I have been reading Michael W. Holmes on Thessalonians and have been enjoying it. He lists six characteristics of the Thessalonian church we should look for today.
- It was a community rooted in God’s grace, love, and election.
- It was a community committed to Jesus Christ.
- It was a community empowered by the Holy Spirit.
- It was a community that bore witness to the gospel.
- It was a community characterized by faith, love, and hope.
- It was a community clearly differentiated from other religions.
These are good markers to have in mind when evaluating the health of a church. I do not advocate church hopping – church shopping. I do not advocate thinking of membership to a church like membership to a buyers’ club. We do not take our dollars elsewhere if the church does not meet our exacting standards. That kind of mindset leads to people being permanently unsettled and churches being under supported.
If our church is lacking health in one of these areas, I advocate as a member our church is healthy in some of these areas, we should give thanks. We should praise God and broadcast to others when our churches are healthy. If our church lacks health in one of these areas, we should develop a strategy. We should take on the challenge of moving in the Holy Spirit’s power to upgrade the Lord’s house.
Say, for example, you think your church sacrifices love for truth in the current culture wars. The preaching denigrates the opposition in the battle for public policy on issues of social justice, abortion, the environment, the economy, or sexuality. It is not time to leave, but time to talk quietly with those who preach without love. It is not time to attack them, but it is time to reason from scripture about speech seasoned with salt and full of grace. All the churches I know can improve a little bit, so let’s get discussions going about how we can work together for change.
The post above is written after reflection on 1 Thessalonians 1:2-10.
We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia—your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it, for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.