In a dense and transient culture like just-north-of-Boston, we always have a good stream of new folks visiting Seven Mile. Here are the three questions we'd encourage anyone who is potentially stepping into the life and mission of a new church family to ask:
1: IS IT SAFE?
Does this church have a track record of hurting or healing people? Is the leadership trustworthy, stable and unified? Is the ground of everything that happens in this church the grace of God in Christ ... or something else?
"Safe" here does not mean "let me make sure that no one will ever ask me hard questions about my life or admonish me for my sin or call me to glad obedience to Jesus," but rather "let me make sure that everyone here will be for me and for my joy as I seek to live a gospel-centered life."
2: IS IT HEALTHY?
Are the people that I am meeting and the small groups or ministries that I am connecting with thriving? Is there clearly articulated mission, vision and strategy? Are there signs of spiritual vitality like repentance from sin, conversions and baptisms, leaders being trained, unchurched locals being served and engaged with gospel love, etc.?
"Healthy" here does not necessarily need to be judged around the "traditional" metrics of Sunday attendance or finances, etc. It's more of a sense of clarity on what it means to be the church together, evidence that everyone who is committed to the life and mission of the church is on board, and some real live actual gospel stuff happening.
3: DO I FIT?
Given my theological and philosophical convictions, is this a place where I can fully give myself to being discipled and making disciples? Do I jive with the distinctives of this church? Can I roll with the rhythms of how life is done here?
We need to be careful here. In one sense, any of us should be able to thrive at any church with orthodox theology and resultant practice. In another sense, there are reasons that there are lots of different churches: emphasis matters, ethos matters, context matters. One church may be bent more toward big events at the church, another toward life in smaller communities outside of the church. One might be more regional-attractional, another more local-missional. One might dream of being super large church, another about planting lots of smaller churches in an area. So do not ask this question in a self-centered, American-consumer way. And definitely do not expect a church to do everything exactly as you would like it to be done. But do ask it with a humble and thoughtful heart.