"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

The Ideal Church: Reflections from One Who Pastors

When an inspiration to write rises within me, it's best to ride the wave and compose. Some of my best thoughts come while sitting at the breakfast table after a 6:00 a.m. workout. There could be in me a connection between exercise of the body and energy in the mind. Other stimulations to script are more random, and I find it best to not resist the urge to write when it occurs. So, while being interrupted in my golf game today by a dust storm reminiscent of dust bowl days, I found myself inspired to reflect on those characteristics that make for an ideal church. After serving over twenty years at Emmanuel Enid, this post may be more autobiographical than fiction. Truth is, whether I was in ministry at this wonderful church or not, the following statements characterize the church I believe would warrant both my membership and support.

Twenty Characteristics of the Ideal Church

(1). The ideal church is full of people who believe the ministries of the church are important, but refuse to place church ministries on par with the kingdom of God, because...

(2). The ideal church believes Christ's reign in the hearts of His people is far more important than any and all church ministries.

(3). The ideal church has caring shepherds who empower gifted people to serve in the kingdom rather than church professionals who manipulate guilty people to give to the church.

(4). The ideal church resists the urge to spiritualize those things associated with the church because of the knowledge that Christ is King over the totality of life, which means...

(5). The ideal church believes the worship center is no more important than the workplace, the Sunday morning (or evening) corporate worship time is no more important than Tuesday morning (or evening) family time, and the ideal church knows that God is as pleased with His people away from the church meetings as He is with them in the church meetings.

(6). The ideal church has a budget that arises out a desire to advance the kingdom. Church leaders will refrain from threatening members who don't give to the church because there is a great trust that the Holy Spirit will always stir His people to give in order to adequately meet the needs of Christ's kingdom. If the church budget falls short, then a reevaluation of whether or not kingdom work is actually being done in the church needs to take place.

(7). The ideal church has paid staff who see themselves as people who serve instead of professionals who are served.

(8). The ideal church will constantly ask the question, "Why are we doing what we are doing?"

(9). The ideal church will have worship services that are designed for worshippers to encounter God through singing to Him, learning of Him, resting in Him, and being empowered by Him. As a result, the ideal church will have members who learn by experience that corporate worship is nothing more than the overflow of one's personal worship, because...

(10). The ideal church understands the importance of reality over perception. People in an ideal church are more concerned with who they are rather than how they are perceived, and as a result...

(11). The ideal church is transparent in all its transactions, sincere in all its statements, and real in all its relationships.

(12). The ideal church is not afraid to change because change occurs for the purpose of the church being a better instrument to reach people for the kingdom.

(13). The ideal church will fellowship around the very limited essentials of the faith (the Person of Christ and salvation by grace through faith), and grant members freedom to hold and teach diverse views on secondary and tertiery doctrines.

(14). The ideal church is characterized by love for people--all kinds of people--and that love is seen in its emphasis on missions, mercy ministries, and the care and support of members in need.

(15). The ideal church has a well-written constitution that is kept up-to-date and followed closely in all business matters, but the church is known by those in the community for its grace and freedom.

(16). The ideal church will rejoice when other churches grow, and will hurt when other churches hurt, because the ideal church realizes that all believers, regardless of the church to which they belong, compose the kingdom of God and we are one family with Christ as our Head.

(17). The ideal church will have servants who lead others not because of their gender, socio-economic status, or race, but because the servant/leaders have been gifted and empowered by God to serve, anointed by the Spirit in their service, and have given evidence to the church of their love for people.

(18). The ideal church understands that sin is more about one's nature than it is one's actions; authority is more about one's gifted service than it is one's titular status, and truth is more about Christ in one's life than it is words in one's mind.

(19). The ideal church cares more about building relationships and seeing lives transformed than the number of people who are baptized; in other words, baptisms are not a number to be dutily obtained by an identification of lives truly changed.

(20). The ideal church doesn't desire to be like all other churches, but allows the Spirit of God to create a unique and effective personality that reflects who He is in the lives of His people in that local church. Cookie-cutters may be good for baking, but they make lousy churches.


12 comments:

joel engle said...

Amazing!!! I believe these truths deeply!

Wanda (Deb) Martin said...

Wade,

I love your list! I thank God every day for you and Emmanuel Enid. I am blessed by your friendship.

Wade Burleson said...

Thanks, Joel and Wanda! I appreciate your ministries and friendship as well!

Tom Parker said...

Wade:

I really like your #17--"The ideal church will have servants who lead others not because of their gender, socio-economic status, or race, but because the servant/leaders have been gifted and empowered by God to serve, anointed by the Spirit in their service, and have given evidence to the church of their love for people."

For me the key word in all of this is servant. I certainly believe God uses whomever he wants and the total of the Bible teaches this.

Trent said...

#3, 7, 10-11.

Well stated - in fact, as probably well stated as anything I've read on these issues. As a pastor, I want to be that kind of man and lead that kind of church.

Amen.

Aussie John said...

Wade,

What joy it gives this old ancient retired pastor to read that, at least some, young men actually get it!

Thank you!

Thy Peace said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tanya Kennedy said...

I'm sitting at work on a break, a break from people's problems so I pulled up your blog, I needed so inspiration..of course as always you never disappoint me...I think i might make this into some kind of poster, or cross stitch sampler..thanks Wade

Wade Burleson said...

Tanya,

Love it! :)

Thanks for the kind words!

WatchingHISstory said...

profound Wade! this is good!

Timothy J. Hammons said...

Hi Wade,
I appreciate this post. Not to be contrary, I do take exception with number 5. I understand what you are trying to say there. We are to live in view of our calling no matter where we are. But corporate worship is, by far, the most important time of the week. This is a time when we are in the presence of Christ in a real sense, that He is feeding us and nurturing us in a way that does not take place in the work place or family time. We are called to worship as a people. This is one of the main reasons we are saved, to worship Him and give Him praises.

The unintended consequence of number 5 is that there are those who will read it without discerning hearts and come to the conclusion: "if this is so, then why go to worship at all?"

This is one of the biggest problems I see in the church today, thousands of Christians who do not go to worship at all, not submitting to the leadership of the church at all, and basically dropping out of the body of Christ. I'm not saying number 5 is the reason, there are a host of reasons, but the way in which you worded that could lead one to believe that, and I don't believe that you mean that. Worship is vital to the life of the believer and the body.

Just some thoughts,
Blessings

Philip Taylor said...

@Timothy Hammons
That's precisely the mistake so many church leaders make. You think we come to your building to get more of the Holy Spirit (how many times have I heard "Come Holy Spirit"?) or to worship.

Our lives ARE worship, more and more so as we become like Jesus. The Holy Spirit is in us and we become more aware of him when we obey Jesus and observe how the Holy Spirit completes the work we do of healing the sick, setting the captives free etc.