Churches Should Be Biblical

The following is taken from the book Comeback Churches, by author and speaker Ed Stetzer and co-author Mike Dodson.[1]

“The following six criteria exist in all biblical churches:

Scriptural Authority: the apostles continually appealed to the Old Testament as their authority in preaching and teaching. Peter’s sermon in Acts 2 and Stephen’s sermon in Acts 7 are dramatic examples. In his itinerant ministry, Paul customarily began ministering in the synagogue, showing from the Scriptures that Jesus must be the Messiah (Acts 17:2-3). In 2 Timothy 3:15-17, Paul established for all time the authority of the Scriptures in the life of the church.

Biblical Leadership: Churches need leadership, a fact that is obvious in the New Testament. There are differences in those leadership positions, titles, and roles, but leadership is an integral part of God’s plan for the church. The New Testament speaks of elders, bishops, pastors, deacons, evangelists, prophets, and apostles. The church may have organized itself differently in different places and at different times, but the churches were organized and led by leaders. These leaders all gave themselves to equipping the believers for ministry (Eph. 4:11-12). The Scriptures instruct believers to accord these leaders “double-honor” (1 Timothy 5:17).

Preaching and Teaching: People need to hear, read, study, apply, and meditate on God’s Word (Romans 10:14; John 8:32; 2 Timothy 2:15; etc.). The lost need to hear the truth of the gospel, and the redeemed need biblical instruction to grow to maturity. Sadly, for many modern believers worship has come to mean the singing and responses that precede the sermon. True worship is more than that and in a church service it includes both praise and preaching. The style and length of the sermon varies from culture to culture, but the preaching and teaching of God’s Word has to be a transcultural constant.

Ordinances: The church at Jerusalem devoted itself to the “breaking of bread” (Acts 2:42). This references the Lord’s Supper. Jesus’ command to “do this in remembrance of me” and the apostle Paul’s instructions in 1 Corinthians 11 show how important the Lord’s Supper was, and is, to the church. Jesus commissioned His disciples to baptize the nations, and the book of Acts and the epistles show that the early church faithfully baptized new believers (Acts 2:41).

Covenant Community: Biblically, the church is not comprised of some who are believers in covenant community and some who are not. The letter of James insists that all the believers be treated the same. As a covenant community, believers share several common ideals, as reflected in Acts 2:42-47. First, they share doctrinal convictions. Acts 2:42 says the believers “continued in the apostle’s doctrine.” They diligently learned the lessons taught by the apostles. They also devoted themselves to congregational prayer. They prayed for each other, bearing one another’s burdens. They met the physical and financial needs of their fellow believers. When necessary, they exercised church discipline.

Mission: Churches are called to the mission of propagating the gospel. Scripture clearly and frequently teaches this. Mission includes the task of worldwide evangelism, social justice, meeting human needs, and many other activities. The acts of the early Christians demonstrate their understanding of Christ’s expectations. Jesus’ last words to His disciples, recorded in Acts and in each of the four Gospels, pertain to missions. Many churches today forget that the church did mission as it learned to apply its theology.”

May we lead the church to embrace these six criteria.


[1] Stetzer, Ed and Dodson, Mike. Comeback Churches. (Nashville: Broadman, 2007), 2-4.

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