“Why be a participating member of a church?” That is a question I get in the work of recovery.
“Why do we need to understand the doctrine of the church?” Because it has everything to do with us as believers. As one wise man once told me, “It is way under the radar!” The importance of the local church has been ignored or rejected.
The Bible study group in a homeless shelter is NOT a church nor any fund group to hang out in the subdivision area is NOT the church. We never can appreciate the beauty of the local church when we see it in such a way. Reality hurts: the doctrine of the local church is way under the radar.
“Well, Jonathan, your article on the importance of the local church was helpful. But how do you choose a church?”
Here are guidelines that come from the 9 Marks of a Healthy church with Mark Dever.
How to Identify a Healthy church?
Yes, the main perspective of the doctrine of the church is a large category. We will take a simple glimpse of what is “basic of a healthy church” to choose a church.
1. Expositional Preaching.
Expositional Preaching is seen in Acts 2:42. God’s Word is not only descriptive but also effective.
The biblical perspective on “Shepherding” is in the context of the body that listens together and teaches according to God’s Word. Therefore, conferences are great, although they are not their pastor. We will never experience the same with a flat-screen TV versus a local body of covenant together. The Lord brings and keeps his people in covenant fellowship with Himself by His Spirit and His Word (Isa 59:21).
2. Biblical Theology
Paul charges even Titus to “Teach what is in accord with sound doctrine” (Tit 2:1) Our concern should not be only with how we are taught, but with what we are taught. Biblical theology is a commitment to know the God of the Bible as He has revealed Himself in Scripture.
To understand God better is to glorify God and worship Him better truly. The greatest attack is this doctrine, the doctrine of worship. Worship must be done in “Spirit and in Truth” (John 4:24).
3. Biblical Understanding of the Good News
Many churches have lost this point, Biblical understanding of the Good News of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The gospel is the heart of Christianity. As people, all have sinfully rebelled against the Creator Judge. Yet He has graciously sent His Son to die the death we deserved for our sins, and He has credited Christ’s acquittal to those who repent of their sins and believe in Jesus’ death and resurrection. That is the true gospel of Jesus Christ.
4. Biblical Understanding of Conversion
Because of a lack of understanding of the gospel, there’s a lack of understanding of biblical conversion.
The spiritual change each person needs is so radical, that only God can do it. Conversion need not be only an emotionally heated experience, but the evidence itself in godly fruit in regard to a true conversion.
5. Biblical Understanding of Evangelism
So often, the person’s belief in a biblical understanding of evangelism is seen in someone who shares the gospel, as it is related to how the individual understands the gospel.
The whole truth of true evangelism is that our deepest need is a spiritual life, and that new life only comes by repenting of our sins and believing in Jesus. We present the gospel openly and leave the conversion to God.
6. Biblical Understanding of Membership
The biblical understanding of membership within the church ought to reflect a living commitment to a local church in attendance, giving, prayer, and service; otherwise, it is meaningless, worthless, and even dangerous.
The biblical understanding of membership has been lost within the church today. To be a member of a church is not simply signing a contract, but it is knowingly traveling together as aliens and strangers in this world as we head to our heavenly home. The biblical understanding of membership is led by a man of God with good leadership within the context of church structure that can keep each other accountable.
7. Biblical Church Discipline
Church discipline gives parameters to church membership. People have the impression of church discipline in a negative light.
Church discipline exists for the sake of the church member to make progress. We so often forget how church discipline is a healthy practice; so often people see it as the result, and we want to make every effort to avoid church discipline. It is not the correct view on the view of this practice.
8. Promotion of Christian Discipleship and Growth
A pervasive concern with church growth that exists comes down to this core issue – not simply with growing numbers, but with growing members. (Growth in a life of increasing holiness, rooted in Christian self-denial).
Discipleship then becomes the people of God bringing people into communion, growth, and maturity in Christ.
9. Biblical Understanding of Leadership
A church officer is someone who has been publicly recognized as having the right and responsibility to perform certain functions for the benefit of the whole church.
There are mainly three types (forms) of church government which are 1. The episcopal, 2. The presbyterian, 3. Congregational. Each of these takes on features from the others. There are many divisions within the church over the style of leadership; the plurality of elders is not only biblical but practical.
So, Now What? What should I Do with Attending a Church?
I believe without the doctrine of the church; Christians could not possibly exist. The one church of God is not an institutional but a supernatural entity that is in the process of growth toward the world to come.
The people of God will not exist without the church of Christ that we assemble at and this is something we should die for. Now is the moment of opportunity to redefine the church in a healthier, more biblical way.