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Finding the Right Church

By Dr. Charles Stanley

It is important for all believers to be joined to a local church body. But how should you select a church? Let’s examine the essential qualities of a Bible-believing fellowship. If you do not currently belong to a congregation, use these guidelines as a resource while you search for one. If you are already an active church member, this list can help you evaluate where you attend.

Since all Christians do not agree on the same interpretation of Scripture, the first thing we must investigate is the church’s doctrine or fundamental beliefs.

  1. Does the church believe the Bible is the inerrant, infallible Word of God? Do the leaders trust that Scripture is without error, and all of it is useful and necessary in our daily lives (2 Tim. 3:16)? Many professing Christians try to excuse certain miraculous or supernatural passages of the Bible, such as the creation account in Genesis or the final judgment in Revelation. If a church tries to make Scripture more comfortable or understandable by sacrificing a doctrinal truth, then it fails to maintain the integrity of the Word. The Bible is the perfect revelation of God to His people.

  2. Does the church believe Jesus is not simply the Son of God but actually God Himself (John 1:1-2, 14)? The deity of Christ is absolutely a fundamental belief of any biblical church. Had Jesus been an ordinary man, He would have been a sinner like the rest of humanity. The penalty for our wrongdoing needed to be paid by someone who’d never sinned. If Christ disobeyed God, then you and I are left to face the full wrath of the Father (Heb. 9:27).

  3. Does the church believe Jesus was born of a virgin? If we have faith in God’s Word, then we must trust that it speaks the truth regarding Jesus’ miraculous birth, as recorded in the Gospels (Matt. 1:23-25).

  4. Does the church believe in the bodily resurrection of Christ? When Jesus left the tomb, He left it physically. He was not simply a spirit floating around; He was a person—alive and in the flesh (John 20:24-29).

  5. Does the church believe Jesus is going to return? Scripture is clear that Christ will come back to the earth. He will call His followers home and bring judgment on the ungodly (1 Thess. 4:13-18).

  6. Does the church believe there will be a future judgment? When Christ returns, He will return as a righteous Judge. At that time, He will separate His people from those who do not know Him. Some churches are not comfortable with this portrayal of the Lord, but it is thoroughly biblical (Matt. 25:31-46).

  7. Does the church believe there is a literal heaven and hell? This goes along with the truth of the coming judgment. After all, if the “sheep” and “goats” are separated (Matt. 25:31-46), then each group must have a place to go.

  8. Does the church believe Jesus went to the cross and died a sacrificial atoning death? This is the most important point of all. The cornerstone of our faith is that Jesus Christ bore the punishment we deserved—we gained the freedom of God’s forgiveness through the Savior’s death and resurrection. This was the price that was necessary to forgive, redeem, reconcile, justify, and conform us to the image of God’s Son. It was also proof that God truly loves us unconditionally, perfectly, and not on the basis of anything we have done (John 3:16; Rom. 5:5-7).

If the church you attend does not accept these things as true, I suggest you leave that fellowship. Why? Because what you believe determines where you will spend eternity and how you will live here on earth. If you think there is no hell, heaven, or judgment, you will most likely live a morally offensive lifestyle. It is impossible to live a godly life unless core doctrines are firmly set in your walk of faith.

Once you get past the doctrine test, you need to ask two more questions of the church. First, is it building your faith? In other words, are you being strengthened in your relationship with God and enabled to understand Scripture? If your answer is “no,” it may be an indication you are not in the right place.

Second, does the church have a ministry to the world? A true Christ-centered fellowship will not be satisfied trying to keep the power of the gospel locked within its four walls, available only to its own members. Rather, a solid biblical church expresses a deep desire to reach the world for Christ, taking the truth to those who have never heard it.

When you follow these three tests—doctrine, faith-building, and missions—they will guide you to a biblical church. If you are already part of a body of believers, then these guidelines will help solidify your understanding of what the church believes. It is a delight to be part of a local group of people who are doctrinally grounded in the Word of God, who love to be edified through Scripture, and who are concerned about a world that does not know their God.

