Tuesday, March 01, 2011

The Great Church...

I have a couple of old preacher friends who like to introduce other preachers as being "from the great church in ___________," or "from the great _________ Church of Christ." It's a nice way to be complimentary, if somewhat hyperbolic, when one is given to using superlatives a lot. I applaud the compliment, while having questions about the superlative.
What IS a great church? Or, what makes a church great? I have felt, and written several times, that our view of church growth comes from the world and not the Word. So, I would say the same is true about church greatness too. When was the last time you heard about a small town congregation of God's people, who love each other, have a reputation for serving their community, and don't know or care if others see them as liberal, conservative, or have their names in the new Where the Saints Meet book, being referred to as "a great church"? No, we all know that "greatness" usually comes from being large, trend setting, attractive, progressive, and well known. And there is nothing inherently wrong with any of those things, but - they can easily have more to do with quantity/greatness rather than quality/greatness.
How would Jesus define a great church? I believe He would be looking at only one thing - is that group of disciples doing what He intended for them to do? If a congregation of God's people are not fulfilling His purpose, there is nothing great about about them, whether it's a family of fifty, five hundred, or five thousand. A great church is a family of God's people helping one another develop a deeper relationship with Jesus. Are they growing in love for Him by learning to love one another? Are they passionately seeking Him and sharing Him? Are they using the tools He gave to carry out His purpose, or are they worshipping the tools and performing ceremonies that have nothing to do with deepening relationships with Him or each other?
Let these two passages define what a "great church" is in God's eyes.
"All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had." Acts 4:32
"Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have a sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart. For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God." 1 Peter 1:22-23
A great church is defined by love, and what that love compels each disciple to do.

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