"FOLLOWING JESUS WITHOUT DENOMINATIONALISM" How To Find A New Testament Church INTRODUCTION 1. In this series of lessons I have sought to propose that "Following Jesus Without Denominationalism" is possible today when we: a. Appreciate why denominationalism is wrong, and therefore disdain sectarianism b. Imitate the example of Jesus by maintaining a non-sectarian relationship with God c. Properly respond to the call of the gospel, for that is how Christ is adding people to His church d. Allow the "apostles' doctrine" to be our standard of authority in religion, recognizing that is how Christ is directing His church today e. Develop those qualities of Christ-like character enjoined in the apostolic epistles, so that we can "maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" 2. What I have proposed is really nothing new, and has been a plea expressed by many others... a. I am personally convinced that throughout church history there have always been groups of Christians seeking to follow Jesus in this way b. Even today, there are thousands of congregations composed of those who are "Following Jesus Without Denominationalism" -- Indeed, I believe there are many churches true to the example and pattern of the Lord's church as found in the New Testament 3. But suppose one wanted to find "a New Testament church" today? a. Where would they begin? b. What would they look for? 4. In this lesson, the final one in this series, I wish to offer some thoughts on "How To Find A New Testament Church" a. Not an exhaustive study, of course, but some simple suggestions that might help one get started b. These are the sort of suggestions that I myself would follow if I were seeking to find such a congregation [First, I would...] I. BEGIN WITH THE "NAME" A. THE "NAME" OF THE CONGREGATION REVEALS MUCH.... 1. It can quickly tell whether the church is concerned with "Following Jesus Without Denominationalism" 2. For if the name is a denominational name, religious division must not be a major concern of those in the congregation B. THE "NAME" SHOULD BE A SCRIPTURAL NAME... 1. There is really no one scriptural name for the Lord's church in the New Testament a. The expression "church of God" (1 Co 1:2 ), "churches of God (1 Th 2:14 ), and "churches of Christ" (Ro 16:16 ) are commonly used b. Other terms are used also, and they all reflect an association with God and Christ (body of Christ, kingdom of God, bride of Christ, temple of God, etc.) 2. But the use of scriptural names instead of a humanly-conceived name... a. Reflects a desire to follow the Scriptures, and not human tradition b. Certainly conveys a desire to honor God and Christ, and not some man, creed or particular doctrine C. UNFORTUNATELY, THE "NAME" ALONE IS NOT A SURE GUIDE... 1. Just as the name "Mrs. Smith" alone is not a sure guide if you were seeking to find the wife of a Tom Smith a. For there are a lot of women who go by the name, "Mrs. Smith" b. But only one who bears the name is properly Tom's wife! 2. So there may be many congregations that bear the name of Christ or God that may not be truly honoring them! a. For example, there are over 200 separate denominations that use the expression "Church of God" b. Likewise, there may be "Churches of Christ" that are no less denominational than any church with a denominational name! 3. Yet I would still recommend beginning with the name, and in particular those congregations that use the expression "church of Christ" a. Because so many denominations have chosen to use the expression "church of God", the likelihood of simply finding a denomination is much greater b. Whereas most "churches of Christ" I have known are seeking to follow Jesus without denominationalism, therefore the possibilities of find a church true to the New Testament are greater [But even when one has found a church that is non-denominational, that does not automatically mean the people are truly members of the Lord's body. That is why I suggest the next step is to...] II. EXAMINE THE "GOSPEL" BEING PREACHED A. REMEMBER HOW CHRIST IS BUILDING HIS CHURCH... 1. Through the gospel, Christ calls us - 2 Th 2:14 2. As we heed the gospel call, the Lord adds us to His body, the church - Ac 2:41 ,47 3. That is why it is so important that the gospel not be perverted in any way - Ga 1:6-9 B. IF THE GOSPEL IS DIFFERENT... 1. By changing either the facts or commands of the gospel 2. Then people are not being saved, and the Lord is not adding them to His church! C. A CHURCH WITH A PERVERTED GOSPEL... 1. May have the nicest people, but they are still unregenerate people! 2. May wear the name of Christ, both as individuals and as a church, but are not truly the people of God! [So while a group of people may identify themselves as a "church of God" or "church of Christ", it is only Christ who truly makes them such when they properly respond to the call of the gospel. That is why it is imperative a church teaches the pure and simple gospel of Christ! A final suggestion, but one that might require very careful examination over a period of time, is to...] III. COMPARE THE "PRACTICE" WITH THE NEW TESTAMENT PATTERN A. IN THE NEW TESTAMENT, WE FIND A PATTERN... 1. The N.T. describes the early church during its first 60 years 2. A careful study of Acts and the epistles reveal a picture of the church 3. From this picture, a pattern emerges in reference to: a. The worship of the church b. The work of the church c. The organization of the church 4. This pattern emerges as we see the early Christians continuing steadfastly in the "apostles' doctrine" B. A CHURCH ABIDING IN THE "APOSTLES' DOCTRINE" WILL REFLECT THIS PATTERN... 1. Their worship will be like that described in the New Testament a. Involving such elements as singing, prayer, Bible study, preaching, and the Lord's Supper - Co 3:16 ; 4:2; 2 Ti 2: 2,15; 4:2; Ac 20:7 ; 1 Co 10:16-17 ; 11:23-29 b. Their assemblies seeking to provoke one another to love and good works - He 10:24-25 2. Their work as a congregation will be similar to that found in the New Testament a. Equipping the saints for ministry (edification) - Ep 4: 11-16 b. Furthering the spread of the gospel by sending out evangelists (evangelism) - Ph 4:15-16 ; 3 Jn 5-8 c. Meeting the needs of the saints as problems arise (benevolence) - Ro 15:25-26 ; 1 Co 16:1-4 ; 2 Co 8:1-9:15 3. Their organization as a congregation will seek to be like that found in the New Testament - cf. Ph 1:1 a. With elders (also known as bishops, pastors, presbyters, shepherds) qualified to oversee and tend to the local congregation - Ac 14:23 ; 20:28; 1 Ti 3:1-7 ; Ti 1:5-9 ; 1 Pe 5:1-4 b. With deacons also qualified to serve as they minister to the local congregation - 1 Ti 3:8-13 c. With saints (members) who sojourn in this world with conduct that is honorable and which gives glory to God - cf. 1 Pe 2:9-12 CONCLUSION 1. By carefully studying the "pattern" of the Lord's church as revealed in the New Testament, we can know when a congregation is faithfully observing the "apostles' doctrine" a. This places upon each of us the responsibility of carefully studying the Scriptures b. For only then can we be able to distinguish between the "authentic" and a "counterfeit" 2. I am confident that there are many "authentic" congregations all over the world... a. It is likely that one exists in your community already! b. Please feel free to contact me if you think I might be able to help you find one 3. But even if we live in an area where there is no church that "continues steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine", we can start one in our own home! - cf. Ro 16:5 ; Phile 1-2 a. By proclaiming the simple gospel of Christ, and abiding in the "apostles' doctrine" as revealed in the New Testament... b. This will not be some new denomination, but simply a church of the Lord, a congregation of disciples that meet together to worship God and edify one another in their service to the Lord Are you "Following Jesus Without Denominationalism"? Don't you wish to? Remember the prayer of our Lord: "I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word;" "that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me." "And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one:" "I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me." -- Jn 17:20-23 May all those who have come to believe in Jesus strive to be one!