How do you know which church you're supposed to belong to?


The title says it all and it’s a serious question too (and not a trick question either).
Briefly, I’m Catholic (in name) but don’t follow the CC like a Catholic should (ex. don’t agree with the CC’s teaching on contraception, having issues being comfortable praying the Hail Mary, and don’t attend church every Sunday).
I’ve visited a few churches that are not Catholic and none of them felt like home. :frowning:
How do I know where I belong?

Disclaimer: please do not pick apart my issues and start “counselling” me on them. The contraception issue is something that I’ve always stuck to and believe it is necessary for reasons that I don’t want to talk about here. And, let’s not discuss Marian doctrines here either.
If you agree to these terms, then you may speak your mind and offer your advice. :smiley:


There’s only one True Church - the Catholic Church, in Communion with the Bishop of Rome, currently Benedict XVI.

THAT is the Church to which you should belong.

Otherwise, it doesn’t really matter, keep looking around until you find a church that’s “comfortable”, or, better yet, start your own church, you wouldn’t be the first to do it!


Seek the Light Within, seek the Voice of God to direct your path. He won’t disappoint you…seek relationship with Him through Christ…you’re in Good Hands…trust in that. Early Friends were called “Seekers”, I still am “seeking”…it is a Journey we all will take, and one day “I will know…even as I am known…” Right now we “see through a glass darkly, but then FACE TO FACE…”

Not really an answer to your question I guess, but I have found that the questions are more important than the “answers” others give me.


Well you really need to assess what you want in a religion. Do you want one that confirms you in what you feel and already believe and make you feel welcome? There are lots like that, just shop around until you find one.

Or perhaps it isn’t supposed to work that way. Try reading the Gospel of John and Acts of the Apostles and then pray that God will show you where to go. Ask yourself a few questions:

  1. What was Jesus’ desire for his followers when he ascended into heaven?
  2. Were Jesus’ teachings alwasy easy to accept?
  3. Why did Jesus choose apostles and what was their role after he rose?
  4. Why did the apostles replace Judas after he killed himself?
  5. What do the Scriptures have to say about those early christians who attempted to carve out their own interpretations of Divine Will when it conflicted with that of the apostles?
  6. If St. Paul and the apostle that replaced Judas had divinely appointed teaching authority (in spite of NOT being in the original 12), why shouldn’t later successors of the apostles STILL have it?
  7. If God intended for individual consciences to trump apostolic authority, why is there NO example of any such thing in the scriptures? (and plenty of cases where the scriptures condemn those who refuse the authority of the apostles)

I have struggles and difficulties too. No wonder, I’m a mere fallen human. What’s more, I’ve spent most of my life giving this world and the culture I live in FAAAAR more access to my heart and soul than God himself. I’ve likely spent 200 hours exposing myself to the influence of worldly culture for every hour I’ve spent reading the scriptures, attending mass, or reading writings of the saints. I suspect you might be almost as bad as me! Consider giving God more access to your heart (and giving Hollywood and Madison Avenue less).


Your question can’t really be answered without addressing the issues you don’t want to talk about.
I’m not going to get into contraception if you don’t want to, but it seems that you want to have your cake and eat it, too. To be TRULY Catholic, you must submit to the Magesterium of the Church because Jesus said so (Luke 10:16, John 16:13).
As Catholic_ Hammer said above, the Catholic Church is the true Church and THE only one established by Jesus Christ.
If you want to belong to HIS Church, THERE is where you need to be.


Dear Mrs. Abbott;

In order to be followers of Jesus Christ, we can’t view Him as our “buddy-buddy” who is okay with whatever we want to do, or that His love for us is a kind of undemanding haze of “luuuuv” where any and every sin is permitted, on the basis of “don’t make waves, man.”

No. Instead, we need to be members of the Church that He founded (which history shows to be the Catholic Church), on His terms - not on our terms.

Jesus told His Apostles, “Whatever you bind on earth is bound in Heaven.” What this means is that the Church is free to make rules for us to follow - and that these rules apply to everyone who wants to go to Heaven.

I know that’s not what you wanted to hear.



I came from an evangelical Protestant background and converted to Catholicism three years ago.

Here’s how I would have answered your question in the past:

  1. Find a church that agrees with what you believe. You will not find one that agrees with EVERYTHING you believe, so you will have to compromise your beliefs, OR you could just attend the church without joining, and then you are justified in continuing to believe something different than the church teaches. You should NOT join a church if you hold different beliefs. But you may ATTEND a church that you disagree with.

