How Biblical Is My Church?
For any organisation to stay relevant it needs to be aware of its changing environment; it needs to adapt to new and different ways of doing things. However, it also needs to remain true to its original purpose. And that is particularly true of the church. Because while the world—and its expectations of the church—continues to change, the gospel remains the same. And there are things about the church which are not negotiable, even in an ever-changing world.
This then is a checklist of the basics—the non-negotiable aspects of the church that should never be lost. It is a series of questions by which the spiritual health of a church can be assessed. It is a work in progress and will be updated from time to time. But it is not a quiz where people can claim to have got a certain number right, because some of the answers do include a degree of grey in their interpretation.
Nevertheless, the questions demonstrate that today’s church is at odds with the beliefs and practices of the church of the Bible. Indeed, they show that the church is in desperate of need of reform in order to return to its more biblical roots.
1. Does my church teach that God is the creator and sustainer of all things?
God is the creator and sustainer of all things and has an ongoing relationship with his creation:
Genesis 1:1 — God, the creator of the heavens and the earth.
Acts 17:24-28 — God, the creator and sustainer, who seeks a relationship with his creation.
Revelation 4:11 — God, the creator and sustainer, who is to be worshipped.
2. Does my church teach that Jesus Christ is the Son of God: that he was born, died, resurrected from the grave, and will come again to judge the living and the dead?
Jesus is the only Son of God. He chose to come and live with God’s creation to save us from the consequence of our sins. His resurrection is fundamental to the Christian faith, without which he would have died for nothing.
John 3:16 — Jesus is the only Son of God, and by believing in him we can have eternal life.
1 Corinthians 15:12-14 — If there is no resurrection from the dead, then Christ wasn’t raised either.
1 John 4:14 — Jesus was sent by God to be the saviour of the world.
3. Does my church teach about God, the Holy Spirit?
Before Jesus was crucified, he promised his disciples “another” counsellor. This was fulfilled at Pentecost with the giving of the Holy Spirit—a gift for all believers.
John 14:16, 26 — Jesus’s promise to send another Counsellor—the Holy Spirit—to teach us and remind us of everything that Jesus said.
Acts 2:1-4 — The giving of the Holy Spirit to the early disciples at Pentecost.
1 Corinthians 3:16 — The dwelling of the Holy Spirit in every believer.
4. Does my church teach that all mankind has sinned, and fallen short of the expectations of God?
Beginning with the story of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, the bible is full of stories of the sinful nature of man.
Genesis 3:1-7 — The story of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden
Daniel 9:1-6 — An admission of being wicked, rebellious, and sinful, having turned away from God’s commands and laws.
Romans 3:23 — Everyone without exception has fallen short of God’s standards.
5. Does my church teach that the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ was necessary for our salvation?
Without Jesus’s death and resurrection we are lost, without hope. His death was for our salvation, and his resurrection assures our future resurrection.
Mark 10:45 — Jesus came to redeem God’s creation.
Acts 4:12 — Salvation can only be found through Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 — At the end of time, Jesus will come again to bring together all believers to live with him forever.
6. Does my church teach that we are saved by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and not by our own works?
We cannot save ourselves. Our only hope is to trust in what Jesus has done for our salvation.
Ephesians 2:8-9 — We are saved by God’s grace not by anything we can do or have done.
2 Timothy 1:8-9 — The plan for us, to be saved by grace, was instituted before the beginning of time.
Titus 3:4-5 — We are saved by grace, through God’s mercy, through repentance and the work of the Holy Spirit.
7. Does my church teach that the Holy Spirit is the giver of gifts to every believer?
The Holy Spirit dwells inside every believer, and gives gifts and abilities which may be different for each of us.
Acts 2:38 — The Holy Spirit is given to every believer.
1 Corinthians 12:4, 11 — The Holy Spirit gives a variety of gifts to all believers.
1 Peter 4:10-11 — The gifts have been given to be used to build each other up in the faith.
8. Does my church teach about the universal nature of God's church?
As Christians, we are all members of the one church: God’s church. The church is not a man-made organisation, even if different congregations worship in different ways.
