Summary: very church has failings and challenges, but good churches strive after excellence as God defines excellence.
Let’s Do Church Right
1. Paul and Timothy: The Apostle Paul wrote this letter in about 63 AD to his close friends, the Christians in Philippi, from his Roman house arrest described at the end of Acts (Acts 28:30-31), waiting for his court appearance before Caesar (around the year 61).
2. As you can see, the ruins of ancient Philippi have been excavated.
3. The Philippian church was the first church in Europe, founded by Paul/Lydia/Philippian Jailor
4. When Paul was under house arrest in Rome, they sent him financial support. This letter thanks them, but also addresses some issues in the church.
5. Though it was a very good church, it had its problems. The only churches that do not have problems are what I call "chicken and noodle churches"
6. Jewish synagogues have their problems too; many congregations develop their own traditions, and they can fight over tradition, which is very important to them:
During a service at an old synagogue in Eastern Europe, when the Shema prayer was said, half the congregants stood up and half remained sitting.
The half that was seated started yelling at those standing to sit down, and the ones standing yelled at the ones sitting to stand up...
The rabbi, educated as he was in the Law and commentaries, didn’t know what to do. His congregation suggested that he consult a housebound 98 year old man, who was one of the original founders of their temple. The rabbi hoped the elderly man would be able to tell him what the actual temple tradition was, ? so he went to the nursing home with a representative of each faction of the congregation.
The one whose followers stood during Shema said to the old man, "Is the tradition to stand during this prayer?"
The old man answered, "No, that is not the tradition." ?
The one whose followers sat asked, "Is the tradition to sit during Shema?" ? The old man answered, "No, that is not the tradition." ?
"But", the rabbi said to the old man, "the congregants fight all the time, yelling at each other about whether....." ? The old man interrupted, exclaiming.... ? "THAT is the tradition!"
6. The Philippian church was exposed to false teachers who were trying to impose Jewish traditions upon them, but, for the most part, they resisted; they focused upon the REAL work of the LORD, helping believer mature in their faith, building relationships with their brothers and sisters in Christ, reaching the lost by sharing the Gospel, and supporting missions. In many ways, they were an excellent church.
7. Of excellence, Rick Warren writes:
"One reason many people never serve is they fear they are not good enough to serve. They have believed the lie that serving God is only for the superstars. Some churches have fostered this myth by making "excellence" an idol, which makes people of average talent hesitant to get involved."
When I talk about being an excellent church, I simply mean one that conforms to God’s revealed will in His Word. I do not even mean matching the descriptions of the early church, as some do, but rather obeying the prescriptions that God commands for the church in any era. It has nothing to do with the Broadway Production emphasis that some churches emulate.