Waxing poetically about churches
One of the most critical things that seperates churches, is how they view the Bible. Many churches ‘highly esteem’ the Bible but ultimately do not believe that it is the inspired Word of God. The Bible alone should be the source of authority in a church. We, as Christians, believe God inspired people to write down the very words they wrote by the power of the Holy Spirit. If we do not believe this to be true and you do not trust Scripture to be accurate, then all you are left with is a cafeteria plan. Meaing, that you pick and choose what verses you would like to believe while throwing the rest out. This results in not accepting God for who He says He is in scripture, but building your own God the way you want by accepting or ignoring what is written in the Bible. So question #1 for choosing a church is: Does the Church hold Scripture to be the inspired Word of God?
The New Testament repeatedly emphasizes the importance of local assemblies. In fact, it was the pattern of Paul’s ministry to establish local congregations in the cities where he preached the gospel. Hebrews 10:24-25 commands everyone who follows Jesus to be a part of a local community of Christ followers and reveals why this is necessary: “And let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more, as you see the day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24-25). It is only in the local community to which one is committed that there can be the level of intimacy that is required for urging fellow followers of Jesus “to love and good deeds.” And it is only in this setting that we can encourage one another. The New Testament also teaches that every believer is to be under the protection and nurture of the leadership of the local church. These godly men can shepherd the believer by encouraging, admonishing, and teaching. Hebrews 13:7 and 17 help us to understand that God has graciously granted accountability to us through godly leadership. Furthermore, when Paul gave Timothy special instructions about the public meetings, he said “Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching” (1 Timothy 4:13). Part of the emphasis in public worship includes these three things: hearing the Word, being called to obedience and action through exhortation, and teaching. It is only in the context of the local assembly that these things can most effectively take place. Acts 2:42 shows us what the early church did when they met together: “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” They learned God’s Word and the implications of it in their lives; they joined to carry out acts of love and service to one another; they commemorated the Lord’s death and resurrection through the breaking of bread; and they prayed. Of course, we can do these things individually, but God has called us into His body-the church is the local representation of that worldwide-body-and we should gladly minister and be ministered to among God’s people. Active local church involvement and commitment is imperative to living a life without compromise. It is only through the ministry of the local church that a believer can receive the kind of teaching, accountability, and encouragement that is necessary for him to stand firm in his convictions. God has ordained that the church provide the kind of environment where an uncompromising life can thrive.
The Scriptures We believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be the verbally inspired word of God, the final authority for faith and life, inerrant in the original writings, infallible and God-breathed (II Tim. 3:16-17; II Pet. 1:20-21; Matt 5:18; John 16:12,13).We also agree with the following creeds:
Apostle’s Creed I believe in God, the Father Almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord:Who was conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.He descended into hell.The third day He arose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, whence He shall come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting.Amen.
The Nicene Creed I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.Who, for us men for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life; who proceeds from the Father and the Son; who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets.And I believe one holy catholic and apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.
The Bible | we believe the bible, both old and new testaments, to be the inspired Word of God without error in the original writings, the complete revelation of His will for the salvation of men and the divine and final authority for Christian faith and life (1 Timothy 5:18; 2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:21, 3:16).
God | we believe in one God, the sovereign creator and sustainer of all things, infinitely perfect and eternally existing in a triune community of three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit(Deuteronomy 6:4-5, Isaiah 2:17).
Jesus Christ | we believe that Jesus Christ is true God and true man. He became fully man without ceasing to be fully God having been conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary, in order that he might reveal God and redeem sinful man (John 1:1,2,14; Luke 1:35). He died on a cross as the sacrifice for our sins in order to accomplish our redemption from sin.
The Holy Spirit | we believe that the ministry of the Holy Spirit is to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ and, during this age, to convict men, regenerate the believing sinner, and indwell, guide, instruct and empower the believer for godly living and service (John 16:8-11; II Corinthians 3:6; I Corinthians 12:12-14; Romans 8:9; Ephesians 5:18).
Man| we believe that man was created in the image of God; but, man sinned and is therefore, spiritually dead. Through his own power or efforts, man is utterly unable to remedy his spiritual condition (Genesis 1:26, 27; Romans 3:22, 23, 5:12; Ephesians 2:1-3, 12).Only through faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of one’s sins can salvation and spiritual life be obtained.
