6 Marks of a Model Church
It was such a privilege to have one of our former Senior Pastors, Ellis Andre with us for Easter; after being away for almost two decades. He and his wife each wrote us a letter of encouragement of what they had seen of God’s hand upon us.
The Thessalonian believers must have also been similarly encouraged when they received Paul’s 1st letter to them. Paul had only been their “senior pastor” for a few months before he needed to leave. God did an amazing work in their lives, despite Paul’s absence. In fact Paul calls this church, “a model” – and it was all of God!
Steven Lawson insightfully writes:
Man can build a booming church, but only God can build a biblical church … A man-built church, seeks to accomplish man’s goals, using man’s means, and strives, whether consciously or not, for man’s glory … a God-built church, has the Spirit of God as its energy, the Word of God as its most precious jewel, and the glory of God as its supreme goal.
The God-driven church is one built by God Himself and, thus, is not a corporation, but a congregation, not a business, but a body, not a factory, but a family. In such a church, God is working primarily, not through hyped events, programs, entertainment, or even strategically designed plans per se, but through His Word and by His Spirit in the converted, changed lives of His people. Let us never forget, God anoints people, not plans. He indwells believers, not buildings. He fills preachers, not performances. Not that plans, buildings, or some performances are intrinsically wrong, because they are not. But when they become the church’s chief pursuit and confidence, they are spiritual cul-de-sacs leading nowhere, a cheap substitute for the real presence and supernatural power of God among His people. “
(from a sermon entitled: The God-Driven Church)
I see at least six marks of a model church in 1 Thessalonians chapter 1:
1. A model church has converted hearts that are not just in Thessalonica (1:1)
These new believers no longer just live in Thessalonica. They now have a second address, “in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” They have encountered the gospel and now the life of God flows to them in the midst of their Thessalonica. Are you experiencing God in the midst of your Thessalonica?
2. A model church has grateful encouragers that are not just silent (1:2-3a)
A model church has faithful “Pauls” who pray for their church and give thanks to God. But Paul didn’t just pray for these believers, he also wrote them a letter and expressed his thanks to them. Are you excited about what God is doing at RUC and are you building a culture of encouragement despite the challenges?
3. A model church has Christ-centred ministry that is not just duty! (1:3)
Converted hearts lead to changed lives. The Thessalonians are not only doing the right things – they are doing them with the right motives! Their work is produced by faith not fear. Their labour is prompted by love not ulterior motives. Their hope is inspired by looking to Christ. Faith is rooted in the past; Love is expressed in the present; Hope looks to the future. Is your ministry and service genuinely Christ-centred or has it become cold duty?
4. A model church has convicting preaching that is not just words! (1:4-6)
The gospel didn’t come with less than words nor did it come with just words. It came with more than words in Thessalonica – with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction! A man-built church has lots of discussion and lots of programmes and events, but sees little radical transformation in people’s lives. Imagine a church where our community groups, our conversations, our preaching, our counselling, our proclamation of the gospel comes with a demonstration of the Holy Spirit’s power. That is what revival prayer must plead for! I pray that we would be a church where our ministry is more than words.
5. A model church has contagious impact that is not just inward! (1:7-9)
People can be impressed by our programmes and check things out for a while until the church down the road puts on a better show. But they will only be impacted if they see God’s power at work in us and through us. The Thessalonian believers had become a model of faith across the known world. The Lord’s message rang out from them like the roar of thunder! It would be a mistake in this season to become inward and be Thessalonians who say: let’s wait until we have a Paul; let’s wait for the persecution to stop before we resound with the gospel. May God keep us faithfully outward!
6. A model church has radical conversions that are not just superficial (1:9)
A model church sees conversions that are idol-shattering! I’m saddened by people who waft into Christianity and who make Christ their hobby.
I long to see God-haters, atheists and people who are far from God coming to Christ – turning from idols to serve the living & true God. Oh may God do in our day what he did in Thessalonica.
Oh church, let us continue to look to Christ and to wait for Him (1:10). Yes, pray that God would send us another “Paul” or “Silas” or “Timothy” who can point us to Christ; but let us never forget that Jesus is the foundation, the builder and finisher of our faith.
And let us never forget the words of Hudson Taylor: God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s supply.
May Jesus continue to build his church!