Tuesday, March 12, 2013

How to Recognize a Real Church (Trailer)

I was listening to a radio program years ago, Christian radio station, and somebody called in--it was one of those talk programs--and said, “What do I look for in a church?” And I turned up the volume because I wanted to hear the answer. And the answer was, and I wrote it down, you look for fellowship, caring, and sharing--that’s most important. You might find that in a bar. You might find that in a club. You might find that in a thousand sociological associations and events; that’s not the right answer.

How do you choose a church? Some people would be pretty superficial about it. There was a study done a number of years ago that said, “The most important thing that a church does to attract people is to provide parking.” Parking was number one. Number two was nursery. And I kept reading, looking for pastor, but he didn’t appear until number six or so. There were all these things that people assumed were the important aspects--style, comfort, music, air-conditioning, friendliness.

What are you looking for in a church? And what should a church be? Well, that is a question that has very clear, biblical answers. But just to give you sort of a basic answer, and this would be Ecclesiology 101, there’s really only one issue: How do those people who gather together handle Scripture? That’s the issue. How do they handle the Word of God? What do they believe about the Bible? What do they believe the Bible teaches. How does the Bible inform their living and their preaching and their teaching?

I suppose it could be summed up by the psalmist in Psalm 119:161 who said, “My heart stands in awe of Your Word.” “My heart stands in awe of Your Word.” The purest demonstration of a true church is that it is an assembly of people who are in awe of the Word of God. In the language of Isaiah 66, they tremble at His Word. They tremble at His Word. Among those who are the architects of stylistic ministry today, it’s very popular to say that the traditional church has failed. That’s a very common thing to hear.

One of my friends recently wrote a little article on that, sort of pointing it out that the church is indicted repeatedly today as a failure--the church has failed. And they say the church has failed. Look at the world; that’s evidence of the church’s failure. Look at America and its moral decline and its abandoning of Scripture. And there’s very little question that we’re on a path and it kind of goes like this: eliminate the Bible; that’s step one. Eliminate the Bible--out of the public discourse, out of everything. Step two, then, is reverse morality. Do what Isaiah 5 says, turn bitter into sweet, sweet into bitter, light into dark, dark into light, good into bad, bad into good. And now the crime is not to affirm homosexuality, not to affirm immorality. Flip morality on its head.

The third step is demand tolerance. The fourth step is intolerance of those who are not tolerant. And the fifth step is persecution. And we’re fast moving toward that last step of persecution.

Watch, listen, read or download the full message by John MacArthur here.

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