Have you ever noticed the differences in a family. My four kids for example, Joshua was the academic while Jeremiah was the athlete. With the girls, Jill was into dresses and “girly” things but Jennifer was the tomboy.
Within the body of Christ, churches are the same way. One church may have astonishing musical talent while the church across town has a strong teen ministry. One church may have very formal services where everyone knows when to sit or stand while another church is very informal in their services while almost doing everything in a spur-of-the-moment type style.
Many Christians will choose a church based on these differences, they make their choice based on the music or the style of service or something else that sets that church apart from others. The important things for a church is not the things that set it apart from others but the things that all true churches have in common, the foundation that all authentic churches are built upon and the pillars that extend from that foundation that hold the church in place.
Every true church must be devoted to the foundation and these pillars , without these the church ceases to be a church. The building may still be there, services may still be being held, but the outcome is a social club, a mere gathering pont for friends. The foundations are non-negotiable and cannot be compromised. These truths are the marks of a true, authentic church.
Pillar #1 - Glory to God is our purpose, He is God, there is no other.
Every church, every Christian, needs to understand that their purpose, their objective is: to bring glory to God (1 Cor. 10:31). Many churches have switched their focus from God to the needs of men. Often people enter into churches with the thought of “How can I be served here?” If they have children their main concern is the children/youth ministry. If music is their main focus, when they walk in they first look to the stage to see if the church has a band or, at least, a choir. “How can I serve God here?” is, at best, an afterthought, if a thought at all.
God is God, there is no other. He deserves and demands first place in our hearts (Deut. 6:4; 10:12; 11:13; 13:3; 30:6, Josh22:5). Christ even explains that loving God with all that we are is the greatest commandment of them all (Mt. 22:36-38, Mk. 12:28-30). He even told one man that loving Him is essential to the faith that gives us eternal life (Lk. 10:25-28).
When a church moves from a place that loves and serves God, to a place that serves man it has ceased from what God wanted the church to be. Psalm 23:1 “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” explains to us that when our relationship with God is right, our view of our needs will also be right.
Pillar #2 - The Bible is the Absolute Authority.
The above passage explains how the Scripture is to be loved and cherished.
We are to keep it in our hearts (v6). How much Scripture have you memorized?
We are to teach it to our children at every possible moment (v7). When was the last time you looked into the night sky with your child and explained how God spoke those stars into being? When was the last time you looked at a lowly ant and taught your child that God wants us to be industrious (Prov. 6:6)?
We are to keep the Word of God where we can see it (v8). How often do you spend 10 minutes on Sunday morning trying to find where you put your Bible because you can’t remember the last time you’ve seen it?
Just as the Jews were to mount the Scripture on gates and doorpost (v9), when people come by our way they should know that the Word of God is what we have built our lives around. When people enter your life do they see God’s Word in the foreground?
The Bible is true, therefore, it is authoritative. The Bible is true, therefore, disobeying it is foolish. The statement ; “The Bible is true, therefore, I can’t trust it so I will do what I please.” makes no sense whatsoever, but this is how many Christians live their lives. With their tongue they will proclaim the truth of the Scriptures but with their actions they proclaim they don’t really believe it.
When a church starts relying on tradition or the opinions of a select few or some other book(s), it has ceased from being a true church.
Pillar #3 - Sound Doctrine.
2 Tim 3:16
Similar to pillar #2 in the fact that our doctrine should only come from the authority of the Scriptures; the point here is deeper. Sound doctrine needs to be preached. Many churches have gone the path of having the pulpit no more that a motivational tool. Sermons about hell have all but disappeared. Other Biblical truths such as the fact we are all sinners, redemption through the blood of Calvary, Satan, the attributes of God, the work of the Holy Spirit, baptism, eternal security and others have all gone to the wayside to topics such as “How to win over depression” or “What to say to your teenager.”
Not that these topics are not to be discussed but often they are preached from the view of the world’s psychology and not from the standpoint of the Scripture and what would give God the most glory (remember our main purpose).
Interwoven in Biblical doctrine is how to win over depression and what to say to your teenager among countless other answers to the issues of life. Churches should teach and Christians should learn enough of the Bible to draw out divine principles and apply them to their lives. God’s people need solid, sound Biblical doctrine to build solid, sound lives upon (Mt. 7:26-29).
Pillar #4 - Holiness.
2 Tim 3:16-17
No less than ten times (Ex. 19:6, Lev. 11:45; 19:2, 1 Chron. 16:29, Lk. 1:74-75, 2 Cor. 7:1, Eph. 4:24, Heb. 12:14, 1 Pet. 1:16, 2 Pet 3:11) we are commanded to be holy or act in an holy manner.
Please note that I used the same passage for this pillar as pillar #3 except that I added a verse. Notice that three of the reasons for the scripture along with doctrine is reproof, correction and instruction in righteousness (v16). God did this so we may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. God commanded us to be holy then He gave us His Word so that we can know how to live that way. It must be important to Him.
Hand in hand with holiness is commitment. Many Christians think they are committed because they are active, always busy doing something for the church. Commitment is not just doing something for God, it’s doing what God wants, in other words, keeping His commandments (Ecc. 12:13). Obviously, since He told us at least ten times, God wants us to be holy. Many Christians of today don’t care about holiness or the fact that they are living with sin in their lives. Many live a life that shows they think they can be half-hearted in their commitment to Christ and yet expect that God will work through them (Rev 3:14-22).
Pillar #5 - Christ is the Head.
Eph. 1:22, 4:15
Christ is the head of the church. All the pillars before this goes back to God and his Word. God gets the glory. It is Him we follow and we do that by obeying His Word. Christ is head of the church. Any church that loses sight of this is no longer a church.
We have church officers and God does want us to follow them (Heb 13:7, Eph. 4:11-13) but those leaders must understand they are there to watch over the souls that they lead and are not there for personal gain (Heb 13:17-18). As said before, God is to receive the glory.
Churches will differ, some will be better at some things than others. Some will excel in some areas and fall short in others. Four of the churches of the churches in Revelation Christ says some good things about and bad things as well. Don’t expect for your church to be perfect but strive for it to be.
Regardless of how different our churches may be this does stand true: there are certain truths that cannot be denied, they cannot be compromised.
1. Giving glory to God is our purpose. He is to be #1 in our hearts.
2. The Bible is the final and absolute authority.
3. Sound doctrine founded on the Word of God.
4. Holiness among the believers.
5. Christ is the head of the church.
When you have Christ as the foundation and these five pillars holding the church up, you have a church indeed.