Romans 12:5 — All Christians are part of the one body, and we all belong to one other.
Galatians 3:26-29 — We are all one in Christ, no matter what our situation.
Ephesians 4:4-6 — There is only one body, one Spirit, one Lord, and one God and Father of all.
9. Does my church engage in evangelism?
After his resurrection, Jesus commanded his disciples to go out and spread the Good News.
Matthew 4:19-20 — Jesus’s promise to make his disciples “fishers of men.”
Acts 1:8 — Jesus’s commission for his disciples to spread the Good News, even in their home towns.
1 Peter 3:15 — The need to be prepared at all times to defend the faith.
10. Does my church support the wider mission to the world?
Jesus’s command was to spread the Gospel both far and near.
Psalm 96:2-4 — A command to declare God’s glory among the nations.
Matthew 28:18-20 — Jesus’s command for his disciples to make disciples in every nation.
Mark 13:10 — The need for the Gospel to be preached to every nation before the end of the world.
11. Does my church accept the biblical view of marriage—in terms of the universal gift of marriage to all mankind?
When God created mankind, he gave us the gift of marriage. And although the concept of community celebrations developed (at least among the wealthy), there are no instances of any wedding ceremonies in the bible. Indeed, the requirement for a wedding ceremony is a relatively modern idea. Even in the Middle Ages it was not normal for couples to be joined in such a way.
Genesis 2:22-24 — God’s universal gift of marriage
Genesis 24:61-67 — Isaac and Rebekah marry (without a ceremony and without a hint of a community celebration).
John 2:1-11 — A description of a wedding feast (after which, it would have been normal for the couple to leave and consecrate their relationship in private).
12. Does my church teach the biblical view of acceptable and prohibited sexual relationships?
The biblical list of prohibited sexual relationships contrasts considerably with modern thinking. It was designed to maintain and build up healthy families and a healthy worshipping community.
Leviticus 18:6-23 — A list of prohibited sexual relationships, intended to encourage healthy families, exclude likely tensions, and avoid genetic disorders.
Deuteronomy 22:13-30 — Warnings against inappropriate sexual behaviour and violating the marriage relationship.
Ephesians 5:25-33 — A command for husbands and wives to commit and submit themselves to one another.
13. Does my church advocate the baptism of believers only?
The main concepts behind baptism are ritual washing; repentance and commitment to God; commitment to the community of faith; and association with the death and resurrection of Jesus. It is a serious practice, designed for those who have made a commitment to God. However in the New Testament it was not unknown for a convert’s whole family to be baptised with them.
Mark 16:16 — Jesus’s command for the disciples to baptise those who accept the Good News of Jesus Christ.
Acts 2:41 — An example of the disciples baptising those who had believed in the Good News.
Galatians 3:26-27 — The link between baptism and commitment to Christ.
14. Does my church prioritise biblical beliefs over local traditions and customs?
Faith should always come before traditions and customs.
Matthew 6:1-6 — Jesus’s comments about unhealthy customs and practices.
Mark 7:3-9 — Jesus’s challenge to some Pharisees and teachers of the law about their traditions.
Colossians 2:8 — The priority of faith in Christ over deceptive philosophy and human tradition.
15. Does my church have a paid minister? If so, does it still practice the ministry of all believers?
There is a biblical principle that workers are entitled to their pay. As a consequence, if the church is employing a minister, they should be paid an appropriate wage. Furthermore, having a paid minister does not excuse other members of the congregation from exercising their ministries.
Exodus 19:5-6 — God’s people are to be a holy people and a kingdom of priests.
1 Corinthians 9:13-14 — Those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.
1 Peter 2:9 — God’s people are to be a holy people and a royal priesthood, who are to declare God’s praises.
16. Does my church celebrate Holy Communion within the context of a shared meal?
The New Testament example is for communion to be celebrated during a shared meal. There is no biblical record of it being incorporated, as a ritual, into a worship service.
Luke 22:14-20 — Jesus’s inauguration of communion at the last supper.
Acts 2:42 — A cameo of the early church, including meeting together to share a common meal.
1 Corinthians 11:17-34 — Paul’s instructions on how communion should (and shouldn’t) be conducted, in the context of a shared meal.
