A Good Church

Ephesians 5:25 “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her.”

Jesus loves the church. Which church? “Church” here means the saved. Jesus loves the saved. All the saved of all time. While Jesus loves the church, sometimes we don’t. Sometimes the people of Jesus do not follow Jesus as they should. Sometimes we become frustrated with one another. Sometimes we let each other down.

I have been in all kinds of church buildings and around all kinds of congregations. I have preached in a funeral home where one congregation was meeting. That was a bit creepy. I have preached in old worn out wooden church buildings way out in the country and nice big brick buildings in the city. I have preached to small congregations and large congregations. I preached in someone’s front room as a congregation was just getting started. I have preached for congregations that have been around for more than 150 years. What makes a good church? That’s a great question to ask. I have friends who are worshipping in growing and busy congregations. I have friends who are in congregations that are dead. Some are discouraged about where they worship and others are as excited as they could be. Some places seem to be attracting new faces every week and other places seem to be losing families, often every week. What makes a good church? You can tell when a church is good. There is an atmosphere that is present. You notice it during worship. You see it afterwards.

Here are some thoughts from my perspective about the “Hallmarks of a good church.”

A good church isn’t about size. It’s really not about location. It’s not about money. It’s definitely not about the building they meet in. So often, that’s where we pour our attention. Sometimes we even put a lot of effort into those areas, thinking that will turn the tide and make things better. You can paint the walls and put in new carpet, but that usually will not change the atmosphere of the hearts. A good church is not defined by paint and carpet.

From our verse we must remember that God loves His people. In every congregation, including good ones and ones that are struggling, you will find great people who love the Lord and you will find issues and problems. No church is perfect. It will never be perfect as long as we are a part of it. We have problems, struggles and can always improve. In every church, good ones and those that need help, there is always more than can be done. There are things that need to be looked at and there are people that need help. This is always true. This is true of the churches you read about in the N.T. We often tag Philippians as the rejoicing church. But even in that letter, Paul tells two sisters to get along and live in harmony in the Lord. Perfect? No. Need things to improve? Always. But that doesn’t keep a congregation from being good.

The first hallmark of a good church is solid Biblical teaching and foundation. That’s first. That’s always first. A church can be busy, loving, close, amazing, brilliant and if it is not following the Lord and doing what the Bible teaches, it can never be good. It must do what the Bible says. This is true as individuals and this is true as a congregation. That classic conversation in Matthew where the people declare, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons…” The Lord’s response was, “depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.” It doesn’t matter what we do, if we are not following the pattern in the N.T., we cannot please the Lord. No church is good if it doesn’t first please the Lord.

A good church teaches the Bible. It teaches it thoroughly, completely and accurately. But more than just teaching the Bible, a good church helps the congregation to bring God’s word alive in their hearts. A good church will make the lessons relevant, practical and useful. It’s more than lectures about history and a study of foreign words, it’s making God’s word alive in our hearts. It’s seeing how that word can change our marriages. It’s seeing how that word can drive out worry and defeat our fears. It’s building lives and families upon the word.

A good church teaches with patience and kindness. It’s not ramming the word down our throats. It’s not having the word of God pounded over the head or being threatened with fearful consequences. Paul referred to his instructions as a nursing mother and as a father instructs his child. Kindness, even when tough issues must be dealt with. A good church always keeps in mind the big picture and that’s the salvation of souls. Some have wrong ideas. Some have been taught wrong. Some bring ideas from the world and think that they would work well in the kingdom. Don’t slay those folks. Teach them. Show them. Help them. Save them. The only thing that ought to be driven out is sin. Keep the people and get rid of the sin. Change them through the teaching of God’s word.

The more we stand upon the Bible, the more our thoughts come from the Bible, the more we will be pleasing to the Lord. Drop all the mega church lingo. Keep all the business models out. Follow those churches in Judea, as the Thessalonians did.

Grow the church by teaching the Bible. Change attitudes by teaching the Bible. Get our perspectives right by teaching the Bible. The hope of a dead church is teaching the Bible. Find what the congregation needs and dive into that first. Find challenging ways of preaching and teaching that word. That keeps things fresh. No one likes stale bread and sour milk. That doesn’t fly well at the dinner table and it doesn’t work well in our spiritual hearts, either. Bored preachers will preach boring sermons. Often those bored preachers preach boring sermons to a bored audience. What a disaster! Get excited about the word of God. Become challenged by it. Become changed through it. If it doesn’t work on us, it’ll be hard for us to get it to work on others.

Biblical teaching. Biblical thinking. Biblical speaking. Biblical doing. This builds strong families, strong congregations and strong hearts. Does a good church have problems? Certainly. But they will not ignore those problems. They will not address those problems in selfish ways nor drive the people away who have those problems. Good churches will use the word of God to overcome those problems and to stay the course with God, as families and as a congregation. A good church will help lives through the promises of God. A good church welcomes prodigals back. A good church thrives on grace and forgiveness. A good church is passionate about the Lord. A good church worships God in excellence. Where do these ideas and thoughts come from? The Bible. Walk through Psalms. Spend time in those early pages of Acts. Notice the attitudes. See the devotion and dedication. See the connections to the Word of God.

It all begins with becoming Biblical.