Christian life, and I can still see God’s wisdom in putting me there.
When I eventually went to Bible college 40 minutes away, I still attended this Pentecostal church faithfully, until travelling to it became too much. I then simply began attending a fairly local church my close Bible college friend attended. I didn’t really consider anywhere else, and though it wasn’t perfect, I felt it was where God wanted me.
Then when I left Bible college, I needed a job, so I applied for a role as an Apprentice at another local Church. I got the job, so that became my main church for the next couple of years.
Eventually my wife and I moved over an hour away, and so we had to change churches. We settled immediately on the closest church to us. Even when we became aware of its weaknesses, and found out about the strengths of other churches, we still kept attending faithfully because we believed it was where God had put us.
Remaining faithful to your calling
Paul has a very interesting section in 1 Corinthians 7, where he says that in whatever state of life God calls us, we should stick to it and not try to change it.
The theology of this thinking is that God’s providence carefully controls all of our lives, even long before we become Christians. So when we finally turn to Christ, we are EXACTLY where God wants us in terms of job, life, marriage, family, situations, church-scene, and so on.
Therefore, there is usually no need to make any hasty or large decisions in any of these areas just because we have become Christians: ‘Let everyone continue in the same calling in which they are called,’ 1 Corinthians 7:20.
This means that if we do change churches for any reason, it needs to be done very prayerfully and for good or serious reason. Cutting ties with churches on a regular basis is highly unhealthy unless there is strong reason for doing so. ‘But my new church has better worship’ really doesn’t cut it I fear.
Discovering the Catholic Church
As it turned out, in the marvellous providence of Almighty God, I was led into the holy Catholic Church. You can read about my story here. It was a long journey and an incredibly powerful and serious journey, which involved a huge number of factors. But it was certain this was where God was leading me.
I actually have a very close Evangelical friend who told me when I converted to the Catholic Church: ‘Matt, I have absolutely no idea what God is doing in your life with your spiritual journey, but I am absolutely convinced you love Christ.’
I could hope for no more wonderful comment from my Evangelical brothers and sisters, and most continue to think this way about me. They can see my love for Jesus and my sincerity just to find the truth wherever it is. I am sure my move to Catholicism has baffled many, but I also believe it has made a good number ponder as to why someone who loves Jesus so much might do this.
So why do I say all of this? Well, because I think you my reader might draw two morales from it.
Remain Faithful to Divine Providence
First of all, stick with where God has called you. This goes for your religion and for the church you attend. Let us not be hasty to switch our lives and churches all the time.
Let us be faithful to the calling God has given each of us. If you are Protestant, and find yourself in a church that doesn’t thrill you, perhaps it is for that very reason that God might want you to remain there – for now.
If you don’t attend a church, perhaps there is a reason for this too. Hopefully this won’t remain a permanent situation, but God knows what he’s doing and if you submit yourself to his will, he will guide you.
Secondly, the Catholic Church deserves a very, very serious relook from Protestants of all shades. It has been 500 years since the Protestant Reformation and many Protestants today have little idea what it was all about.
Frankly, many are probably indifferent to all that history, and simply want to worship Jesus and live for him today. This is a beautiful goal and one which deserves to be commended.
But let us make no mistake that the question of the Catholic Church is still a very serious matter for all Christians. How to worship Jesus and how to live for him today is something which only God can show us how to do properly. And not every church transmits God’s will equally.
The Catholic Church makes extremely bold claims which no Christian can afford to ignore. Indeed, the Catholic Church teaches all Christians how best to worship Jesus and how best to live for him today. If these are the claims, then all Christians owe it to themselves to pay attention and consider these things prayerfully in their conscience.
If the Catholic Church is correct and telling the truth about her call from Almighty God, then it remains an unshakeable fact that this is the natural home for every Christian. Often, Catholics talk about how the Catholic Church is the fullness of religion and the fullness of Christianity.
We mean by this that God’s grace exists in lots of other places in varying degrees, but only in the Catholic Church do we find the fullness, the completeness, the totality of what God wants for each of us.
We prefer not to talk in terms of one church being right and the others being wrong, because this isn’t true. There is truth is all churches, but the fullness of truth can only be found in the Catholic Church.
