How to Tell if Your Church Is Biblical or Progressive

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Ideas in society change, and many churches feel the societal pressure to adapt to the times. But some Christians say the Bible is unchangeable and the church should be, too. Is your church biblical or progressive?

A starting point

“Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins.”

–Ecclesiastes 7:20

Human beings are fallible and imperfect creatures. In the same way, there is no church that is perfect. In fact, churches are full of imperfect people.

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,”

–Romans 3:23

People go to church to improve, strive towards walking with God, knowing Him better, loving and worshiping Him.

The point being, you can’t expect absolute perfection of any church. What you’re looking for is a church that meets the most important needs of Christians. And here’s a hint…It’s not about their music program or social activity or even a full parking lot.

Being rooted firmly in the Bible and the word of God is an important need. The Bible is a manual for living that gives humankind kindness for righteous behavior and avoiding sin. The Holy Scriptures are there to guide and prepare a soul for the afterlife.

The main mission of a strong, godly church

The late Reverend Billy Graham wrote: “Only a healthy church can help a sick world. Much social action today is nothing but sheer humanism.”

“The changing of people’s hearts is the primary mission of the church,” Graham said in his writings. “To proclaim the entire Gospel of Christ is the only answer to mankind’s deepest needs. True members of the church are those who have been transformed by the power of Christ and grow deeper in the things of God as His true disciples.”

Signs of a progressive church

While not an exhaustive list, here are a few of the signs that a church might be leaning towards progressive Christianity and a limited emphasis on the Bible.

1. De-emphasis on the Bible or portions of it.

An attitude that certain things in the Bible are “outdated” and don’t apply to us today. Any objections or disagreement with certain parts of the Bible. That everything in the Bible may not necessarily be the inspired word of God.

2. Idea that doctrines are open for reinterpretation.

This is an important one. There is a tendency today to deemphasize the idea that a literal hell exists. Another progressive idea is that Satan is a myth. That certain things in the Bible are offensive to non-Christians and, therefore, are invalidated.

3. Historic interpretations are reinterpreted or redefined.

Progressive churches are just that…They try to progress and alter historical beliefs and interpretations from the Bible. One that is frequently altered is the idea that God is love and sinners will not be punished. That everyone goes to heaven. That we shouldn’t talk about sin, our job is to love everyone.

4. Gospel message focused on social justice.

The message of the Bible is avoiding sin and being redeemed from it. Progressive churches sometimes focus on social justice rather than preaching the gospel.

5. Feelings emphasized over facts.

The idea that what resonates with you is true, not necessarily what is written in the Bible. That we connect with the parts of the Bible that resonate with us.

Signs of a biblical church

While not an exhaustive list, here are a few of the signs that demonstrate a church operates from a strong emphasis on the Bible.

1. The Bible is preached every week

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

– 2 Timothy 3:16-17

2. Current events viewed through the lens of the Bible

“My son, do not lose sight of these— keep sound wisdom and discretion,”

– Proverbs 3:21

Current events are measured good or bad through the lens of the Bible, not trying to change interpretations of Scripture to fit the times to make the new behavior acceptable.

3. The church is led by qualified elders

“Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.”

–1 Timothy 5:17

Good leadership by those with strong biblical knowledge, moral fortitude, patient and strong in teaching are essential to the success of any church.

“Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach,”

–1 Timothy 3:2

4. There is an effort by the church to share the gospel

“And he said to them, ‘Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.'”

– Mark 16: 15

One of Jesus’ last instructions to his disciples was for them to share the gospel.

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,”

– Matthew 28:19