I am glad most of the pointers are helpful to you. I am very encouraged to see that you both have looked into some of those already. Those are signs of maturity and seriousness of this important event in your life. My prayer is that you would build a family together and remain as true witnesses to God and if time is given blessed with children who become faithful in the things of the Lord. With that concern in my mind let me bring out some additional pointers in light of your decision regarding the church that you would like to fellowship at. I am not a great ‘fan’ of organized denominations. But Bible gives important guidelines by which one should choose a congregation he or she would like to attend.
1. God’s purpose for the church must be our purpose of being in that church. (a)The foundation of that church must be the truths found in the scriptures – Truths from the Bible must have complete authority in teaching as well as in practice[1 Tim 3:15.] (b)Christ alone is the Head of the church [Eph. 1:22; 4:15 & Col. 1:18]
2. While seeking for a church to attend, one should look for a place where (a) gospel is preached as it is found in the bible (b) sin is condemned (c) worship is from the heart; not merely liturgical (c) opportunity to minster to one another exist. [Acts 2:42 & other passages]
3. One should find a place where the proper Headship of the church is recognized and practiced. Not one person, whether as the Pastor, Elder, Priest or Pope considered as the head. These men would die, but the church of the living God must continue on.
4. Church should practice to have the biblical pattern of leadership. The following two offices are found in the bible and local gatherings must practice to have those in place. Those offices are elders & deacons – both plural. The local congregation must be able to identify who their elders & deacons are without going through any guesswork. They must be publicly recognized and identified because it is biblical.
5. What do they teach about the Bible, God, and Jesus Christ, the Trinity, sin & salvation?
6. Do they follow believer’s baptism? [The mode of baptism whether as immersion or otherwise may not be greatly important. I am not dogmatic about those. But believer’s baptism is scriptural.]
7. Their teachings/ practice about the communion/ Lord’s Supper. Weekly communion or Lord’s Supper could be ideal but we do not need to be totally dogmatic about it either. But clear teachings and willingness to practice the Lord’s Supper is essential.
8. Is the current congregation / leadership welcoming towards you? Your presence must not cause a division in the foreseeable future.
9. If you decide to join an existing congregation you should honor their leadership & practice. You do not join that place ‘hoping’ to change them.
10. If you found a ‘perfect’ church to join, DO NOT join them; YOU will certainly ruin that fellowship. [We are all saved ‘sinners’ & we all carry heavy baggage; every congregation is comprised of people with varied personalities and quirkiness. Have a mindset to appreciate each other in spite of their apparent flaws. DO NOT try to change them; YOU change.]
I failed to put the above pointers in the order of priority. Although all are important and it is possible that I may have missed few others with practical implications, we may face difficulty in finding any congregation that has all of the above. Especially when we are dealing with newer congregation, we need to be willing to settle for the ‘essentials.’ These ‘essentials’ can be’ subjective’ because certain people find certain things more important than others. My assessment may not be everyone else’s. Having said that let me prioritize by picking the numbers based on how I would choose. Few of the top ones are truly essential and are equal in importance. I would pick 1, 2, 5, 6, 3, 4 & 7. 8-10 are practical suggestions.
Please do not underestimate the importance of choosing the right congregation to attend. You as the spiritual leader of the household, you are going to be impacting a generation to follow [if time permits.] I wrote this much because I want you to be reminded of the paramount importance of this decision and not to consider this in a rather ‘nonchalant’ [= unexcited or casual] manner. I am not suggesting that you would take it so; but a word of caution.