How to find a Biblical Church

How to find a Biblical church.

In today’s world, finding a Biblical church sooner or later is going to become a necessity. The church you’re in right now probably has plans to turn into something that’s not a church, if they haven’t already.

The first thing you should ALWAYS do is ask to see the statement of faith. If they don’t have one on the website, be worried. A statement of faith nowadays has to be incredibly long, not a short little three paragraph thing.

  • What’s their stand on the Bible? Any Bible? The Message? Do they believe the Bible was inerrant and Inspired ONLY in the original manuscripts, or do they believe the one in your hands is inerrant and inspired?
  • What’s their stand on Salvation? I ask this becase literally, the most popular and famous Christian writer today – N. T. Wright – is preaching heresy, and so many Christians are dazzled by his writings that they’re not stopping to say “wait a minute…” Does this church believe salvation is a free gift of God and not of works, in accord with Eph. 2:8-9? Don’t assume they believe a Biblical message of salvation. If their altar call doesn’t mention Repentance… worry about it.
  • Do they baptize by immersion? If they teach baptism is not for today, avoid that church. I mentioned Jason Cooley a couple of times on this blog until I realized that was his stance, and now I reccommend people avoid him. If they offer you a choice, or baptize infants, leave that church.
  • Does it feel like a house of God, or a rock concert? I strongly feel that churches should play doctrinally strong hymns and not rock music for the service. While there are strong arguments for and against Christian contemprary music, there’s one thing you cannot deny – once a church makes a move for including modern music in its service, the doctrinal positions soon change. That’s not even a 70% type of statistic from what I’ve seen, that’s a 100% statistic. That alnoe should make you nervous. find me one church with a drummer, a bass player, and guitar solos that preaches the wrath of God against sinners and a literal eternity in burning fire and torment for anyone who is not born again. You can’t play half the service of universalist man-centered music and then preach a God centered message – it won’t last that way for long.
  • Do they preach a literal eternity in a fiery Hell for any who are not saved?
  • Do they accept EVERYONE who names the name of Christ as saved, despite evidence to the contrary?
  • Are the Deacons saved? Big question.
  • Are the walls painted black in the sanctuary? Really. I’m not kidding. There are several churches in my town whose walls are painted black, so that the light show works better.
  • Do they preach the whole word of God?
  • Do they make their doctrines based upon emotions, feelings, and what’s pleasing to the flesh – or do they base their doctrinal stand upon the Bible? THat’s a strong question nowadays. Believe it or not, David Cloud’s latest book makes the charge that Southern Baptists respond institutionally more by emotions than the word of God – and I can’t refute that.
  • Do they join hands with those who take unBiblical doctrines, or do they advocate Biblical separation from those in error?
  • Do they preach a Biblical pre-tribulation rapture, or do they assume somehow that there won’t be a rapture, or that “The Church” must go through part of or all of the Rapture? This is a big issue. Like the contemporary music issue, it’s the tip of the iceberg that something is wrong.

Okay, now let’s examine the other side of the issue.

  • Does the congregation look like they’re afraid to raise their eyes to look at the pastor?
  • If you try talking to someone before the service, do they cast a fearful eye at the pastor first before answering you?
  • Do the congregation member’s eyes pass by you as if you don’t exist? I learned in seminary that “As the congregation is, so is the Pastor first.” If the congregation ignores you, so wil the pastor.
  • Do they kick the homeless and needy out of the church – or does the Deacon pull them aside and give them money so they can get some real food? Big issue for me. I saw the Deacon in my old church pull a homeless man who was begging during the service out of the sancutary – and then empty his wallet into the man’s hands. That deacon remains my hero, dsepite my leaving that church. By the way, that Deacon was a military retiree, on a fixed income.
  • Is there a constant theme of, “you’re not getting this kind of Biblical truth anywhere else!”
  • Does the church have pictures of Jack Hyles or Peter Ruckman prominantly displayed?

As we get farther and farther into the age of apostasy, it’s getting harder and harder to look for a Biblical church. So many churches are starting to remove denominational names from their church name (Baptist is not a denomination, but you know what I mean). And some are even removing the word “Church” from the name.

If they’re taking the word Church from the name… it’s a hint.

Being A Pastor 4

I’ve just gone through Thingamablog on my computer, looking to see if I’ve ever written an exhaustive list of the rules of Hermeneutics. To my surprise, I’ve got several articles where I list some parts, and some articles where I list other parts.

