Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, 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. (Heb. 10:23-25)
As Christians we are to “consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some” (Heb. 10:24-25). Choosing a good Bible church is not simply for fellowship, but for prayer, worship, and above all, learning Scripture. We learn how to pray because the Bible teaches us. We learn good Christian fellowship because the Bible reveals what good Christian fellowship really is. We learn to worship because the Bible teaches us what genuine worship ought to be. The Bible alone provides the necessary information to live the Christian life, and if we close its pages, we know nothing. Even what we think about God comes from what He has revealed about Himself in Scripture. A good Bible church will place a priority on learning the Bible, because Scripture alone provides the necessary information that makes the other activities meaningful and proper. Without a biblical basis, the church is just another social club.
A person becomes a member of the body of Christ—the church—when he believes in Jesus for salvation (Gal. 3:26-28; Eph. 1:22-23). The church was not known in the OT but was revealed to the apostles in the New Testament (Eph. 3:1-12; 5:32; Col. 1:25-27). The local church was identified geographically (1 Cor. 1:2; Col. 1:2; Rev. 2-3), and local churches met in people’s homes.
The churches of Asia greet you. Aquila and Prisca greet you heartily in the Lord, with the church that is in their house. (1 Cor. 16:19)
Greet the brethren who are in Laodicea and also Nympha and the church that is in her house. (Col. 4:15-16)
Biblically the church is ALWAYS an assembly of believers and NEVER a building! Too often we say “we’re going to church” as though the church is located down the street. A more correct way would be to say “the church meets” at such and such a location. You can change the location, but the church, as the body of Christ, always consists of Christians who assemble for worship.
They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. (Acts 2:42)
Biblically, the church’s emphasis should always be on: 1) learning Scripture, 2) having quality fellowship, 3) partaking of the Lord’s Supper, and 4) praying together. Certainly there can be other activities, but these four should be present and prioritized in every church. Scripture never puts an emphasis on the quantity of members or the attractiveness of the facilities. Don’t get me wrong; I enjoy a clean facility and I am not against numbers, I just don’t measure a church by those things. Mormons have large congregations that meet in beautiful facilities; yet they’re spiritually dead because they’ve trusted in a false savior, having been led astray by a false prophet named Joseph Smith (Gal. 1:8-9).
It is a real blessing to get into a Bible church where the pastor teaches Scripture verse by verse, paying attention to the original languages of Hebrew and Greek when necessary, explaining the history and culture behind the text, and always giving the plain sense of the passage as the author intended it for his original audience. A good pastor will bridge the language and historical gap, communicating the text in freshness with conviction. Some characteristics of a good Bible church include:
- Expositional Bible teaching (Eph. 4:11-16).
- Love for one another (1 Thess. 3:11-12; 4:9; 1 Pet. 4:8; 1 Jo. 3:11, 23; 4:7, 11).
- Willingness to meet the needs of others (Phil. 2:3-4).
- Encouraging one another (1 Thess. 5:11).
- Edifying one another (Rom. 15:1-2; Eph. 4:29).
- Serving one another (Gal. 5:13).
- Being kind and forgiving one another (Eph. 4:32).
There are no perfect churches but there are mature ones in which mature believers place an emphasis on learning Scripture, showing love and grace, and striving to glorify God in all they do. The growing church looks upward to God in faith, outward to others with the gospel, and inward to Christians with love (Col. 3:1-16). The joy of good Christian fellowship is rewarding in so many ways as the growing believer benefits from, and adds to the spiritual prosperity of a church.
This article is an excerpt from The Christian Life, pages 121-124.
Also, read my article, The Church – Then and Now.
Steven R. Cook, D.Min.