After your daily walk with Jesus Christ (prayer and Bible reading), finding and attending a local church is probably the most important factor in the life of a believer. As one preacher so aptly put it: ‘It is the only divine institution we have, mentioned in the Bible, given by God himself, to organize believers into a functioning, self-governing group. Notice, all through Paul’s epistles, he is writing to local churches. 1 Corinthians is written to “the church of God which is at Corinth” (vs. 2); Galatians unto “the churches of Galatia” (vs. 2), etc. In Colossians 4:15, Paul salutes “Nymphas” and “the church which is in his house”. So, the scriptural example for organizing groups of believers is the local church. They are called-out assemblies of born-again believers who gather around the preaching and teaching of God’s book.
Hebrews 10:25 says “not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching”. When God saved you, he put you into the spiritual body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13) with many other members (1 Corinthians 12:12) to exhort one another, to help and encourage one another, to pray for one another (1 Thessalonians 5:25), and to get the preaching and teaching you need to grow up (Ephesians 4:15) and find your place in God’s will for your life (Romans 12:1-2). You won’t survive the pressures and temptations of “this present evil world” without the help of a Bible-believing local church. When a lion hunts his prey, he looks for the straggler, the weak and sickly one who leaves the security of the fold. The Bible says “your adversary the devil as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (2 Peter 3:9). Find the protection of a local church and faithfully serve in it. You will not make it on your own.
A.) The Purpose Of The Local Church
The best purpose I can find is three-fold. Evangelize the lost, edify the saints, and glorify the Saviour.
First, the local church should go after lost sinners. 2 Corinthians 4:3 says “But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost”. By “lost” we mean they are in spiritual darkness (2 Corinthians 4:4), they are under the “wrath of God” now (John 3:36), they are headed for a burning hell (Luke 16:22-26), and they need to be “saved” (Acts 16:31, Romans 10:13). If you are presently in a church that doesn’t believe that, you are in the wrong church. There should be a great emphasis in the church to get the gospel out, to reach the lost sinner, locally and abroad (through missionaries, Acts 1:8). Find a church that evangelizes the lost (“preach the gospel to every creature” – Mark 16:15).
Secondly, the local church should edify the saint. This is done through preaching (2 Timothy 4:2), and teaching (2 Timothy 2:2), and scriptural literature (1 Timothy 4:13). It should strengthen you and arm you with spiritual weaponry (Ephesians 6:10-11) for the Christian warfare (1 Timothy 1:18) and it is a warfare! Paul writes “thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (2 Timothy 2:13), and “Fight the good fight” (1 Timothy 6:12) and once more, “I have fought a food fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7). You’ll have to fight the world, the flesh, the devil, and temptations (to quit, to compromise, to retreat, etc.). You’ll need a local church that edifies the saint.
Thirdly, the church should glorify the Saviour. It sings hymns to his glory, preaches the Bible God has blessed, seeks God’s will in all its functions, and gives God the praise when the blessings come. As Paul puts it, “that in all things he might have the preeminence” (Colossians 1:18). Those should be the three main purposes of any local church.
B.) Finding the Right Church
Now, when looking for a local church to attend, you must make sure it is a scriptural, Bible-believing church. All local churches are not the same. And, while no church this side of heaven will be perfect, it should be able to answer the following questions with a definite ‘yes’.
1.) Does the pastor know for sure he’s saved and can he prove it to you from the Bible? If he’s not sure he’s going to heaven, how can he tell you? Jesus said “can the blind lead the blind? shall they not both fall into the ditch?” (Luke 6:39). The apostle Paul knew where he was going. In 2 Corinthians 5:8 he writes “we are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord”. Peter was sure of his salvation (1 Peter 1:3-5), John was sure (1 John 5:13), and the pastor who leads you must be sure he’s saved. If he’s not, find another church.