I am not being sarcastic. You will find that every church you visit has something that grates, something that you cringe every time you see or hear it. What you have to do is prioritize your beliefs and practices. What are you willing to compromise on and what MUST be in line with what you believe?

For example, maybe you really hate the fact that they only have communion four times a year, but you love the strong Bible preaching. Can you live with that? Maybe it’s the music, or the order of service, or the teaching about end times, or the lack of charitable outreach, or the emphasis upon women staying home instead of working, or the tolerance of abortion. What can you live with WITHOUT complaining and without being miserable in your soul?

In one church my husband and I disagreed with the End Times teaching, but we were willing to live with it because we liked everything else about that church.

Most Protestant churches have no problems with artificial conception. Most do not advocate talking to Mary. The weekly-attendance thing might be a problem in some churches, where you will be “frowned upon” for missing church. So you might want to find a church where it doesn’t matter if you’re spotty in your attendance. Make sure to ask the members, not the pastor. I’m serious–some churches even have a committee that calls you if you miss a Sunday. So find out in advance.

  1. Find a church where you can serve. DON’T look for a church that serves YOU. You have talents, abilities, and gifts–look for a church that needs you. If you play the piano, you should go to a church that needs a pianist, not a church that already has umpteen pianists. If you love to help feed the hungry, go to a church that has an active outreach to the poor, not a church that thinks “social gospel” is a liberal leftist teaching.

  2. Go where you will have fellowship, which, in practical terms, means “friends.” If after six months, you still have no friends, you are probably not in the right church for you. Unless you are a complete loner, it’s pretty miserable sitting in a church week after week without knowing a soul.

Those would be my main recommendations. If you have children or teenagers, I would add to that to find a church that has active ministries to these age groups.

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A few hints:

  1. Don’t base your decision on just the Sunday morning services. Go to the weekly prayer meeting. Go to the Bible study. Go to the open business meeting–this an especially good time to see exactly how this church is “working.” ANY church can put on an entertaining, uplifting friendly Sunday morning service. The nuts and bolts of the church happen during the rest of the week. That’s when you find out what the people are really like.

  2. READ the Statement of Faith. It’s amazing how many Protestants have NO IDEA what their church teaches. If you decide to go non-denominational, ask to read their Statement of Faith. Make sure that it doesn’t contain any “uncompromisibles.”

  3. Ask the pastor and his family out for dinner or invite them over. They SHOULD invite you out, but this doesn’t happen very much nowadays. Get to know them. Are you comfortable with them? Could you go to them for a personal problem (having an affair, stole something from work, etc.). There shouldn’t be any heebie jeebies. You should feel totally comfortable with these people. In a Protestant church, the pastor is the center of the church. As the pastor goes, so does the church. So make sure he/she is a good one.

  4. MAKE SURE that you understand whether the church is AUTONOMOUS or NON-AUTONOMOUS.

An autonomous church doesn’t have any authority outside of itself. The advantages are freedom to teach and preach, and all the money stays in your local congregation for use as you see fit, instead of being sent away to some far-away denominational headquarters. Also, you get to pick which missionaries and parachurch organizations you will support.

The DISADVANTAGE is that if you ever run into any trouble, you can’t appeal to a higher authority for help. Also, autonomous churches can get caught up in false teaching, because no outside authority checks up on them.

A non-autonomous church has a denominational (usually) authority. This authority sometimes tells the local churches what curricula they must use and sometimes even what topics to preach on. (e.g., the Catholic Church). Usually a percentage of the offering monies must be sent to the denominational headquarters.

There are advantages to non-autonomy. An unorthodox or heretical minister can be disciplined or even fired. A denomination can send more missionaries and make sure they are well-prepared and funded. There’s strength in numbers. Often there are wonderful seminars and conferences offered by the denomination. Sometimes the teachers and evangelists are shared by all the churches.

Why is this important to you personally? The main issue for YOU personally is the “trouble” issue. Let’s say that you come across some kind of problem in the church, perhaps abuse (just an example). In an autonomous church, you may be told to stop your false accusations, you may be shunned as a troublemaker, you may even be told to leave, and there’s NO ONE you can appeal to (except the cops if it is an actionable problem).

This happened to me and my husband, and I swore that I would never have anything to do with autonomous churches again. It was heartbreaking.

In a non-autonomous church, you can go to the denominational authority, present your case, and they will check into it and give you a ruling.

