“THE MEASURES OF A CHURCH”                      By Pastor YAU

Text: 1 Thessalonians 1:1-8                                       October 14, 2007.

 

INTRODUCTION:

1)   A good book title: Years back, Gene Getz, a seminary professor in Dallas, Texas, wrote a little book by the name of the title of this message. He asks this question: “How do you measure a church?” The next question is “What is a successful church?” Is it a huge attendance on Sunday morning, a multimillion-dollar budget or a state-of-the-art building? Are these true measures of a successful church? Whether your church has a stadium size crowds or just a couple of dozens in attendance, numbers are not the measure God uses for success. He looks at the heart of the church.

2)   A successful church: Paul the Apostle planted an important church in Thessalonica, the capital city of Macedonia province, on one of his missionary trips. They didn’t start with a large congregation. They didn’t have a church building to meet on Sunday morning. They certainly didn’t have lots of Bible-scholar teachers. We don’t even know if they had a pastor because there is no mention of any particular name in his letters to this church. But this church has many of the qualities God sees as important that He inspired Paul to list them in the letter Paul wrote to this church.

 

WHAT IS THE CHURCH? With many organizations called church but are not doing the kind of things Jesus said they should do, many of us are confused. Let’s look at the Bible and see what it says a church is.

1)   The church is the creation of Christ: When Jesus told His disciples: “On this rock I will build my church” in Matthew 16:18, He was talking about the confession of Peter as the foundation, the ROCK, on which He will build His church. Peter, in reply to a question posted by Jesus, said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” This is about doctrinal beliefs, a very important condition of the church: holding the belief that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. Any human organization that does not completely and solely believes only in Jesus as the Christ and the Son of the living God should not call itself “a church.” It is on this foundation the church is built and on this ground the world will be saved.

2)   The church is the body of Christ: “It was He who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service so that the body of Christ may be built up.” (Ephesians 4:11-12) This is about the gifts and functions of the church and the authority of Christ as her head. The church is to obey Christ just as the body obeys the head. All parts of the body are to be under control of the head for the well bring of the growth and function of the body. Without the head the body ceases to function. Without complete obedience to Christ, there is no church.

3)   The church is the bride of Christ: “Let us rejoice and be glad and give Him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear. Fine linen stand for the righteous acts of the saints.” (Rev. 19:7-8) This is about the acts of the church, the purity of the saints, the every act the church takes and every work the people in the church has done. The church and her people must prepare herself bright and clean as a bride prepared for her groom, the Lord Jesus Christ.

4)   The church is the household of God. “People ought to conduct themselves in the God’s household which is the church of the living God.” (1 Tim. 3:15) This is about conduct of the people in the church---they ought to conduct themselves correctly, accordingly and humbly to the head of the house which is God. The church is the “house” of God, not a social organization or a political entity. The church is built for worshipping God, study His word and service in the house. A church should conduct her business to benefit God’s Kingdom. Each member of the church needs to adhere to the household rules of conduct based on the Bible.

 

COMMON MISTAKES TO MEASURE A CHURCH:

1)   The numbers: This is the most common mistake many of us use to measure a successful church. If number is important, Jesus should have thousands if not million of disciples to be successful. But he had chosen only 12 and even so one of them was a traitor. We certainly love to see huge churches that draw huge crowds to worship the Lord. It is nothing wrong to have huge churches. But big is not always good. The Communist Movement in the early 20th century had won the hearts and soul of hundreds of millions in all three continents that many believed it threatened the survival of the democratic system of the western world. Just look at the collapse of the communist movement at the end of the same century we can see that there is no magic in large numbers. Many of the once huge churches did not survive changes because they did not grow with the principles God has ordained.

2)   The buildings: The second most common mistake many have made in measuring a church is about the buildings. While buildings are important in meeting the needs of churches, buildings alone should never be the measure of a successful church. If you take a tour to the large cities in Europe, many of the tourist spots are old, big and beautiful church buildings. These buildings are good for tourists to see their glorious history, their magnificent architectural structures, the beautiful art works and their cultural importance. But most of these buildings are no longer used for the main purpose that is for worship but for tourist attraction. Some of the most beautiful buildings of once glorious churches in the northeast U. S. are now sold and remodeled into apartments.