17. Are all decisions in my church made through prayer?
Whenever a major decision was needed to be made in the Bible, there was prayer. Indeed, even the High Priest would pray before using the Urim and Thummim. The idea was to seek the mind of God, rather than making human decisions or having a popular vote.
Proverbs 3:5-6 — A call to trust in God for guidance and direction.
Acts 1:23-26 — The early church’s request to God for him to choose a replacement for Judas.
Ephesians 6:18 — The need to pray at all times in the Spirit.
18. Does my church own any buildings? If so, are they consecrated and used only for sacred purposes?
Both the Tabernacle and Temple were consecrated to God. That meant they could only be used for sacred purposes. The idea of secular concerts, flower displays, funerals, or even multi-faith services would have been seen as a total anathema to God.
Exodus 30:22-33 — Instructions for the consecration of the Tabernacle for sacred purposes.
Ezekiel 8:1-18 — Ezekiel’s vision of the Temple being used for detestable practices.
John 2:12-16 — Jesus clears the Temple on the first of two occasions.
19. Do the church buildings meet the current needs of the congregation?
The Temple was designed to meet the needs of the people. Indeed, it was the central place to which everyone was expected to go. Similarly, many churches today were built with specific congregations in mind. However, buildings are only temporary, and even the bible looks forward to a time when the holiest of buildings would be replaced with something more suitable.
Matthew 24:1-3 — Jesus predicts the destruction of the Temple.
John 4:21-24 — Jesus predicts a time when worship will not be restricted to a specific place or, by implication, a specific building.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 — Paul’s teaching that a Christian’s body is a temple of the Holy Spirit.
20. Is my church totally funded by its members?
When the Tabernacle was built, God instituted a system by which the ministry of God would be totally funded by his people—the worshipping community.
Deuteronomy 12:4-6 — Moses’s instruction for the people to meet together regularly and bring their burnt offerings, sacrifices, tithes, special gifts, what they have vowed, freewill offerings, and the firstborn of their herds and flocks.
Luke 21:1-4 — Jesus uses the example of a poor widow at the Temple treasury to teach about the need to give sacrificially.
2 Corinthians 9:6-8 — Paul’s comments about sowing and reaping.
21. Does my church engage in raffles, seek donations outside the church, or apply for government funding?
In Old Testament times, our relationship with God was likened to a marriage. So seeking help outside of the community of faith was seen as adultery. Furthermore, it was recognised that accepting gifts from others came at a price, not least of which was the expectations and demands that came with those gifts.
Deuteronomy 26:16-19 — The command for God’s people to be totally committed to God, his ways, his decrees, his commands, and his laws.
2 Samuel 24:18-24 — The recognition by David that accepting Araunah’s offer of help, in his plans to build a Temple, would not be seen as favourable by God.
Proverbs 22:7 — A warning that using other people’s money comes at a price.
22. Do the services in my church include every aspect of prayer: e.g. confession, adoration, intercessions, and thanksgiving?
As Christians we should incorporate every aspect of communication with our creator.
Luke 11:2-4 — Jesus’s model on which our prayer life (personal and corporate) should be based.
Ephesians 6:18 — Paul’s teaching to the Ephesians about praying in the Spirit on every occasion with every kind of prayer and request.
Philippians 4:6 — Paul’s teaching to the Philippians to pray and petition God about everything.
23. Is the Bible read in my church?
The biblical practice—whether in the Temple or Synagogue, or when the community was gathered elsewhere for other reasons—was to read the Scriptures.
Deuteronomy 31:11 — The command that God’s laws be read every time the people come to meet with their maker.
Nehemiah 8:1-3 — Ezra reads the Book of the Law of Moses to the people.
Luke 4:16 — Jesus reads the scriptures in the synagogue at Nazareth.
24. Is the Gospel preached in my church?
The practice in biblical times was to expound the scriptures after they had been read.
Matthew 9:35 — Examples of Jesus teaching in the synagogues and preaching the good news of the kingdom.
Acts 10:42 — Peter’s admission that Jesus had taught the disciples to preach the Good News to the people.