My friend, the Lord is intimately concerned about your church affiliation, and He desires to meet with you in new and exciting ways every time you come to Him in worship. Therefore, don’t settle for simply becoming a church member; instead, recognize your proper place within the growing, vibrant, active body of Jesus Christ.

 

Related Resources

Related Video

Together in the Christian Church

Many professing Christians say that they can have a strong relationship with God without being involved in a local congregation. In this message, Dr. Stanley shares with us the vital importance of taking an active role within the church. (Watch Together in the Christian Church.)

Copyright 2014 In Touch Ministries, Inc. All rights reserved. www.intouch.org. In Touch grants permission to print for personal use only.

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26 comments
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  • July 23, 2012 02:27 PM

    by

    I wonderful list for those seeking a church home.
  • July 23, 2012 11:16 AM

    by

    Re: Radio message, "Getting God's Viewpoint" . Sometimes reality and clarity hit you smack in the face at the same time!
    This message did that for me!! Thank you so much for that Dr. Stanley, no one can deliver a message like you can! Anyway,
    I wish you every blessing God can offer, peace, love, and mostly a very sweet transition to His "Kingdom" . I sincerely thank you for everything. Consider yourself, "off the hook". Be Blessed!
  • July 23, 2012 07:32 AM

    by

    We thank God for the unflinching loving ministry of Dr. Charles Stanley and the abundance of tools his ministry provides to guide us all to become more faithful in becoming followers of Christ.
  • July 22, 2012 11:53 PM

    by

    Each day, when I receive the daily devotionals, they speak to my mind and heart, which enables me to begin my day Christ-centered. Thank you for being God's vessel to reach many so they may be recipients of His grace. In Touch Ministries helps win souls for Christ and I keep this ministry in my prayers. Praise God for Dr. Charles Stanley's faithful service to our Lord.
  • July 22, 2012 11:01 PM

    by

    Thankyou for showing me the essentials qualities of a Bible believing church. I understand it now!
  • July 22, 2012 11:00 PM

    by

    Many thanks...
  • July 22, 2012 09:22 PM

    by

    After 18 years, I was leaving the only church family I ever had.My mother died & left me her house, 90 miles from where we lived. I was confident God was called me! I PRAYED FOR A SOLID CHURCH. So THANKFUL, THE LORD LEAD ME TO A BODY OF CHRIST the meets every standard you have mentioned & lives out everything I know of SCRIPTURE. Thank you for the reassurance of the TRUTH, & knowledge of how to evaluate where I will be FED & Grow to Glorify God & my Savior the Lord Jesus. I am happy to report I am now living near where Mr. Stanley first started in a very small town of Fort Meade near Bartow FL. Thanks again for feeing THE TRUTH. Most of the time is agrees with what I am learning & hearing in my own "church". Thank You!!
  • July 22, 2012 08:55 PM

    by

    Keep on sharing your wisdom that the lord has bestowed upon on you, Dr. Stanley i know one day you will hear "well done my good and faithful servant" continue fight the good fight of faith, you shall be rewarded. Thank you Dr. Stanley and may god continue to bless you and make his to face shine upon you.
  • July 22, 2012 06:35 PM

    by

    I TOTALLY AGREE WITH THIS STATEMENT! AMEN! THANK THE LORD!
    Thank you, thank you, thank you! I have been listening to Dr. Stanley on television for years, even when I was not truly committed to Christ (and was always lovingly rebuked and blessed) and now subscribe to In Touch, and online and I am always so blessed! I think that Dr. Stanley is the most awesome, loving, caring, magnificent leader in America today!! What an awesome presidant he would make for our country!! He is like a loving father, who perfectly balances love, forgivenss and wise council to a sometimes lost, sometimes, complacent flock. I truly thank God for Dr. Stanley and I pray blessings heaped on top of blessings to Dr. Stanley and his family!! God bless this awesome ministry. Thank You!
  • July 22, 2012 03:48 PM

