10 Marks of wonderful church
Majors Gary and Lorraine say:
We have noticed in almost twenty years of leading churches, in very differing contexts that when church is effective and great, these things existed. We in our time of course have experienced highs and lows, the good, the bad, and the ugly. The amazing and wonderful perspectives of church.
Here we share our testimony – when church is wonderful; when God’s kingdom was coming…these 10 marks were shining, when they were absent…not so much!
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind (Deut. 6:1; Matt. 22:37)
This famous verse is beyond a verbal statement. It is what all Jewish people would utter daily – the Shammah. Their lives were centred around their love of God. But, verbal declarations of love are nice but not wonderful! Loving must have legs – knowing the love of God has consequences - his love is seen in our actions. You can’t love without giving.
Wonderful church is a community of people whose loving God is the definition of everything else they do – it is who we are, not what we do. Every action a wonderful church takes is a consequence of its love for God.
Pray, be silent, be still, often
In the well-known song ‘Mid All the Traffic’ it says, ‘More grace is wrought in quietness that any us aware’. Whatever your character or personality type, there is no substitute for this. The biblical examples of this are too great and too fruitful to ignore. From Elijah to Paul; from Abraham to Jesus. Silence and solitude are the disciplines of the person who hears God’s voice. Not hearing from God? Maybe you need to turn the volume down and make some space in the diary. If you hear yourselves say you are too busy for this – then adjustments must be made. A church run on human ideas is not a wonderful one, but church with space for Holy Spirit’s inspiration and God’s prompts is a wonderful church.
What does that look like? Think of the thing that makes you most excited. The birth of a baby. Your football team scoring the winning goal in the last seconds of a match. Whatever that moment is, picture your behaviour in that moment. If that is what you’re capable of and it is not behaviour that you attach to expressing your love for and relationship with Jesus, then a close look as to why is required.
You know when you’ve been for a lovely meal out and you tell people the experience…so enthusiastic you invite them to go with you. The world needs to see the passion and love we have for Jesus. A wonderful church is one that freely and passionately expresses its faith. No one needs flat, bored, half-hearted Christians. You will want to see people being part of this church? Step up, show up! Celebrate everything that God is doing without the shackles of propriety filtering it. There was a reason several thousand were added on that day of Pentecost – the passion was unmistakable and it was attractive!
Communicate openly and wisely
There is plenty options for effective ways to advertise but the most effective is word of mouth! A wonderful church shares real stories (the how and why) of effectiveness outside of its own doors.
Internally – there is no space in a wonderful church for ‘you in your small corner and I in my mine, however there is plenty space for teamwork. A sense of togetherness is vital because a single person’s power is limited at best but can be the death of church. The only power we need lots of is the Holy Spirits Power.
Show compassion to everyone
God has no favourites – his compassion extends equally to everyone, we shouldn’t have favourites either, inside or outside of our church walls. Who are the ones whose needs are ignored today? A wonderful church is full of disciples showing passion for God, compassion for each other, for themselves and for the lost.
Be kind. Be humble. ‘…clothe yourself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.’ (Colossians 3:12b)
Believe in transformation
Make it a daily choice to believe in God’s transforming power. Judge no one because you’re only here because of the same grace that can change anyone.
Liminality is the principle of people or things being drawn together and forming community from chaos or extreme pressure. The people that discovered new levels of community when a terrorist attack happens. The way a temporary community emerges when everyone on the platform is late because of the chaos of the trains. We are all here because we have been saved from the chaos of sin and as such have formed this community called ‘church’.
The only thing that can possibly hold this community together is the one central truth that Jesus has and can transform you and anyone else. Wonderful church is a community of people drawn together by a common state of healing from brokenness under Christ the healer.
Consequentially, none of us have a right to even a corner of God’s seat of judgement – we do, however, have an invitation to the celebration party when someone comes home! Remember Luke 15?
‘As far as depends on you live at peace with everyone’ (Rom. 12:18)
Unforgiveness corrodes your soul and your relationships. Seek first to understand, not be understood. ‘Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as Christ forgave you.’ (Ephesians 4:32)
Forgiving does not depend on someone else apologising. It is all your decision. You’re not responsible for someone else’s soul, only your own.
Why do we find it easier to forgive the ‘sinner’ who comes through our doors for the first time than to forgive ‘one of our own’? The same theological and sociological principles apply. A wonderful church is when people who make up church can forgive quickly.
Be a follower – we are all limited but Jesus isn’t
Ephesians 4:11-13 detail the truth that Jesus has given the church every resource it needs to succeed in everything it does in his name. Together we have been given everything we need to succeed in his name. Be ready to follow when necessary. Be ready to lead when called upon. We are all limited, and we all need each other. None of us are above each other and a submissive follower spirit is an essential element to God’s kingdom being manifest at all levels of a wonderful church. The fundamental manifesto of the kingdom is one of submission – Read Matthew chapter 5.
Hold the forms of the Church lightly (especially the ones you like!)
None of this is about our preferences. Be willing to stop doing something you like so that we can do something someone else likes. A wonderful church is one that exists by consequence of love and for the purpose of conveying that love to people who don’t know it yet.
If we understand that purpose, we can handle any form regardless of how we personally like it. If you’ve got a ‘why’ you can handle any ‘how’. What it looks like really doesn’t matter. Jesus calling Levi (Matt. 9:9-10) and eating with sinners and tax collectors didn’t look right. It wasn’t the way things were done. Some were – indignant! Was it effective? Did the kingdom show up in that gathering? Yes, and yes.
Be a community that faces outward but is deeply connected internally
‘Then Peter stood up with the eleven, and raised his voice and addressed the crowd.’ (Acts 2:14)
Here was a group of people prepared to take whatever form was necessary to tell people about Jesus. To explain in words that they would understand the experience of Jesus that they had just had – and they did it together. They shared an experience of the Holy Spirit, they faced the crowd, and they remained connected by their shared experience. Their response could have been, ‘wow, that was really cool, let us stay in this room and talk about it amongst ourselves’. Would the church have been birthed on that Pentecost day if they’d done that? No! It was only birthed because their response to being connected by this common experience was to stand together and address the crowd, facing outward – and thousands were added to their number. Are were loving this thing called church so much that we’re standing, together, and addressing the crowd?