In an age of non-committal flighty characters, many Christians are hesitant to put down their roots. Either in marriage, career, or the institution called church. This is not the first time this is happening. The writer of Hebrews highlights a sect within the church. Some of the believers were in the habit of deserting the meeting together of the believers (Hebrews 10:25). Therefore, even as you read this, I do not know whether you are part of the rebellion to forsake church or you think that there is no church worth your salt. That is a great thing to say, and it makes it more important to dig into scripture.
It is from scripture that we understand the value of the church and how to know you are rooted in the right place. I know that in today’s age, people’s reasons for being in a church are superficial. It’s the dressing of the pastor, the vibe we get when we attend church, and sometimes even their Sunday afternoon parties. Now, join me in looking at the biblical criteria of a good church. Am I recommending that you enter the train of church hunters? Absolutely not. I believe we shall use this as a mirror to see what we are doing wrong. Also, maybe you have a friend who is looking to make this decision soon. The writer of Hebrews encouraged the members to spur each other on faithfully as we await the return of Jesus (vs. 25). Let us do the same.
John Piper observes that “In the New Testament, to be excluded from the local church was to be excluded from Christ.” Any serious believer should put down their roots in a bible-centered, spirit-filled, and gospel believing church. The Christian faith is a community. It has the characteristics of a family. It is very hard to be assured of your faith if there is no back-to-back correspondence. A believer is appropriately assimilated into the body of Christ through a physical church. Paul explains what happens when we all gather together as a body of Christ. “What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done to build up.” (1 Corinthians 14:26).
Now that we have established that a lone-ranger is not able to be an effective witness for Christ, let us look at some of the ways we can choose a biblical church:
- Committed To Teach The Treasure Of God’s Word
The foundational condition for a thriving church is its submission to the authority of the Bible. Paul was in the habit of not refraining from telling and teaching anything that proved profitable to the churches that he led. Every single time Jesus saw a large crowd of people, He felt compassion towards them. They looked like sheep without a shepherd. We come to church to be shepherded and not to seek social fulfillment.
Ezekiel 22:27-28 “Your leaders are like wolves who tear apart their victims. They actually destroy people’s lives for money! And your prophets cover up for them by announcing false visions and making lying predictions. They say, ‘My message is from the Sovereign Lord,’ when the Lord hasn’t spoken a single word to them.”
A church drifts into realms of false teaching and wrong doctrine for many reasons. The chief one among them is the lack of solid teaching and preaching of the word of God. The early church was able to multiply in number and grow because they were continually devoted to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship (Acts 2:42).
- Commitment To The gospel Without compromise.
Have you attended a birthday party where the host is not invited? This is the look of many churches and ministries today. Jesus taught that where two or three are gathered for the sake of his name, He will be present among them (Matthew 18:20). What happens when the two or three meet, but it is not for the sake of the name of Jesus? Having team-building exercises and having Sunday afternoon games are very valuable activities in any community. They build trust, openness, and enjoyment, but they are not what we do in church.
The church is a conglomerate of believers who gather in the name of Christ. We must not be ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God to bring salvation. When we exalt the Lord in our meetings, He draws many men to Himself (John 12:32). He must remain the centerpiece for the unity of the church. The enemy knows this, and therefore he has worked hard to make sure that we substitute the gospel with what people’s itching ears want to hear. A bible centered church will not compromise the truth of the gospel to gain members. What is accumulated in the Lord is kept by the Lord. Whatever is not gained in the Lord is not kept by the Lord.
The gospel is that our good works do not save us. There is no quantity of our good deeds that would qualify us to deserve the unconditional love of God. Yet, He who knew no sin took on our sin and our filthiness so that we may receive forgiveness. Our salvation is not a reward for a good job done but a gift of faith given selflessly by a loving God.
- A Place of Discipline And Discipleship.
Sentimentalism should never dwindle the truth. We must endure God’s divine discipline because He disciplines those He loves. Any parent who spares correction for their child does not love them. Love trains diligently and appropriately with wisdom. Our sentimental attractions of the beauty of the building, the denomination, and family representation are not an excuse to choose the wrong church.
Hebrews 12:8 “If God doesn’t discipline you as he does all of his children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really his children at all.”
Let me clarify something; we are not emphasizing legalism. Nevertheless, we can not throw out the child together with the bathwater. Just because we live by grace, it doesn’t mean that we should pick and choose what we will obey in our walk of faith. Some of us should be shepherds and teachers by now. The grace of God is present and sufficient, and it is teaching us to refuse all ungodliness. To live sensibly and godly even in this current age. Remember, a little leaven leavens the whole lump (1 Corinthians 5:6)
- The church should faithfully exercise sacraments.
The Lord Jesus left us two visible symbols to remind us of our commitment, vows, and new life in Christ. The minute you meet someone and notice that their ring finger has a wedding ring, it usually signifies they are married. The ring is not the marriage; in fact, it doesn’t even matter if it’s silver, gold, cheap or expensive. If I have a gold one and someone else used copper or silver, my marriage is not more accurate than theirs. However, the presence or absence of the ring has a meaning. The physical symbol is a representation of what is happening on the inside with the couple.
Baptism and holy communion are the sacraments the Lord Jesus left us with ( Matthew 28:19, Luke 22:19). Baptism exposes what happened when we were baptized into Christ. Baptism, as the name suggests, was fully immersed in death. We were dead and forgotten, completely fallen short of God’s glory. But when Jesus died, we died with him, and when He was resurrected, we were also resurrected with Him. Baptism takes place once, but we should do the communion as often as possible. (1 Corinthians 11:23-32).
- Mature and Godly Leadership.
All the other points above referred to the whole health of the church community. However, the health of any institution can easily be referred back to its leader, the vision bearer. King Solomon tried to expound on the importance of leadership. In proverbs, he wrote, where there is no vision, people perish (proverbs 29:18). This was as relevant then as it is today. Later, he also said that the land is sorrowful when its leaders are servants and feast in the morning (Ecclesiastes 10:16). So much rests on the head that wears the crown.
Paul writes to Titus, a young leader in a church of older people in the book of Titus. He advises him on how to choose leaders. He goes further ahead to give the standards of the said elders. The emphasis of the list is godly character and not impressive spiritual gifts. In the same way, let us be aware of the cult of personality. We are in for a great fall when we follow men because of their charisma and the mighty miracles they wrought. The scripture advocates love, honor, and respect for our pastors. It calls for us to pray for them. But it asks to follow them as they follow Jesus (1 Corinthians 11:1). He is the reason why our relationship exists. Follow Jesus and His word, and you won’t regret it.