In the process of moving to Ecuador from the United States, we've gone through many adjustments and changes. One that we never would have thought of has to do with what local congregation we associate with in the worship of God. Surely there's a church in our new country and city that does the things we know are worthwhile and appropriate in terms of worship, small groups, and outreach. . . right? Well, yes - but we have since learned one needs to look deeper and with more diligence than we've done in the past. Let me explain.
Appearances can be deceiving. Consider this: when one comes to a new country, with a different language and culture, a person is more apt than not to not understand what a particular group is all about. You have the disadvantage of not being completely fluent in the new language, as well as not being used to how things get done within this new congregation. You're new here, after all. It takes time getting used to new people, new ways of doing things you once took for granted, and to reasonably assimilate in a new environment. Add to that one's own history on how their previous church did things and operated, and from that prism of personal experience a person can be fooled into buying into the new church's belief system and ways of operating. It looks good on the surface, so it must be valid and good, right? Wrong.
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. (1 John 4:1, ESV)
Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. (Matthew 7:15, ESV)