What Is The Church Supposed To Look Like?

If someone asked you what a church is supposed to look like, do you describe steeples and crosses, stained glass windows and big wooden pulpits?

Guess what? The first Church in Jerusalem had none of those things!

Luke the historian describes the church this way: “They studied and prayed together, they ate with each other, they fed the hungry, and they took care of the poor. God performed miracles through them, everyone thought well of them, and people were getting saved every single day” (see Acts 2:42-47). Other historians of the day noted that Christians started the first orphanages, the first feeding programs, the first homes/schools for the blind, and the first medical dispensaries. They described how the Christians changed the cultural understanding of marriage and family, and how they gave dignity to women, children, the elderly, and the sick. 

They did this by putting their faith into action, just as Jesus described (see Matthew 25:31-40). James reminds us that this required a deeply personal faith and a roll-up-your-sleeves attitude. In fact, James went so far as to say that faith in Jesus wasn’t enough. 

Faith without works is dead. Works without faith is useless. We must believe it and live it. We need both faith and works.

Everyone can do this… 

  • if a young kid is hungry, get involved with feeding them
  • if an elderly lady in your neighborhood needs a friend, stop by for coffee
  • if a neighbor is sick and can’t cover their usual tasks, mow their lawn 
  • if a high school student can’t go to homecoming because she can’t afford the dress, take her shopping and buy the dress for her
  • if someone has an extended hospital stay, collect their mail and water their plants
  • if no one is visiting them in the hospital, go sit with them for a while

Jesus said, “When you do this for others, you are really doing it for Me.” 

Luke didn’t say, “Every day the Christians were preaching.” He says, “Every day the Christians were serving. And then every day God was adding to their number people who were being saved.” 

Your faith in action speaks a sermon louder and more convincingly than any sermon ever could. 

How will you show your neighbors the love of Jesus this week?

A Life Worthy Of The Gospel

Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ… (Philippians 1:27).

The apostle Paul wanted the Philippians’ living to be their preaching. Much like Francis of Assisi said years later: “Preach always; if necessary, use words.”

The big question is—what does conduct “worthy of the gospel of Christ” look like? I believe Paul identifies at least 15 characteristics in just the next 20 or so verses

  1. It is not a people-pleasing lifestyle. It is a God-honoring, Spirit-lead, Christ-glorifying lifestyle.
  2. It is steadfast, which means it perseveres even through the trials and difficulties.
  3. It is a heart and mind unified with other Christians.
  4. It is bold—“without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you.” 
  5. It is strengthened in Christ and it is in constant fellowship with the Holy Spirit. 
  6. It overflows with loving comfort, affection, and mercy to those around it.
  7. It humbly serves others while confidently refreshing itself in Christ.
  8. It strives to live as Jesus did, seeking always for God to be glorified.
  9. It is obedient to the conviction and direction of the Holy Spirit.
  10. It finds pleasure in doing God’s will.
  11. It doesn’t complain.
  12. It is a blameless and harmless life.
  13. It shines a light that attracts others to God’s love.
  14. It holds fast to the Word of life for the long haul.
  15. It is a rejoicing, contented lifestyle.

Heavenly Father, may it always be said of my life that it is one that is worthy of the gospel of Christ. May I always be sensitive to the nudges of the Holy Spirit to keep my life aligned in this way. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen! 

The Church Needs To Foster Community

“Amid the confusion of Christians mistreating people with gender dysphoria to prop up their sense of self-righteousness, and progressives mistreating them to advance their agenda of autonomy, those with real identity struggles are forgotten. Christ alone understands who we are through and through. And because of that each one of us in our fractured states needs to come to Him. …

“The need of the hour is for biblically faithful compassion. The church needs to open its doors and Christians need to open their hearts so that those struggling to find resolution to their dysphoria—and those who are struggling to find clarity amidst other confusions—can find community and, ultimately, their true identity in Christ. In Christ, they can be understood. …

“God’s original intent is for harmony between one’s soul and one’s body. This is why Christians, of all people, should be compassionately concerned with helping people find mind-body congruence. For the Christian, the mind and the body are both important and were meant to work harmoniously. … This biblical perspective defends our integrity as whole human beings in contradistinction to the secular effort to reduce us to our chemistry and jettison any idea that we have an immaterial mind or soul. …

“That is why the invitation of Christ has come in this order: recognition, repentance, redemption, regeneration. When we recognize our need for the Savior (because of our sins in general, not because of our dysphoria), repentance happens and then we are redeemed. But that redemption works itself out in our lives over time. It is the Holy Spirit who lives and works in us to conform us to Jesus’ likeness. It is not an overnight process, which means the church must do a better job of helping that process along. The church needs to foster community.” —Abdu Murray

9 Quotes From “Shepherding God’s Flock”

T.M. Moore has given pastors a phenomenal training resource in Shepherding God’s Flock. Please be sure to check out my full book review by clicking here. 

“The work of church leaders today—and especially of that class of leaders called elders, with which this study is concerned—has been shaped and conditioned more by the temper of our times than by the teaching of God’s Word.” 