Let’s go through the list!

  1. Treat every verse as literal unless the passage says otherwise. Don’t assume, as some do, that “like unto” is telling you its figurative – it’s figurative if the passage tells you shortly that someone is to give the understanding of it. Compare Daniel and the he-goats, the bear with the ribs, etc. The Bible declares its a vision, and an angel is commanded to give the interpretation. Jeremiah buries a loincloth at the riverbank, and digs it up. Is this describing the Papacy? Martin Luther? No. The passage gives the interpretation a few verses later.
  2. All scripture is inerrant, inspired, preserved and perfect, without error or contradiction. Get this rule in your head, and suddenly a lot of rebellion against the word of God suddenly is gone forever.
  3. We take what the Bible says as a whole. In other words, don’t serive your doctrine from one verse or one chapter – you really need to take what the Bible has to say on a doctrine as a whole.
  4. The unclear verses must give way to the clearer verses. This is a well established rule, and only cults and textual critics violate this rule. If you have 50 clear verses saying X and 3 verses saying Y, then the answer is X. Once you realize that, and examine the three verses with that understaning, you realize those three are not saying Y… they’re saying X, but giving more information about it.
  5. We never establish doctrine off of a ἅπαξ Hapax. Hapax is Greek for once. Any verse mentioned ONLY ONCE in the Bible we cannot make a doctrine from. Baptism for the dead. All I’m going to say.
  6. We never establish doctrine off of a parable. Parables, believe it or not, and despite everything you’ve heard Pastors say – are designed to CONCEAL knowledge, not make a story memorable. What is the oil in the Parable of the wise and foolish vergins? Salvation, right? So… how could the foolish virgins buy some from the wise virgins? And why could the wise ones not sell it? This kind of thinking is forcing a point, which we call “making a parable walk on all fours”.
  7. Avoid making doctrine from the following 4 books – Job, Lamentations, Song of Solomon, and Ecclesiastes. Remember that Job and his friends were wrong. If you take something that Bildad says and build a doctrine around it… you’ve just built an error that God specifically says is wrong.
  8. Treat the Bible Dispensationally. There’s a lot I could say on this. If you refuse to do this, huge amounts of the Bible are indecipherable. Once you do it, suddenly the Bible is open to you.

I’ve given examples of this repeatedly. Church – Universal or local? The answer is obvious. If you follow the rules above (not my rules, by the way) there’s only one answer, and 99% of Christianity shrinks from the answer in horror – the church is local.

Salvation – by faith or works? Follow the rules above – it’s by faith.

Is God through with the Jew? Follow the rules above, no. Not by a long shot.

Who is the 144,000 Jews? Follow the rules above, it’s easy – 144,000 Jewish evangelists. The Jehovah’s Witnesses are famous for taking this wildly out of context. I remember a JW telling me their Kingdom Hall had one of the 144,000. I asked if they were Jewish. The answer was ‘no’. I asked what mark was visible on the flesh of their forehead? The answer was “none”. I told him the supposed witness was… Biblically not one of the 144,000.

Useful tools – a topical Bible. Nave’s and Torrey’s are the two I’m used to. Torrey’s is better, but Nave’s has far more entries.

Concordance and an Interlinear. They’re built into Logos. I’m going to say this nicely, but if you’re going in the Ministry, quite simply, a good enough Bible program is not good enough. Logos, Accordance, or Bibleworks are what you need – and I really can’t recommend Bibleworks because it has so few books built in! I recommend Logos, but some people think differently, so I suggest Accordance as a backup.

If you’re going to be a pastor, then you need to take one year of Greek and one year of Hebrew – minimum. Seriously. And your Bible software has to have better language tools than just Strong’s. I can do more work in original language study in Logos in one hour than I can using a Bible software that depends on Strong’s in a month.

I’m serious.

Logos has far more original language tools than Accordance, but you can do a lot with Accordance. If all you’ve got is $60, then Accordance Starter may be right for you. I will say this – many Bible Colleges, Seminaries and Universities require Logos Gold as the minimum starting package. The answer is obvious – you get BDAG and HALOT, two really important Greek and Hebrew tools. Vine’s is highly recommended as well. Even if you choose a free on-line Independent Baptist Seminary, you should REALLY consider getting at least Logos Bronze.

