Portrait Of A Biblical, Healthy Local Church…
For this post and the next, we will spend our time looking at the mission & vision of a healthy and Biblical local church. Vision is where God wants us to go and mission is how He will get us there. So this post will look at vision—using the Bible, I will try to paint a portrait of a healthy/Biblical local church that shines for Jesus both inside and outside the building so you can know what I and others are working towards, and what God is inviting YOU to partner with Him & us to work towards. The next post will talk more specifically about practical ways that this local church can become who God made us to be and to do what He made us to do…
- What would it look like to be an Acts 2 local church in an Acts 29 American culture?
- What would it look like to deeply know Jesus, not just know about Him?
- What would it look like to be intentionally intertwined with other Christians in compassionate and consistent community?
- What would it look like to boldly, gently and respectfully pass out Jesus’ invitations of new life, forgiveness and freedom to all those we meet in person and on social media?
These are the main questions that this local church is learning to answer as we learn to rely on the Holy Spirit and the Bible every day…
…and as the LORD helps us to live out the answers to those main questions, this local church will become healthier and healthier, more and more Biblical!
A healthy local church is one that is growing closer to God as a Person, relationally,
not just studying facts about Him as a concept, clinically and intellectually.
Acts 4:13 NIV: When they [non-Christians!] saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus [they smelled like Him, talked like Him, responded like Him, acted like Him!].
John 17:3 NIV: Now this is eternal life: that they would know You, the One True God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent [THIS is what real life is all about as defined by the Author of Life–knowing God intimately!].
Philippians 3:7-11 NIV: But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in[a] Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.
Imagine a local church where people attend, not to be entertained, but to meet with Jesus.
Imagine a local church where people are excited, and maybe a little bit worried :), about what Jesus Himself will say to them personally that Sunday morning!
Imagine a local church where people are learning what it looks like meet with Jesus on Monday morning, Friday night, and Saturday afternoon.
Imagine a local church where people are learning how to
- go to Jesus moment by moment
- pour out their praises, confessions, worries and requests to Him
- and receive His comfort, encouragement, guidance, healing, forgiveness, discipline & rest.
Imagine a local church where people are beginning to believe that God made us to know Him intimately even before He made us to serve Him diligently, that God wants our hearts even before He wants our hands, !
Imagine a local church where people are starting to notice & act like Jesus really is with us EVERYWHERE, from work to working out, from school to the supermarket, from your residence to your favorite restaurant!
Imagine a local church where people are beginning to turn down the volume/noise of their lives so that they can hear what the Holy Spirit is gently whispering to them!
Imagine a local church where people are practicing how to “be still and know that He is God” (Psalm 46:10) instead of “being frantically busy and pretending that we are god.”
Imagine a local church where people are growing to ENJOY God—yes, ENJOY HIM!—to taste and see that He is good, much more delicious & nutritious than the spiritual sugar of sin!
Imagine a local church like that, where non-Christians take note that “we are people who clearly are with Jesus”…THAT’S a healthy and a Biblical church, and THAT is what I am working hard to partner with God to help us become…
That is, the fellowship between the Christians who attend this local church,
learning to truly “do life together” in the deep end of the relational/friendship pool
as brothers and sisters in Christ who will be spending eternity together (like it or NOT!).
John 13:34-35 NIV: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you [feet-washing, cross-carrying, 70 x 7 forgiving, death-sacrificing, THAT kind of love!], so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” [Non-Christians will know we belong to Jesus by the way that we treat other Christians! How sobering is THAT?]
Acts 2:42-47 NIV: “They devoted themselves [not as a hobby, not when they had time, not if they felt like it] to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”
Acts 2:42-47 provides a powerful portrait of the early Christian community—we cannot paint a Biblical portrait of a healthy local church without the colors provided by Acts 2. The early Church was devoted together in the following ways:
-learning & living out God’s Word together
-doing life together & meeting regularly (fellowship)
-praying & praising God together at church and in their homes
-sacrificially & generously meeting each other’s practical needs
-eating meals and celebrating the Lord’s Supper together (communion)
Imagine a local church where the people are realizing that for effective outreach to the non-Christian in the community, we need intentional inreach to real/deep Christian community, that we can’t love those outside the family if we aren’t loving those inside the family.
Imagine a local church where the people are devoted not to Facebook but instead to knowing The Book & loving each other face to face!
Imagine a local church where the people reach out to those who miss a Sunday, not to scold them but to surprise them, “I noticed you weren’t here—I missed you!” 🙂
Imagine a local church where the people ask “how are you doing?” and you know that they really want to know, they really want to hear you answer honestly and not just with “fine”!
Imagine a local church where the people ask “how are you doing?”, not just on Sunday morning but during the week as well!
Imagine a local church where people are willing to risk truly knowing each other and truly being known by each other.
Imagine a local church where a friend would be mad at you if you DIDN’T call them at 2 in the morning when your life was falling apart.
