If an organization calls itself atheistic but is filled with people who believe in God, is that the right name for it? If a Marxist organization is made up of people who reject the philosophy of Karl Marx and constantly argue for the principles of Capitalism, is it a Marxist organization? The answer is obvious.
So if an organization calls itself a church and yet doesn’t believe or do anything that Christ commands, or if it believes and does exactly the opposite of his clearly stated will, then is it really a Christian church? From the New Testament’s view, the answer has to be no. The church must be that body of people that above everything else lives to fulfill the commands of Jesus.
Can the church be made up of people who don’t believe that Jesus is the Son of God and the sole savior of the world? Can the church really be the church if it believes that there are no absolute truths to believe in? Is it possible for an organization to be the church if its members habitually and deliberately violate the Ten Commandments and encourage others to do so because “we now have a better understanding of things?” The answer for the last two thousand years has been no.
Today we are faced with these very issues. Much that is called the Christian church has either outright rejected or merely neglected all that has ever been known as Christian thought and behavior. In many denominations the majority of their clergy reject the claim that Jesus is the only way to salvation, many if not most of their members do not think that there is any absolute truth to believe in (“we all have our own truth”), and lies, slander, innuendo, stealing, and much more are acceptable in their congregations, or at least carry no consequences. Church discipline intelligently applied, once considered one of the chief marks of the true church, is virtually unheard of.
Another mark of a genuine church is whether society is positively affected by the life of the church. The church has always claimed that the Gospel is the medicine for a sick world and in many generations and places on the globe it has actually helped to remedy a good portion of society’s problems, including addictions, crime, poverty, unemployment, immorality, depression, suicide prevention, and much more. Some theologians have argued that if the culture is in a big mess, then it’s primarily the fault of the church. If the church has the medicine but doesn’t apply it, then it becomes part (if not the source) of the problem.
Ask yourself this question: How many churches are there in your city and do they have an obvious and measurable impact upon the community’s life and health? Let us thank God for the churches that still stand for all they should and are making a difference in the lives of their surrounding communities.