From time to time, we all need to reassess various areas of our lives. It is good to take a step back, take a breath, and re-assess a situation. We all need to do this in our own personal lives with Christ (2 Cor 13:5; Ps 19:14). And we all need to do this with our church life. We need to be very careful that the church we are actively involved in is still a faithful church; a church that Jesus sees as faithful. We need not to stay in a church simply because we grew up there nor because it is comfortable nor because we don’t want to mess with the hassle of finding a another church nor because “we have invested so much!” The church is a precious, vital part of your spiritual maturity in Christ. And so, a faithful church is where you need (Yes, need!) to be. From time to time, we need to re-evaluate if our church is indeed faithful.
How do we do this? There are many places you could go, but I find much encouragement in Paul’s introduction to the Thessalonians. In Paul’s encouragement to this church, we find THREE MARKS of a faithful church (and no, I have never preached this. What follows is just observation of my own study).
1 Thess 1:1, “Paul and Silvanus and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace.”
“Paul, Silvanus (Silas), and Timothy” were the first preachers of this little church (Acts 17:4)–talk about an incredible line-up! But, what I want to point out is that these guys set the example of what faithful preaching was all about. Simply, proclaiming the true gospel, having godly integrity, and they were not about style, but about substance (2 Cor 10:10).
In Acts 17, we see that when these men showed up in Thessalonica, they preached nothing else but the Scriptures–specifically, the gospel. And here again, we see just that. The gospel is about the Father, the Son, grace, and peace. The gospel is what they proclaimed with them and the gospel is what they proclaimed to encourage them.
And this all done with integrity and not style. Second Cor 10:10 tells us that Paul was a “heavy writer, but weak in appearance and preaching.” The point is that these men genuinely loved this church, regardless of style. They were into getting them built up in their faith and not into perfectly alliterated outlines and excellent public speaking.
Faithful preachers/pastor is the key to a faithful church. Is your pastor(s) faithful to proclaiming the Scriptures, living in integrity, and getting you into the substance of the gospel?
1 Thess 1:1, “To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
The church is not a local social club filled with unbelieving people. The church is a group of sinners in a local place that meet together for the purpose of worshipping God, edification, and fellowship. The church is a place of genuine converts, true Christians.
Now, it may be true that there are unbelievers at our churches. But the main function of the local church is to build up and edify true believers. Many churches believe they have to be clever or cute or creative with people to keep people in their local church. But, the only reason they do this is because their churches are probably full of unbelievers, and unbelievers do not “do” church. So, the leadership has to make church-time as much like the world as possible to keep the people coming back.
In contrast, true Christians do “do” church because they love Christ, they love His Word, and they want to be exhorted and uplifted from God’s Word! They don’t need cleverness or creativity; they hunger and thirst for righteousness and know a true church will provide some of that. In other words, is your church full of true Christians; true members-of-Christ’s-Body? If it is, then they will want the Word, and very little else.
And these true believers are who Paul is writing to. NOT people who are looking to be entertained at a church. NOT people who made a profession at 4 years old and only come because they feel like they “have to.” NOT to be who have been in the same church for 50 years. Paul writes to people who are actually in the church because they are part of the true church, by right of their faith in Jesus Christ.
All to say, a faithful church is full of genuine converts and less so unbelievers. A faithful church is filled with people who desire God’s word, who desire God’s people, and less filled with people who have to have music in a certain style or that they pastor is “funny or witty.”
**Two extras, for the record: (1) the New Testament knows nothing of a Christian who is not actively and intentionally involved in the life of their local church. This means that a genuine Christian is always in the church! If someone claims to be a Christian a is not attached intimately to a local body of Christian, their profession is suspect. AND, (2) if unbelievers do come to church, then they are to be convicted and understand that God is with the church through the proclamation of God’s Word (1 Cor 14:24-25).
1 Thess 1:1, “Grace to you and peace”
Many churches have large staffs and a multimedia department and coffee shops and bookstores and gyms and other large-church things. Though these are not wrong in and of themselves, they are NOT the divine resources of a true church. Grace and peace at the divine resources God gives to His true church. Without grace & peace, you do not have a true church, no matter how many people attend weekly nor how many programs or “cool” activities are going on daily.
What are these? Grace = divine enablement; it is how we grow up into maturity in Christ. Grace is what motivates holy-living. Grace controls our actions, our speech, our thoughts, and our motivations. Grace teaches us to say no to sin and yes to the Spirit. Grace is what causes to put off the old man and put on the new man which is being renewed in Christ. Grace makes us what we are and how we function as a Body.
Peace = settled contentment. We have no angst with God, and therefore no angst with each other. God has settled our sin-account in Christ, and now we can live in a freedom that is expressed in obedience to God and in love/care/kindness toward other believers.
Every ministry in the church and every person in the church needs both grace & peace. And both of these can only come from God. Therefore, a faithful church relies upon God: His provision, His power, His supplies.
So, reassess your church again. Does it have faithful pastors, who teach you God’s Word and shepherd you to its well-spring? Is your church filled with genuine believers, who love one another, serve one another, and are committed to the Body of Christ–the Body whom Christ gave His life for? And does your church rely upon the provision, power, and supply of grace & peace?
When we move away from all of these, then the church is no longer the church and the leadership must be creative to meet all the needs of the people. Then the people’s “needs” are above God’s resources, commands, and pattern. And that is not a faithful church.