Biblical Churches

Q. I need advice on how to know if a church that I have visited while away from home is really Biblically centered. I’m including a sample prayer that made me uneasy:
     "Before me in the planned shape of this day
     I look for the unexpected surgings of new life.
     Around me in the people whom I know and love
     I look for unopened gifts of promise.
     Within me in the familiar sanctuary of my own soul
     I look for the shinings of the everlasting light.
     Before me, around me, within me
     I look for your life-giving mystery, O God,
     before me, around me, within me."


A. Your concerns may well have been justified.  Prayers like this that are deliberately general, even pantheistic, have a new age/Buddhist flavor to them, in that they could be interpreted in a number of different ways.  They could be prayed from the perspective of a Christian who believes in the indwelling Holy Spirit and the omnipresence of God in every place and everything.  But they could have as well been prayed by those who believe in the “god within each one of us” or the eastern mysticism that believes that everything is part of God.  False teaching often comes in the form of nebulous phrases and indiscriminate language, enabling the hearer to believe what he prefers rather than what is clearly set forth in the Bible. Sometimes it’s as subtle as the pastor saying that you should listen for the word of God, instead of saying listen to the Word of God before reading Scripture. That little difference speaks volumes about respecting the Bible as inerrant and thinking of it as a good book.

When it’s possible, you might want to do a bit of research before choosing a church to visit. Some denominations, including those who are members of the National Association of Evangelicals, are very specific in describing their beliefs and are well known for their faithfulness to Biblical standards. They would include our own denomination, the Presbyterian Church in America, the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Southern Baptists, independent Bible churches, and many others.

Generally speaking, a Biblical church will hold to the five fundamentals of the Evangelical Faith (i.e., Gospel religion).  These five fundamentals are:
1. The infallibility/inerrancy of the Bible
2. The divinity of Jesus Christ: God in human flesh
3. The sinless life, atoning death, the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ
4. Salvation through faith alone in Christ alone (justification by faith)
5. The personal, bodily return of Jesus Christ to judge the living and the dead; and the existence of an eternal heaven and hell

A Biblical church will be characterized by the historic three marks of a true church: (1) the true preaching of God’s Word, (2) the correct administration of the sacraments (Baptism and the Lord’s Supper), and (3) the proper use of church discipline.  Some books that may help you know how to look for a true church are these:
The House That Jesus Built: A Welcome to Church by Dale Ralph Davis (Christian Focus)
What Is A Reformed Church by Stephen Smallman (P&R Publishers)
The City on a Hill: Reclaiming the Biblical Pattern for the Church in the 21st Century, by Philip Graham Ryken (Moody Publishers)