I’d do this for the year before Seminary. You’re going to undertake some serious Bible study in the year before Seminary. Why? If you were going to swim college, you’d spend countless hours in the pool building up stamina. Well, same for Bible College. Get your mind USED to rapid-fire Bible study. Start getting deep into THIS, then back out at a moments notice to search THAT. The first year of Seminary, you’re required to read the entire Old Testament and entire New Testament. At the same time, Church History, Bible Doctrine 1 & 2, Greek 1 & 2, survey of Old Testament, Survey of the Gospels and New Testament.

It’s a lot. Get used to it NOW, so you’re not getting the first month overwhelm of “I hope I can do this”. The other thing to watch out for is – around year 4, the last six months, you’re OVER IT. If you make it a habit to study, study, study… then by year 4 you’re used to it. And the year you spend in study will greatly increase your grade point average.

I wish i’d done this part better! I’d have ended up with higher than an A- average.

Being a Christian – Saved church Membership

To be a member of a church, the only requirement is that you be saved.

You can ATTEND a church and be unSaved. Amazingly, we have entire groups of people who SERVE in churches and are unSaved!

We need to get those Deacons right with the Lord! 😉

The standard way to join a church is through Baptism. Get saved, find a church, meet with the pastor, ask to join, the church votes, and then you are Baptized.

But what if you move from one place to another? Or (more common today) the church apostates, and you have to resign and move out? How do you transfer to the next church?

The next method is by letter. Many say it’s Biblcal, but I really have to say I don’t see it directly addressed in Scripture. However, transfer of membership by letter is the usual way.

What if your church is apostating, and you don’t want any taint of that apostasy on you? Then the last method of transfer of membership is by personal statement, that you were a member of another church and have been baptized, and are a Christian.

If you are saved, you may join a New Testament church. But let’s say your spouse is not.

They may attend with you, but they may not join. An unsaved person may not vote in church meetings, nor partake of the Lord’s Supper.

Not fair? Look, Salvation’s a free gift! Nobody’s forcing you to join. But… we can’t risk someone who is unSaved voting in something, and afecting the direction of a New Testament church. It’s important.

So, if you want the benefits of belonging to a New Testament church… why not get saved?

Sure beats eternal suffering!

Being A Christian – the Autonomous Local Church

There’s a lot I could say about the Local Church. One of the biggest errors in most Christian’s doctrines is in the area known as Ekklesiology – the study of the local church.

I have read countless statement of faiths, that profess a belief in a Universal Church. Using the rules of Hermeneutics, we turn to the rule that states, “When you have many verses that state a particular doctrine, and one or two that seem to say something else, we interpret the minority verses by the understanding we get from the majority.”

Weak Ekklesiology has caused COUNTLESS pastors and “Scholars” to do the opposite. The Bible has just over a hundred references to the church… and 94 of them clearly define the church as a visible, local entity.

Using the rules of Hermeneutics, we have to therefore define the word “church” biblically as a visible, local body. Any references to the church must then be understood in that context alone.

THe concept of a Universal Church then is literally unBiblical. We’re trying to force a concept (Universal) to fit a word outside of its Biblically given context (church), based upon a 5 verses in Ephesians.

Remember the Hermeneutic principle – if you have 94 verses that clearly show the church to be a local body, and 5 that suggest it is Universal…

…you can’t go by the 5. You have to go by the 94.

The concept everyone is trying to hang onto (Universal body of Christ) is being hung on the wrong word, here! IT should be hung on the word Kingdom!

As you read your Bible this year, try this – when you read the word Church, make sure you understand it as local only… and see how your understanding of this doctrine suddenly changes.

The concept of church now changes dramatically. Most christians have a truly weak Ekklesiology. If I were to rate it in intensity, it’s somewhere around a 10-watt bulb. It should be that of a 65-watt bulb.

Because of this error in the understanding of Church, men have chosen to create denominations. Denominationalism is unBiblical. There’s no dispensation given for, “we’re Methodists, and we do this…” “We’re Lutherans, and we do this…”

The Bible gives you doctrines, Ekklesiology, church polity, everything all wrapped up in its 66 books. If you deviate from what it presents – you’re in error.

Denominationalism is a grand example of that. If the Bible shows you believer’s baptism by immersion, and you sprinkle a baby and call that baptising… it’s wrong. It’s in error. You don’t have it right – you’ve got it wrong. There’s no dispensation for doing things wrong, just because you’re Episcopal, etc.

The next issue of the church is church polity. That means the rule of the church. Denominationalism gives you (usually) someone over your church that is not part of your church.

