Summary: Five characteristics of the kind of church God uses.
When your average unchurched person decides to go to church, that person is met with a bewildering array of different choices. There are so many different kinds of churches in our culture today, it can be very confusing trying to sort through them all.
Churches come in different sizes. The average church size in America is 95 people each week in worship. Yet half of all church goers in our culture attend a church of over 1000 people. Churches also meet in different kinds of locations. Some churches meet in elaborate cathedrals, filled with artistic architecture. Others meet in storefronts or industrial parks. Still others meet in homes. Churches have different denominational affiliation. Some have words like Baptist, Methodist, Episcopal, or Lutheran in their name. Some are called community churches or neighborhood churches. Some tout themselves as non-denominational.
Churches have different kinds of worship experiences. Some are very traditional and formal, while others are informal and celebrative. Some use an organ, others use a band. Some are in conducted in a different language, while others use video clips. Which kind of church does God use?
With this bewildering array of different kinds of churches, which kind of church does God do his work through? That’s the question we’re going to try to answer today.
We’ve been in a series through the New Testament books of 1 and 2 Timothy. We’ve called this series Deepening Your Life With God. Throughout this series we’ve seen that one of the essential components to a deeper life with God is being part of a church. Today we’re going to look at what kind of church it is that God works through. We’re going to find five characteristics of the kind of church God works through.
Now the section we’re going to look at today is really advice to a young pastor about how to be an effective pastor. So it’s more difficult to apply this section of the Bible to people who aren’t full-time pastors or church leaders like the majority of you here today. But as I thought and prayed about this section, I realized that the things that make an effective pastor are also things that make an effective church. So even though these characteristics describe pastors, we’re going to apply them to our whole church.
1. What They Know (2 Timothy 4:1)
Look at v. 1. This verse has the sound of a formal charge, much like the kind of solemn charge we might hear a pastor give a bride and groom during a wedding ceremony. Yet this formal charge is given to a young pastor named Timothy. This formal charge is made in the presence of God and of Jesus. This suggests that Timothy lives his entire life under the scrutiny of God. His life is on constant display before God, even those parts of his life that are considered private and hidden. God and his son Jesus Christ will one day judge the entire human race.
So this formal charge has a tone of both hope and warning. Hope because when we’ve trusted in Jesus Christ, we look forward to Christ’s future appearing and the fullness of Christ’s kingdom on this earth. Hope because Christ’s appearing will wipe away every tear and bring suffering to an end. Hope because Christ’s kingdom will bring an end to evil and hatred. But also warning, because on that day we will all be held accountable for how we’ve lived our lives. Warning because even though all our sins are forgiven through our faith in Christ, God still expects us to live in a way that honors him and he will hold us accountable to living that way.
Here we find our first characteristic. God uses churches that know they are accountable to God.
What Paul says about Timothy as a church leader applies just as much to congregations. Every church will give an account of itself to God. Our ministry is on constant display before God, in the presence of God and of Christ. Nothing is hidden from his sight.
I think about this when I see church scandals swept under the rug. When financial mismanagement or clergy misconduct are ignored, I remind myself that that church will answer to God. You can fool some of the people some of the time, but you can never fool God.
When we know this, it causes us to conduct ourselves differently. Not that we won’t make our fair share of mistakes as a church. We’re people who are often fallible and prone to weaknesses. But to know that we will stand before God for how Life Bible Fellowship Church acts helps us continually strive to live in purity before God.
God uses churches that know they are accountable to God.
2. What They Communicate (2 Timothy 4:2)