I can testify that this is not just a theory. It has been true for me. As an Evangelical Protestant, I deeply loved Jesus and was as devoted to God as I knew how.
In the 8 years I was Evangelical, I must have read the entire Bible well over 10 times, and some books of the Bible much more than that. I must have read the New Testament 20 times. I memorised masses of Scripture and I prayed everyday, sometimes for over an hour. I was seriously devoted to Jesus and to Evangelicalism. I was even a preacher and led services.
But I can put my hand on my heart and claim that since becoming Catholic, I have lost nothing essential that I had before in my relationship with Jesus, but I have gained a MASSIVE amount.
I could never have gained so much of Christ by remaining Protestant. Catholicism doesn’t delete anything essential that a Protestant already has of Christ, but it adds to it and builds on it 100-fold. My faith is FAR, FAR stronger and deeper now than it ever was before.
But of course, this is impossible to explain; it has to be experienced.
At the end of the day …
So, what Church is right for you? To a large degree, yours or my own personal answer to this question is irrelevant. What matters most is what God’s response to this question is.
Finding out God’s answer to this question for yourself is a very personal matter that must be attended to prayerfully. We all must follow our conscience on this matter, wherever it may lead.
I hope you’ve found this helpful. God bless you and if you have any questions, please let me know.
8 Replies to “What is the Right Church for Me?”
As an individual, I believe that finding the right church is a personal journey. It depends on what you are looking for in a religious community and your personal beliefs. In my experience, attending different churches and asking questions about their beliefs, practises, and values can be helpful in finding the right fit. As a question to consider, have you thought about what kind of worship style or community involvement you are looking for in a church? These factors can play a role in determining the right fit for you.
Thank you for your thoughtful comment. God bless
Thank you for sharing your personal journey and perspective. It’s important for individuals to prayerfully seek God’s guidance when considering their church affiliation. Each person’s path is unique, and what matters most is following one’s conscience and seeking a deeper relationship with God.
By remaining open to the Holy Spirit’s leading and engaging in sincere prayer and reflection, you can trust that God will guide you to the church community where you can grow spiritually, find support, and worship Him in a way that resonates with your heart.
Hello there. Yes I agree with this: ‘Each person’s path is unique, and what matters most is following one’s conscience and seeking a deeper relationship with God.’
I couldn’t put it better.
Of course, as a convinced Catholic, I wouldn’t be a very good Catholic if I didn’t believe that the Catholic Church is the Church Jesus Christ founded and wishes all his followers to be part of.
But there is an objective and subjective element to this, as with many issues in life.
(In fact, on a personal note, it was the absolute union between the Subjective and the Objective that I found only in the Catholic Church – if that makes any sense!)
Objectively, yes, I believe that we should all be part of the Catholic Church. This is the call of the Catholic Church.
All baptised Christians are partially Catholic anyway, and have at least an incomplete communion with the Catholic Church. Objectively, it is the call of God that we all complete that partial communion: by receiving the Catholic sacrament of confirmation and then receiving Jesus fully in the Eucharist.
But there is also a massive SUBJECTIVE element to all of this, which God wholly recognises. A person must never violate their conscience, and a person must follow what it is they sincerely believe God requires from them.
This is why the Catholic Church teaches the distinction between mortal and venial/lesser sins. Objectively, we can commit very bad things, but if we don’t know they are very bad when we commit them, or we commit them without full consent of the will, then these sins will only be subjectively venial, and not terribly serious.
Objectively = very bad
Subjectively = not very bad, because we didn’t know how bad it was and/or didn’t commit it with fullness of choice
It’s the subjective we will individually be judged on.
Therefore: God isn’t going to reject anyone who sincerely follows Jesus, as best they know how, yet remains outside the physical boundaries of the Catholic Church, simply because they never were convinced the Catholic Church was the true Church.
The Church teaches that anyone who KNOWS that the Catholic Church is true, and yet refuses to maintain full communion with her, will lose their soul if they die in that state and condition.
But the important thing to note is that God will indeed deal with us all according to our knowledge and our conscience.
And there is much that is true in all forms of Christianity, especially amongst the Orthodox Churches.
God bless you.
