Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Criteria of a Biblical Church...

Ed Stetzer writes in Comeback Churches that there are six biblical criteria for defining church. Each of his criteria can be found in the early church as described in the early part of Acts. I believe that the main problem with irrelevant and declining churches can be found in the deviation of the modern church from the biblical example found in the infant church of Acts chapter two.

Scriptural Authority--Everything of substance should be based on the biblical record. Methods borrowed from the world should be politely returned and Holy Spirit empowerment should be passionately begged for. What can you find in our churches that is foreign to the biblical record? What can you find that is drawn from the early church? Perhaps we should forget how smart we are and just do church as described in Acts 2. We spend way too much time talking about the Bible and not nearly enough time doing it!

Biblical Leadership--"It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up" (Ephesians 4:11-12). So let's get this straight...God says that we need all of these leaders in order to build up the body of Christ. So, if we leave some out (like maybe apostles and prophets), then we will get less than what God desires. Hmmmm....like what we have now! By the way, I would hold to the opinion that apostles (apostolos = sent ones) are missionaries and church planter types. You'll find plenty of examples of prophets (truth tellers with special insight) in the scriptures. I suspect that all of our churches could use a few.

Preaching and Teaching--The communication of the authoritative Word of God should be central. It's part of our marching orders (Great Commission, Mt. 28). If you want to have some fun--just start challenging structures and rules by asking for their biblical basis. Most of what we do isn't biblically based because most of our decision makers aren't spending time in the Word.

Ordinances--Try this little exercise--Imagine that you know nothing of baptism. Read every New Testament passage containing a reference to baptism and see if it looks like what happens in our churches. Do the same with the Lord's Supper and see what you come up with. What a novel idea it would be to base our ordinances on the biblical examples.

Covenant Community--We really miss the boat here! Acts 2 provides a startling contrast with the modern church. When is the last time that someone sold their stuff in order to provide for a needy family?

Mission--The mission of the church is to make disciples (Mt. 28). Any church that does not baptize at least one person in a year should disband, sell their property, and give the money to missions. It's the height of denial to call yourself a church when you don't do what churches are created to do.

1 comment:

j razz said...

If you haven't already read it, Mark Dever has a good book on the subject as well. It is called 9 Marks of a Healthy Church.

You can purchase the book here if you would like.

j razz