Without a doubt, the question we receive most frequently at Grace to You is, “How do I find a good church in my area?”
Locating a faithful, biblically sound church is a struggle most believers face at one time or another in their lives. Sometimes it’s difficult to even know what to look for in the first place.
Compounding the problem significantly, too many Christians put their own tastes, interests, and preferences first in the search for a church. They draw all sorts of unnecessary and unbiblical lines regarding issues of secondary importance, if that. But the measure of the church has nothing to do with style—it’s a question of substance.
In his sermon, “Marks of a Faithful Church,” John MacArthur highlights several attributes and qualities that signify a faithful church. Reflecting on his shared history with the congregation, John considers the foundational convictions that have guided his ministry and grounded the life of the church. In that regard, these ecclesiastical attributes make up the criteria for gauging the health and faithfulness of a church.
Without spoiling his full list, here are some excerpts. With regard to the value of doctrinal clarity, John says:
I remember years ago doing a series on Ephesians 6 on the sword of the Spirit. . . . “the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God” [Ephesians 6:17]. And you say, “Well boy I’ve got the sword. I own a Bible.” You can own a million Bibles and not have the sword. It’s not having a Bible that equips you to fight the spiritual war. You can’t fight it with the Bible. You have to fight it with the theology that’s in it. Do you understand that? Having the sword is not a matter of owning a Bible. It’s a matter of knowing the content of it so that whatever comes your way, whatever temptation, whatever attack, whatever issue comes your way you can go directly to the Word of God and you can say, “This is the mind of Christ, this is the truth,” and with that you are armed.
Another criterion John highlights is the importance of personal holiness within the congregation. On the need for discipline in the church, he says:
Judgment begins with the household of God. Listen, the Lord is disciplining His church. Revelation 1 says He’s moving in His church, and the image there—His eyes are like lasers penetrating to see the reality of what’s going on in His church. And His feet are like blazing, burnished bronzed or brass as He goes through His church inflicting whatever chastening He needs on those that sin. Personal holiness is critical.
I’m not talking about false piety. Nothing is more noxious to God than false spirituality, superficiality. I’m not talking about legalism. I’m not talking about external kind of things. I’m talking about the heart. Isaiah 66, to whom does the Lord look and whom does He seek? He who has a contrite spirit and “trembles at My Word.” He wants humility; He wants virtue in His church.
If you’re looking for a new church, or if you simply want to biblically evaluate the one you’re currently attending, “Marks of a Faithful Church” is an excellent place to start.