If you find the perfect church, don’t join it or else it will no longer be perfect. But an ideal is different than perfection.
Or so I told myself while listening to my pastor’s sermon. Jesus’ life is the ideal for how we should pattern our life. And I constantly fall short of that ideal.
But my pastor is a great teacher, and he was using the Apostle Paul’s first epistle written to the church in Thessalonica for his text. Surely, it would be a message of encouragement.
And it was. You can listen to it here:
What made this church ideal?
An ideal church has Christ as it’s leader. They place their trust in God. In short, they are a spiritual body doing physical works that magnify Christ.
Their work of faith is directed toward God. Too often, I’ve been caught in the trap of doing things for the approval of other people. My faith comes from God and my works should be done to glorify him.
Others are important to the ideal church. Their labor of love is directed toward people within and without. By showing our love for others, we show them Christ. He loved everyone enough to pay the ultimate price so they can have eternal life.
Sometimes we focus too much on the here and now. An ideal church has patience of hope. They understand their future is the finish line, and when things get hard (and they do) they set their gaze back on the hope of Heaven forever with Jesus.
I wonder, is my church ideal? How does it measure up to these criteria?
I’m not looking at anyone but myself. I know I stumble in all three of these areas. Praise the Lord for his grace and forgiveness and his penchant for giving second (third, twenty-fifth) chances.
Who did they influence?
We meet the members of this church in Thessalonica in Acts 17. Based on this short interaction, I wouldn’t have expected the church to be strong or held up as an ideal.
But they were. Because they had influence.
People in their region, Macedonia, looked at their example and were encouraged to keep fighting the fight. In fact, word of their faith and labors spread to other areas on the European continent.
How widespread is the influence of my church? What am I doing to spread the gospel?
What kept them going?
And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost1 Thessalonians 1:6
They knew who to follow. Sometimes, we get distracted by the world’s priorities and lose our way, staggering off the path God intends for us.
That’s why we need to read and study the Bible—God’s road map for our life.
And we need to focus on the return of Jesus Christ.
No, this doesn’t mean standing with our mouths agape staring at the sky like the disciples were doing in Acts 1.
It means serving him, so we’ll be found faithful when he comes.
If his coming was close when Peter penned his letter, it is imminent now.
What do you think makes an ideal church?