Finding a Church in Your Military Community
By: Brian O’Day
Fact 1: Every month thousands of Christians in the military move.
Fact 2: Every month I get an email from Google that tells me that people in my city are searching “churches near me” to attempt to find a church.
Given the current American Church landscape–with more unhealthy churches than healthy ones in most cities–I grieve these two facts.
In addition to grief, allow me to offer the following path as a better way to find a good church right where you are.
Do you know a genuine, maturing Christian in your new community who has a church home? Follow them to church if at all possible and continue to get to know them better. This is quite possibly one of the best ways to find a healthy local church. Most likely, you will continue to deepen the bond you have with that brother or sister in Christ and you will have found yourself a healthy church! If for some reason it is not a great church, at least you will have Christian community with one other person/family.
Do you know someone previously stationed there? This is the same idea as above without the benefit of being able to be at that church with them. At least you will know some of the same people! That will deepen your bond with them and speed up your assimilation into the new church.
You’ll meet people and say, “Do you know Chris and Elyse? Me too! They really miss this church, but they have found a new church in their new duty station. They highly recommended we come here!”
If you have a good relationship with a pastor you respect, ask him to help! He can peruse a few websites and listen to a few sermons for you to help you sniff out good teaching vs. bad teaching as you search for a church to join.
Take to the Web. Alright, I know this was your default, but let me steer you away from the simple “Churches near me” search in your preferred search engine.
PraetorianProject.org/churches. Yes, this is a shameless plug for the network of churches I help lead. But I really think these churches would serve you well! We are a family of multiplying churches in military communities worldwide.
https://www.9marks.org/church-search/ These churches are seeking to be healthy churches as articulated in the book “9 Marks of a Healthy Church” by Mark Dever and the other resources they have built out since the publication of that book.
https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/churches/ These churches are seeking to align with the principles of The Gospel Coalition as you can learn about on their website.
Do you have a list? If you have worked through a few of the options above, I trust that you have a list of potential churches. I doubt you have more than 3-5 that are within a reasonable distance from your house (or future house). Let’s do 2 things before visiting:
1. Check around the website. You should get a pretty good feel for the church based on the website. You will know the types of things they value and the things they don’t. Snoop around. These days a church website is like a window into the life of the church- check it out!
2. Listen to 3-5 sermons online. Assuming you are in the developed world and an area where the church is not heavily persecuted, they will have their sermons online. Listen to a few sermons per church. If you were serious about this endeavor, you could accomplish this on a couple of commutes to work, cutting the grass, cleaning the house, or whenever else you find time to yourself.
If you do these two things, I think your list will be down to 1-2 churches that you will visit. Plan out your visit and prepare to dive in quickly to one of these churches. Remember, you have done your homework–if there’s not an egregious reason to not join the church, you should thank the Lord that you’ve quickly found a new church and dive in!