Great article! Choosing the right church can be a deeply personal and meaningful decision. I appreciate the thorough breakdown of different factors to consider when making this choice. One question that comes to mind is how can one determine the compatibility of their beliefs and values with a particular church? Are there any resources or guidelines you would recommend for someone who is searching for a church that aligns with their spiritual journey? Thank you!
Hello! In my experience, there is no substitute to actually going to visit different churches, even ones that you are very unfamiliar with. You cannot really understand a community very well without being within them and watching them and participating in their worship.
I did this with the high-Anglicans, Evangelicals, Pentecostals, Baptists, Methodists, Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Greek Catholic.
For materials, Wikipedia contains a great deal of accurate information on the different denominations etc. Plus the internet contains plenty of stuff if you just type in what it is you are looking for. Sometimes you can come across a discussion forum, as I did with Eastern Catholics. All of this can be helpful, and of course you can purchase solid books, like ‘The Orthodox Way’ by Timothy Ware.
But none of this beats actually going, visiting and participating.
For instance, I have studied Islam for a few years now and listened to podcasts and read books and so on. Watched videos. But until I’ve gone to a Mosque and witnessed it firsthand, I cannot believe that I understand Islam very well at all. (As a convinced Catholic, of course, I am only interested in Islam from an academic perspective, not for the purposes of perhaps joining someday.)
Thank you for your perspective Matthew and I really appreciated your article discussing what is the right church for me? I have quite a bit of experience with the topic and have been struggling with finding a church home for myself for the better part of the last year and have just recently found a couple evangelical churches that I enjoy attending but as of yet have not joined. I am somewhat familiar with the differences in traditional protestant churches and why they split from the Catholic Church to begin with such as that saving faith is by God’s grace alone. Do you not find these differences in doctrine to be an impediment to joy in the Catholic Church?
Hello there! First off, I hope you attach to a church soon. It’s important, I think, to be ‘hooked’ onto a community.
Second, that’s an unusual question and I’m glad you asked it. Forgive my long response but I think it’ll be helpful for someone.
I have found certain aspects of Catholic teaching – particularly with respect to Confession – a challenge to my joy in the past. I’m much better now, but I suspect this was caused really by my lack of understanding or appreciation for God’s mercy and love for us.
I have always been more of a ‘law-focused’ person. I’m good at seeing what needs doing and trying to do it. In Confession – as well as in other elements of Catholic life – there are certain basic requirements that one needs to fulfil in order to make a good Confession. I’m not good at ‘letting things slide’. I’m a scrupulous person really. So overcoming this has been a big challenge for me, and I’m a work still in progress.
All of this has, at times, significantly impacted my joy.
However, as I said, this was caused probably more by my own interpretation of things, or my own reception of the Church’s teachings, rather than anything IN the doctrines of the Church themselves. In other words, I think it’s more a problem with me than any issue in the Church’s teachings.
Just for the record, when I was Evangelical, I had massive issues even then with being scrupulous and overthinking and wondering whether I really had been forgiven, etc. Things that plagued me for years. I was a very hard time for me and ultimately it led me to the Catholic Church for solace.
Also, I found out recently from a priest that a person cannot invalidate their Confession by accident. To invalidate one’s Confession, you have to KNOWLY hold back from confessing something you KNOW you need to bring forth before God. This is a serious matter. But it’s not possible for someone to do this by accident, or without knowing they are doing it. You can’t confess what you don’t know you need to confess and the Church and God NEVER expects from us what we cannot do.
In other words, God is more interested in the heart than particulars. Any particulars the Church gives are offered to help us offer God a good/sincere and humble heart.
Anyway, this response is just me being honest. I would be untruthful if I made it seem like my transition from Evangelicalism to Catholicism was painless and straightforward. It wasn’t. I have long suffered from OCD-related issues and this has seriously impacted the way I understand and practice Christianity, whether it be in Protestant or Catholic circles.
I find myself overall, however, far more comfortable and joyful as a Catholic. The stability being a Catholic has given me is immense and far greater than what I had as an Evangelical.
I thank God for my Evangelical background. I learned so much about Christ, the Bible, prayer, etc. I fell in love with Christ in that tradition.
But Catholicism has deepened everything I knew about Christ. It’s deepened it so much that the joy, peace and love for God – not to mention faith and hope – are much, much more solid within my soul.
I hope that helps. And God bless you.