  1. Make SURE you understand the local “ladder of authority.” Is the pastor the Head of the Church? Is there a Church Board or Elder Board that has equal authority with the pastor, or are they subordinate? Is each individual minister or volunteer free to run their ministry as they please, or does everything have to first be approved at a Board meeting, or be passed by the Pastor? Make SURE you know this and understand it, otherwise, you may find yourself in trouble if you try to join a choir, write a short devotional for your women’s missionary group, start a Bible study, or even just start up a potluck group.

I hope some of this is helpful to you. I second what others are saying–don’t leave the Catholic Church.


Christ old us He came to establish His Church.
He promised His eternal protection to her.
He promised to lead the Church into “all truth”.
He said, “…anyone who rejects you rejects me and the One who sent me”.

What else does one need to know?


I tried leaving the Catholic Church over similar issues, particularly divorce and remarriage, and contraception. What clinched the issue for me was the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. After studying John 6, the Catechism, and other churches stance on the Eucharist, I decided that there was no way I could desert the Church where I could participate in the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ.

If the Catholic Church possesses the fullness of truth concerning the Eucharist, which every Protestant Church denies, it must then be teaching truth in those matters I disagree with it on. I decided it was time time to swallow my pride and admit that perhaps I was wrong and that it was time to return “Home to Rome”.

I hope this helps. You’re in my prayers. God bless.




You have to know what you are looking for. Worship style, theology, programs, and so forth. You have to pray and let the Holy Spirit lead you. I also suspect you MIGHT be putting too much emphasis on the first visit…possibly. Most people do not fall in love on the first date:D
I also live in Kansas and your choices differ based upon location.
If contraception is the huge issue for you, there are plenty of Orthodox, high Anglican, Lutheran, and some Methodist churches that have similiar worship styles.


Mrs. Abbott,
*]Nobody ever promised following God was going to be easy, just that it would be worth it.
*]If it is easy, you are probably in the wrong church.
*]If you don’t like the “rules” try learning why they are the “rules.”
*]Do you think anyone, let alone Christ, would want you to not honor his mother?
*]Salvation is the ultimate goal… why follow a minimum of rules? Why not try to go for maximum adherence?
*]What part of keeping Holy the Sabbath is being honored in Protestant churches?
*]Eucharist… the body, blood, soul, and divinity…says it all right there.
*]Would you rather go to a church started by a man or by God?[/LIST]I think that’s it for now anyway…


The issue here is you want a religion to suit you, you’re not looking for the truth. Can’t find something you aren’t looking for after all. As such you should find the truth and conform yourself to it, not seek out someone to tell you the things you want to hear.


Finding a religion to suit me is like telling God what to do. I’m asking how to know where I belong. Some would argue that my disagreements with the CC are enough to unofficially excommunicate me (the radical traditionalists have mentioned it before).
The current calling is to find a way to reconcile my differences with the CC and “correct myself” because I just don’t see another option for me.


Let me rephrase your question to make it more immediate and personal. No use toying with abstractions here:

How do I know which church I’m supposed to belong to?

I really think you’re asking the wrong question. What you should be asking is “Which is the true Church which was established by Jesus Christ?”

This is the core issue. Once you answer that, the next logical question is: “Do I want to join that Church, or one that was started by men?”

If you’re satisfied to join a church started by men, that’s up to you and we can’t help you there. If you decide that no other Church will do besides the Church Christ established, and (for the sake of argument) that Church is the Catholic Church, more questions need to be asked and honestly answered:

Does that Church have clear and distinct teachings and standards? I can help you with this one: yes, the Catholic Church does.

In being a member of this Church, is it more honest and pleasing in God’s eyes to struggle to meet the clear and distinct teachings and standards of this Church, or to pick and choose which ones I agree with and will follow and not follow, based on my own reasoning and/or feelings?

I wouldn’t presume to answer these questions for you, let alone judge you on how you do answer them, but I sincerely think these need to be addressed honestly.

Spend some time in front of the Blessed Sacrament and pray about it.


I can tell you, as a recent convert from Buddhism primarily, you’re simply falling into the same trap that is keeping much, if not most, people away from God, and His Church. The problem is twofold. The first obstacle is the philosphy of relativism that is so natural to us, who were raised to believe there is no ultimate authority, so if we are comfortable with some moral code or other, and, (on the face of it anyway),. It does not seem to infringe on the rights of, nor seemingly harm others, then we tend to believe it’s okay to practice. This philosophy makes your own version of the truth supreme to you. This leads to the other problem in the twofold dilemma, and that is the inflated self-importance that is derived from relativism. Our egos lead us to believe that we can actually create truth for ourselves. That there is no singular authoritative moral code that we should be in supplication to. You can see, if you meditate and pray on that idea, with a sincerely open heart and mind, that this idea does not hold up to much scrutiny.