Salvation| we believe that the shed blood of Jesus Christ and His resurrection provide the only ground for justification and salvation for all who believe, and only such as receive Jesus Christ are born of the Holy Spirit and, thus become children of God. Justification and salvation are by faith alone. All those who believe and confess Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord are saved by their faith (Ephesians 2:8-10; John 1:12; Ephesians 1:7; I Peter 1:18-19; Romans 10:9-10
The Church | we believe that God saves people individually but, He has called them to live in a community which is His church. The true church is composed of all such persons who through saving faith in Jesus Christ have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit and are united together in the Body of Christ of which He is the Head. Only those who are members of the true church shall be eligible for membership in the local church.We believe that water baptism and the Lord’s Supper are to be observed by the Church during the present age. They are, however, not to be regarded as means of salvation (Matthew 28:19,20; Acts 2:41,42; Acts 18:8; I Corinthians 11:23-26).
The Return of Jesus Christ | we believe our Lord Jesus’ physical return (Acts 1:11, 1 Thessalonians 4:16, Hebrews 9:28) is imminent (Revelation 22:20) and will be personal, visible and world wide (Revelation 1:7). We know not the time of His coming (Matthew 24:44), therefore it is our duty to make preparation for and live in readiness of His coming.
What exactly is a healthy church? How do you know what church to attend?
I found this great article from a ministry that is devoted to helping churches develop and maintain overall health, and helping people identify healthy churches in their community. In identifying and promoting these nine marks, we are not intending to lay down an exhaustive or authoritative list.There are other significant marks of healthy churches, like prayer and fellowship.We want to pursue those ourselves as well, and we want you to pursue them with us.But these nine are the ones we think are most neglected in most local churches today, with the most damaging ramifications. Join us in cultivating churches that reflect the character of God.
Here is a brief summary of the 9 marks:
- Expositional Preaching
This is preaching which expounds what Scripture says in a particular passage, carefully explaining its meaning and applying it to the congregation. It is a commitment to hearing God’s Word and to recovering the centrality of it in our worship.
- Biblical Theology
Paul charges Titus to “teach what is in accord with sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1). Our concern should be not 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.
- Biblical Understanding of the Good News
The gospel is the heart of Christianity. But the good news is not that God wants to meet people”s felt needs or help them develop a healthier self-image. We have sinfully rebelled against our Creator and Judge. Yet He has graciously sent His Son to die the death we deserved for our sin, and He has credited Christ”s acquittal to those who repent of their sins and believe in Jesus” death and resurrection. That is the good news.
- Biblical Understanding of Conversion
The spiritual change each person needs is so radical, so near the root of us, that only God can do it. We need God to convert us. Conversion need not be an emotionally heated experience, but it must evidence itself in godly fruit if it is to be what the Bible regards as a true conversion.
- Biblical Understanding of Evangelism
How someone shares the gospel is closely related to how he understands the gospel. To present it as an additive that gives non-Christians something they naturally want (i.e. joy or peace) is to present a half-truth, which elicits false conversions. The whole truth is that our deepest need is 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 converting to God.
- Biblical Understanding of Membership
Membership should reflect a living commitment to a local church in attendance, giving, prayer and service; otherwise it is meaningless, worthless, and even dangerous. We should not allow people to keep their membership in our churches for sentimental reasons or lack of attention. To be a member is knowingly to be traveling together as aliens and strangers in this world as we head to our heavenly home.
- Biblical Church Discipline
Church discipline gives parameters to church membership. The idea seems negative to people today – “didn’t our Lord forbid judging?” But if we cannot say how a Christian should not live, how can we say how he or she should live? Each local church actually has a biblical responsibility to judge the life and teaching of its leaders, and even of its members, particularly insofar as either could compromise the church’s witness to the gospel.
- Promotion of Christian Discipleship and Growth
A pervasive concern with church growth exists today – not simply with growing numbers, but with growing members. Though many Christians measure other things, the only certain observable sign of growth is a life of increasing holiness, rooted in Christian self-denial. These concepts are nearly extinct in the modern church. Recovering true discipleship for today would build the church and promote a clearer witness to the world.
- Biblical Understanding of Leadership
What eighteenth-century Baptists and Presbyterians often agreed upon was that there should be a plurality of elders in each local church. This plurality of elders is not only biblical, but practical — it has the immense benefit of rounding out the pastor’s gifts to ensure the proper shepherding of God’s church.
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