Imagine a local church like that, where non-Christians know that we are disciples of Jesus because of the ways that we sacrificially love each other…THAT’S a healthy and a Biblical church, and THAT is what I am working hard to partner with God to help us become…
That is, learning to put the needs of all others ahead of our own (going for the bronze medal each day—God first, all others second, and ourselves a distant third)—but specifically in regards to non-Christians in the neighborhoods around us—to not just try to meet people’s earthly needs but to also introduce them to Jesus–with our words and actions–Who can meet their ETERNAL needs!
Jeremiah 29:7 NIV:
“Seek the peace and prosperity of the city
to which I have carried you into exile.
Pray to the Lord for it,
because if it prospers,
you too will prosper.”
For those who have received Jesus as Lord & Savior by faith,
we temporarily live on earth
as strangers in a foreign land that is not our true home (Hebrews 11:13-16).
And yet God calls us to be salt & light in the local and global village in which He places us.
We have a responsibility, in our brief time on earth,
to work for the earthly & eternal welfare of those around us,
to represent Jesus & introduce all others to Him
Who offers earthly & eternal nourishment both for stomachs and souls.
I am currently working on a menu of the many ways that you can partner with the Holy Spirit in seeking the peace and prosperity of Mankato, Minnesota…a menu with some of the many volunteer opportunities OUTSIDE of the walls of this local church. I’m excited to see where the Holy Spirit leads us all in being The Church out there…
In Mark 6, those seeking Jesus were tired and hungry. Jesus’ followers wisely realized this and compassionately suggested that Jesus send them away so they could get food & rest.
“You give them something to eat” (verse 37).
Imagine a local church where the people are learning to listen to the Holy Spirit & the Bible to
- wisely realize the spiritual & physical needs of the surrounding neighborhoods and
- compassionately bring our “five loaves and two fish” to Jesus
- so He can meet the needs of others through our hands and feet!
Imagine a local church where the people are learning to take selfless-ies each day, passing out photos of Jesus through our words & actions of Truth, grace & sacrificial love.
Imagine a local church where the people are learning to live to accomplish God’s dreams instead of living to accomplish our own dreams!
Imagine a local church where the people are willing to leave their seats in the movie theater and go out to the lobby to pass out Jesus’ free tickets of new life, forgiveness and transformation to all we meet!
Imagine a local church where the people do not keep the potpourri of Jesus’ love, grace & Truth in a basket just for themselves but where the people ARE the potpourri of Jesus, spreading the aroma of His love, grace & Truth everywhere we go!
Imagine a local church where the people realize that Jesus has not given us the Great Checkbook to get everything we want but Who has given us the Great Commission to give all others everything they need—Jesus.
Imagine a local church like that, where non-Christians, even if they disagree with us, know what Jesus is offering them because we have gentle and respectfully told them and shown them what He is offering them…THAT’S a healthy and a Biblical church, and THAT is what I am working hard to partner with God to help us become…
Now Some Of You Might Be Thinking
- I don’t have time TO DO all of that!
You’re right! You don’t have time to pursue God’s dreams AND your dreams…some of your current activities will have to be thrown overboard if we are to have all hands on deck of aircraft carrier Jesus!
But the Biblical portrait of a healthy local church that we’ve discussed above is not primarily something we DO for God but rather something that HE does in us. It does involve doing some things (which we will talk about on the 13th) but it is not primarily about DOING more things as much as it is about BECOMING who God made us to be.
Like Pinocchio, we can only DO so much as long as we are attached to the strings of the culture around us and the sinful nature inside of us.
But as we receive Jesus by faith & learn to follow Him each day, He transforms us from a wooden toy to become the Kingdom Men and Women He made us to be…
- Ha! This local church is a LONG way from that kind of a portrait of a healthy local church!
We might be a long way from that but we are ON OUR WAY towards that!
THAT’S where this local church is moving towards and will be moving towards for as long as the LORD allows me to be here.
There are a MILLION different goals that a local church can have, but those are the three that Elevate has been and will be moving towards (and many churches with great intentions are trying to accomplish all 1 million goals at once, distracted–SQUIRREL!–each moment by every new–SQUIRREL!–idea that they get! Without realizing it we are like spiritual Nascar, going in circles with empty gas tanks and bald tires, driving fast on the way to nowhere)…
We are not a country club but an ER where the Great Physician Jesus will resuscitate, heal and rehabilitate all those who come to Him…
We are not a cruise ship but an aircraft carrier where the Holy Spirit will fuel us up and launch us out to spread the Good News of Jesus’ grace, Truth and love…
We are not a brick building but a beloved body—with Jesus Himself as the Head—that needs ALL of our body parts to be active, involved and working together.
God’s Questions To Us All
Are you willing to be a canvas that, by faith, gives yourself to Jesus so that He can paint that kind of a portrait upon and within you, upon and within us all?
Will you let Him scrape off the untrue portraits that we and others have painted on us?
Will you allow Jesus to paint HIS portrait on your soul?