Finding a church is like going on a bunch of blind dates and not knowing what to expect. It can be stressful, overwhelming, and downright frustrating and we often don’t find what we’re looking for.
As a New Believer, it is essential to find a healthy and biblically sound Church right away. Many Churches are falling away into Progressive Christianity, letting new age practices into the church, and not preaching the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. Quite frankly, they are not doing their job to keep Christ’s Church healthy, strong, and equipped to spread the Good News.
With the help of an amazing site, 9marks.org, I’m going to share with you 9 categories to look for in a church that would qualify it as healthy. It is a great resource to help you find a healthy, biblically sound church in your area by using the Church Search option on their site.
Here are the 9 categories you should be looking at in your search for a church.
The Preaching you should be looking for in a healthy church is called Expositional Preaching. This kind of preaching takes a passage of Scripture, makes it the main point of the sermon, and applies it to our daily life. Genesis 1:3, Isaiah 55:10-11, Acts 12:24, to name a few, express that God accomplishes his agenda through speaking. God’s power is evident in sermons that are preaching God’s word. Why is this important? “God’s Word is what convicts, converts, builds up, and sanctifies God’s people (Heb. 4:12; 1 Pet. 1:23; 1 Thess. 2:13; Jn. 17:17). Preaching that makes the main point of the text the main point of the sermon makes God’s agenda rule the church, not the preacher’s” (9marks.org).”
2. Biblical Theology
Biblical Theology is known as Systemic Theology. And is looked at as a method of studying scripture which sees the Bible as one story crowning with the work of Christ. It is considered sound doctrine and beliefs that are according to Scripture. The whole Bible is sound doctrine. The New Testament emphasizes how important sound doctrine is for healthy Christians and healthy churches (1 Tim. 1:5, 2 John 1-6, and Titus 2:1-10). And why is this important? Well, it’s essential for Evangelism, Discipleship, Unity, and Worship (2 of those being categories of a healthy church)!
3. The Gospel
To be a healthy Christian, it is absolutely non negotiable to have a church that spreads the Good News. As a New Believer, you might not know what the Good News really is. It is The Gospel.
As 9marks.org puts it, “The good news is that:
- The one and only God who is holy made us in his image to know him (Gen. 1:26-28).
- But we sinned and cut ourselves off from him (Gen. 3; Rom. 3:23).
- In his great love, God became a man in Jesus, lived a perfect life, and died on the cross, thus fulfilling the law himself and taking on himself the punishment for the sins of all those who would ever turn from their sin and trust in him (John 1:14; Heb. 7:26; Rom. 3:21-26, 5:12-21).
- He rose again from the dead, showing that God accepted Christ’s sacrifice and that God’s wrath against us had been exhausted (Acts 2:24, Rom. 4:25).
- He now calls us to repent of our sins and trust in Christ alone for our forgiveness (Acts 17:30, John 1:12). If we repent of our sins and trust in Christ, we are born again into a new life, an eternal life with God (John 3:16).
- He is gathering one new people to himself among all those who submit to Christ as Lord (Matt. 16:15-19; Eph. 2:11-19).”
One of the best accounts of the gospel in Scripture is Romans 1-4. To read a concise overview of the gospel, look at 1 Corinthians 15:1-4.
Why is it important? It’s important to understand the gospel from a biblical standpoint.
9marks.org says, “the gospel is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.” Plus, how a church operates comes from their understanding of the gospel.
Surrendering ourselves to Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior creates a process of conversion. It is a change of heart and mind. We become different people. We are becoming sanctified in Christ. God gives life to the dead (Eph 2:5), gives sight to the blind (2 Cor 4:3-6), and gives the gifts of faith and repentance (Phil. 1:29; Acts 11:18). In turn, we repent of our sin (Mk 1:15; Acts 3:19) and believe that Jesus is our Lord and Savior (Jn 3:16; Rom 3:21-26).
The promotion of conversion in a good sign of a healthy church.
Evangelism is telling non-Christians about the gospel and calling people to repentance and belief in Jesus Christ. This is not a difficult task and it is important to do it in a biblical manner. 9marks.org says, “In order to biblically evangelize you must:
- Preach the whole gospel, even the hard news about God’s wrath against our sin.
- Call people to repent of their sins and trust in Christ.
- Make it clear that believing in Christ is costly, but worth it.”
The Bible is filled with teachings on evangelism and examples of evangelistic preaching (See Matt. 28:19-20; Rom. 10:14-17; 1 Pet 3:15-16; Acts 2:14-41, 3:12-26, 13:16-49, 17:22-31; Romans 1-4 and 1 Corinthians 15:1-4).
Finding a church that is clear on the biblical understanding of the gospel so that you don’t become misled or manipulated into hearing a message that is of false doctrine is of utmost importance.
The church are members of the Body of Christ. Which is why as Christians, we are called to be members of the church. It’s a commitment for every Christian to find a healthy church home.
Why is this important? As written by 9marks.org, “Biblical church membership is important because the church presents God’s witness to himself in the world. It displays his glory. In the church’s membership, then, non-Christians should see in the lives of God’s changed people that God is holy and gracious and that his gospel is powerful for saving and transforming sinners.”
Church discipline is the second part of membership. There are many forms of church discipline according to 9marks.org: teaching, preaching, prayer, corporate worship, accountability relationships, and godly oversight by pastors and elders. It’s the church’s way of helping its members fight against sin and pursue righteousness.
The New Testament speaks on corrective discipline and formative discipline (See Matthew 18:15-17, 1 Corinthians 5:1-13, 2 Corinthians 2:6, 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15, Ephesians4:11-31, and Philippians 2:1-18.) Discipline is important in reaching spiritual maturity and bearing the fruits of the spirit.
Discipleship is the act of teaching or training other Christians.
Scripture teaches that we are growing as Christians (2 Peter 1:8-10) and that we learn by imitation (1 Corinthians 4:16; 11:1). This is why it is crucial to find a church that emphasizes discipleship. What does that look like? I would look for churches who offer Bible Study groups, kinship groups, small groups, retreats, children programs, membership classes, and godly, qualified leaders. As 9marks.org puts it, “The point is that, according to Scripture, all Christians should grow in Christ, imitate other godly Christians, and encourage others in their growth in Christlikeness.”
We will continue to fight against sin. We need guidance and support from our fellow Christians and leaders in the church to do this. This is why Discipleship is important.
According to Scripture, the church should be led by godly, disciplined men called elders. Qualifications for elders are laid out by Paul in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9. Many other references to elders in different passages can be found in Acts 14:23; 20:17, 1 Timothy 4:14; 5:17, and James 5:14.
Why is this important? 9marks.org writes, “God gifts churches with elders to
- feed God’s sheep God’s word (Jn. 21:15-17),
- guide the sheep (1 Tim. 4:16; 1 Pet. 5:3, Heb. 13:7),
- and protect the sheep from attackers (Acts 20:27-29; 2 Tim. 4:3-4; Tit. 1:9),
- while protecting both themselves and the church through the wisdom of their plurality (Prov. 11:14; 24:6).
Biblical church leadership is important because without it, God’s people are like sheep without shepherds.”
Finding a Church
I know this is a lot of information and you might be thinking how do I know if my church follows these 9 categories? The best answer is to use the Church Search option on 9marks.org and to physically attend the church for yourself to see if it is a healthy and biblically sound church.
In our experience, we had multiple churches in our area that met this criteria. We picked the one that we felt the most welcomed and comfortable in. For more information on this, visit 9marks.org.
*I am not an affiliate of this website. I only share what I have found to be helpful on my journey with Christ.