The Denomination can step in and say, “You’re not keeping according to our by-laws” – and you have to fix it or risk being kicked out. That simply can’t be found in the Bible. There’s special pastors who are over multiple churches, a completely unBiblical concept.

What the Bible presents is this – a local church. Whose in charge of it? The local church body. The Pastor functions as an overseer. Um… that’s about it.

How does a local church deal with an errant pastor? They assemble three persons, well thought of in the congregation, and they approach the pastor and say… “we need to talk”.

Nobody from another church is tapped to talk to the pastor. That’s a separate church interfering in the business of another church.

implicit in this is the concept of democracy. The congregation gets the vote in many things. Why? It’s the Biblical example. In Acts 6:5 the local church in Jerusalem selected deacons.

What about elder boards? Elder boards, even the concept of an elder – is completely unBiblical. The word elder (Presbyter) is interchangeable with Bishop and Pastor.

“And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;” (Ephesians 4:11, KJV)

“PAUL and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons:” (Philippians 1:1, KJV)

“For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee: If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly. For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre;” (Titus 1:5–7, KJV)

In Titus we see Elders (v. 5) suddenly called Bishops in v. 7. It’s the same office. An Elder is a pastor. What’s the Biblical name for a Pastor? Pastor, Bishop, Elder. Same term describes the same office. this means in Presyter polity churches with Edler boards, the Elders are going to find themselves having to account to God why they were not fulfilling the office of Pastor – indeed, why they undertook the office when not called to preach.

Not good, really. Pastors have to give account in ways that the average Christian does not.

Some churches like to create associations or conventions, for the purpose of being able to get together – as churches of like faith and practice – and do things. Picnicing is one thing – but inter-church cooperation in the purpose of missionaries, etc… that’s a question for that body to decide by vote. And the case has been made that it’s not really Biblical to have churches get together and create mission boards. A church calls and commissions a missionary, and several churches may all participate in sponsiring that missionary – that’s fine. And churches should be doing this, supporting missionaries.

I’m not going to go on and on about the local church. Since apparently I’m called to preach, I tend to want to talk about this topic for hours. Hopefully, you’ve learned something today!


Churches I’d love to Pastor!

Every now and then, when I’m stuck somewhere, waiting, and little or nothing for me to do, or while i’m mowing the lawn, I like to think about any churches I’d like to pastor. Really, I think the top of the list is the Baptist church in Newport, Rhode Island. Why?

It’s the first one in the US!

Only thing is, the congregation would have to agree to go Fundamentalist. They’d have to make that commitment right off the bat, because from what I’ve seen, they’re not.

The Baptist church in Providence Rhode Island would be great, too. It’s number 2 in the US, but it’s closed, unless it reopened recently.

Okay, here’s a weird one.

Shiloh, in Maine.

Would I love to pastor that one? Yes. Right now, they look like an evangelical charismatic church, which is pretty much what Frank Sandford intended it as, but the ecumenical part of it he would have disapproved of. If they want to go fundamentalist, I’d be up for that. I would most espeiclally find it amazing to be able to redeem that hotbed of doctrinal porridge that Shiloh became. It was an abusive cult under Frank W. Sandford, who exercised complete control over his congregation in a manner that people describe almost as hypnosis. Many died there of sickness (Sandford forbid any healing or treatment except through prayer), and through starvation (Sandford would not allow them to work, but insisted God must provide everything).

It would be nice to have it be a testament to the power of God’s ability to redeem, rather than a testament to the corruptive and abusive power of man.

But reallly, I would love a church, in a little white church building. A congregation that is willing to follow the Lord, and not make excuses. I prayed to the Lord that 2016 would be the start of full time paid ministry, but the Lord apparently answered “no”. No problems. I don’t want to go when the Lord doesn’t want me to!

Well, when the Lord is ready… I pray i’ll be ready, too.

Church Revitalization

Originally published Dec. 2015

After this, I’m done with writing about churches for at least the rest of the year.


Anyway, this one is really where my heart is at- a church that needs refocus. Perhaps they’ve had an abusive pastor they’ve just let go, and need someone to come in and fix things.

Let’s say I was hired by (let’s make this tough!) a former Ruckmanite church. Their pastor steps down, for undisclosed reasons. I’m sure everyone’s going to want to tell me why, including a lot of gossip. Let’s not do that. If it’s something procedural, I’ll listen, so I don’t make the same mistake. But if it’s something personal, I don’t care. He’s stepped down, he needs forgiveness and prayer to restore him, and the church needs direction, forgiveness, prayer, healing…

….and they need it last Sunday.

