Our general theme for this month is the purpose of the Church. We begin with the corporate concept and then move to a more individual focus. We begin in our togetherness. What are the Marks of a Good Church?
James Thompson wrote a little work on 2 Corinthians entitled, Marks of a Christian. That title raises a good question, worthy of study. Often in the Restoration Movement the question is asked, What are the marks of a genuine church? That is also a good question. But neither are our question in this lesson.
What are the marks of a good church? What does the Bible say about quality? We are aware of quantity concerns, but what of quality? We could go to Rev. 2-3, to the letters to the churches. Some were good churches, others not so good. We could identify strengths, weaknesses. Flourishing, faltering. Growing, declining, stagnating.
This lesson is synthesis--bringing together of biblical principles. As read New Testament, what are marks of good church?
1. Firm FOUNDATIONS.
The church is built on solid rock, Jesus Christ [Mt 16]. Cannot be good without that proper and solid foundation.
2. Commitment to effective PREACHING and TEACHING.
Perhaps this goes with what has already been said, but the church must produce and be nourished by preachers, elders, teachers who can preach and teach the word of God [Acts 20:20,28].
Such effective teaching of the word changes lives. No place for entertaining lectures to charm away a little time, no place for endless discussions of contemporary issues which will be changed tomorrow. No place for overmuch emphasis on the problems of current culture. The changeless word of God is the source book.
The gospel must be heralded, compelled by Christ's love. The unifying center of the church of Jesus Christ remains the fidelity and clarity of the message coupled with the passion and integrity of the messengers. This center encompasses every Christian in the good church. Souls are saved, souls are kept saved.
3. Congregations focused on God's PURPOSE.
The priesthood of all believers means the church must take seriously its tasks. The church is the primary context for religious education, whether the church is in homes or in a building or scattered throughout a community. Good churches identify their God-given tasks and are focused on accomplishing God's will. In general, focused churches will seek opportunities for evangelism, fellowship, individual spiritual growth that expresses faith, and corporate spiritual growth that expresses the mutual faith.
Genuine church renewal demands commitment, competence, and Spirit-filled preachers, leaders, and members.
4. NURTURING where the garden of the soul is tended.
Above all else, the good church is filled with persons who are men and women of God. The good church knows the power of personal prayer, the power of corporate worship. The daily walk with God, with Christ, through the Spirit, is considered essential and is ever deepened. Prayer, study, meditation, and other spiritual disciplines are encouraged and considered normative in the good church. Tending the garden of the soul also guards against trendy fads and gimmicks which so frequently lead us astray.
5. The lost are taught through EVANGELISM.
In the 16th century through the Reformers, the message of Jesus Christ spread throughout Europe and across the seas with new technology and expanding geography: the printing press, the discovery of the New World.
Today the information/technological revolution--the jet, fax, chip--presents enormous opportunities for the church. What has been lost must be renewed--a renewed commitment to share the good news of Jesus Christ with all people everywhere. At least 1.3 billion people in our world have never heard the Redeemer's name.
No church can consider itself good, and faithful, and genuine, that is not committed to spreading the gospel as widely as possible. No Christian can claim to genuinely bear the marks of Jesus who is not in some way, however feeble, telling the message of Jesus.
The modern church of Christ is not exempt from the cultural disarray and decline that has marked many other church groups in recent times. But God has not abandoned his church, and we have reason to stir up the hope that is within us. God is still calling men and women for Kingdom service, and adding those men and women to the church of JC.
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