There are at least 5 marks of a genuine church:
1. The pure preaching of the word of God (Acts 2:42, 20:20,27, 1 Timothy 1:3-7,18-20, 4:16, 6:3-5,20, 2 Timothy 1:13, 2:1- 2,15, 3:14-17, 4:1-5).
What is preached must be the Christ-centred gospel. Pure preaching has to humble the pride of man by showing man to be a needy and helpless, poor and wretched sinner who needs God’s mercy and the grace of Christ to be saved. Pure preaching has to exalt the glory of God in Christ by showing Jesus to be the one and only hope for sinners from whom there is full pardon for sins and eternal.
2. Biblical leadership (Acts 6:1-6; 1& 2Timothy and Titus)
There are only two officers prescribed in the bible for each church – the elders and the deacons (Philippians 1:1; 1Timothy 3:1-13). Elders also called pastors or overseers/bishops provide spiritual oversight to the church (preaching & prayer). Each church is also to appoint men who cater for their material needs called deacons. Both officers must be blameless in their character, family life and ministry, to qualify to serve in the church of Christ.
3. Genuine membership:
While everyone is welcome to attend church, only genuine Christians form the membership of the church. As Christians we are to be a family, committed to each other; to love, accept, and forgive each other until death or God’s call causes us to part.
We are to live in Jesus Christ and take his commands seriously. We are to help one another grow toward Christian maturity by: bearing one another’s burdens, encouraging one another, exhorting one another, praying for one another, confessing our sins to one another, speaking the truth in love to one another, admonishing one another, building up one another, teaching one another, comforting one another, submitting to one another, serving one another, patiently bearing with one another, being hospitable to one another, living in peace with one another, regarding one another as more significant than ourselves, caring for one another, exercising our spiritual gifts to serve one another, being kind and tender-hearted to one another, being devoted to one another, accepting one another, forgiving one another, loving one another and greeting one another.
4. Right administration of the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
Baptism is only for true believers of any age. Whoever shows his/her faith by desiring to be fully committed to Christ and to the local church (Acts 2:41-42). Baptism must not be administered to a person because they were born of believing parents or went through a Bible class (therefore infant baptism is unacceptable). Baptism should be in the name of the triune God (Matthew 28:19). Baptism should be performed by immersion in water because:
1) The Greek word for baptism means ‘plunge, dip, immerse’;
2) All the examples of baptism in the Bible show that it was by immersion (Mark 1:5 “in”, 1:10 “out of”, John 3:23 “much water”, Acts 8:38-39 “down into” and ‘up out of”);
3) It is a symbolism of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection (Romans 6:3-4, Colossians 2:12).
The Lord’s Supper is for the members of a local church and saved visitors from other true local churches. It should be celebrated according to 1 Corinthians 11:17-34.
- 5. Right application of discipline to members who do not live according to the word.
God’s church is holy and must be preserved as such. A little leaven (sin) left undealt with in one person will affect the whole church (1 Corinthians 5:6). Therefore, those who indulge in sin must be purged from the church so that the church can remain in splendour, without spot or wrinkle or blemish (Ephesians 5:27). Christ is coming to His church as bride that is holy in His own sight (not in sight of men. The church prepare for His coming by rejecting sin and excommunicating unrepentant members.
When evaluating your church, please consider that your feelings must be subjugated to conform to the truth of God’s Word. You must not evaluate any church based on your feelings, tastes and preference.