Church Shopper’s Checklist
Compiled by Tony A. Bartolucci, B.S., M.A., Th.M candidate, preaching elder and church theologian in residence
Clarkson Community Church
I have been in ministry long enough to have experienced first-hand the rank of Christians who join with a church and later depart in disappointment once they discover that it didn’t line up with some of their non-negotiable doctrines or practices. So I offer this check list as a little tonic to hopefully prevent such future disappointments. Most of these questions are not specifically addressed in our formal documents (i.e. doctrinal statements, by-laws, elder’s manual of church doctrines and policies). For a full treatment of what we teach, be sure to read these also.
As to our Doctrine . . .
We do teach what has theologically been termed “Calvinism” and cherish the doctrines of grace.
We do teach confessional baptism and are a baptistic church.
We do allow for differences of opinion among the body on secondary issues (eg. age of the earth/creation days; spiritual gifts; tribulational or millennial views).
We do reject all perversions and attacks against the Gospel of grace including the New Perspective and the Federal Vision.
We do promote a healthy ecumenism and appreciate writers and thinkers that stand within the reformational tradition whether
they be Baptist (C.H. Spurgeon), Presbyterian (Francis Schaeffer), Anglican (J.C. Ryle), or Lutheran (Martin Luther).
We do uphold and draw from creeds and confessions that accurately reflect God’s Word and have been embraced by the universal church.
We do not adhere to a particular creed or confession such as the Westminster Confession of Faith or the 1689 London Baptist Confession.
We do not teach that Scripture outlines two classes of Christians, carnal and spiritual.
We do not teach end-times conspiracy theories or a pre-tribulational rapture.
We do not necessarily view works of art depicting Christ as a violation of the second commandment.
We do not teach a particular hermeneutical system such as Covenant Theology, Dispensationalism, or New Covenant Theology.
**N.B. On this issue, there are varied positions represented within our congregation. My perspective is very much like John Piper’s.
As to our Bible . . .
We do support the validity of a critical text (i.e. NA27 or UBS).
We do recognize that there are several good English translations available.
We do recognize that there are some bad English translations available.
We do not recommend the use of paraphrase Bibles (eg. The Living Bible; The Message).
We do not uphold King James Onlyism or give priority to the Textus Receptus.
As to our Leadership . . .
We do teach that the biblical terms, “pastor,” “overseer,” and “elder” are synonymous.
We do teach that the local church is to be led by a co-equal plurality of qualified pastor-elders.
We do teach that pastor-elders must be male.
We do require that our elders and deacons subscribe to the FIRE statement of faith.
As to our Worship and Practice . . .
We do devote a full hour to the preaching of God’s Word and cherish expository, doctrinal preaching.
We do allow for the use of eclectic worship music including the singing of psalms, hymns, and contemporary praise choruses.
We do allow for the use of eclectic music instruments including drums, keyboard, piano, and guitars.
We do segregate some of our Sunday School classes by age.
We do have voluntary children’s church.
We do celebrate Christmas and “Resurrection Day” (i.e. Easter).
We do teach that men have headship over women (complementarianism).
We do teach that the wife is to submit to her husband and that the husband is to love his wife as Christ loves the church.
We do celebrate an open communion restricted to baptized believers.
We do not promote or practice the so-called charismatic sign gifts such as speaking in tongues.
We do not employ an “altar call” method of evangelism.
We do not use or promote head-coverings for women.
As to our Fellowship . . .
We do practice Christian liberty in matters such as personal entertainment and the consumption of alcoholic beverages or tobacco products.
We do believe that there are some legitimate uses for psychotropic medications.
We do encourage the Christian education of our children.
We do not forbid the public education of our children.
We do not require that members of the body consider themselves Calvinists or Baptists.
We do not participate in ecumenical fellowship with groups such as Roman Catholicism or liberal Protestant mainline denominations.
We are dogmatic in the essentials of the faith and charitable in the non-essentials. We do not tolerate either a spirit of compromise when it comes to the Gospel or legalism when it comes to doctrine or living the Christian life.