Which church denominations are biblical and believe the Bible?
Denominations and church associations are organizations designed by church leaders to facilitate fellowship among local churches. They are not mentioned in the Bible because they did not exist in the early church. Often they are formed with the best of intentions and in beginning days may even hold to a solid doctrinal statement.
The sad story with so many organizations of churches is that with the passing of time, what is believed and taught changes. A denomination may be true to the Word today and ten years later be completely different. The believer in search of a church must avoid those who choose to affiliate with an association of churches or a denomination that is known to be untrue to the Word of God. Instead the choice of a church needs to focus on an evaluation of the individual church, especially on the pulpit ministry and the pastor’s walk with God.
The most difficult task a Christian has in finding a church to attend is to locate one in which the pastor seriously believes the Bible and teaches it. The reasons the task is difficult is that many churches in the various denominations cannot be trusted to accurately teach the Word of God. What follows will provide three important facts to consider when choosing a church to attend.
Doctrinal Statement May Be Designed To Please
It is common practice now in many churches to not publish a doctrinal statement. In previous years, churches published what they taught so that Christians understood what the pastor believed and preached. But today if a doctrinal statement is published, it often has been carefully screened to avoid as many controversies as possible. Such churches seek to please as many people as possible because their goal is to grow numerically. Their stated beliefs are carefully crafted to please as many as possible.
It is a deceptive practice. Consequently, Christians do not know what the pastor believes and they do not know what will be taught. It will take one, two or more years of church attendance to discover what is believed and taught. Worse yet, if a Christian does not have a working knowledge of what the Bible actually teaches, they may unknowingly and blindly believe whatever is taught.
Sadly, many mainline denominational churches in 2019 have a very low view of the Bible. For example, they may consider Genesis 1, the virgin birth of Christ, the miracles and wonders of Jesus to be myths or the Bible prophecies to have been written after the events occurred. But there are also non-denominational churches that cannot be trusted. Therefore, one must be careful when reading a doctrinal statement because important words and topics may be missing from the doctrinal statement.
Usually, the dangers in a doctrinal statement is not what is said but what is left out. For example, the doctrinal statement may say they believe the Bible is faithful or trustworthy but it may not say that the Bible is inerrant in everything it teaches. The doctrinal statement may say Jesus died on the cross but avoid any statement that Jesus was and is both God and man. Typically, the doctrine of future things is ignored or summarized with a statement about future judgment.
The doctrinal statement of one of the largest churches in the United States says almost nothing about Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. No comment is made about God creating the world or the sinfulness of men and women. Therefore, the question occurs do they believe in evolution? Do they believe we are sinners at birth who are going to hell? Their doctrinal statement about salvation leaves open the possibility that they believe a Christian can lose his or her salvation. Hopefully, these examples help the reader to be careful and ask many questions before joining a church.
One of the large denominations states the Bible has always been “the most authoritative guide.” The statement of faith says nothing about inerrancy of Scripture. History has revealed this denomination believes the Bible contains errors. For them the Bible is simply a guide – not the absolute authority for faith and practice.
Generally speaking, independent churches are the best hope for finding a biblically based, Bible believing pastor and church. Denominations tend to control the type of pastors who preach and, consequently, what is taught. Yet, one can find some wonderful pastors who believe the Bible, love God and teach the Bible verse-by-verse in these denominations. Today it can be challenging for Christians to find a serious pastor who is committed to the teaching of the Bible in depth.
Seminary Training Can Be Deceptive
Sometimes Christians ask the pastor about the seminary he attended. It is often assumed that if the pastor was educated at a seminary teaching true doctrine, then the man will be a good pastor, know the Bible and be an excellent pastor-teacher. But it is a serious mistake to assume that the man believed everything that he was taught. It is common for students to disagree with their seminary professors. Consequently, the pastor-teacher may teach error. Sometimes the seminarian’s spiritual life is not righteous. Some seminary students hate to study the Bible but love to preach. They have a “gift of gab.”
But the worst conditions occur when they are false teachers. Galatians 1:6-10; 2 Peter 2:1-22; 1 John 4:1-3 and Jude are a few passages that warn Christians to avoid false teachers. Hebrews 5:11-14 warn us about pastor-teachers who teach “fluff” and do not seriously teach the Bible. Hebrews 5:11-14 warns Christians to avoid a diet of only milk and to seek the solid meat of the Word of God. It is important to realize that a biblically based pastor-teacher could be in a “bad denomination,” while a false teacher could in a “good denomination.”
Pastor Determines The Pulpit Ministry
The conclusion is that the pastor determines what the church believes. Do not depend only on the doctrinal statement and the pastor’s seminary training. Ask for a meeting with the pastor and ask him questions about what he believes. On one occasion a couple asked for a meeting with a prospective pastor. When the pastor was asked what he believed about the rapture, the tribulation, the second coming of Christ and the millennial kingdom, he said he did not know yet. He had been a pastor for about fifteen years. His comment was it will all “pan out.” It was supposed to be a joke. If the meeting goes well, then listen and listen. Take one or even two years before joining the church. If you hear something that you believe is wrong, seek advice. It may be the pastor was correct. Remember that the pastor and his walk with God determines the church and the pulpit ministry. Look for a pastor who studies the Word of God faithfully and spends many hours in study before he seeks to tell you what God has said.
2 Timothy 2:15 tells us that a man of God should be a serious student of the Bible. His preparation for his sermons should be more than a couple of hours on Saturday. One nationally well-known pastor spends upward of thirty hours per week in study.
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15 (NASB)
1 Timothy 4:15-16 teaches us that we should be able to sense that our pastor is growing spiritually. It should be obvious that he is learning and the content of his messages should contain information that require serious study and not be filled with jokes, personal illustrations and stories that we have known since childhood. He should teach what God had written in the Word for us!
Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that your progress will be evident to all. Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things . . . 1 Timothy 4:15-16 (NASB)
Our doctrinal statement, What We Believe, captures the essential doctrines taught in Scripture. We trust that it will be helpful in evaluating a prospective church. One should expect the prospective church to at least believe the doctrines contained in the following books. Please note that the last book summarizes the critical doctrines.
Biblical Doctrine: A Systematic Summary of Bible Truth – John MacArthur & Richard Mayhue
Systematic Theology – Wayne Grudem
Handbook of Evangelical Theology – Robert Lightner
Suggested Links:Is there one true church? Jesus prayed for unity.
What should I teach my congregation about church leadership?
Christians Are Not To Be Ashamed
Should our pastor continue in the ministry after his wife divorced him?
What are the pastor’s duties to a church?
Why do pastors fail in the ministry? — Reasons Pastors Fail
Is a layperson accountable to God for false teaching in his church?
How can I find a true biblical church?
Who are the elders, overseers and pastors?
What are the qualifications of an elder?