Local Churches have been in
existence since the time of Christ. Groups of believers gathered together
to form local congregations. Through the years, some churches have
identified with various denominational groups. However, there have been
independent Churches during each period of Church history. Such Churches
continue to flourish throughout many parts of the world today, effectively
ministering God’s Word. What are the distinctives of a Biblically
Here are the Biblical criteria for such a Church...
1. A Church That Is Independent
The Churches established by the
first century apostles of Christ began as independent Churches. They were
free from outside control over the affairs of the local Church. Each local
Church as a self-governing body chose its own officers (Acts 6:1-6), and
exercised its own discipline (I Corinthians 5:13). Internal problems were
handled by the individual congregation (I Corinthians 6:1-5). Preservation
of pure doctrine was the responsibility of the local assembly (I Timothy
3:15; Revelation 2:14-16).
Following this pattern, today’s independent Church depends upon the Holy
Spirit’s direction (Acts 13:1-3), chooses its own name, government, and
programs. It is free to call its own Pastor and invite into the pulpit any
speakers it deems sound in the faith.
Another important characteristic is the liberty enjoyed in the matter of
Missionary support. Independent Churches are free to seek God’s direction
in supporting those ministries they find acceptable. The primary aim of
all missionary and evangelistic efforts is personal salvation and
discipleship through Christ.
The independence of a Church simply enhances its dependence upon the Lord.
Each church looks to Him for the provision of its every need. This
encourages prayer, faith, and spiritual growth among its members.
An independent Church is not only self-governing, it is also
self-supporting through the freewill offerings of its constituents (I
Corinthians 16:1, 2; II Corinthians 9:6-8).
2. A Church That Is Fundamentally Biblical
A Biblically independent Church
is one that stands for the historic fundamentals of the faith, upholding
Biblical authority versus human theories. To be fundamentally Biblical
means to believe in and proclaim beliefs such as:
-- The verbal, plenary, inerrant inspiration of the Bible.
-- The virgin birth, absolute deity, and sinless life of Jesus Christ.
-- The death, burial, and resurrection of Christ to provide salvation for
-- The person and work of the Holy Spirit.
-- The reality of Satan and his destructive work today.
-- The personal and bodily return of Jesus Christ.
-- The bodily resurrection of all men; some to eternal life and some to
3. A Church That Is Bible-Centered
A Biblically independent Church
emphasizes the use of the Bible in the regular Church services. The Bible
is revered as the guide for daily Christian faith and living.
The Pastor preaches directly from the Bible in his pulpit ministry. The
educational program of the Church is likewise centered in the Bible and is
designed to develop Biblical values and standards by which to live. Sunday
School teachers instruct from it. Teaching materials are based on it.
Youth programs utilize it.
4. A Church With Distinctive Emphases
In addition to the things
already mentioned, there are four additional distinctives of Biblically
A Unique Church Membership
A personal experience of
the new birth is a prerequisite to Church membership. Independent
fundamental Churches require testimony of one’s salvation before
Observance Of Two Ordinances
All who are truly born-again
are invited to remember the Lord at the communion table regardless of
Church membership. All believers are encouraged to follow the Biblical
teaching regarding water baptism as a testimony to their faith in Christ.
Financial support for the
local Church is received from the freewill offerings of those attending in
accord with 1st Corinthians 16:1, 2 and 2nd Corinthians 9:6-8.
Independent But Not Isolated
Independence does not mean
isolation. Biblically independent Churches try to obey the “one another”
of the Bible to develop a spirit of interdependence. According to the
Scriptures, all who have trusted Christ as Savior belong to the “body of
Christ” (Ephesians 1:22-23). In a spirit of oneness, many Biblically
independent Churches are involved in a vast network of fellowship, such as
Independent Fundamental Churches of America (IFCA) International.
5. Spiritual Unity Of All Believers
The body of Christ transcends
all earthly denominations and organizations (Ephesians 1:22, 23). It is
composed of all who have trusted Christ as Savior, regardless of
organizational affiliation (I Corinthians 12:13).
Biblically independent Churches strive to be loyal to Christ and His Word
rather than to any organization. They seek to establish, preserve, and
expand local Churches according to the New Testament pattern (Matthew
28:18, 20; Acts 13:3, 4).