While looking for the church, we should keep in mind that we are not going to find a "perfect" group. As God is working in the midst of a people, there will be growth. More often than not, we come in with our own ideas, and we need to be cleansed by the Word and by the ministry of oversight, those who care for our souls and for the direction we are moving in.
Again, when we come looking for the church, we must first realize that we are meeting with Christ--that Christ is in the midst of His people. This is not just a natural presence; this is a spiritual presence as God moves by His Spirit. We must recognize Christ's authority as the Head--that He is truly in control. If members are not attached to Christ, and if Christ is not in control, in some measure building us together as we function underneath the Head, then something is drastically wrong. This may be only another sect or group, not the church.
We cannot have members that are lawless, moving in a liberty which is not really liberty. Jesus Christ brings us into what He is doing, and as Paul said, we are bond-slaves to Christ. We are not bound by the Law any longer; we are freed to do the will of God. That is what the church is all about: doing His will.
Then, as we have already said, we cannot overlook the order that God has provided for His church. We need to have some knowledge of this. So we need to search the scriptures to see what the order of God is. We need to know what the position of man is, and what the qualifications for leadership, oversight and ministry are. These are laid out very clearly for us in I Timothy and in Titus. Men are appointed or recognized for the grace that is working through them, and they meet certain qualifications that are laid down by the Spirit of God through the apostle Paul.
After we find the local expression of the church, recognizing what God is doing, seeing His authority and His order, we must be willing to submit ourselves to that working. We submit to the authority of Christ in the midst of this group. We must be willing to be involved in what God is doing there. We must be willing for brothers and sisters in the group to be involved in our lives. It is not a question of others dictating what we should do, but being involved in the proper way. This is on the foundation that God's love is known, recognized, and experienced in the midst. Everything is governed by the love of God. Even the authority of Christ is governed by His love.