Many years ago I took a group of young singles from Tampa to Atlanta for the weekend. We went to a Braves game, ate at the Hard Rock Cafe’ and went to Northpoint Community Church on Sunday to hear Andy Stanley preach. It as a great trip. But the greatest experience we had was when we got up early on Saturday morning and helped paint a house for an older woman who was in need and unable to do it herself and then prayed over her before we left. It was a great day.
While we were heading to this woman’s house that morning, we passed by a church and I just had to stop. The sign on the church said “The Perfect Church.” That was the actual name of the church! We took a quick opportunity to discuss that the only time that sign was true was on a bright and sunny day like that day…Saturday…when no one was actually there.
Until Jesus comes again there will never be a perfect church because people make up the church and people are messy and imperfect. But this shouldn’t stop us from striving to be everything God desperately desires His people to become. In 1 Thessalonians, Paul briefly reminds us exactly what it means to become the perfect church (as much as it is possible on this side of eternity).
“We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.”
1 Thessalonians 5:12-24 ESV
From this passage we can derive the following checklist for becoming the model church:
1. Respect those doing the work of the ministry
2. Respect those who hold a position of authority in the church (pastors, elders) who are also charged to caution, advise, or counsel you against something and to reprove or scold you, especially in a mild and good-willed manner
3. Be at peace among the church body
4. Caution, advise, or counsel those who are just taking what the rest of church has to offer but are not contributing themselves, and then reprove or scold them when necessary especially in a mild and good-willed manner
5. Encourage those among you who feel hopeless
6. Help those among you who are struggling to help themselves
7. Be patient with everyone among you
8. Make certain that there is forgiveness and good-will instead of vengeance among the church body when someone is wronged by another church member
9. Do good to all people, both inside and outside the church walls
10. Do not get in the way of the what the Holy Spirit desperately wants to do among you; be a people in a place where He is welcomed and expected to show up and move among you every time you meet
11. Do not ignore or be careless about for what the Bible says about what will happen in the days to come
12. Test every situation, every feeling, every intuition you have against what Scripture says about who you should be and what you should do, and then cling to those things that line up with what God says
13. Completely remove yourselves from every initiative, effort, or situation that is Godless or runs against what God desires for His people
If you do these things, God will do what only He can do; and that is to set you apart and make you a holy people who are His. You will become His Bride, His Prize, and His Joy! Be the Church…