The perfect church: I’ve never been there, and chances are you haven’t either. It’s just not that easy to find the church that has everything, meets all our spiritual needs and fits our personalities. It feels like we’re always wanting more and just not getting enough. Is it just because of our own personal preferences, or is something truly lacking there? Are our expectations so high that we inevitably feel let down?
I have been thinking a lot about “my perfect church.” If I set aside my stylistic preferences, what would I look for “spiritually” in a church? What really are the most important aspects of the church community?
Biblically Sound Teaching
The most public position in the church is, of course, pastor. He’s the one with all eyes on him: parishioners anxiously awaiting his big thought for the day. As I’ve grown older (and started paying better attention to sermons), preaching and teaching that comes directly from the heart of God is what I yearn for most. A pastor who opens the Bible, reads it with reverence and proclaims it with authority and passion is at the center of my perfect church. Conviction is at the heart of Scripture and it needs to be presented boldly for Christians to grow in their faith. “Preaching is proclamation, not just moralizing. It is Good News, not just good advice; it is gospel, not just law,” wrote Ian Pitt-Watson in A Primer for Preachers. My perfect church encourages me to grow in faith in Christ and knowledge of His Word.
Mentoring and Discipleship
Teaching should lead to discipleship, and discipleship, in turn, lead to mentoring. The lay leaders of the church have an awesome responsibility to utilize their wisdom and faith in service to others. A fellowship of believers needs discipleship to thrive. Active Bible studies and Sunday schools, older women mentoring young women, and elders taking young men under their wings are excellent ways to show the love of Christ. Not only can it encourage spiritual maturity and growth in church members young and old, but it can also be a welcoming message to seekers looking for a community to belong to. My perfect church says that I belong and gives me the opportunity to serve others in return.
One of the first things noticed at a church is its style of worship. The debate ensues: traditional versus contemporary and old versus new. This is pointless, because isn’t it all relative to one’s own personal taste anyway? The perfect worship service isn’t just choruses or only hymns. It is a creative and intelligent combination of the two, presented in a respectful and reverential manner. The music and Scripture should focus our attention on the character and holiness of God and be a reminder of the reason we worship Him at all. My perfect church raises my eyes and heart to Him who saved me, and brings me to my knees in grateful worship and adoration.
Evangelism and Missions
This is probably one of the most difficult areas for a church today to focus on. It can get so caught up in being a community of believers that those on the outside get left behind and forgotten. A vital and practical program of evangelism and missions that encourages believers to get involved in spreading the Gospel of Jesus, locally and internationally, is important to not only that church, but the Body of Christ as a whole. How exciting it is to see people get out of the actual church building and into the surrounding neighborhoods (and countries), being an example for Christ in love and in action! Committees are a great place to start the process, but the entire church should be included in the process. My perfect church actively and passionately pursues people for Jesus, in both the backyard and the third world.
The issue that weighs heaviest on my heart is the church’s obligation to make a clear and consistent presentation of the Gospel. It is so easy to be actively involved in a church and yet forget why you’re there in the first place: because of the grace of God. This must permeate the church atmosphere. Without it, church is just a social club. The message of the Gospel of Jesus should flow naturally from the preaching, worship, discipleship and evangelism. It’s part of that conviction, part of that fellowship and part of the character of God. It doesn’t have to be an invitation given every Sunday and it doesn’t have to be an introduction to the Four Spiritual Laws upon entering the building, but it does have to be an intentional effort on the part of all believers to remind us why we are members of the Body of Christ. The salvation He has given us should be the focal point of the activities and ministries of the church. My perfect church — the one I conjure up in my head and hope becomes a reality in the future — exists because of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and proclaims that truth with humility and joy.
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