I have been in more churches in the past year or so than I have been in my life. Church searches will do that for you. I have been in churches ranging from a mega church to where barely one hundred people were there. I’ve been in traditional churches and uber-contemporary churches.
I had a list of things that I was looking for in a church. Some of these I even wrote down. Others I had in my head and perhaps I didn’t even realize they were there. Now that we have settled in a church and love it, I’ve come to realize that there are really four things that are most important in a church. I did not get these from some book or some preconceived idea of what I want in a church. I don’t even get these from the church I am a part of now. I don’t believe that any church is perfect or even has all four of these things nailed down. But these are what every church should be striving to excel at.
Word of God
The early church was devoted to the apostles’ teaching. The apostle’s were devoted to the word of God. This is what they preached. They preached from what we call the Old Testament. They preached what the Holy Spirit was revealing to them on a daily basis. They even got some other guys to help out with the physical needs so that they could spend their time devoted to the word.
Guess what happened? Thousands were coming to know the Lord. Their numbers were added to daily. They didn’t just wait for Sunday to preach and extend an invitation. There was something different about them.
Is that kind of power in our churches today? Perhaps some. Far too many fail. Nice little sermons that don’t really have any power are preached all across our nation. Many are basically self-help messages wrapped in Christian language. The Gospel must be driving what we say and proclaim. It is the power of God to salvation.
I don’t think this means that they simply got together to eat and laugh together. That may have been part of it. However, I believe they were devoted to fellowship with each other. They loved being together in Christ’s name. They sought it out. They worked for it. They pursued it. They didn’t just let it happen. These early believers depended on each other. If one needed help, they helped. If one was rejoicing, they all rejoiced. If one was grieving, they grieved together.
Do we have that type of fellowship in our churches now? Do we truly pursue fellowship the way the early church did? I know that we can use the excuse that it’s a different day and that we’re busier. Perhaps we’re too busy. Maybe there are things we should eliminate from our lives so that we can fellowship with our brothers and sisters.
Breaking of Bread
I used to think that they spent a lot of time eating together. That doesn’t mean that I don’t think that today. But when I see that they were devoted to the breaking of the bread, I believe more was going on than simply eating. They were devoted to the Lord’s Supper or Communion. They spent time remembering together what Christ had done for them. They remembered that His body was broken. They remembered that His blood was shed.
Do we take this seriously? Do we really remember what He has done for us? Or is it something we’ve always done in our lives and in our church?
The early believers prayed. And they prayed together. I don’t think they simply gathered together on Wednesday night for a prayer meeting, called out some prayer requests and said a prayers. These folks where serious about their prayer. Things happened. Prisoners were freed. Souls were saved. The Church exploded.
Do we pray? I mean do we get down to real, serious prayer? The kind that is life and world-changing?
When I think of these things, I realize how much I fall short in these areas. Most of my life in church has been set on cruise control. I would simply be happy when I got “there”. We simply don’t have time. We and our churches are surrounded by people who need to hear the message of the gospel that we have. We don’t have time to float. Where do we start? A good place to start would be with our churches focused on these four qualities.
What do you think are the most important qualities of a church?
One of the excuses that I hear for being dissatisfied in a church is that the person is not being “fed”. They are not happy with the pastor’s sermons. They are not “getting anything” out of the sermons. There are a million ways to say it.
How do I know?
I’ve probably used most of them.
I’ve got a question for you. For all of us. When you have that feeling. When you just don’t think you’re getting anything out of the message anymore.. When you’re not “being fed”.
Is your pastor being fed?
Is your pastor focusing on the things he really needs to focus on? Does he have the opportunity to spend time in the word of God and in prayer so that he can do what he is called to do?
Do you and your church allow him to do the things that are most important for his ministry?
Or is he tied up in tons of meetings?
Do you expect him to make all of the visits?
Do too many people drop in on him at the office because he “doesn’t have anything else going on”?
A friend of mine is a world-class mandolin player. When he was growing up, he would wake up in the morning and play mandolin until it was time to go to school. When he got home, he would pick up his instrument and play and play and play. When he looked up, it would be around 1o pm. He would go to the kitchen where his mother had left him a plate of food.
He neglected everything except what was most important to him.
What a lesson for our pastors.
What a lesson for all of us.
We should expect that our pastors are primarily too busy for most things other than spending time in God’s word and in prayer. Do you want to be fed?
Make sure your pastor is being fed.
What kinds of things do you or your church do to make sure that your pastor is being fed?
Have you heard a word from the Lord lately? How about a vision? Have you received a vision of late?
Not me. I have heard nothing audible from the Lord. I have not received a vision of any sort, nothing like Isaiah received in Isaiah 6. Nope. Nothing. Not even a dream like Joseph interpreted that might be interpreted to save a nation.
How about you? Anything?
Probably not. It just doesn’t happen that often. I’ve never heard anything audibly from the Lord. I have never been swept up in a vision. I doubt if you have either. I am not saying that it can’t or won’t happen, but I do get pretty skeptical of people who have or that make it normative to the Christian experience.
Just like in the days of Samuel, they are rare and infrequent.
Now, I’m going to throw you for a loop.
I can get a word from the Lord anytime I want to.
My vision can be fueled at any point.
It’s just not that hard. It’s just that it’s not audible. It’s just that there aren’t many mystical visions.
Here’s how I think it happens. Here’s how I hear the Lord. Here’s how I get a vision from the Lord.
I open up my Bible. I read it. I study it. I meditate on it. I hear what He has said and He still speaks. I see the vision that God laid out for life through His Son. I can do it at anytime. All I have to do is look to His word.
A lot of people are sitting around waiting for a word from God and waiting for a big vision from Him.
These have become rare and infrequent.
They aren’t going to the source.
You want a word? You want a vision?
Open the word.
What do you think? Do you think audible words from the Lord and visions are common or rare and infrequent? Or do you trust in the word that He has given us?