2 Timothy 4:2 — Paul’s instruction to Timothy to preach the Word.
25. Does my church encourage active participation in worship services?
Every believer has been given gifts through the Holy Spirit, to encourage and build up other members of the church.
Jeremiah 20:13 — Jeremiah’s call to sing and give praises to God.
1 Corinthians 14:26-33 — Paul’s instructions about joining in worship together. That we should all participate in the building up of each other, and that it should be done in an orderly manner.
Colossians 3:16 — Paul’s instructions that we should teach and admonish one another.
26. Does my church care for its ministers?
A worker is not only entitled to his (or her) pay, but needs support and encouragement too.
2 Chronicles 31:4-5 — King Hezekiah restores support to enable the priests and Levites to perform their duties, after a long period of neglect.
Matthew 23:37 — Jesus laments over the way the prophets (and others) had been treated by the people.
2 Corinthians 11:7-12 —Paul responds to the opposition he faced from those within the church at Corinth, and how this affected his ability to minister.
27. Does my church engage in pastoral care to its members?
One aspect of church life is the need to encourage and support one other. But it should not be left to one or two people only.
Deuteronomy 15:11 — The command to care for one another, particularly the poor and needy.
John 13:34-35 — Jesus’s command for his disciples to love one another
Acts 6:1-7 — The appointment of seven deacons to care for widows within the church.
28. Does my church have Bible studies and/or small groups?
The church began by meeting in people’s houses. In this way the church grew both in number and faith.
Deuteronomy 11:18-23 — The command to surround and saturate ourselves with God’s commands.
Acts 2:42-47 — A cameo of the early church.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 — The importance of scripture for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training.
29. Does my church engage in ministry to the aged?
Caring for the elderly is a strong biblical belief. But so too is the idea that the elderly have much to offer.
Leviticus 19:32 — The need to show respect for the elderly.
Job 12:12 — The elderly as a source of wisdom.
1 Timothy 5:8 — The need to provide and care for one’s family.
30. Does my church engage in ministry to the young?
From the days of Moses, people were taught to teach their children about God. It was important for the young to grow up in the faith. They could then pass on their faith to the next generation.
Psalm 78:5-6 — The command for parents to teach their children God’s laws.
Joel 1:2-3 — The command for the people to pass down their experiences of God (and their own disobedience) from generation to generation.
Ephesians 6:4 — Paul’s instruction for fathers to bring their children up in the training and instruction of the Lord.
31. Is my church active in providing welfare to the greater community?
In the New Testament seven deacons were appointed to provide care for widows in need. However, there was no hint of providing care for those outside of the community of faith. Furthermore, the apostle Paul put limitations on the care to be provided within the church.
1 Timothy 5:16 — The command for the church to provide care within the church. But only when their families were unable to provide support.
Galatians 6:10 — The priority of caring for members of the family of believers.
James 1:27 — The importance of looking after widows and orphans in need within the church.
32. Is my church involved in the education system?
In biblical terms, the teaching of children should be about teaching the faith. As a consequence, the emphasis should be on teaching the faith, not academic excellence.
Proverbs 22:6 — A proverb calling for the need to teach children purpose and direction in life.
Matthew 23:1-3 — The importance of being able to distinguish between what people say and what people do.
2 Timothy 4:3-4 — The importance of teaching sound doctrine.
33. How involved is my church with the local community?
The basic biblical teaching is for the community of faith to attract people; to be beacons of lights in the wider community. But we are not to become indistinguishable from the wider communities in which we live.
Exodus 34:12 — A warning not to fall in the trap of becoming too involved with the wider community in which we live.
Ezra 10:11 — The need for believers to be distinct from the people around them.
Matthew 5:16 — The need to be lights in the community.
34. Does my church employ people from outside of the church (paid or otherwise)?
A major purpose of the church is to spread the Good News. As a consequence , it is counter-productive to employ non-believers to represent God and his church.
Matthew 7:21-23 — Jesus’s comment that unbelievers are unable to represent God.
Acts 19:13-16 — An example of non-Christians being unable to represent God.
2 Corinthians 6:14-17 — The command not to be joined with unbelievers.