Thursday, March 15, 2018

10 marks of a biblical church

As believers, our local church plays such a pivotal role in our spiritual life. We must seek a local church where we can worship in spirit & truth, serve, pray, learn & apply the word, and fellowship with other like-minded believers.  We are in perilous times where many churches today are simply social clubs and look absolutely nothing like a biblical church. We must be prayerful, wise and discerning when choosing a local church. I pray that this blog can shed light on what to look for in a healthy church!

1. Sound teaching

The purpose of preaching is to deliver the truth of God's word. Does the Pastor teach sound doctrine that aligns with God's word?(Titus 2:1) Does the Pastor exegete scripture and preach the word in it's proper context? Does the Pastor use the pulpit to edify, correct, rebuke, encourage, and exalt Christ?(2 Timothy 4:2) Or does he use the pulpit for fleshly rants, jokes, manipulation, and to tickle ears?(2 Timothy 4:3) Are his sermons narcissistic and self-centered? Or does the message always point back to Christ? Does he preach feel good sermons that focuses only on what God can do for you? Are his messages very shallow and avoid any depth of the word? Or powerful convicting sermons that challenges you and causes you to examine yourself? Is Jesus preached in His rightful place as a sovereign Ruler and King who will one day judge the world? Or does he simply preach Jesus as a genie in the bottle and your free ticket to get prosperity, blessings, and your "best life now"? 

2. Biblical leadership

God has set out certain guidelines for His church. He has called for men to lead not only in the homes but also in the church(1 Timothy 3:1-13; Titus 1:6-9). It's not that women are inadequate or inferior, it's simply God's design and order! Women are gifted in so many ways and still can effectively minister, preach the gospel, disciple and serve in the body of Christ. Women just aren't called to Pastor or Co-pastor a church!(1 Timothy 2:11-14) If a church is willing to bend on church leadership, what else are they willing to bend on?

3. The Gospel is clearly and faithfully presented

A biblically sound church faithfully preaches the gospel. The gospel is the power of God unto salvation and the method of how God saves(Romans 1:16,Romans 10:14). Do they preach that we are separated from God because of sin and stand under God's wrath?(John 3:36,Ephesians 2:3) Do they teach that Christ came to save us from sin(Galatians 1:4) to reconcile us to God(2 Corinthians 5:18) forgive us(1 john 1:9) give us eternal life(Romans 6:23). Do they preach repentance and faith in Christ alone?(Matthew 4:17,Romans 2:4) Do they preach Christ as the only way to be saved?(John 14:6,Acts 4:12) Do they teach on God's judgment and hell for those who reject Christ?(Revelation 20:11-15, Romans 2:5) Are do they believe everyone will go to Heaven?

4. Clear understanding of conversion

The leaders of a biblically sound church have a clear understanding of how conversion works. It is our responsibility to preach the gospel but only God does the saving. Do they teach the necessity of the new birth?(John 3:3) Do they teach on how we are justified before God? (Romans 5:1) Do they try to coerce and emotionalize people at the end of their sermon to walk an aisle to repeat a "sinner's prayer" or to make a decision?  Do they tell people to "just believe" or "accept Jesus" without any explanation of repentance and saving faith? Or do they believe and teach that salvation is all a work of God and not human effort?(John 3:8) Do they teach that salvation is a free gift given? ( Ephesians 2:8,)  Or do they teach a works based salvation and other unbiblical methods for salvation? That we must try harder, perform better, change our externals and do enough "good works" to be saved.

5. Christ exalting

The whole purpose of church is to exalt and glorify the Lord Jesus Christ.(1 Corinthians 10:31) Our worship, preaching, and giving should always center around Christ.  Is Christ truly at the forefront of this church? Is the church modeled after scripture or the latest church growth model? Is the church seeker friendly where their whole aim is to entertain and get more members? Is the church more consumed with Christ or the Pastor's life? 