It is difficult to allow our ego’s to embrace the concept of objective moral truth. That concept does not allow us to justify our actions against our own internal learned or conditioned value system. Frankly, it’s unappealing to modern man. There is, however, universal truth. The primary values of universal truth are held by most religions and secular philosophies to some degree. Do not kill or harm your fellow man. Be kind to your fellow man, if you are to expect kindness, Do not steal from or cheat your fellow man, etc. Pretty much, the 10 commandments, with subtle modifications in different faiths.

The Catholic faith was the farthest thing from my mind for most of my 1/2 century here on earth, and I was blessed with one of those ‘amazing grace’ type of spontaneous conversions as a VERY direct, and real intercession by the Holy Spirit. My head is still spinning after three years. My conversion was so complete and so sudden that I am still having to learn much about the faith that I was told by God to adhere to. I accepted my Catholocism on blind faith. There was little that RCIA could have told me to turn me away. In my conversion I surrendered my will. And this is the key, I believe. Rather than me continuing to try to make religion conform to all of MY whims and personal philosophies, God finally told me to conform to the philosophies of the Church. I had to scramble to find out what many of those were, but it mattered little.

The simple fact of the matter is, unless we are willing to supress our ego, free our faith, and sacrafice our personal and subjective beliefs to our God and our Church, then we will not be fully at home, and will continue seeking some ideal church that is in actuality only ideal to one single person. This has led to the creation of so many different churches it makes the head spin. You’re never going to get two strong ego’s to agree completely on something so vast and all encoumpassing as a religion. So large groups of people peel away from the Church, who believe they are in synch with each other about everything, and form their own Church. This is all well and good, but it’s not long until that new church has a group of people within it who find they disagree on 2 or 3 issues, so they in turn leave THAT church and form yet another one. This can go on and on. It IS in fact going on and on.

If it weren’t for the fact that God told us that His Church would prevail against Hell itself, one could become very disenchanted these days.

From study and experience, I can only recommend the one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. To be fully at home however, you will have to be the one who flinches in the great game of chicken with God. You’ll need to conform yourself to the Church to be fully happy and satisfied, rather than trying to find some unforseen church which will be willing to conform your menu of beliefs.

When you participate in the Mass, the creed, the Eucharist, you are saying ‘Yes!’ to God, and His Church. You are agreeing to ALL of the teachings of the Church. Just as when Mary said ‘yes!’ to God. It is faith. I will pray for your conversion, and for your heart and mind to be open to the will of God, through your love of His Son, and the intercessory action of His Holy Spirit.

Yours in Christ,



Mrs Abbot -

Do you believe in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist?



I’ve visited a few churches that are not Catholic and none of them felt like home. :frowning:
How do I know where I belong?

I find it interesting that you would come to CAF and ask this question. After all, you must know what answer you will receive and if you are truly seeking another church, why would it matter what we Catholics think?
mrs abbott, you’ve been around these parts a long time and so have I. I’ve observed your difficulties and struggles. I think the key for you is in this statement:

The current calling is to find a way to reconcile my differences with the CC and “correct myself” because I just don’t see another option for me.

This is the calling we all have. You know that the key to true acceptance begins with an open heart, open mind, and a willingness to go wherever God pushes you, regardless of your own preconceived notions.

I’m glad you came here to ask this question. I think you already know the answer. God bless you!


What I found in myself when I was considering leaving the Church over these same issues was that I didn’t really know what I believed. I only thought I knew what I believed. One of the things that helped me was learning a principle of debate. While I am not a professional debater an idea of theirs helped me a lot. I am basically paraphrasing here but it says that we are only good debaters if we can switch sides of the debate seamlessly. If we cannot argue for the other side in a convincing manner, we don’t really understand the other side of it. To be strong in debate in general you must be able to sound convincing to a “hard-core” advocate of that particular side of it. The movie “Listen to Me” from the 80’s had some great scenes showing this skill. (Starring Kirk Cameron addressing the abortion issue.)

From there I had to search my heart and find out which side I actually really agreed with. For me it became a question of, “debating which side of this makes me sound like an idiot to me?” On every issue I kept finding I was coming down on the side of the Church as the one that sounded the most rational. I finally had to just humble myself, receive the Sacrament of reconciliation and admit I was wrong. It’s been a wonderful journey ever since.

God bless you. You are often in my prayers because your stance on contraception sounds a lot like mine used to. I had a lot of very good reasons why contraception was fine. What I lacked was the whole picture.

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