Summary: What are the qualities and characteristics of a church God is searching for and blesses
The Church God Blesses- Part One
Rev. Gary A. Shockley, Pastor
March 10, 2002
I believe that God communicates with us in many different ways—but the primary way God speaks to us is through His written word—the Bible. One morning this week as I was reading from the Bible I came upon a real gem—a 21 word statement that jumped from the page and seemed to be directed right to me. Have you ever had that happen? It’s wonderful and kind of spooky at the same time, isn’t it? Here it is: “The eyes of the Lord search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him.” (2 Chronicles 16:9)
I believe God directed me to this single sentence message with the intent that I bring it here and help to unpack it’s meaning for our congregation. So, I want to spend time with you this week and next to ask and answer the question, “What Kind of Church Does God Bless?” I believe that right now God’s eyes are moving back and forth across the earth looking for churches that are fully committed to Him in order to strengthen them.
We can spend a lot of time considering the large number of congregations across this country that have lost any real sense of what it means to be fully committed to God. Churches that are more committed to traditionalism and rituals that have lost their meaning than they are to the fresh working and joyful presence of a living God. Churches that have learned to stifle the work of the Holy Spirit with controlling attitudes and statements like, “we never did it that way before!” Churches that have no passion for prayer and whose only motivation for reaching out to others is to increase their offerings. Far too many church buildings have become tombs and the only hope some congregations have is the scripture that says in the last days, “the dead in Christ shall rise first!” That is not what God wills for us!
Right now the eyes of God are moving back and forth across the earth looking for churches that are fully committed to Him. Because He wants to strengthen them.
So, what kind of church does God bless? This morning I want us to look at just two characteristics of a God-blessed church. Next week we’ll consider a few more.
1. First, and most important of all, a God-blessed church has a great commitment to the great commandment. One day a religious leader, the Bible calls him “an expert in the religious law”, tried to trap Jesus with a question. “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?” Jesus replied, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.” (Matthew 22:37) To love God—with everything we are!
The most important characteristic of a God-blessed church is a passionate unquenchable love for God. The unique thing about Christianity is that it’s about relationship not religion. Webster’s New World Dictionary defines religion as, “a belief in and worship of God or gods. A specific system of belief, worship, or practices often involving a code of ethics.” If we understand Christianity to be nothing more than a set of beliefs or practices we may become “religious” people by definition but completely miss the mark of what Christianity really is. It is a personal relationship with God through belief in, commitment to, and a personal life-transforming experience of the living presence of Jesus Christ.
There are multitudes of people in the church who are very religious. They follow their lists of do’s and don’ts, they live very moral and ethical lives, they do all the right things, believe all the right things, profess al the right things but have no personal experience of or relationship with God through Jesus Christ. By definition they are very religious people—but not Christians. Christianity, by God’s definition, is not about religion but about relationship.
One of the reasons so many people are “unchurched” is because they see the failings and hypocrisy and constraints of religion. They meet “religious” people who are uptight, unhappy, and unreal. And because they are intelligent, discerning, and skeptical folks they keep their distance. And who can blame them?
I believe if and when some of these same people meet up with folks who genuinely love God, are striving to understand and grow in their relationship with Him, and are real about their own human failings they will be drawn to that and then to Him.
After a funeral I attended on Wednesday I went to lunch with the family and friends of the deceased. I didn’t know anyone so I just found an empty seat and joined in. It was obvious to everyone else that I was a stranger and eventually some brave soul turned to me and said, “so , who are you?” I explained to them that the deceased’s granddaughter attended the church I served. From that moment on the conversation at our table spun around why this person didn’t go to church, how they can be Christians without being involved in church, how they had bad experiences with church when they were younger. I could relate to everything they were telling me and so I listened and didn’t argue with a single thing they said. When there was a lull in the conversation I simply said, “in our church we’re not interested in being religious people. We’re interested in growing in our understanding of God and knowing Him in a personal way.” They all seemed immediately relieved and expressed an interest in visiting sometime.