I was recently with a group of churches in a “roundtable” meeting. We put issues on the table, discuss and share ideas. We are of similar size and dealing with similar issues. I was really blessed by my time with them. Many of them were further along than I was in many ways and so it was encouraging and inspiring to be in their midst, each of them there from a really strong church. I made a comment on Facebook that I was enjoying a couple days with some of the “best churches in the country.” One of the comments I got from that post was, “What is a best church?” Good question. I was not really trying to make a church statement. I wasn’t really trying to imply there are good, better and best churches; or for that matter, bad, worse, or worst. But, the statement does imply these kinds of things.
The church is the bride of Christ and the primary vehicle by which God is doing His work in this age. I believe we are to love the church and serve God through her faithfully. In that sense, there seems something not quite right about referring to “a church” as not being a good one, or thinking that I have the authority to declare this one good or that one bad. By the way, I do not have that authority. I also think when thinking about good and bad, we need to be careful about bringing an American sense of success and competition to the discussion. That is easier said than done. We are Americans and we think American. Our concept of a “best” church might be different from someone in Korea or Russia. Of course, it should be the Scripture that determines what a best church is, not the particular culture we live. Would Scripture allow for a discussion of better or best, or even bad? Are we supposed to think of all churches as equal in God’s eyes?
This blog is not an exhaustive treatment of the church and how it is to be judged, but I do believe we can say that churches can fall into a good and bad, best or worst categories. It is an absolute reality that while God loves His church, they are not all equally being and doing what God called the church to be and do. Look at Luke 19:11-27. This is a parable that Jesus tells a couple of times in different ways, but with the same point. He gives different amounts to several servants, goes away, and then comes back and judges what they did with what there were given. Couple of observations:
The parable is about individuals, but I believe presents us with a principle that applies to church. Here seems to be the one issue: were you faithful with what you were given? What is the church given?
In Jesus’ parable and in reality today, people or churches are not going to equally do the same thing. Some are “more faithful”, some “less”, and some do nothing. So I do believe it is accurate to think of churches in these categories. And while it is ultimately God’s judgment, not ours, we certainly need to have some sense of concern about where our church is or where a church that we are thinking about uniting with is.
What makes a church “more faithful”? Some ideas:
What makes a church “unfaithful”?
Again, none of the above lists is exhaustive, but some thoughts to start a thinking process. Why do we need to think through this? Because we are going to be judged, as an individual and as a part of the church. Was I faithful? Was I faithful in playing my part to see the church being faithful? Should we strive for that? Absolutely! Not in the sense of what I can I do so that my church is better than the church down the street, but what I can I do so that our church stands before God completely faithful and productive in what He has called us to be and do. You know, this is not a blog that will seem very practical or relevant to a lot of people because too many believers today do not realize that the church is NOT a building or sign out front. They are the church. You are the church. We can’t be unfaithful as the church and moving toward judgment and think that on the way we are going to find peace, happiness, purpose, and direction. Oh that we each, individually, would take a personal responsibility to make our church one of the best, because some are not.