    by

    Dr. Stanley is man of God really, i know how blessed his voice and words through the words of God, this message of "Choosing Right Church" is amazing bless to those who is looking for better church and who already addicted in doctroain based then word of God...Simply amazing. God bless all.
  • July 22, 2012 02:05 PM

    by

    dr. stanley has been my rock through many difficult times, i have belonged to many a church, and through dr. stanley's teachings on tv, he has given me the encouragement to keep stepping out on that deep water as they talk about, and i have not sank yet, and never will, as long as i walk with god, jesus our savior.....thank you dr. stanley for all you say and do for all of god's children....
  • July 22, 2012 12:25 PM

    by

    Thank you, thank you, so much for your dedication and love, caring , thruthful ministry. you have helped me for more than 15 years, this article is awesome. May God continue to bless you and your family. we love you, Belkis
  • July 22, 2012 12:21 PM

    by

    Thank you, Thank you, can't say it enough Dr. Stanley is awesome,loving, caring and balanced;his teachings have helped me thru more than 15 years. May God continue to bless you and your family. we need your wisdom and leadership. i love you. Bella
  • July 22, 2012 11:25 AM

    by

    Thank you! These are very important details to examine... even for those of us who already have a church. At times there had been churches twisting the Word of God to their own convenience believes. God bless!!
  • July 22, 2012 10:48 AM

    by

    Bless you, Dr. Stanley ! Thank you for starting my days in the right direction through your In Touch emails!
  • July 22, 2012 10:11 AM

    by

    I suffer extreme PTSD. The noise of a congregation -- typically the singing and especially bands with their huge speakers -- have pushed me at various times into violent or catonic states. As a consequence I no longer attend the Baptist churches I was raised in. This sermon is frustrating to me. I have a large group of Christian contacts one-on-one at work and through the internet that share daily. We have an extended prayer network for coworkers and our nation that includes the In Touch ministries. Most are active in local churches. Several are, like me, suffer PTSD or have other disabilities that prevent local church attendance. We are still part of "the church"!
  • July 22, 2012 09:34 AM

    by

    Thank you, Dr. Stanley. This is exactly what I needed this morning as I visit a new church.
  • July 22, 2012 08:47 AM

    by

    We know all that Dr. Stanley has said is to true finding a church but we also know that the Holy Spirit has to lead us to be in the right church. We were part of a church anrd because of a family situation felt we had to leave that church. Now we don't know where to go. I am disabled and have a problem staying a wake at times because of some of the meds I have to take. My husband is a painter and works out of town sometimes so he isn't here to go with me so we really are at a loss as to what to do. The family situation is somewhat better and I would like to go back to the church we are already members at but my husband says no. Does anyone have any suggestions as to what to do???
  • July 22, 2012 07:44 AM

    by

    Dr. Stanley reveals in word and deed what obedience to God's word and trust in Him produces,a man who walks with our God.
    We praise God that we have Dr. Stanley in our midst,a loving voice to all those that have ears to hear!
  • July 22, 2012 06:20 AM

    by

    VERY INSIGHFUL ,THANKS FOR THIS KNOWLEDGE . I PRAY THAT I MAY BECOME MORE HUMBLE & STRENGTHEN. MY WALK WITH GOD LEARN MORE ABOUT THE WORD & REALLY START TO LIVE RIGHT!
  • December 30, 2011 08:45 PM

    by

    Thank you so much this was really helpful cause I recently left my church of 20-years and am asking for GOD's guidance; I will print this article cause it really help me to know what to look for.

    Regina
  • January 02, 2011 03:41 PM

    by mylog

    We must pray everyday for God's word to be heard.
  • October 10, 2010 09:17 AM

    by

    its because of Jesus working through you that I have a better understanding.
  • September 01, 2010 07:30 AM

    by

    THANK YOU FOR A CLEAR UNDERSTANDING OF WHAT A CHRIST CENTERED CHURCH SHOULD BE. YOU HAVE BEEN SUCH AN ENCOURANGEMENT AND UPLIFTING IN MY WALK WITH CHRIST JESUS. THANK YOU AGAIN
  • August 19, 2010 07:38 PM

    by

    THANK YOU

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