Okay. Hit the ground running. (by the way, nobody knows where that phrase comes from. No, it wasn’t from airborne soldiers or hobos jumping off a train. If you have 12 weeks to spare, give either a try while pumping your legs like you’re running. And let me know, so I can sign both your casts!!!!)

That’s a sermon illustration you can use, by the way. It’s mine. Enjoy.

The first service I would undertake would depend on if I was the first Pastor they turned to after the crisis. You need to immediately get a prayer service. The church needs healing, and yesterday. forgiveness against any bitterness or hurt.

Where do you preach from? You’ve got a lot of possibilities. Forgiveness should be the first thing, and make sure you hit on the very real possibility that the church members may be the victims, Say this GENTLY and circumspectly. Don’t throw out, “Man, your old pastor was a jerk, huh?”

Instead, find a way to say it in the sermon like, “Sometimes in our best intentions, we often try the wrong thing. And we just can’t see our way out of it. How many times have your children done something dangerous, and you responded by shouting at them? In many ways, pastoring is like parenting. We sometimes hurt those we are entrusted to. As a Pastor, the first thing I should say is – i’m sorry. I know I will frequently do the wrong thing, just as you yourselves often do. I will sometimes respond wrongly. And I’m afraid, yes, I will indeed hurt your feelings, and very badly. And I’m sorry.”

Just the act of someone standing in the pulpit and apologizing may well heal the congregation right there.

Plan out a moment when you pray, with the congregation, that God heal the hurt among them.

AFTER THIS, I’d make a remark about “Those days have ended” and “That door is shut, to open a new one.”

Start emphasizing getting the church on track. Start talking about the Great Commission. Start talking about the church body coming together as one, putting their hands to the plow and not looking back, about the future of the church ahead.

I’d make the Sunday night service the Lord’s Supper, and emphasize about closed communion, that the Lord’s Supper is only for members of the church, and should be done on Sunday Nights from now on.

After this, it’s almsot like a church plant, except it’s got a lot more people there. Be prepared to delegate. There’s a lot of work to be done.

My second sunday, I’d tell everyone to bring all their Riplinger-Ruckman-Pearl books the next week. Preach about moderation, about sound doctrine, and explain some of the issues facing all of them. And encourage those willing to, to take all of those books, and place them in the nice trash can next to the pulpit.

There’s a way to be Godly, without all the other nonsense the Pearl’s write about. There’s a way to be Fundamentalist without UFO’s. CIA conspiracies, and Gap myths that Peter Ruckman teaches. There’s a way to be an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist and King James Only without believing in Scond Inspiration or any of the excesses of the “don’t use a strong’s concordance! He was a Methodist!!! EEEEEK!!!!” approach of Gail Riplinger.

Seriously, I think that following the teachings of all three in tandem can crush people’s self esteem, and drive people to emotional, if not mental, breakdowns. I mean, listening to teachers who taught excessive doctrines many years ago gave Harry Ironside a mental breakdown. Once he recovered, he did the right thing and turned into one of the great Christian writers and preachers of the 20th century.

Let the church know that, no… we are not getting rid of the hymns in favor of CCM. If your church has gone that route, you’re going to have a fight ahead of you. Basically, teach the worship leader about why CCM is wrong, and explain you’re going back to hymns only. When the church leadership balks, teach them. Ask them if they want revival or no? An essential Biblical truth is that you cannot get Church Revival without first letting go of the world. Church revival requires a sacrifice of anything worldy. Find me one revival in the Bible where the people were allowed to continue being worldly and idolatrous.

The attention of the church has got to be turned outward, and inward at the same time. “We’re going to go back over sound Biblical doctrine. I cannot heal and revitalize this church without addressing doctrine.” So your first year is almost dictated for you, taking everyone through a series on doctrine is essential.

Now, the Knox-Melton school of Ruckmanites like to preach expositionally. They love to drag the congregation slowly through the Old Testament, sometimes preaching on the same passage three weeks in a row.

Okay, that’s fine. But we’re a New Testament church. Any Expositional teaching PROBABLY should start in the new testament. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Sitting down with a Nave’s, A TSK and a Study Bible with lots of references in it, will give you the tools at your disposal to teach through the Old Testament at the same time you’re teaching through the New Testament.

These are some starter ideas. There’s more I could write on Revitalization, but it’ll probably have to wait until Next year.