Sometimes you’re shopping for an electronic device, or even a house, and every once in a while you actually find the absolutely perfect version of the thing you’re looking for. That’s pretty great. Finding the perfect device or the perfect house isn’t critically important in the grand scheme of things, but it sure feels good.
We shop for churches too. You know what? As long as we’re in this world, we’re never going to find the perfect version of a church. Churches are made of people, and people aren’t perfect.
But you know what else? We can find churches where the people have a true aim to mold their lives to the teachings of Christ. They aim to love the Lord with all their heart, soul, and mind, and they aim to love their neighbors as themselves (Matthew 22:35-40). No church on earth will ever be perfect at these things. But when you find a good church that aims for this and takes this path, well, it’s a lot better than finding the perfect electronic device, that’s for sure. This is what a good church seeks to do.
Loving the Lord Completely
As we think about what it means to be a congregation of people who love the Lord with all their heart, soul, and mind, we would do well to first be reminded how the God who made us has loved us. Even with sin and difficulty in the world, we find the presence of God in the good things we experience. James says that every good thing and every good gift comes from our Father above (James 1:17); what good thing do you enjoy, that doesn’t come as a result of God’s action in our lives, or as a result of the way God made this world for our benefit? They are all from Him.
More importantly, in view of our waywardness, God blesses us with understanding (Hebrews 4:15-16), and patience (2 Peter 3:9), and if we will come to Him, forgiveness (John 3:16). A perfect, holy, and righteous God cannot simply ignore the problem of sin, and forgive us with no price paid. Loving us so much, He Himself was willing to pay the price for us. He gave up His own Son.
So we see how God has loved us. This sparks within us a love for Him (1 John 4:8-10; 4:19). This love will be noticeable in a church where people love the Lord completely!
This love for Him must not remain a shallow, merely sentimental love. His love for us must compel us to lives of true service! In a very simple, concise statement, Jesus says “If you love Me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). A good church will be filled with people who truly strive, first, to know the will of the Lord, and second, to keep the will of the Lord. This will be true in their own personal lives, and in the work of the congregation as a whole unit.
Individually, they don’t hear the Word and simply say, “Yes, that’s the way I should be living,” without walking the walk. Paul urges us to be transformed by renewal, not conformed to the world (Romans 12:1-2). Christians then, are people who see how God has loved us, even when we were not very loveable, lost in our sins, and yet He loved us anyway (Romans 5:8). Responding to that, they don’t simply claim God for forgiveness, they also live for Him, following His guidance.
Congregationally also, a good church looks to the New Testament for guidance. It reveals that the work of churches is to be a family of people who bond together spiritually. They worship together, and they engage is their spiritual work together. They assemble to remember the Lord’s sacrificial death, and to exhort, console, and build up one another. They assemble to stimulate one another to love and good works. These things are what a good church is busy with. They love the Lord, and follow him alone.
We don’t create programs and goals that are outside the original, New Testament design of the church. This has become a major problem in modern American churches. Churches have catered to every whim of the people, and the people have come to look for programs that make life convenient and fun. Many new churches are taking an actual “marketing” approach to the question of what the church will be and offer, rather than looking to scripture to guide them. A good church will be one that follows the scriptural design of God, not a marketing design which bows to the will of the people. One way demonstrates love for the Lord, the other demonstrates love for numbers and power.
Loving Our Neighbors as Ourselves
A good church is made up of caring people, who watch for the needs of others, and seek to fulfill those needs. Sometimes those needs are material needs, sometimes they are spiritual needs. They don’t rely on a pastor or a church program to respond; instead, they each learn the teaching of Jesus, that those who will inherit the kingdom are those who individually give water to the thirsty and visit those who are sick (Matthew 23:31-46). They each work according to their talents for the building up of others within the congregation (Ephesians 4:16, Romans 12:4-9). They don’t just look out for their own interests, but put the needs of others ahead of their own (Philippians 2:2-5), just as Jesus did for us.
In fact, that example of God toward us is what teaches us to love one another: “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another…. If someone says ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen” (1 John 4:11, 4:20).
At Park Road, we strive to be this kind of people, and this kind of church: loving God, following His will, and loving one another as ourselves. Have we managed it perfectly? Assuredly not, nor has any other group of people. We’ll never find a perfect church this side of Heaven. But these things are what we strive for, this is our goal. This is what a good church is. This is the kind of church to shop for.
Come visit with us. We'll help you, and you help us. Together, we will grow closer and closer to our Lord!