If there are no good churches in an area, DON’T MOVE THERE. Do not kid yourself you can drive and fellowship comfortably at a church 1.5+ hours away; that you’ll just “worship at home;” that you’ll start a church plant or that “things will work out.” This is the equivalent of marrying the unbeliever because you’re sure you can convert him.
1) Have an eternal perspective when it comes to moving. Follow the example of the Apostolic church and put prayer, preaching, and the fellowship of the saints ahead of career and possessions. That means always being part of a church (ekklesia – assembly of the saints) where you can find all of those things. NEVER put your career or income ahead of your and your family’s spiritual welfare. The Christian life is supposed to be attended with hardships, sacrifices, and tribulation. Jesus didn’t say “Do whatever it takes to make sure your brief life here on earth is a comfortable as possible!” He said “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” (Matthew 16:24) Also, don’t be fooled into thinking that a move will fix significant life problems or discontentment. Remember, wherever you go, there YOU are. You bring the problems and the discontent with you. Deal with the problems first, then move.
2) Before moving to a new area, get a map and a compass (the bow kind with a pencil), mark the good churches in the area, then figure out what your maximum reasonable driving distance is, set the compass to that distance via the map legend, and draw a circle around the church. Then look for houses ONLY within those map circles. The closer the better.
3) Visit the churches before you move or at least listen to the sermons. Talk to the pastor and members if at all possible. Remember, you aren’t looking for a congregation where everyone is EXACTLY LIKE YOU, you are looking for a congregation where the members are becoming MORE AND MORE LIKE CHRIST through the means of grace and the work of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:29, Romans 12:1-2).
4) If there are no good churches in an area, DON’T MOVE THERE. Do not kid yourself you can drive and fellowship comfortably at a church 1.5+ hours away, that you’ll just “worship at home,” that you’ll start a church plant or that “things will work out.” This is the equivalent of marrying the unbeliever because you’re sure you can convert him.
5) When you move, start attending church immediately and don’t hop around from church to church. Unless you detect serious problems, keep attending that church, join as soon as you can and take your membership vows seriously. Attend every worship service and try to attend midweek meetings and studies. (Heb. 10:23-25)
6) Remember, “breaking into” a new church will often be difficult, if you set a pattern of isolating yourself don’t be surprised if you conclude the church is “unfriendly.” Do all you can to immediately figure out how you can serve your brothers and sisters in Christ. You will find that REACHING IN to them, is much more successful than standing around and waiting for them to REACH OUT to you! Ask about opportunities to help out. Also, a cheerful willingness to do the menial tasks (cleaning up, taking out the trash, etc.) will make you a sweet smelling aroma in their nostrils and speak more about your Christian character than a thousand conversations ever will. It’s no surprise that the humblest and most helpful members of the church are also the most loved. In these qualities they are displaying exactly the kind of Christlikeness that our Saviour said we should (John 13:14-17)
7) NEVER underestimate the value of table fellowship (Acts 2:46) – accept invitations to eat with the members and officers of your new church and extend invitations to them to do the same thing at your home. Hospitality is often the key to establishing close and sweet fellowship with your brothers and sisters in Christ.
8) Above all PRAY. Pray before you move, pray for your new church and pray that you and your family would grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (James 5:16, Col. 4:2-3, 12)
Andy Webb is a Teaching Elder in the Presbyterian Church America and serves as Pastor of Providence Presbyterian Church in Fayetteville, NC. This article first appeared on his blog and is used with permission.