From The Pastor's Heart

Christ founded His church for a very important purpose.

By Charles F. Stanley

When I was a kid, almost everyone went to church because it was considered the right thing to do. Some people joined because being a respected church member was good for business. Others went to socialize with the right kind of people, and some probably felt it was a good way to salve a guilty conscience. We might be tempted to think church was better back then, but in reality, this kind of social mentality weakened the church, since quite a few attendees were not genuine believers in Christ.

In contrast, many people today consider church outdated and unimportant. Even some Christians don’t attend, claiming it’s not essential for their salvation. While no one is saved by attending church, Christ founded His church for a very important purpose. After asking His disciples who they thought He was, Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:16). Jesus then said, “You are Peter, and upon this rock, I will build my church” (v. 18). He wasn’t saying He’d build His church on Peter, a mere man, but on his confession of faith. All those who believe this truth and have accepted Christ as their Savior are part of His universal church that exists in heaven and on earth.

All those who believe this truth and have accepted Christ as their Savior are part of His universal church.

But when we talk about church, we usually mean a local gathering of believers. And this is what the writer of Hebrews 10:25 means when he says not to forsake “our own assembling together, as is the habit of some.” How can we begin to imagine that we are exempt from participating in the community of faith Jesus established as His means of carrying out His purposes on earth? Christ is the head of the church, and we are called His body (Col. 1:18). The Holy Spirit gives each of us special gifts for the common good (1 Cor. 12:7), and Christ fits us all together so the body can grow (Eph. 4:15-16).

I often hear from Christians who aren’t part of a church because they don’t know which one to join. That’s why I’d like to give you some criteria for determining whether a church is faithfully fulfilling its calling to be “the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15).

The first standard is the doctrinal test. Does a church believe that the Bible is the inerrant, infallible Word of God without mixture or error? If this is not its foundation for truth, it is not a sound church. We cannot pick and choose which parts of the Bible to believe and which to disregard without compromising the entire book God inspired (2 Tim. 3:16).

Another essential element of the doctrinal test is a church’s teaching regarding Jesus. First Corinthians 3:11 says, “No man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” A doctrinally sound church teaches that Jesus is both God and the Son of God who was also fully human, born of a virgin, died a sacrificial atoning death to redeem mankind, was bodily resurrected, and will one day physically return to judge mankind and rule on earth. A church that teaches a different Jesus cannot offer people genuine salvation.

The second criterion for a good church is the edification test. Christ gave apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers the task of equipping the saints for service and teaching them God’s Word so they can grow in spiritual maturity (Eph. 4:11-13). Pastors are shepherds who are responsible to feed and care for God’s flock. Church should be a place where we are grounded in biblical truth, built up in our faith, encouraged to live holy lives, and equipped to serve the Lord. That’s why we all need a church that is focused on the Word, not merely on issues or social reform (2 Tim. 4:1-4).

The third condition is the mission test. Every church should have a balance of scriptural teaching, worship, and ministry to the world. Christ told His disciples to go into all the world and make disciples (Matt. 28:19-20). A good church has an emphasis on missions and encourages its members to share their faith with others.

Although methods may change, our message must remain the same.

But the most important issue is the message that is proclaimed. Although methods may change, our message must remain the same. The world needs to know about the hopeless condition of sinful mankind (Eph. 2:1-3), God’s loving provision of salvation through His Son (John 3:16), and our ultimate accountability to the Lord (Rom. 14:12). If we try to eliminate everything in the church that might offend unbelievers, we have then ceased to give them the true message of salvation. Jesus never watered down the gospel, and neither should we.

It’s a great delight and awesome pleasure to be part of a local group of believers who are grounded in God’s Word and concerned about those who don’t know the Lord. In a church like this, you can worship the Lord, grow spiritually, enjoy loving fellowship, and serve others with your spiritual gifts. The church is God’s idea, and He wants each of His children to be a part of it.

Prayerfully yours,

Charles F. Stanley

P.S. One of our goals at In Touch Ministries is to strengthen the local church. Everyone needs a loving community of godly people where they can grow spiritually and know they are accepted, loved, and useful to the Lord. We pray that the devotions and articles in our magazines will encourage you in your church involvement and strengthen you in your walk with Christ. 

What happens to my notes

16 Simon Peter answered, You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."

18 I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.

25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.

18 He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.

7 But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

15 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ,

16 from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.

15 but in case I am delayed, I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth.

16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;

11 For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

11 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers,

12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;

13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.

1 I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom:

2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.

3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires,

4 and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.

19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,

20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."

1 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins,

2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.

3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.

16 For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

12 So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God.

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