2.) Is the church you’re considering a Bible-believing church? That is, does it claim to have a perfect, infallible copy of God’s pure words? Psalms 12:6-7 says “the words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever”. God has kept that promise in the Authorized Version of 1611, commonly called the King James Bible. For several proofs, that it is the right Bible, see our study on this website entitled “Which Bible is the Right Bible”. If a church doesn’t believe they have a perfect Bible, you are in the wrong church. For “where the word of a king is, there is power” (Ecclesiastes 8:4). God doesn’t bless the new versions and he won’t bless you if you support a church that uses one (see 1 Thessalonians 2:13). Find yourself a Bible-believing church.
3.) Does the church believe people are sinners and will go to a literal hell if they don’t personally receive Jesus Christ as their Saviour? Romans 3:23 says “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God”. Everyone is a sinner, no exceptions. John 1:12 says “as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God”. You must receive a person to save you. Good works cannot save you, for salvation is “the gift of God, not of works lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). No wafer, sacrament or good deeds you do can help; you must receive a personal Savior, Jesus Christ. You must be saved (Romans 10:13) from a literal, burning hell (Luke 16:22-31).
4.) Is the church actively getting ‘the gospel’ out? Acts 1:8 says “ye shall be witnesses unto me”. We are told, “go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). That “gospel” of course is the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ for sinners. A Bible-believing local church should be a soul-winning church, out to win souls to Jesus Christ. If this is not the emphasis, it’s not the right church. Of course, supporting foreign missionaries should always be a part of your soul-winning emphasis (Acts 1:8 – “and unto the uttermost part of the earth”).
5.) Is it a Bible preaching church? 2 Timothy 4:2 says “preach the word”. The word “preach” is defined as a ‘public proclamation of religious matters’, to ‘urge strongly and persistently’, ‘to declare divine truth as a public crier’. Preaching is declaring the message to ‘stir people up’ (2 Peter 1:13, 2 Peter 3:1) to do right. A scriptural local church preaches against sin. Ephesians 5:11 says “and have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them”. 2 Timothy 4:2 tells the preacher to “reprove, rebuke, and exhort”. He’s to cry out and preach against sins such as: laziness, pride, envy, as well as fornication, idolatry, drunkenness among many others. You need your sins preached against. You should love it when the preacher ‘rings your bell’ because “charity rejoiceth in the truth” (1 Corinthians 13:6). It’s a wake-up call for you to ‘get right’ in that particular area. You want a Bible-preaching church.
6.) Is it a Bible teaching church? 2 Timothy 3:16 says “all scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine”. The primary purpose of the Bible is to get God’s people “rooted and grounded” in sound doctrine. You should be learning about remission, propitiation, imputation, eternal security, the Second Coming of Christ, the dangers of cults (Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Muslims, etc.). One of the qualifications for a pastor is that he is to be “apt to teach” (1 Timothy 3:2). This involves studying and rightly dividing the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15). If your pastor cannot/will not do that, he has no business in the ministry and you have no business sitting under such a man. Find a Bible-teaching church, so you can “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).
7.) Does it sing the great hymns of the faith? Hymns like “Blessed Assurance”, “The Old Rugged Cross” and “Are you Washed in the Blood?” While some of the new hymns are good, very few can compare to the classic hymns that have withstood the test of time. Colossians 3:16 says “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs”. The best hymns are the ones filled with scripture and are teaching and admonishing you as you sing. You need to find a church that sings about the blood, about Calvary, about the Second Coming, and songs that are filled with the word of Christ. Find a church that’s stayed true to the great hymns of the faith.
8.) Is it the church Jesus Christ wants to find you in when he returns? When Jesus Christ returns to take his church out of this world (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18), the next stop for a Christian is the judgment seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10-11). Everything we’ve done since we’ve been saved we will give an account for. Undoubtedly, the Lord will ask each believer “what church did you attend down there?” Then, he will ask why and he’ll expect scriptural reasons for your choice. Could you, right now, give solid scriptural reasons for the church you and your family attend? Find the church God wants you to attend.