One of the most common question we get asked by those leaving Adventism is how to navigate finding a new local church. Our first recommendation is to make sure you understand what the Church is and the various usages of the term “church.” We are a United States based Protestant organization which means our suggestions are going to come from that standpoint. When it comes to finding a solid, bible believing local church in your area here is our recommendations on what to look for:
- The Trinity
No, the Trinity is not a Roman Catholic or pagan invention. Christianity is an ancient and historic faith that goes back to Jesus Christ and the apostles. God has been leading His church from the beginning and that includes through the early days of the Church’s battle against actual paganism—particularly with regards to the heresies that sprang up regarding the nature of who God is.
The doctrine of the Trinity is a foundational, universal Christian teaching that is a non-negotiable. Christian’s are united in their worship of the same God in the One Name—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:18-20). The Nicene Creed is a faithful summation of what scripture teaches regarding the Triune nature of God.
This creed simply recognizes what scripture teaches, which is that God is three co-equal and co-eternal persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but one singular Being (state of existence). If a local church affirms the Nicene Creed, they then also affirm what the Bible teaches about the nature of Christ.
Oneness, unitarianism, tri-theism, polytheism, Arianism, and modalism are all ancient heresies that have been resurrected throughout various times in history. There is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9) and, by studying history, we get a fuller picture of how God has led His people in dealing with these heresies and rejecting them as idols.
- The Full Deity of Jesus Christ
Jesus Christ is not a lesser deity than the Father and Holy Spirit. He is the Lord God Almighty. He is 100% man and 100% God (hypostatic union). This is also another non-negotiable foundation of the Christian faith that is not only apostolic in origin, but clearly revealed when looking at scripture in totality (all 66 books). To deny this is the fundamentally affirm a false christ—an idol (Matthew 24:24, 2 Corinthians 11:3-4). Only the true and living Christ can save.
A sound local church must affirm that Jesus Christ was incarnate by the Holy Spirit, born of a virgin, He lived a sinless life, was crucified on a cross for human sin, He fully died and was buried, and kept under the power of death until the third day when He rose from the grave in the self same body He died in. He ascended to heaven and sat down at the Father’s right hand, where he intercedes as a high priest King for His people. He will return again to earth visibly and bodily to judge all people—both the living and the dead.
If a local church affirms the Athanasian Creed they affirm orthodox Christology.
- That All People’s Have Sinned and Are In Need of Salvation
Sin is any want of conformity to the requirements of God, in word, thought, or deed. When Adam, the father of all people according to flesh, sinned, He spiritually died. And not only did he weaken himself and plunge himself into sin and ruin, but passed on this state of spiritual death and ruin in sin to all who are descended from him by ordinary generation (Romans 5:12-19). This means all humans are in a state of spiritual death, in need of the saving grace of the Spirit to regenerate them.
The Bible is clear that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23) which means they are in need of Jesus Christ as the only way of salvation (Acts 4:12).
- The Inspiration, Inerrancy, and Infallibility of the Word of God
These two things are a result of understanding what scripture itself is. We are told that it is literally “God-breathed,” meaning, it is the actual words of God (2 Timothy 3:16-7). That means scripture by nature comes from the One who cannot lie or err (Numbers 23:19, Titus 1:2, Hebrews 6:18). God has promised to preserve His Word, as Jesus plainly said (Isaiah 40:8, Matthew 24:35; Mark 13:31; Luke 21:33, Romans 15:4) and has done so by means of various handwritten manuscripts in Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic which provide for us an accurate representation of the original message to then translated into various languages.
The 66 books of the Bible, both Old and New Testament, are the canon of scripture that God led His people in recognizing as the inspired, inerrant, infallible scriptures and it is those scriptures that govern, correct, guide, and protect the Church. The Bible is the sole infallible authority and final arbiter in all matters of doctrine and practice for the Church.
- The Lawful Administration of the Two Sacraments of the Church—Baptism and the Lord’s Supper
The two ordinance given by the Lord Jesus Christ to His church are baptism and the Lord’s Supper (Matthew 28:18-20, Matthew 26:26-29; Mark 14:17-25; Luke 22:7-22; John 13:21-30). These are to be done until the Lord Jesus returns and administered by qualified pastors and elders (1 Timothy 3:1-7).
Baptism is to be done in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:18-20).
- The Three Foundational Christian Creeds
The Christian creeds are not superior to scripture, but are an accurate summation of what the scriptures teach regarding key, foundational doctrines such as the nature of Christ, the virgin birth, the resurrection, etc.
The three major creeds are the Apostles, Nicene and Athanasian. If a local church affirms these it simply shows that they affirm the core tenants of the Christian faith. Not that they hold the creeds in higher regard than scripture. The creeds function as doctrinal guardrails.
- The One True Gospel is Preached
The Bible is clear that there is only one Gospel (Galatians 1:6-9). Any other “gospel” is a counterfeit that cannot save and God says anyone who proselytizes one is accursed. It is not a product of human origin but is God’s gospel which he Himself gave to the apostles to hand down to the saints (Galatians 1:12). The Gospel is the power of God for salvation to all that believe it (Romans 1:16-7) and anyone that hears that Gospel, believes that Gospel, and calls upon the name of the Lord who gave that Gospel will be saved (Romans 10:8-14). This means that the Gospel is not every single doctrine contained in the Bible, but is a distinct message of Good News about the person and work of Jesus. It specifically has to do with redemption and salvation.
