*HOW TO CHOOSE A LOCAL ASSEMBLEY*
As Bible college students, counselors, church ministers and as we evangelize, people are asking the question: ”there are so many churches, to which one should I go?” Here are a few points to help them, you might also find other points in the Bible.
These first 2 conditions for a group to be called ‘church’ are mandatory (without these two a group is a cult, not church); some groups that deny some of the points 3 to end could be cults even if they agree with the first 2 points; the more points (1 to end) a church does fulfill in doctrine and practice, the better the church is:
*1. the trinity* – in the unity of the Godhead there are three persons: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, who are co-existent, co-equal, co-eternal. Matt3:16-17; 28:19; 1Cor12:4-6; 2Cor13:14. Therefore groups that believe that Jesus is not God but an angel, like Jehova’s Witnesses, are cults; Mormons also;
*2. salvation is by grace, not by works* – a gift of God, provided by His grace through faith in Jesus Christ on the basis of His shed blood in a vicarious death. Eph2:8-9; Acts16:31, Rom.3:25, 5:1, 6:23; Heb9:12,10:19; Rev.1:5; Jn3:16,6:47. Through the original sin of man (by Adam and Eve), man has fallen from God and has become corrupt in his whole nature. By himself, man is totally incapable of returning to God. Rom3:10-23,5:12,16-17;Rom7;Jer17:9;Eph2:1-3.Fallen, sinful humanity is eternally lost and without hope apart from salvation in Christ. Jn3:3-7; Acts4:12.Therefore this excludes any group that claims man can be perfect or gain salvation through his own efforts or good works;
*3. the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments* have been given by the verbal plenary inspiration of God and are without error. Ps19:7-13; 119:89,105, 2Tim3:16, 2Pet1:21. Therefore groups that affirm that the Holy Spirit speaks to them directly, without the Bible, are wrong;
*4. Christ has died for the sins of the whole world* 1Jn2:2, Jn3:16, not only for the sins of the believers but only believers in Jesus have eternal life, adoption, heaven as a gift Rom6:23;
*5. All men are invited to receive salvation, not only some:* Jn3:16, 2Pet3:9; this rejects the idea that God chose some for heaven and some for hell, as some groups claim.
*6. There is only one name given to men in whom there is salvation:* Jesus Acts4:12; this excludes groups that place another human to the same level as Jesus;
*7. The church is the Body of Christ,* formed of all believers that have received Jesus as their Savior 1Cor12:13; any group that believe they are the only true church are wrong;
*8. Pastors should be servants not kings* Mat20:25-28; thechurch does not belong to the pastor but to Christ: Mat16:18, 1Tim3:15; pastors should not be women: 1Cor11:3, 14:34, Eph5:24, 1Tim2:11-14, 3:2, Tit1:6; all apostles and their disciples were men, for 1900 years pastors were men, only in the last 100 years the feminist movement touched the church; pastors can’t be apostles, in Mat19/28 and Rev21:14 only 12 apostles will be recognized as apostles; pastors are not prophets in the OT meaning of being mediators between God and people, as Jesus is today our only mediator 1Tim2:5 and every believer has the Holy Spirit dwelling inside of him: Rom8:9, 1Cor3:16 and 6:19; today God leads his people through his Word and his Spirit, pastors are using the Word to lead the flock Eph4:11-12 therefore there is no more ”thus told me the Lord last night that you should do this or that…” Pastors should not charge money for prayer, counseling and other services but be content with their salary 1Tim6:9-11, 1Pet5:2, Tit1:11, 1Tim3:8; pastors should be available to meet with the believers the soonest possible according to needs, not in weeks’ or months’ time as celebrities do; in a big church a pastor should have other assistant pastors helping him in the work;
*9. Church offerings belong to the church not to the pastor:* in the Old Testament the offerings were brought to the priests (levites) – the priests today are all the believers not the pastor only 1Pet2:5,9, Rev1:6. Pastors can receive a salary 1Tim5:18; giving should be secret Mat6:3, of a willing heart not under constraint 2Cor9:7;
*10. Evangelism* – Paul in Acts17:17 was evangelizing daily on the streets of the market place; evangelism ”one-on-one” as every Christian is called to be a witness of Jesus Acts1/8
*11. Discipleship* – Mat28:18-20 ”make disciples and teach them”. Jesus’ command can’t be fulfilled in one hour of preaching/teaching per week on Sundays; the more hours of preaching and especially teaching available, the better; a pastor should be training other pastors, unless he is not trained himself properly or is afraid to train (competition) or if he pockets church money illegally he might not be interested in supporting financially any new church planting projects;
*12. Church planting* – a living organism produces offspring; a living church should be starting other churches;
*13. Church transparency* – leadership of church should let the church know what is done with the money of the church; pastors should be accountable to a group of elders and there should be stated a method of replacing the pastor if he goes wrong, preferably replaced by a committee formed of a group of elders from the pastor’s church and elders from other churches
*14. A believer can’t be demon-possessed* as he is the temple of the Holy Spirit 1Cor3:16, but can be influenced by demons
*15. Tongues are ‘national tongues’ not angels’ languages:* Acts2:8, 1Cor12:30, 1Cor13:1, 1Cor14:1-40, Rev7:9
*16. Gift of miracles* was for a short period of time at the moment of establishing the message of the apostles: Paul would send his handkerchief and apron to touch sick people for healing and to remove spirits in Acts19:12 but later, in 2Cor12:7-10 Paul had a thorn in the flesh – a demon causing him pain – which he could not remove, Paul said to Timothy in 1Tim5:23 to drink grape juice for his stomach sickness, he left his greatest disciple Trophimus sick in Miletus in 2Tim4:20; Epaphroditus, coworker of Paul was sick near death for an extended period of time Phil2:25-30; God does heal today whenever He desires;
*17. Heaven and hell do exist today;* hell is a place of torment prepared initially for Satan and his demons Mat25:41, hell is a place where the soul is conscious as Luke 16:19-31 presents it, this passage about Lazarus is not a parable as Jesus gives the name of the poor man, ‘Lazarus’; Jesus would never use a false doctrine of tormenting hell in a parable if tormenting hell was not real;
*18. After we die only the body sleeps until the resurrection,* the soul is not sleeping but awaits the resurrection of the body, while in heaven or in hell; man is body+soul+spirit 1Thes5:23, 2Cor5:1-9 the body is a tent for the soul; Rev6/9; death of the soul means separation from God 1Tim5:6, Luke9:60.
…and of course the *motivation of a church should be the love of Christ 2Cor5:14, 1Cor13:1-13…*