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Excellent questions!

What do you look for when choosing a church?

A) Doctrinal essentials
1) Jesus Christ was both God and man, died on the cross to redeem
mankind for God's glory.
2) We are reconciled to God solely by His grace, and not through any
works we may do ourselves.
3) Christ is the only path to God. Though containing some elements
of truth in various forms, no other religion is accepted as
teaching all essential truths that point to Christ as savior.
4) The Gospel of Christ must be spread. An emphasis on
international missions and community evangelism is an integral
part of Christian belief.

B) Unity/signs of obvious and frequent Christian fellowship

C) An intelligent pastor i can respect, learn from, and enjoy listening to on a weekly basis

D) A style of worship that facilitates my own worship experience on a regular basis

E) A "warmth" among the people of the church that leads to enduring friendships
1) If it is any bigger than a handfull of people, some sort of small
groups are necessary to develop a closeness among the people.
Preferably, this should be some form of Bible study. My church
has Sunday School.
2) My church also encourages participation in what we call "Covenant
Groups," which are groups of only three or four people who meet
regularly to be transparent with one another, hold each other
accountable, and study some relevant material.

F) Sincerity/lack of "showiness" in all aspects of the church

G) ...i may have forgotten something : )

What do you expect from the pastor of the church you attend? From your fellow parishioners?

I expect my pastor to be a gifted teacher and shepherd. He should be able to provide insight into scripture and life itself. He should care for the spiritual health of the members of the church, and care about their physical well-being too. And let's face it, no one wants to be put to sleep on Sunday morning. A pastor should be a good speaker.

I expect other people in the church to love me as Christ first loved them. They shouldn't be judgemental. The ones who know me well enough should hold me accountable, but there should be no condemning stares if they know i or anyone else has commited a particular sin. They should be eager to worship God and serve as part of the Body of Christ. We should all experience genuine Christian fellowship whenever we gather together in Christ's name. I also don't want anyone telling me i'm not a Christian because i don't believe exactly as they do on a particular issue. God should be the first priority.

How do you determine when it's time to leave your present church?

That's a real toughie. I can't imagine my wife and i leaving our present church unless we move. I don't see any "chink in the armor" that might lead to it veering substantially off course. That said, if it did veer off course, for example, if our current pastor left and a new one was hired who started preaching that we must give 10% of our gross income in order to get to heaven, i'd leave. I guess if anything i consider to be fundamental in a church were to change for the worse, i'd have to leave.

How do you know if the denomination you've chosen is right for you?

Not sure. I think you're better off focusing on individual churches, rather than entire denominations. There can be vast differences from church to church even within one denomination. Maybe visit around to some other denominations and see if they fit with your criteria. I guess you should first develop your own criteria for what you consider to be fundamental for a good church. Then you'll know once you find one.

You might start by writing down exactly what you believe, what you consider to be most important to your own Christian belief, and then do some net searches on various denominations and see what their web sites say about their beliefs. If one denomination is way off from something you consider essential, then you might be hard pressed to find a church in that denomination that fits you.

What suggestions would you offer to a couple where one partner felt comfortable with the church they were currently attending but the other partner was unhappy with it?

That's gotta be the toughest of all. I don't have any experience with that, so take my advice with a grain of salt. If your spouse is happy but you're dissatisfied, i'd reccomend you talk to him about. Explain your feelings about the church. Find out exactly what he likes about it, and what, if anything, he dislikes. Ask if he wouldn't mind visiting around to find someplace both of you can be happy together. Above all, be open-minded and respectful, and make sure he knows you value his feelings on the subject.
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