“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” – Ephesians 2:19-22
“Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” – Acts 2:41-47
A word defined as distinguished, powerful, influential, remarkable, and outstanding. It is a word that is used so often today. We share with our friends about the “great” restaurant we found or the “great” movie that we saw and we speak of our favorite football team (Go Broncos) as being a “great” team. But sadly, most people today do not talk about building a GREAT church! In a recent survey conducted by the Barna Group on US college campuses, when students were asked, “what is the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the word church”, the average response was “hypocrite.” Are we surprised? In a culture plagued with one church scandal after another, are we really surprised? The scripture above describes Jesus’ church when it was established 2,000 years ago. Let’s allow the scripture above define for us some of the aspects of what a “great” church should look like…
In the passage above we see that the people of God were devoted to both God and to one another. In a world full of superficiality and shallow relationships, we must strive to imitate our early brothers and sisters in their love for both God and fellow man. In Mark 12:30-31 Jesus gives us the 1st and 2nd greatest commandments, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” If we desire to build a great church we must strive to “love God and love people” with all of our hearts. We cannot merely be a church that talks about being loving but obeys the words of 1 John 3:18, “Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.”
One of the marks of a first century disciple was radical devotion. They were committed and sold-out for their purpose. They were devoted to the teaching and to the study of the scriptures. The early church was full of whole-hearted Christians that wanted to hear the scriptures, they wanted to fellowship with one another, and they wanted to pray and do great things for God. The first century church was characterized by amazing devotion whereas so many churches today are characterized by complacency and lukewarmness.
“After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.” (Acts 4:31) The disciples were committed to a powerful life of prayer and powerful prayer moves the heart of God! God extended King Hezekiah’s life 15 years because he humbled himself and prayed (2 Kings 20:1-6). Heartbroken by her inability to conceive a child, Hannah prayed and wept before her God and was blessed with a son…the prophet Samuel (1 Samuel 1:10-17). A great church must be full of men and women who earnestly pray to their God to move the mountains and to shake the nations as we strive to take the Gospel to each and every soul in our generation!
Awe is a mixed emotion of reverence, respect, dread, and wonder inspired by authority, genius, great beauty, sublimity, or might. The scriptures teach that the early Christians were FILLED with it! As the early Christians stood in the presence of God and his Kingdom they were filled with a deep reverence, respect and wonder. We shouldn’t have to drag ourselves to church. There should not be a thousand other places that we would rather be. A great church should truly be an AWEsome experience!
So many churches today lack great fellowship and community. The early church was devoted to fellowship. “Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.” (Acts 2:46-47) The Bible teaches that we must encourage one another daily so that we will not be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness (Hebrews 3:12-13). The majority of churches today are failing in the area of spiritual and godly fellowship and discipleship. Church has simply become an event that you attend once a week without any invigorating and spiritual interaction throughout the week. If you miss a service or stop coming altogether…no one notices. If you are sick…no one calls. If you give up on your faith…no one cares. Gods dream for His church was to be a place of great fellowship characterized by the sincere love and care that the disciples had for one another.
The disciples sacrificed everything to be part of the Kingdom and to spread a GREAT message…the “Good News.” If someone was in need…the Christians collectively gave to meet that need. They sacrificed their worldly purposes and embraced Gods purpose…to be “fishers of men.” (Mark 1:14) They sacrificed their homes in order to meet the needs and to spread the Gospel (Acts 4:34). They even willingly gave their very lives for this great purpose (Acts 7:60). A great church is a church full of disciples willing to sacrifice everything for the Kingdom of God. “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:1-2)
To praise God is to exalt, admire and worship God! “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” (Isaiah 6:1-3) In the prophet Isaiah’s pre-commission vision he witnessed the angels in heaven so in awe and admiration of God that they themselves as holy beings would not dare even gaze upon the face of God. The angels as they were flying throughout the throne room of God called to one another repeating the words “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” The word holy means to be set apart. As Disciples of Christ, our praise and worship of God must be “set apart.” We must let nothing hinder our daily praise and worship of our God and when we come together as a “Great Church,” our worship must also be “set apart” as we worship together our Holy God.
“And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:47) Lastly, a great church is characterized by great additions. With the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) at the forefront of their minds, the early church set out to evangelize “All Nations.” To be a “Great Church,” we must never abandon God’s dream to see this world evangelized in our generation. I believe that when a church strives to have great devotion, great prayer, great awe, great fellowship, great sacrifice, and great praise then God will bless with much fruit. As your evangelist, I want to encourage the Mighty Denver Church. As we have dedicated ourselves to being a great church as seen in scripture God has truly blessed us with much fruit. It has been so inspiring and faith building watching God add 45 to our number over this last year. Even last week God gave us an amazing attendance of 151 at our one-year anniversary service!
As the scriptures have shown us what a “Great Church” looks like from the standard set forth in scripture ask yourself, does this describe the church that I am part of? And lastly, we must look inward as each and every one of us is a building block in the house of God. Take a minute and look at your own life in the areas of love, devotion, prayer, awe, fellowship, sacrifice and praise and ask yourself but one question. If everyone was like me what kind of church would this be?