6. Leaders of integrity

Is the Pastor qualified to lead a church according to scripture? Does the Pastor have elders and deacons to hold him accountable? Has he been involved in church scandals? Is he known for infidelity? Pastors aren't perfect but they are held at a higher standard. You want to sit under a man of God who can shepherd you and model the Christian life before you! (Hebrews 13:7) A Pastor is called to live above reproach(1 timothy 3:2). He must be faithful and devoted to his wife.(Titus 1:6, 1,1 Timothy 3:12) humble, not arrogant (Titus 1:7). Gentle ,not quick-tempered (Titus 1:7; 1 Tim 3:3)Sober, not a drunkard (Titus 1:7; 1 Tim 3:3)  Upright in his financial dealings and not accused of pursuing money over the kingdom of God.(Titus 1:7; 1 Tim 3:3; 1 Peter 5:3) hospitable, self-controlled and holy (Titus 1:8; 1 Tim 3:2) and an example to the flock.(1 Peter 5:3)

7. Accountability & Church Discipline

At a biblically sound church, you have brothers and sisters in the Lord who truly love you and care about your soul. How do they handle when someone is in sin? Do they shun the person? Do they lovingly call you to repentance and seek to walk with you in restoration? Or do they say nothing? Saying nothing is saying something. We are condoning sin by our silence. If someone is caught in sin, they should restore that person gently while being careful not to fall into temptation. (Galatians 6:1) Do the leaders keep a watch for your soul?(Hebrews 13:17) Is unrepentant sin rampant and allowed in the church? Does the church practice church discipline? (Matthew 18:15-20, 1 Corinthians 5:1-13) Church discipline is the process of correcting sinful behavior among members for the purpose of protecting the church and restoring the member.

8. Evangelistic

We're not called to stay in the 4 walls of the church. We're not called to simply invite the lost to our church. Christ has given us a mandate to go into the world, proclaim the gospel, and make disciples. Is this church seeking to obey the great commission?(Matthew 28:18) Do the people at the church have a heart and burden for lost souls? Do the leaders encourage evangelism? Are they equipping members with apologetics and biblical truth to contend for the faith?(jude 1:3) Do they care about building God's church or only making a name for themselves and getting more members? 

9. Affiliations 

Who does the church affiliate with? Do they partner with other gospel saturated churches? Who does the Pastor follow and quote on social media?(YES DO YOUR HOMEWORK!:-)) Do the leaders affirm, partner and endorse false teachers? You ever heard the old saying,"Birds of a feather flock together." If a Pastor is associating with questionable or false teachers, this may be a clear indicator that they are also false(Amos 3:3)  Leaders are suppose to guard their sheep from wolves not lead them to the slaughter. We are called to avoid those who preach false doctrine not endorse them. (Romans 16:17 I appeal to your brothers to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine you have been taught; avoid them)

10. Repentance and reconciliation

There is no perfect church! It can be very hard and get messy walking closely with other people, even as believers. Can I get an amen?! We're all being sanctified and must remember to extend the same grace and mercy that we need. There is also an enemy who hates the church and seeks to divide God's people.  In the midst of everything do you see a body of broken believers who are repentant and broken over sin? Who wants to honor and serve the Lord? Who seeks reconciliation? Who walks in forgiveness?  Who confess their sins and pray for one another?

I encourage everyone who is looking for a local church to TAKE YOUR TIME and DO YOUR HOMEWORK!! Continue to visit the church, meet with a Pastor or an elder to ask questions that you may have, listen to their sermons, check out their social media pages, seek wise counsel, and continue to pray and seek the Lord. If you read this blog and you realize that you may be at a false church, I encourage you to find a biblically sound church. Please don't stay at a false church out of loyalty. Our primary loyalty and allegiance must be to God and His word. Please join me in praying for all of the godly Pastors who faithfully shepherd their local church. Also pray for believers who knowingly or unknowingly sit under false teachers. That the Lord may open their eyes to the deception and send them to a Christ exalting biblical church!

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