How do I find the true church of Jesus Christ?

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 7:21

There is no doubt that we in the Westernised world live in a post-Christian era, in a culture which has become predominantly secular. Globally, the traditional Christian church has, for the most part, lost its identity and degenerated into a human organisation with human goals. However, one thing is certain - the true body of Christ is alive and full of vibrant spiritual life, upheld by its true head, Jesus Christ. On every continent in every country, gatherings of true believers are to be found meeting in churches or other buildings, or in homes, in (often) small numbers, as it was at the birth of the Church in Acts. We just need to know what to look for in order to find them.

Where shall we start our scrutiny? The mainstream denominations have largely become nothing more than a Christian facade for secular organisations using some Christian vocabulary. Attempting to remain 'relevant' in society for the sake of survival, community service is their goal, ‘tolerance of all’ is their catch-cry, and psychology is the basis of their message. Jesus is introduced not as one who came to save sinners from their separation from God but as one who had a 'social passion' for society. They call for political reform, ecumenical unity, social justice and global peace. To justify their place in Christianity words like 'redemption' and 'regeneration' are re-defined in terms of their social agenda. The majority of these denominations also belong to the World Council of Churches - an organisation which supports the aim of uniting all world religions no matter which god they serve or worship. It is highly unlikely that you will find the true body of Christ in these congregations.

In some churches there is a distinct reliance on the latest business management techniques, and pastors are better described as CEO's - with the salaries to match. There is much hype and showmanship, which most people with any degree of discernment will easily detect. The Gospel is 'marketed' on the basis of benefits, and God as the means to prosperity. Accordingly, the content of 'words of knowledge' and 'prophecies' in these churches is mostly centred on blessings, and human health and well-being. The natural man and his gifts (and the accompanying pride) are greatly built up in these gatherings. Personally, I have struggled to find the true body of Christ in these types of churches.

Others again seem to advocate that having the correct Doctrine is of paramount importance, and this overshadows the life and direction of the church. One is left with the impression that the members of these churches believe that to get into heaven everyone will sit an exam and entry is dependent on being able to explain the Doctrine of Salvation properly! Rules and regulations – from Scripture, of course - are very important, and rigorously enforced. Unfortunately, I have personal experience of just such a church, and the sad truth is that there is a marked hardness of heart in the members and a severe lack of the love of Christ. Apparently forsaking their First Love, these members could well have been those for whom the phrase ‘cold charity’ was coined. Moreover, the public behaviour of these churchgoers often belies that which is practised in secret - mainly because rules and regulations, no matter how well enforced, are unable to change the human heart, and have no value in restraining sensual indulgence. Sadly, it is in these churches that I have witnessed the tragic phenomenon of teenage children turning their backs on the church, having witnessed the inconsistency of the 'holy' facade of the parent publicly, and the real nature of the person in the privacy of the home...

So, what does one look for, when seeking the fellowship of true believers? Here are a few down-to-earth guidelines to follow, and questions to ask, when looking for the true church of Jesus Christ:

  • Is the goal and reason for the existence of that church to bring people into a living relationship with Jesus Christ? Or is the goal merely community service, human fellowship or upholding an organisation?

  • Does the minister strike you as called of God? Or is he a 'career' minister (or as Scripture puts it, a 'hired hand')? Often, if a minister's salary is stopped, his work for God will stop that very day. In other words, are the minister and the church upheld by God Himself, or by money?

  • Is the message that is shared on a Sunday morning clearly a message from God's Word focused on Jesus Christ, or is it focused on human well-being and based on human psychology? Is it clearly a message that the minister has received from God by revelation, one which strikes and pierces the hearts of the hearers? Is it a 'living' message?

  • Do you see and experience in the members of the church the very Spirit and love of Jesus Christ? Do their faces shine as Moses' did when he had been with God?

  • What are the conversations like after the service, when the final ‘Amen’ is said, and the ‘church’ part is over? Do people turn to superficial chat about the weather, business or the latest fashions? Or is everyone enamoured with Jesus Christ and eager to share what God has revealed to them from His Word, open-heartedly sharing both joys and sorrows?

  • Most importantly, if you are searching for the true body of Christ, ask God to guide you to His true flock. There you will meet men and women who truly have Christ in them, shining like beacons in a false and pretentious religious landscape. And, finding them, the Spirit of God within you will leap for joy.