Hallmarks of a Good Church (ii)

See last week’s article: A Good Church

Acts 20:28 “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.”

T here are certain internal characteristics that make a church healthy, powerful, helpful and pleasing to the Lord. These things just do not happen. They are the result of making the right spiritual choices by the folks who make up a congregation. There seems to be a disconnect between what people want in a church and what they are willing to be themselves. Everyone wants a warm, growing, spiritual congregation but many do nor realize that a congregation is a reflection of what the members are. A strong church comes from strong members. So, when we read in Revelation of a congregation that God called dead, guess why. The members were dead. And, Laodicea, being lukewarm. That was because the members were lukewarm. We must move past the idea that I can be whatever I want to be and the church can still be powerful.

A second hallmark of a good church is leadership. Someone must be at the helm steering the ship. Our verse today, Paul’s final words to the elders at Ephesus, reminded them as well as us, of the importance of overseers shepherding the church. Good churches have good leaders. It’s that simple. Good churches have men who have devoted themselves to the care of God’s people. They love these people. They want the best from them. They pour their lives into their lives. They pray for them. They are always thinking about them. They want those people in Heaven.

Working with people, working with us, can be messy. We can get ourselves into some real issues. Sometimes we don’t make the best choices. Sometimes temptation seems too good to resist. Sometimes we just don’t think. And if we do think, often it’s not spiritually. As a result, we struggle and stumble. We wander off. We don’t eat well spiritually. We fuss and pick at each other. Our marriages can be strained. Just like a family with kids at home, someone needs to calm us down, figure out what’s going on and get us back on the right path. We need someone to remind us to apologize. We need someone to show us how to be a team player. We need someone with a wise head who knows where we ought to be going.

All of this is why good churches have good leaders. Men who spend time helping us work through our problems. Men who will take us to the word of God and remind us of what God wants. Men who know that a solid church is built upon solid Biblical teaching. Men who understand when good and honest hearts intersect with the word of God, good things will happen. So, they are busy putting forth that word of God. They find different ways to do that. They find ways to head off trouble. They see where a church is headed and they can steer through the rough water and avoid the rocks that will sink us.

Good churches have good leaders who spend their time with the flock. They know that church. They know the history of those people. They know what they need. It’s just like a family. When my four were living at home they would have their friends over. We’d eat together. I couldn’t figure out some of their friends. I didn’t know them well. A few seemed a bit odd in my book. But my kids, I knew them. I knew what they needed and how to approach each of them. It works that way in the church.

God’s leaders are not hiding behind a closed door deciding the color of carpet or writing checks and balancing the checkbook. Others can do that. God’s leaders are with the people. God’s leaders are thinking about what these people need. Many large congregations in the past, have dwindled away partly because of a lack of good leaders. Oh, they had men who chose the color of the carpet, and paid the bills, but the members drifted and no one knew why. Some became spiritually sick and no one noticed. Some drank spiritual poison and no one was there to warn them. No one was there to show them. No one was there to guide them. The church drifted on, always dong the same thing. They were drifting toward the waterfall and no one tried to change the course. Preachers came twice a year to preach their favorite sermons, often not what the church needed, but the preachers didn’t know. No one told them. Some were baptized but they quickly withered away because no one was there to nourish that tender faith. Money was sent afar to preachers in other lands, but little was done at home. And the church drifted. Folks moved out. Some quit. People saw it but no one said anything about it and certainly nothing was done. And the church drifted. Finally, one day people realized that the bills couldn’t be paid and the money that was promised to far away preachers was too much. And for the first time talk began about closing the doors. The boat had gone over the waterfalls and crashed on the rocks below. And now, some were wondering what ought to be done. It was a little too late. A death had occurred. A church died and no one noticed. To satisfy their hearts, people blamed the community. Everyone has moved out to the suburbs. Others blamed the times. No one is interested these days. No one ever thought we died because we allowed it to die. No one ever thought we were headed for the waterfalls and no one tried to turn us around.

Good churches must have good leaders. Good churches not only have good leaders in place, but they are already looking for the next group of good leaders. Thought is given to who will take over after us. Classes and special lessons are given on developing spiritual leadership. Men are trained and taught. Good churches realize that it takes just one generation of no leaders or poor leaders and the ship will be headed for the waterfalls.

Good churches with good leaders realize that strong marriages and personal involvement are going to be the backbone of good leaders. Getting people involved. Getting people teaching. Getting people to open up their homes and their hearts. Getting people to sacrifice their time. Getting people to love one another is the key to keeping things going in the right direction. Good leaders do not have time to balance the church’s checkbook. They are busy working with folks. They are busy planning what’s next. They are developing people. They are helping the wounded. They are caring for those who are struggling. In a word, they are shepherding. The flock trusts them because of what they have done. The church knows that they have the best interests before them.

But, someone says, “we don’t have good leaders?” Get them. Develop them. Work on it. Without them, what is keeping you from the dreaded waterfalls? Those with good leaders, thank them and the Lord. Support them. Encourage them. Let them count on you, just as you count on them.

Who is at the helm? You want someone who knows what they are doing and is gifted, qualified, and has the wellbeing of the church at heart. God wants good leaders. God wants shepherds.