When in 1517 Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses on the doors of the Wittenberg Chapel we can be quite certain he had no idea what kind of Pandora's box he was opening. His "protest" led to the eventual founding of literally thousands of non-Roman church denominations. The Roman Catholic Church may be able to speak, via its pope, with one voice, and the Orthodox Church the same to a lesser degree, but Protestantism has no single voice. So whatever you may WANT to hear, you can likely find a Protestant church that will satisfy you.
This raises the question "What should one look for in a church?" Whatever you want you can find, so what should you want…what should you look for?
1) Look for a church that is doctrinally sound. Charles Spurgeon, the great English 19th century preacher, once wrote, "There is no such thing as good novel (meaning new) theology." If you find a church that is teaching things you have never heard before, it is likely they are teaching things that are not good. The greater church of Jesus Christ has had two thousand years to refine its understanding of the teaching of scripture and some very erudite minds have dedicated themselves to that task. Stick with a church that is founded on the Bible and the clear teaching of the Bible as it has been taught through the centuries.
2) Look for a church where you can get to know one another including the church leaders. When a friend told me that he had been attending a church for many years, had only met the pastor one time, and had never been visited by the pastor I could only think that was not good. If my friend died what would that pastor say about him – a man he did not even know? So a church of 300 or maybe 400 TOPS would seem in order.
3) Look for a church that is fairly close to where you live. "Close" is, of course, very relative as some people travel over an hour to get to work so think nothing of a 30 or 45 minute drive to get to church. But, if possible, find a church that meets not that far from where you live. For if you have children there will likely come a time when you will be driving them to youth events, or if the church is having a special event you do not want the distance to keep you from going.
4) Look for a church that is not simply "jumping on the bandwagon" of what some other churches are doing. Many churches have, in their attempt to be relevant, abandoned any and all music that is traditional, including the playing or singing of hymns. The effect of this is to effectively ROB an entire generation of the music of the church that has been around for hundreds of years. I would not give you two cents for a church that regardless of the good they may be doing is raising a generation that has not sung "A Mighty Fortress is Our God," "O Sacred Head Now Wounded" or "And Can It Be?" Each church should examine its own strengths and make use of those strengths. A church building with a massive pipe organ and a good organist would do well to make use of that organ instead of swapping it for a set of drums and a guitar player. Go with your strengths, not with other church's strengths.
5) Look for a church in which you can and will grow. If the sermons and teaching are shallow, that is likely where you will be heading. Seek after a church in which you are prompted to grow. Avoid those churches that post on a wall or screen Biblical texts that may be used in a sermon as opposed to encouraging people to find those passages in their own Bibles. The Bible is our sword and we should be encouraged to use it, be familiar with it, and then wield it against our enemy.
6) Look for a church that believes in prayer. The temple in Jerusalem was a bustling place at the time that Jesus entered it and overturned the tables of the money changers. God is not looking for churches to be bustling; God is looking for churches that are seeking His face. Church should be, as Jesus said, "a house of prayer for all nations." Yes, it is good to come into the house of the Lord, and yes, there should be a lively and vibrant spirit. But there should also be a seriousness as we together humble ourselves and make our requests known to him.
Hopefully, Burning Hearts Community Church meets all of these criteria. And if it does, and if this list is sound, then why is it that after 10 years we have seen so little numerical growth? That is the question I ask myself again and again. We, the elders, would be interested in hearing your answers.