The ten questions below are taken from Stop Dating the Church by Joshua Harris. The commentary is provided by Pastor Juan Sanchez for use at High Pointe Baptist Church.
What should you look for in a church? Ask yourself the following questions:
1. Is this a church where God’s Word is faithfully taught?
The Bible is the source of the Christian’s authority (2 Timothy 3:16); therefore, the Bible is the source of the church’s authority. You should look for a church that is Bible saturated. The Bible should actually be read in worship; the preacher should actually preach a message taken from a text of Scripture. This is why at High Pointe we are committed to expositional preaching. An expositional preacher brings forth a message from a particular text of Scripture, tells the congregation what that text originally meant and how it applies to life today. In other words, expositional preaching exposes and applies the Word of God to the people of God.
2. Is this a church where sound doctrine matters?
In Acts 2:42, the Bible notes that those who responded to the gospel message in faith devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching. Though many people fear the word doctrine, it simply means teaching. A church committed to sound doctrine will tell the people what the Bible “teaches” about a particular subject – in a humble manner.
We further believe that a church committed to sound doctrine will also distinguish between the core doctrines of Christianity and those which are not essential. In other words, it will not hold all doctrines at the same level. For example, a church should fight for and defend the doctrine of the deity of Christ, but it should be gracious and generous when it comes to an individual’s views concerning the timing of the return of Christ (i.e. millennial views). For this reason, at High Pointe we distinguish between Core Beliefs (the essential doctrines of the Christian faith), Characteristic Beliefs (the doctrines that characterize our fellowship – i.e., believer’s baptism by immersion), and Charity Beliefs (those beliefs with which Christians within our fellowship are free to differ).
3. Is this a church in which the gospel is cherished and clearly proclaimed?
A gospel church must be driven by the gospel message, for the Bible reminds us in Romans 1:16, that we are not to be ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation. Mark Dever has succinctly summarized four aspects of the gospel in his book, The Deliberate Church. This simple summary allows us to see essence of the gospel: God (God created all things for His glory); Man (rebelled against God’s rule); Christ (came to redeem a rebellious humanity); Response (this gospel requires a faith response).
This very gospel is weaved throughout the entire Bible from Genesis to Revelation; therefore, it should be evident throughout the church’s proclamation and present in its mission and methods.
4. Is this a church committed to reaching non-Christians with the gospel?
The church’s mission is stated in all four gospels (Mark 16:15; Matthew 28:19-20; Luke 24:46-47; John 20:31) and Acts 1:8. If the gospel is the power of God for salvation, then a church that is gospel-driven, will seek to take this gospel to the ends of the earth in order that salvation may come to the all nations. The lack of desire to reach unbelievers with the gospel is a direct violation of the Lord’s command to go and make disciples (Matthew 28:19-20).
5. Is this a church whose leaders are characterized by humility and integrity?
If the leaders of a church are not themselves transformed by the gospel they proclaim, then there is little hope for its members. As the leaders go, so goes the church.
In 1 Timothy 3, the Bible lists qualifications for its leaders (elders and deacons). It is interesting to note that the primary emphasis is on character. A church’s leadership should be characterized by personal holiness, family leadership, sound doctrine, and love for those whom they lead, just to name a few characteristics. Church leaders are not required to be perfect, but they are required to be humble men who are growing in the grace, knowledge and love of Christ.
6. Is this a church where people strive to live by God’s Word?
Churches may be driven by a variety of factors: purpose, programs, tradition, etc. A gospel-driven church, however, will be driven by the gospel, God’s Word. Yet, something else must be said. As the Bible reminds us in James 1:22, we must be doers of the Word and not hearers only, lest we deceive ourselves. The Bible should be transforming God’s people, and God’s people should desire to be transformed by God’s Word. This transformation will be evident in all areas of the life of both individual Christians and the church.
7. Is this a church where I can find and cultivate godly relationships?
Consider the fact that we were created for relationship (Genesis 2:18-25); we were never meant to live in isolation. It is the same with the Christian life; it is not good that we be alone. The Christian life is a life lived in relationship. When we look at Acts 2, we notice that the believers in the early church were devoted to one another. They shared their abundance with those who had needs. They even sold their possessions and gave from the proceeds to those who lacked. Further, consider all of the “one-another” passages in Scripture. A church should have a place where the one-another passages are being lived out.
8. Is this a church where members are challenged to serve?
One of the clear messages of Scripture is that life is not about us. Our devotion to Christ inevitably leads to a devotion to others in Christian love. Jesus Himself did not come to be served but to serve and give His life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28).
Christians have been gifted by the Holy Spirit of God for the common good (1 Corinthians 12:7). Therefore, as each of us has a gift, we should use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace (1 Peter 4:10).
9. Is this a church that is willing to kick me out?
This question may alarm some at first; however, when we consider the fact that the church represents Christ to our world, then we begin to understand some of the implications of an unholy church. After all, Christ Himself is purifying the church (Ephesians 5:26-27). Consequently, if we were to allow ungodliness to be rampant in the church, the witness of the gospel in that church would lose its power. For this and various other reasons, the Bible gives Christians guidance on how to confront sin both individually (Matthew
18) and corporately (1 Corinthians 5).
10. Is this a church I’m willing to join ‘as is’ with enthusiasm and faith in God?
You don’t join a church to “fix it.” This would be the ultimate display of arrogance! You join a church in order to covenant with a local body of believers to accomplish the mission Christ has given it – to see all peoples become whole-hearted followers of Christ.
Are you able to support enthusiastically the church’s faith and practices? Its leaders? Its ministries? Can you be excited about joining this church “as is” and participating in its ministries? If so, then sign up, roll up your sleeves and become part of a covenant community that seeks to do all things to the glory of God in Christ.
By Juan Sanchez © 2006 High Pointe Baptist Church