Part 1: A Good Church
Part 2: Hallmarks of a Good Church (ii)
Romans 12:10 “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor.”
Our third installment on the Hallmarks of a Good Church. We’ve looked at solid Biblical foundation and teaching. Then we looked at good leadership. The next aspect is a close, loving relationship among the members that spills out to visitors and others. Our verse today emphasizes that concept. Devoted to one another. Devoted. Dedicated. When a boy is devoted to his girlfriend, he’s not flirting around with other girls. He’ll spend time with her. He wants to be with her. He’s devoted. When a fan is devoted to his team, he will cheer them on even when they are in last place. It’s easy to jump on the bandwagon of following the first place team, but to stick with them through thick and thin, that’s a devoted fan.
Here, we are to be devoted to one another. We are to prefer one another. Simply put, we like each other and we want to be around each other. You can sense that when you walk into a church building. You see folks smiling, hugging and standing around chit-chatting. After services, you see folks hanging around. They will stay and talk and talk and talk. That’s a good sign. That’s healthy. They are building relationships. They are devoted to one another. They prefer one another.
I have noticed the atmosphere of a church can change. Some places can be stale and stiff. Some don’t seem very friendly. Some seem like a special club. If you are in the inside it’s great. But if you are not, it seems that your presence bothers them. Very awkward. But all of that can change. Get a warm bubbly family in there and things seem to brighten up. Get leaders on board and the whole place seems warm and welcoming.
The word “Gospel” means good news. You’d think, by the way some places act, that the Gospel is a death sentence. Gloom and doom prevail. More frowns than at a funeral home. But all that can change. It begins on the inside. It’s from the heart. It comes from folks who love one another. They then become devoted to one another. They want to be with each other. They care. They want to help.
And when a new face shows up, they are not ignored. They are welcomed. They are accepted and loved. And when one has made some wrong choices, they are forgiven. Hugs abound. Tears flow. Prodigals are welcomed back home. This is fellowship as it ought to be. Our dearest friends ought to be Christians. We ought to seek the insights from other Christians. We should respect their thoughts. We need to lean upon one another. We are family and we are all headed toward Heaven.
Good churches reflect this closeness and loving spirit. It shows. It is felt. Even when discipline must take place, it is done in love. The preaching is love based. Even tough subjects are handled with the thought of helping people, not destroying them. When someone struggles, prayers flood Heaven. When there is a death, food is taken. When there is a need, helping hands show up. This is huge. You can have the best preaching, but if folks don’t like each other and the place is tense, it will keep the church from becoming good. But with a young preacher who has much to learn, and you put him in a good church that is amazing and loving, the place will just blossom. They will be patient with the young preacher. They will embrace him, help him and grow with him.
This closeness is manifested in the hearts of the members. How they see and talk about one another is a reflection of this love. How quickly they forgive. How patient they are with others. All of these are indications of a good church that has closeness and love among each other.
When this is missing, it can be a mess, a real mess! Judgmental attitudes. Pointing fingers. Whispers. Suspicion. Inner groups that have nothing to do with others. Talking bad about others. Not wanting to know others. Imagines of the prodigal’s older brother appear everywhere. It’s seen in Facebook posts. It’s seen in emails that trash talk others. Cold. Indifferent. Mean spirited. Ugly. I’ve noticed through the years, when a person is ugly on the inside, they tend to look ugly on the outside. It seems the ugliness just seeps through their skin. I’ve known places like this. A person leaves Sunday morning worship feeling beat up. They leave worse than what they came. It gets to a point that a person dreads going. They go, more so out of obligation or fear that they will be next in line to be judged. All of this is so far from our verse today. And, it doesn’t have to be this way.
Be devoted. Love one another. Prefer each other. Don’t wait for others to get that going. They may never do that. You do it because it’s the right thing to do. Your choices and your actions just might be what changes the place. Others may just follow your example. Folks don’t like mud thrown at them. Negativity isn’t attractive. Lift up your eyes is what the Lord told the disciples. The fields were ready for harvest. We need to lift up our eyes. We need to be thankful for each other. We need to put down the radar gun and extend a helping hand. Give a hug. Show up with a smile. Invite someone over. Extend grace. Love unconditionally. Be a real friend. Stop all the imposing questions and be helpful.
A good church attracts because of the love of the members. Folks in mega churches are not connected nor do they know each other. Fellowship among us is something that runs deep and strong. A real spiritual family. A genuine love. Trust among each other. I have seen the ugly side of this and I have seen the good side of this. I have had folks tell me, “this is a different church.” The same gospel is being preached, but what is different is the atmosphere, the love and the caring. I’ve had someone say, “I can’t believe I fit in here, but I do.” You do. We all do. We all have a past. We all have a future.
I’ve had some tell me that the church family is closer to them than their physical family. They have found something special. And when that atmosphere is found, changes take place. Attitudes change. Behavior changes. Good things happen.
In a house, the temperature is controlled by the thermostat. In a good church, it’s the members that adjust that thermostat of love and feelings.