It is by faith alone in the person and work of Jesus alone that a person is made right with God (Romans 3:28, Romans 4:1-11). Through this a person is then credited with Jesus’s righteousness (Philippians 3:9, 2 Corinthians 5:21). When a person trusts, by faith, in who Christ is and what He did for them, they are regenerated/born again (John 3:3, Titus 3:5) and made a new creature in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). Once that occurs a person is seen as righteous in God’s sight because they are hidden in Christ Jesus (Colossians 3:3) and when the God the Father sees the believer, He sees the life record of His Son.
This Gospel message is not contained or unique to only one denomination.
- Male Pastors and Elders
Regardless of the controversial nature of this in the current day and age, it does not change what the scriptures say. God has made it clear that women and men have different roles in the home, society, and the church. This is not because one sex is superior to the other, but they compliment one another in their given roles. When each is doing their part, the system flows smoothly as it was designed.
When it comes to pastors and elders, the qualifications for such roles are laid out for us which include that it is to be men above reproach, qualified in character, husbands of one wife, with the ability to rightly handle and proclaim the Word of God (1 Timothy 3:1-7). We aren’t given the qualifications for women being pastors and elders, only men. We’re also told that women are not permitted to hold the office of pastor/elder, not because many women are not excellent public speakers, but because of the created order (2 Timothy 2:12).
If a church is not following this command they are out of sync with what God has prescribed for how the local church is to operate which is also indicative that they are more than likely out of sync in other areas.
Denominations to Consider
Coming out of Adventism, one of the hardest things to navigate can be the world of denominationalism. This is because the SDA Church has done a good job of crossing wires when it comes to denominations and why they exist. This is why we have addressed this in great detail here and highly encourage you to listen to our response to the SDA Church on this vitally important topic.
It’s also important to note that the claim that there are over 30,000+ denominations is a myth that has grown in popularity amongst various groups of people for various reasons (ie: atheists who seek to say Christianity is a divided mess or Roman Catholics who try and say Protestants are all over the place). This statistic has been debunked by simply looking at what all is included. When Buddhists and Mystic New Age groups are on the list, that is a strong indicator it is not based on sound metrics.
While there are many unsound denominations out there, there are also many sound ones. Here are some that we suggest based on the above criteria being met:
- The Presbyterian Church in America (PCA)
- The Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC)
- Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC)
- United Reformed Churches in North America (URCNA)
- Reformed Churches of America (RCA)
- Communion of Reformed Evangelical Churches (CREC)
- The Dutch Reformed Churches
- Puritan Congregationalists (Conservative Independents)
- Southern Baptist (SBC)
- American Baptist
- The National Baptist Convention (African-American Baptist Churches)
- Reformed Baptist Churches
- The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS)
- Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS)
- Non-Denominational Churches (Their statement of faith needs to be examined)
- Conservative Anglican Churches of North America (ACNA)
- Calvary Chapel (The statement of faith needs examined)
- Global Methodist Church (GMC)
- The Moravian Churches
- The Evangelical Free Churches of America (EFCA)
- Assemblies of God (AOG)
These should always be examined in light of the local churches statement of faith.
Denominations/Movements to Avoid
There are a number of denominations to avoid due to their slide into theological liberalism which has compromised a number of foundational Christian doctrines (ie: the denial of miracles, the physical and literal resurrection, the virgin birth, the inerrancy and infallibility of the scriptures, etc.). Other groups are simply not even Christian yet seek to appear as such—like Seventh-Day Adventism. Below are local gatherings that we recommend avoiding:
- Oneness Pentecostalism (UPCI, etc.)
- Word of Faith/Prosperity Gospel Churches (Joel Osteen, etc.)
- Hyper-Charismatic Groups (Bethel Church, Todd White, Lou Engle, etc.)
- Mormonism/LDS (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints)
- Jehovah’s Witnesses
- Seventh-Day Adventism
- Branch Davidian Seventh-Day Adventists
- Grace Communion International (formerly Worldwide Church of God)
- World Mission Society Church of God
- Christian Science
- Black Hebrew Israelites (BHI)
- Hebrew Roots Movement
- Quakers (Society of Friends)
- Presbyterian Church of the United States (PCUSA)
- Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)
- Restorationist Churches (Church of Christ, Disciples of Christ, etc.)
- Unitarian Universalist
- United Church of Christ
- United Methodist Church (UMC)
- The Episcopalian Church
- Progressive Baptists (ABCUSA)
- Anabaptists (Mennonites, Amish, etc.)
Please remember that this is our recommendation. It is not to say there are not bona fide born again believers in the midst of some of the above listed groups. But based on the criteria listed above these groups as organizational bodies do not meet all of the stated criteria.
It is always wise to consult a church’s statement of faith to gauge whether or not they are in line with Christian orthodoxy. The stated denomination does not always tell you everything you need to know. What ultimately matters is that that particular local congregation is in line with sound Christian fundamentals not that they simply have the right name on the building.