3)   The dollars: This is the third criteria many use to measure a church: how big is your budget. No one would deny the importance of money in church operation. Large budget or income of churches does represent commitment and sacrifice of the people. But money doesn’t save souls. Money may promote programs, support nice activities and pay high salaries for professional staff. According to association reports many larger churches spent lot more money in saving souls per capita than smaller churches do. In our local area, the largest church spent 4 times more money to baptize one new member compared to churches under 200 people.

4)   The staff: Many Christians are still attracted to churches with star staff, especially star pastors. This is a very dangerous situation. We all know that God gives different spiritual gifts to different people and church staff. God gives His gifts according to His design and purposes. Church staff and pastors are servants of God. They are in churches to bring people to God and not to themselves. For any staff or pastor to do anything of self promotion is never biblical. For Christians to “worship” staff or pastors is never biblical either. Church staff and pastors come and go. They serve the Lord in the time and place as God has sent them. While many of them do have their unique contributions to the churches they served, but God and the church is much bigger and last much longer than the staff or the pastor. We need to focus our loyalty and commitment on God and His leadership not on human leaders in churches.

 

BIBLICAL MEASURES OF A CHURCH: Look at the list:

1)    Work produced by faith: (v.3) This is more than work, it is about faith that produced the work. Faith is listed here as the primary factor of a successful church. It begins with their faith in the Lord for salvation. Then it is faith that supported them to grow the work. This is not faith in human skills, strategies or even wisdom. It is about faith in the Lord Jesus Christ who sustains and produces the results of our work. Without faith, there is no good church.

2)    Labor prompted by love: Labor is hard work. No one likes to do hard work unless he/she is prompted or motivated by love: love to the Lord and love to fellow people. We all understand the power of love. It is that divine of love that prompted the Lord to die on the cross for our sins. How do we measure a church? Look at their level of love to the Lord and to their fellow men.

3)    Endurance inspired by hope:  Just as it was written by the Apostle Paul, hope is an integral part of the trine elements that sustain our spiritual growth. Our hope in the Lord is the only foundation on which we build churches and individual life. True hope is rested in the Lord, on His loving care, divine wisdom and matchless power. Our Lord is the only hope for the church and Christians.

4)    Gospel, the center piece: (v.5)A good and successful church is for the spreading of the gospel for the salvation of man. Large and small, all true churches are purchased of God by the blood of Jesus Christ for the salvation of souls. Real churches are not houses of entertainment, shows or political platforms.

5)    Follow the example of Jesus. (v.6)A good and successful church is one whose people model the life and work of the Lord and the saints of the Christian history. This is about the testimony of the membership in their everyday life. A good church is more than a large crowd on Sunday morning. It is about every member be a “little Jesus” during the week in all walks of life. The fact that the believers in Antioch at Bible time were called Christians because they portrayed the life and works of their Lord Jesus Christ.

6)    Welcome the word of God: (v.6b) All good churches must be dedicated to receive and follow the message of God, the Bible. No church is a real church if it follows the philosophy and the trend of this world. A real church must uphold the truth in the Bible and be committed to follow the truth. Regardless of the change of culture, social atmosphere or human interests, a good church will always welcome and follow the word of God with joy.

7)    Striving to be the best: (v.7)This is not about competition. It is about setting higher goals for the Lord. To be a model for others is not about pride but about going higher, pushing further. A good church is always on the cutting edge looking for ways to do better, to win more and to bring more fruits to the Father. When a church stops to grow, it is the beginning of dying.

8)    To ring the message further: (v.8)A good and successful church is a mission oriented church---bringing the message of salvation to other parts of the city, the region, the state and the world. When a church is preoccupied by her own business and enjoyment of her people at the expense of neglecting her purpose and responsibility to others, it is never a good or successful church regardless of its size or money or building.

 

CONCLUSION:

1)     Look for a true church: With freedom of religion in this country, anyone can organize something and call it a “church.” There are too many so called churches set their course far away from the definition set in the Bible. When you go to a church, make sure it is a real one.

2)     Work like a real church: A church is only a real church when it was founded by Jesus Christ, conducts her business in His way for His purpose and her people live their life according to his teaching. It is more than just a name. It is the contents that matters.

3)     Be part of the church: The church doesn’t save people, the Lord Jesus does. But the church is the only entity ordained by the Lord to represent Him in this world. It was organized by Jesus for the growth of Christians and the growth of His Kingdom thru missions. Join a true church, work with other like minded Christians to advance God’s agenda.