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  • Writer's picturePastor Chuck Cooper

Marks Of A Healthy Church Part II

The Apostle Paul told the Thessalonian Church it was a model church,

an example, not just in Thessaloniki, but all across their region.


What does it take to get on a list like that? What would be your idea of

a model church? A church that is up to date, hip, comprised of the

finest the community has to offer. As one pastor was known to say of

his church: “Anybody who is somebody in this town is a member of

this church.”


Well, we have just narrowed the field substantially, suggesting to

most, no need to apply.


But let’s move on with our view of who’s in and who’s out. Now that

we know there is such a thing as a “split entry” or a “split-level

church,” are there measures we would want, you know — the appeal

factor. Would it need to be a cool church, up to date, with a faith that

fits, a look that attracts, a building that impresses, a place that makes

you “feel” at home where you can come and go at your convenience,

casual, comfortable with no fear of being to religious or serious about

this “God business”? A faith with all the accessories to give the

appearance of religion, but with no substance?


Some churches are like some politicians: They seem to have a few

pages missing from their Bibles. If so, you might become a member —

maybe.


There are other qualifiers for sure. The measure we must consider

calls for none of these.


How does God size up a church? Let’s look at the Thessalonians I: 1-10

more closely and see. Paul’s mention and thoughts of a model church

is not exhaustive, nor meant to be, but it is non-negotiable.


First, I would suggest to you that a model church is a church that is

clear-minded about who God is and who they are. God has not left us

in a blur of spiritual pollution so thick and heavy we lose our way.


The church has at least three qualities that we need reminded of from

time to time. First, she is discernable. God’s word and his church are

not filled or shrouded with the smoke of Satan; instead, we are

clearing the air. We know who we are, what we are and what we are

doing. We are a people who embody the message we believe and

preach.


Many churches can find themselves in a fog, the Christ of the gospels

stands clear in time and eternity as does his Word, and his church is

the custodian of that word.


God has placed the church in the center of the world to keep the world

centered. We are a discernable conscience to our community. You can

see the church, you can sense the church, you can hear the church, she

speaks, and has been spoken to by God himself. She is discernable. She

is God’s new society. Not only is the church discernable, she is

definable. It is not a perspective; it is a divine revelation.


The church is a people with a message from God; it is known as the

gospel. The practices of the church make her not only discernable, but


definable. Again, the church must embody the message she is given; it

is her identity.


“No church can spread the gospel with any degree of integrity, let

alone credibility, unless it has been visibly changed by the gospel it

preaches,” John Stott said. “We need to look like what we are talking

about. It is not enough to receive the gospel and pass it on; we must

embody it in our common life of faith, love, joy, peace, righteousness

and hope. We do not need to be perfect to preach the gospel, but we

cannot preach the gospel if we give into our imperfections.”


Another mark of a model or healthy church is that she has spiritual

activity. Some churches can barely move; others are fidgety and the

pastor is actually nothing more than an activity director trying to get

them to move. Again, activity is like numbers: There is no guarantee

things are well or healthy, just that something is going on. It can be

either good or bad.


The Thessalonian church had spiritual activity, not just church

business or religion. God gives commands and demands surrender

and obedience. Faith and repentance are not options.


Paul mentions that he, Silas and Timothy were prayerfully mindful of

the Thessalonians’ faith, hope and love, but more importantly these

were evidences of God at work in them.


When Paul combines these three elements of Christian spirituality, as

in this context, “it is usually to provide a basic, and sufficient,


description of the genuine Christian,” R.C. Lucas said. “These three

qualities are the hallmarks, and proper evidences, of a work of God in

the soul of man.”


Their faith was productive, their love more than just warm wishes and

nostalgic feelings, as we say it was a “labor of love.” They put

affection in their love. Their hope was enduring, they crashed through

the quitting points. The Lord’s return, leads to endurance, which is

patient fortitude in the face of opposition.


In addition to such authenticity came a contagious conviction. Verse 3

says, “The Lord’s message rang out from you.”


The Greek word is execheo, which occurs nowhere else in the New

Testament. It is derived from echos, an echo or noise, a boom. The

power of the mass media is great we know and should be used, but

there is still the old tried and true that is power beyond measure and

often more effective and is spontaneous.


Have you heard of holy gossip? A transformed life speaks loudly and

convincingly and still works today. Christian conversion involves (1) a

decisive break with idols, (2) an active service of God, and (3) a patient

waiting for Christ. These three steps are summed up in the verbs “you

turned ... to serve ... and to wait.” The church is not only discernible

and definable but she is deliberate.


We see from this text that we are not a people sitting on the sidelines

with a passive, private and personal faith, but we are a people who are


on the front lines. We are in a war and the converted know this and act

and live accordingly. When a church becomes diluted with the

nominal you end up with mixed signals and a loss of message,

meaning and mission. They lose their first love and can get in God’s

way.


With this comes a believable life. People usually won’t suffer for that

which they do not believe. They smashed their idols and suffered

greatly, but convincingly. There are many marks of a healthy church,

both here and elsewhere in Scripture that can be looked to as a model.


In closing I would note that they were waiting patiently for the return

of Christ, which says to me this: A church is a place where the coming

of Christ is evident, seen and felt by the way the believers lived out

their lives to the end.

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