There's a ton of churches out there. There are Lutherans, Anglicans, Pentecostals, Baptists, Seventh-day Baptists, Evangelicals, Charismatics, Catholics, Presbyterians, Mormons, Methodists, Seventh-day Adventists, Christian Science, Non-Denominational's, Jehovah Witnesses, and so on and so forth. The funny thing is that if you ask any of these, "Are you guys a false church?" They will all say no. Some may even begin to tell you how all the other ones are false churches and how theirs is the only right one.
So how do you identify a false church? I'll tell you one thing, you don't do it by determining how perfect the members of that church are. Trust me, if you ever found a perfect church, you can be sure you don't belong there - and neither do I. However, the Bible does give us direction when it comes to false churches. I'd like to share seven ways the Bible helps us to identify a false church and then encourage you to ask the Holy Spirit for guidance as you search for where God wants you to be.
1. "For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior." - Ephesians 5:3
The first way to identify a false church is by asking the question, "Is Jesus the head of this church?" If the answer is no, then I promise you, you have just walked into a false church. The head of a true church will always be Jesus Christ. Not some so called prophet, preacher, or teacher but Jesus Christ. Any church that does not have Christ as its head is a false church.
2. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! - Galatians 1:8
The second way to identify a false church is by asking the question, "Does this church preach the gospel of salvation the way the Bible preaches it or no?" If the answer is no, then it is a false church. So how does the Bible preach the gospel? Here is a good summary:
For it is by grace you have been saved,through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. - Ephesians 2:8-10
Notice this text teaches 3 things:
a. We are saved by grace through faith. Any church that teaches that we are saved by our own works, that we are saved apart from Gods grace, or that we are saved apart from faith is preaching a false gospel.
b. Gods grace is a gift. Any church that teaches that Gods grace must be earned by following certain rules, believing certain things, or avoiding certain things is preaching a false gospel.
c. Gods grace produces good works. Any church that teaches that Gods grace gives us a license to live in sin is preaching a false gospel.
In summary, any church that teaches that we are saved by our own works, that Gods grace must be earned, and/or that grace gives us a license to sin is a false church.
3. We love because he first loved us. - 1 John 4:19
The third way to identify a false church is by asking the questions, "Does this church love people?" and "Does this church love God?" The answer to the second is determined by the answer to the first. If a church doesn't love people, then it doesn't love God. Any church that doesn't love people the way God does is a false church.
4. If you love me, keep my commands.... Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me.... Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me. - John 14:15, 21, 23-24
The fourth way to identify a false church is by asking the question, "Does this church obey Gods commands?" Gods commands are the 10 commandments recorded in Exodus 20. Any church that teaches that Gods commands are no longer valid, that they don't need to be kept, or that its OK to break them (licence to sin) is a false church.
5. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. - 2 Timothy 3:16
The fifth way to identify a false church is by asking the question, "Does this church believe in the Bible?" Any church that doesn't believe in the Bible, has its own bible unique only to their denomination, adds to or takes away from the bible, or rejects portions of the bible is a false church. The Bible, from cover to cover, is Gods word. Any church that teaches otherwise, or that attempts to say that the Bible is incomplete, or subject to another mans (or woman's) "inspired interpretation" is a false church. The Bible should be our only rule of faith and practice. As I once heard a preacher say, "If its in the word it deserves to be heard." To which I add, "If its not in the word it does not deserve to be heard."
6. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” - John 13:35
The sixth way to identify a false church is by asking the question, "Do the people in this church love one another?" Any church that is judgmental, cold, formal, hypocritical, and hostile toward itself and others is a false church. Even if this church has all of the right teachings and its theology is 100% correct it is still a false church without love. Jesus never said people would know us by our faithfulness in keeping the 10 commandments, doctrinal purity, musical selection, or dress code but by our love for one another.
7. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” - Matthew 28:18-20.
The seventh and final way to identify a false church is to ask the questions, "Is this church active and dedicated to preaching the gospel to all the world?" Any church that feels that salvation only belongs to them and that no one else has hope, or that is simply to lazy or uninterested in sharing the gospel is a false church. If there is one command in the Bible that is non-debatable it is the command to tell the whole world about Jesus. Jesus, our God and Savior, commissioned us with the task of sharing the gospel in a joint operation with Him. Any church that doesn't share the gospel is a loveless, missionless stagnant church that will soon rot away. It is a false church.
In conclusion, any church that does not have Christ at the head, does not preach the true gospel, does not love God and man, does not keep Gods commandments, does not base all of its teaching on the Bible alone, does not love its members, and/or does not share the gospel is a false church. However, if a church has Christ as its head, preaches the true gospel, loves God and man, keeps Gods commandments, and bases all its teachings on the Bible alone you can be assured it is a true church. So whatever church you go to or plan to go to, explore each of these steps with your Bible to determine whether or not it is a false Church. God bless!
PS. I'm certain that there are many more texts in the bible that can help out in the search, so if anyone has anything to add, then feel free to do so in the comment line!
 Always remember that determining whether a church is false does not always work if you simply apply these 7 tests to a congregation. For example, the Westboro Baptist church would fail these tests and thus come under the "false church" category. However, this doesn't mean that the Baptist church as a whole is a false church. Once you have determined if a specific congregation is a false church be sure to see if that congregation is actually following what its denomination officially teaches before declaring that denomination false.
Also, pay attention to the Spirits leading. If you find a denomination to be true but its local church to be false it may be that God wants you in that church to inspire change. We can always run away when we find a church that is not "perfect" but the truth is there is no perfect church. Maybe God has us there for a reason - to help it to change. So don't be dogmatic about this, be prayerful. However, if the denomination itself is false trying to reform it will prove impossible. In that case I suggest you move on.