Every congregation has an image. Where you worship, the church with which you work and fellowship, there is exuded an image. This image goes into your neighborhood, nearby churches, and throughout the whole brotherhood. It is common to hear of certain congregations which bring to mind immediately some peculiar trait or practice.
This is not unusual. In New Testament times, churches had images. When you read of Laodicea, what do you think but of “lukewarm”? Corinth brings to mind corruption. Colossae conjures an image of human philosophies. Philippi reminds us of a giving and loving church in the history of Paul. Philadelphia signals crown-wearers and loving brethren.
On and on it goes to those who study their Bibles. But the same thing is true in our congregations today. Churches do have images. In an age of the greatest statistics, some churches have the lowest spirituality. Some churches are not known to transform the ungodly lives of their converts; rather, the people are known to change the churches.
Some churches are not known to raise the moral level of their communities; rather, they are known to lower them to fit into the community. (Society smilingly accepts their surrender, while the preacher claims in lectures and workshops how he declares the whole counsel of God!).
Other churches sadly admit they are having little or no influence upon their communities, and hardly even realize the community has already had its influence on that church!
What images does the church have where you worship? It would be well worth your time to ask around, take a poll, write some letters. You might be surprised to know what the community thinks of you. Be it known however, this is not an infallible guide. It is possible the people in our communities do not gauge us accurately.
But, it is altogether too late for many of us to have the courage to accept what folks are saying of us. We hide our heads in the sand, vainly proud of our spiritual heritage. We refuse to see what a pitiful, ineffective image and influence we have upon those whom Christ sent us to teach.
Seeking God’s Image for the Church
Things which come to mind which I would desire our neighbors to see in us might include:
(1) Devotion to our God – 1 Peter 2.9.
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”
(2) Fervency and spontaneity of worship – 1 Corinthians 11.34.
“if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home–so that when you come together it will not be for judgment. About the other things I will give directions when I come.”
(3) Purity of lives in honor of Christ – Matthew 5.8.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
(4) Excitement in missions to the lost – Philippians 1.7.
“It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel.”
(5) Sacrifice and harmony among members – 1 Corinthians 15.58 and 1 Thessalonians 1.2-3.
“Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”
“We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.”
(6) Christ-centered lessons, a Bible-studying church – 2 Peter 3.18.
“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.”
(7) Warm, loving friendliness – Hebrew 10.24 and 13.1-2.
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works…”
“Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”
(8) Genuine compassion to the needy – James 2.15-16 and Hebrews 13.1-2.
“If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?”
If we have not been vaccinated with a mild case of Christianity, these things will be of concern.
Though we may know and believe the truth, and though we may make efforts to teach that truth and that truth only, we will be crippled and ineffective if we do not show a proper image.
So, it becomes all the more intense a problem that we be separate from the world, but live in the world with wisdom. If we have not the proper image, how shall we do what Jesus wants?
A Brief Note
I found this article by brother Lanier in my files the other day, and found its message and admonition timely. When Paul wrote to the church in Thessalonica, he wrote:
And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere so that we need not say anything. (1 Thess. 1.6-8)
What we do, or even do not do makes an impression, so let us make a conscience effort to reach out to our friends and community with the love of God and the gospel of His Son. – Jovan Payes