Just last month, my husband and I moved to a new town. Yesterday, we began the search for the church God has for us. Our actual address may be small town Texas, but since we live on the fringes of the Dallas/Ft Worth area, church choices abound. We could visit for months – maybe even years – without attending the same church twice.
How do we begin? How can we narrow our search? Before we made the first visit, we narrowed the possibilities significantly based on what the church believes.
What? Doesn’t the preaching and the music and the programs and the community involvement carry a lot of weight? Does a church’s doctrine really matter that much?
Yes, a church’s doctrine is that important. Not only do the biblical truths and principles on which it stands shape its people and its ministry, but if what it believes does not align correctly with God’s Word, then the church is not following Christ.
I realize that’s a bold, brazen statement, but it’s based on the teaching of the New Testament. For instance, in Paul’s letters to the churches in Corinth and Galatia, one of his primary purposes in writing was to combat false teaching and to admonish them to cling to the truth of Jesus (2 Corinthians 11:3-4, Galatians 1:6-9). Paul describes the warped gospel they were following as “no gospel at all.”
And in the book of Revelation, Jesus Himself called the churches in Pergamum and Thyatira to repent from following false teaching before they experienced God’s discipline (Revelation 2:14-16, 20-22).
Yes, what a church believes – and therefore teaches and acts on – absolutely matters.
I can hear wheels turning. Do you mean everything? What about the differences between denominations? Are you saying that only one denomination is right?!
Many differences between denominations and even individual churches within denominations are peripheral to the heart of God’s gospel. They do not impact key doctrinal truths. These kinds of differences can be held loosely. In fact, we can enjoy and even celebrate the variety within God’s church.
Things like style of music, order of worship, and areas of ministry focus broaden and strengthen the worldwide church. Even other beliefs like the role of women in ministry, the view of end times, and the structure of church leadership are not considered core essential truths. These types of areas are considered “minor doctrines.” There is room for differences.
But in other areas, those considered to be “major doctrines,” there is little if any room for difference. With these doctrines – ones that are central to Christianity and have significant impact on other doctrines – we must hold firm. These fundamental truths flow from the nature and character of God and His saving work.
We can’t fully cover all these major doctrines in one blog post. But here is a quick list of many of these essential truths:
- The nature of God
- The Trinity
- The deity of Jesus
- The authority of the Bible
- The nature of mankind and our need for salvation
- Salvation solely through faith in Jesus
- The death and resurrection of Jesus
- The return of Jesus
What a church believes about essential doctrines are deal breakers for me and my husband. For instance, if a church believes there is something more required for salvation than faith in Jesus – or that salvation can be found anywhere else – that one doesn’t make the cut. If a church doesn’t hold to the truth that God is one God yet three distinct persons, there is no need for us to visit.
Why are we so dogmatic? A church that does not hold to the essential truths of the Christian gospel is not following the gospel at all. Overall, as believers, we can be gracious in those minor doctrines, the non-essentials, but we must be hold tight to the essential truths of our faith.
If you aren’t sure what your church believes about the major doctrines, find out. Many churches have “statement of beliefs” on their website. (I even have one on this website!) If you aren’t sure what you believe, start studying! Of course the Bible is your first and primary source. But if you’d like some additional resources, check out the list below.
Do you know what your church believes about the major doctrines? Does it matter to you?
- Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
- Why Do I Believe That? by Mary Jo Sharp
- Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem
- God’s Truth Revealed by Kathy Howard – more info, Amazon
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I know you’ll have resources and referrals in the DFW area, and I don’t know what area you are living in, but check out Watermark. The main location is on LBJ near Hillcrest. There is a satellite location in Ft Worth and one on 75 in the Plano/Allen area. Lots of information is available on the website, including past sermons. Areas of service abound for church, community, and beyond. Before we moved a little farther north I served for a while in Questcare Clinic. Now that’s an amazing ministry. No church is perfect, but they do a lot of things right.
Jamie, thanks for the suggestion! Watermark has a great reputation as a solid church. But the closest campus is 50 miles away from us. Probably too far to be vitally connected!
Thank you for sharing Kathy!! Always love your wisdom & how God speaks through you!
The word of God, thus God Himself disagrees with your presumption that structure of leadership in His church and I assume when u said women’s ministry, u meant woman as pastor teacher and alder in the church. If you think as you suggested that thise are not core doctrines that the body of Christ the church, His church should adhere to then you are unbiblically sound on thise matters. Scriptures are clear all you need to do is read 1 Timothy 2, and honor God’s word. Let the Lord have His say and do not add to His word unless He rebukes you and you be found a lier. Proverbs 30:6.
Thank you for coming by and adding your thoughts to this post. Of course everything in God’s Word is important and we should all strive to understand it and live it as God intends. However, some doctrinal truths are more directly related to the nature of God and the nature of our salvation than others. These are what I would consider core doctrines. And I constantly pray that God would help me to handle all of His Word correctly.