How To Identify Churches That Are Biblically Sound
Biblically sound churches are becoming harder to find these days, and it’s only going to get worse, so what should you look for when finding a church home?
Solid Teaching and Preaching
Biblically sound churches are becoming harder to find these days, and it’s only going to get worse, so what should you look for when finding a church home? First and foremost, is the gospel of repentance and faith being preached? When Jesus began His earthly ministry, He showed us what the gospel is in saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). The Elders and Deacons and their wives understand the gospel and they teach it to the children in Sunday school and children’s church and of course, adult Sunday school. In our recent Vacation Bible School, our Elder’s teaching focused on what matters most and that is, “Trust in Jesus.” Amen! Trusting in Christ is what the gospel is all about and our Elder’s excellent teaching has sowed the seed of the Word deep within their hearts. The fact is, I too am learning new things from these Elders and Deacons (i.e. in Sunday school), but I think that’s as it should be. The church doesn’t determine what to teach and preach in the Bible. The Bible determines what the church should teach and preach.
Rescue the Perishing
Our church has an annual Pancake and Sausage Feed and we use the proceeds for missions in the Great Commission. We also auction off items that members of the church have freely donated. For Heritage Church, it’s a win-win. We get to serve the community and those who come from rural areas near Udall, Kansas. It bonds us to our community, friends and neighbors, and it creates or strengthens relationships within the community. It gives us a launching pad for which to share Christ. This also allows us to make new friends and start new relationships among the people we don’t know. We don’t participate with the world, but we do go into the world, if only a small part of it in Kansas. We don’t avoid going to places and to people in the world because of who they are or what they’ve done. Regardless of what a person looks like or is like, we still go to those who need the Great Physician; we share the Gospel and participate with Jesus as He brings in the lost sheep into His fold (Matt 18:12). He is the Lord of the harvest, but we are privileged that He uses us, but He alone saves, (Acts 4:12, 16:30-31), including the “stiff necked” (Isaiah 43:11-21), although we too can be like that.
Biblically Sound Elders/Deacons/Officers
I can honestly say I don’t worry at all where the Elders, Deacons and Officers of this church are concerned. I have known them long enough and heard them teach long to thoroughly trust them. I am more concerned about myself being faithful in preaching the whole gospel than I am with anyone else at Heritage Church. When you eat with people, have fellowship with people, work side by side with people, you get to know them, and I can say, my wife and I are abundantly blessed to be servants of these people (which is what “minister” means). They work hard, and when volunteer sheets come out, even if it’s late in coming, it seems all bases are covered by people coming forward to serve. And without grumbling or disputes! I love it. I love them!
I have never seen a church like this in all my life. When faced with “crunch time,” its “all hands on deck,” meaning these precious saints make themselves available. They give financially and they give sacrificially of their time, so they are living out what it means to die to self and live for Christ. They are denying themselves, becoming the hands, feet, eyes, and voice of Christ in the community (Matt 25:40). All I can say is “Wow!” I truly thank God for these saints in my prayers for them, as does my beloved wife. When one is hurting, they are all hurting. It’s just as a Body should be.
Widows and Orphans
Our church has a couple that goes into the local nursing home or assisted living center to visit the residents there. Statistics show that only 58% of residents have regular visits from family and friends. That’ means that almost 4 in 10 residents never, ever have anyone other than staff to come and visit them, to listen to them, and to share the hope of Christ with them. They also have opportunities to share Christ with family members who visit and with staff as well. God is highly concerned with the care and treatment of orphans and widows. One woman goes to visit them twice a month, so even the lonely have someone to talk with, someone to listen to, and perhaps, someone to cry with. God defines “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world” (James 1:27). Of course, God is the true “Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation” (Psalm 68:5), but He may choose to use us as a means to His ends in being a protector of widows and orphans.
Comforting the Afflicted
God’s command still reigns supreme: “You shall not mistreat any widow or fatherless child” (Ex 22:22). And by the way, that Law is not part of the Mosaic Law that was done away by Christ. How might we mistreat widows and orphans? It is by our neglect of them. I wished I could tell you that Christians visit their family more often in the nursing homes than the unsaved, but sadly, it’s just about the same percentage. This should never be so in a Church, but thankfully, this church is trying to comfort the afflicted and visit/write shut-ins in their part of the world (Matt 28:18-20; James 1:27). This woman who visits the nursing home with her husband comes back a second time each month, but she also has a monthly list of people she writes, among many of which are home-bound. I believe Jesus is pleased by these saints’ labor of love for God’s glory.
The Burning Stick
If you think about it, we were rescued by the Lord. God intervened; otherwise, we’d be destined for hell. It’s just that simple. When Satan, the accuser, ranted on Israel, “the Lord said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you, O Satan! The Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this a brand plucked from the fire” (Zech 3:2)? We too were a “burning stick” plucked from the fire. We were surely destined for an indescribable eternity (Rev 21:8). As those who have been rescued, we should feel as God does that He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked. We would never want to see even our worst enemies face God’s wrath (Rev 20:12-15). If we walked by a house on fire and everyone was asleep as the all the lights were off, we wouldn’t just walk by it, would we? Wouldn’t that be criminal negligence? By doing nothing, we can actually commit a civil crime. How much more so is it a crime against God to be silent when people are perishing every day? May our sin of silence and our “great omission” be repented of and be forgiven. Whatever it takes, we must “Save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh” (Jude 1:23).
Our church have two men who go into the prisons and the state hospital and counsel, visit, write letters to, do Skype visits, and preach the gospel on site. Not everyone is called to go into the prisons perhaps, but that’s a general call to the church. God will provide laborers in faithful churches with members having different passions. These members minister in distinct areas of ministry (sick, prisons, shut-ins, etc.), but if a church has no evangelistic outreach, they’re being disobedient to the imperative command given by Jesus Christ (Matt 28:18-20; Acts 1:8). Satan would love to have us wait before we share the gospel. We could be scorned, ridiculed, and rejected by family, friends, co-workers and acquaintances, but that’s not bad. Jesus reminds us, “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me” (Matt 5:10). We must redeem the time: Today is the proper time to be saved (2 Cor 6:2), and indeed, it may a person’s last day to hear the gospel and be saved as far as we know. We have no guarantees we’ll ever see that person again. What if we wait and their tomorrow never comes? We would not ever wish anyone to pass into eternity without at least hearing the gospel!? If you think they’re offended by the gospel today, think about how offended they’ll be in hell if you refused to share Christ in their lifetime!? Today may be the only day of salvation for that lost person, since tomorrow might never come.
Don’t Wait Too Late!
One bleak Sunday night in October (1871), the great Chicago Fire broke out. Many, if not most of those who had just heard the gospel from D. L. Moody had waited, and many who had waited to trust in Christ perished that very night. They never had a second chance to be saved because they waited. How heartbreaking! They were told to “think about it,” but they never lived to see the next day. D. L. Moody considered that to be one of the greatest mistakes of his life. He never again said “wait” in his messages.
We may never get a second chance to share Christ, “For he says, “In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor 6:2). Isaiah the Prophet “heard the voice of the Lord, saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ Then said I, Here am I; send me” (6:8)? Will you follow God’s clarion call to share Christ? If you don’t go, who will? I know our church has been going into all the world already, but I can also confidently say they will yet “go” into all the world (even if a small part in Kansas). My wife and I are so thankful and blessed that God has placed us here. We have already seen what a mustard seed can do (Matt 13:31-35).
Here is some related reading for you: How to Choose a Church: 7 Things to Look For
Resource – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), Crossway Bibles. (2007). ESV: Study Bible: English standard version. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Bibles. Used by permission. All rights reserved.