Ask Your Preacher
How do I know if I am attending the "right" church?
Dear Purposefully Picky,
Look for a church that is trying to follow the New Testament pattern as closely as possible. A congregation doesn’t need to be full of perfect people, but they need to be trying to faithfully follow God’s Word and not their own ideologies. The following are a few markers of what you should find in every church that is faithful to Christ’s Word:
- Their name should be Biblical. Church of Christ (Rom 16:16), the church (Acts 14:27), church of God (1 Cor 1:2), the Way (Acts 24:14) – all of these are Biblical names given to a local congregation. Having the right name on the front of the building doesn’t mean they are the right church, but if they can’t even get their name from the Bible, they probably aren’t worth wasting your time on.
- Their doctrine should be a copy of the New Testament (Acts 2:42). Any creeds, ‘statements of faith’, articles of belief, manuals, or handbooks are from man and not from God. You want a congregation that uses the Bible to decide their practices.
- They are autonomous. Every congregation of the New Testament had independence. Only local elders were over them (1 Pet 5:1-2, Acts 14:23). They were bound to follow Christ as their only head (Eph 5:23). No boards or committees, no headquarters in some other state, no popes or potentates – what you are looking for is a local body of believers which is accountable to Christ and His Word.
- The church’s work should be simple. The church of the first century wasn’t involved in every community and political arena. Their work was focused on three things – caring for needy christians (Acts 4:34), preaching to the lost, and teaching the saved (Acts 15:35). Find a congregation who is committed to being about Christ’s work.
- They should be open to examination. Any congregation that is serving Christ should be willing to explain why they do what they do. They should be willing to be examined because they are constantly examining themselves (2 Cor 13:5). There is nothing wrong with asking a congregation where their practices can be found in the New Testament. Ask questions and expect Bible answers for them.
These five things are by no means all of the characteristics of Christ’s church, but this should help narrow down your options significantly. Most people accept mediocrity from their church; don’t do that. It is unfair to expect the people of a congregation to be perfect… you will never find perfect humans. However, you should demand intellectual honesty and Biblical faithfulness from any congregation you want to be a member of. If you would like additional help as you look for a faithful congregation in your area, please email us at email@example.com and we would be happy to help you look.
Should the 151st psalm have been included in our Bible?
Dear Plus One,
Psalm “151” is a title given to a psalm that is accepted by the Eastern Orthodox Church as part of the Bible, but that is about it. Even the Jews consider it to be apocryphal. An apocryphal book (‘apocrypha’ means ‘hidden’) is a book that was rejected from the Bible because it was considered inauthentic. These books are not written by God and never were accepted by God’s people as divinely inspired. Some apocryphal books (such as the aforementioned Psalm) were included in the Septuagint, which confuses people at times, but even though some apocryphal books were included in the Septuagint, they were never considered God-breathed Scripture. Printed Bibles include maps, commentaries, and footnotes… and yet, we don’t consider those things to be Scripture; in the same way, the Septuagint included apocryphal books that were never viewed as the Word of God.
It is well documented that Jews didn’t consider the apocryphal books to be authored by God. Josephus, a venerated Jewish historian, specifically stated that the apocryphal books weren’t from God in his writing Against Apion. The Manual of Discipline in the Dead Sea Scrolls stated that the Apocrypha wasn’t inspired. To further prove the point, the Apocrypha itself says that it isn’t Scripture! The apocryphal book, 2 Maccabees, specifically says that it isn’t inspired by God in 15:38-39, and the author apologizes for any inaccurate information he might have provided. Though the apocryphal books are unique historical accounts, they are never quoted in the New Testament, and they were never accepted by the church or the Jewish community as divinely inspired text. That is exactly why it isn’t necessary that they be included in modern translations of the Bible – they aren’t Bible, just secular history.
I just started going to church about three months ago, and I feel so blessed to be a part of what God is and His message. I have a friend who inspired me to go to the church in the first place, and I told him recently that I want to get baptized. My church does group baptisms and won’t be having one probably for months. My friend really wants me to get baptized ASAP even though I’m okay with waiting. He thinks it’s bad for me to wait. Is it a bad thing to wait?
A church that only does group baptisms every three or four months doesn’t understand what baptism is all about. In the Bible, when people were ready to be baptized, they were baptized immediately (Acts 16:33). The word ‘baptism’ simply means ‘immersion’ – it is the reason for your immersion that makes baptism a soul-saving act. When we understand that baptism saves us from our sins (1 Pet. 3:21) and are baptized by the authority of Christ (Acts 2:38) and believe in His Name (Mk. 16:16), then that baptism saves us. Many people are baptized without understanding these things… in which case, they just get wet. Baptism isn’t merely an “outward showing of an inward faith” or “for membership”. Baptism is what saves us (1 Pet 3:21). Baptism is the point when someone goes from being lost to being saved because they are buried and resurrected with Christ (Rom 6:4-5). Baptism is the final requirement to become a Christian. There is not a single example of someone becoming a Christian without baptism.
It is definitely a bad thing to wait, and as attached as you may be to your church, you should seriously consider that they aren’t teaching the total truth of God’s Word. We would be happy to point you toward congregations in your area that teach everything the Bible says and don’t leave important details out. Your friend is right. E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org if we can be of help.
My family and I go to a small Baptist church. One deacon didn't like the preacher even though the congregation loved him. The deacon didn't like the way the preacher walked back and forth across the pulpit, and the preacher was too emotional when he gave testimony. Our preacher resigned, and we lost over half the congregation because of it. My two kids and one other are the only children there now. My husband won't go back because he thinks it is corrupt now. I asked him if we can go visit other churches, and he said, “Why? If one is corrupt, they all are.” How can I convince him they are not all corrupt? I want to keep my family in church. I don't know what to do. My kids are getting where they don't want to go on Wednesday night now because they are the only kids there.
Grasping At Straws
Dear Grasping At Straws,
There are congregations all around the country that aren't corrupted by denominationalism, personal opinions, or traditions. Our recommendation is that you show our article "Down With Denominationalism" to your husband and read it together. There are so many problems with modern religion, and it all comes down to opinions being placed above Scripture. When we leave the Bible pattern, all sorts of chaos and trouble ensues (2 Tim 1:13). The church is supposed to be the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Tim 3:15), but most churches have become places for petty arguments or the latest worship fad.
We know of congregations all over that reject this philosophy and really do put the Bible first. It may be hard for your husband to believe because he has seen so much of the opposite, but it is true. Just because there are lots of bad mechanics doesn't mean that you stop driving a car – just because there are lots of bad churches doesn't mean we can give up on the Lord. Comb through past articles on our site, and you'll see that we do our very best to always give book, chapter, and verse for what we do. Our congregation isn't alone, and if you want, we can help you find one near you that has the same attitude. Feel free to e-mail us at email@example.com with any further questions or if we can help you locate a church.
Modern science once taught that the Earth was flat, and the church backed that teaching. What does the Bible actually say about that?
Throwing A Curveball
Dear Throwing A Curveball,
It was the Catholic church (not the Lord’s church) that supposedly backed the “flat earth” dogma. Without getting into too much history, let’s just say that even that isn’t completely accurate. The Catholic church argued with Galileo over whether or not the Earth was the center of the universe, but pretty much everyone agreed at that point that the Earth was round. The idea that religious people are ineptly backward when it comes science is a myth propagated by those who would have people believe that only atheists can be logical and scientific.
However, back to your question. The Bible refers to the “circle of the Earth” in Isa 40:22. The word used for ‘circle’ is the same Hebrew word for a sphere. Though the Bible is a book about spiritual things, when it touches on science it is always accurate.