“According to Paul, any church that does not have in place elders—and other leaders working with them—who are functioning as shepherds is a church that is not in order.… A church without a strong ministry of shepherding is a flock without genuine pastoral care, oversight, and equipping. It may be very active, even happy, and may be ‘growing’ in what some consider impressive ways. But without shepherding as the framework and integrating dynamic, such a church will always be something less than what God intends.” 

“Where the work of shepherding is being faithfully pursued, the gospel goes forth with power, lost sheep are located, and the flocks of God grow as He adds new souls to the fold.” 

“Where faithful shepherds are at work, the Lord’s sheep will be well fed. Both milk and the meat of the Word will be their daily diet, according to the needs and callings of each. Well-fed sheep are healthy, strong, and fruitful in their own contributions.” 

“The work of shepherding begins in relationships of mutual love and trust, spiritual friendships where sheep and shepherd know, love, and care about one another.” 

“Only when the people feel known and loved, and only when they know and love those who are called to lead them—only then will they be willing to follow where the shepherds of the church are seeking to take them.” 

“In the Christian life, people tend to live up to or achieve, not the level of their abilities, for their abilities are virtually limitless, given the presence of the indwelling Spirit of God. Rather, they tend to live up to the level of their vision—of what they see for their lives in Christ. Unless we are leading them into God’s vision for their lives, the people of God will settle for something less than the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” 

“When temptation arises we can follow one of two courses. Either we will fall through temptation into sin, or we will grow through temptation into a higher stage of sanctification. … The shepherd’s task is twofold: first, he must help the Lord’s sheep to recognize temptation, by grounding them firmly in the law and Word of God; second, he must equip and encourage them in finding the way of escape from temptation, so that they may grow as the Lord intends.” 

“Jesus’ approach to bearing witness was thus energetic, proactive, continuous, compassionate, and pioneering. Should we expect anything less from the shepherds He has left to bring other lost sheep into His fold?”

Shepherding God’s Flock (book review)

T.M. Moore founded the Fellowship of Ailbe, a ministry patterned after the example of the Irish Christians who kept the spread of the Gospel alive during history’s dark times. A key component of the Fellowship’s ministry is the equipping of pastors for their tasks, and Shepherding God’s Flock masterfully lays out the role of pastors like few other resources. 

Throughout the Scriptures, God uses the picture of a shepherd caring for his sheep as a consistent image of how God cares for His people, and how He desires for pastors/elders to care for those under their care as well. God has stern warnings for shepherd-leaders who misuse or abuse their positions, but He also showers His blessings on those shepherd-leaders whose hearts beat with God’s heart. David talked lovingly of the Lord being our Shepherd, Jesus called Himself the Good Shepherd, and the Apostle Peter called for elders in the church to shepherd the flock under their care. 

Shepherding God’s Flock helps pastors work through the practicalities of their shepherding role. And I do mean work through these concepts. This book is as much a workbook as it is a textbook. T.M. Moore gives valuable insights for pastors, but he intersperses penetrating discussion questions throughout his teaching. You will also need to keep your Bible handy while reading Shepherding because Moore will send you to passage after passage to undergird the principles he is teaching. 

I can’t recommend this book highly enough to both current pastors and those preparing to enter into pastoral ministry. It would probably be a good idea for lead pastors to read this book alongside their elder/deacon boards. 

As Moore notes in his closing words, “Shepherding is the work God has chosen for the care and nurture of His flocks. We’ve neglected this ministry for too long. Let us resolve to bring the work of shepherding to bear on the task of building Christ’s Church.” 

To that, I add my hearty “Amen!”

Undeniableness

…we cannot deny it (Acts 4:16)

The healing of a 40-year-old man who has been lame from birth is truly undeniable! But the Sadducees (the truly religious elite) took issue with the fact that Peter and John were then telling people about God’s resurrection power (which they did not believe).

It was undeniable that…

  • … the lame man was healed
  • … Peter spoke boldly with the help of the Holy Spirit
  • … Peter and John’s eloquence in spiritual matters was not bookish learning but divine illumination
  • … Peter and John had been with Jesus
  • … Peter and John could not be silenced by threats
  • … the admiration of the crowd following the healing and Peter’s sermon
  • … God was glorified

So what did the church do? They prayed for more “undeniableness” to be demonstrated by God through their lives!

They knew none of these threats took God by surprise, but they all happened as God had “determined before to be done” (v. 28). So they said, “We are Your servants in this—do more undeniable things through us. Enable us to speak Your Word boldly, and empower us to do signs and wonders in the name of Jesus” (vv. 29, 30).

And God answered that prayer!

What about us? Are we willing to pray that prayer today? Will we allow God to do undeniable things through us? Persecution may follow, but so will God’s glory, and saved souls, and healed people!

15 Quotes On Prayer From J.C. Ryle

In my current Bible reading time, I am reading J.C. Ryle’s Expository Thoughts On The Gospels as a read-along companion with my Bible. Bishop Ryle correctly feels the weight and effectiveness of prayer in the life of a Christian. Here are some of his quotes regarding prayer. 

“If afflictions drive us nearer to Christ, the Bible, and prayer, they are positive blessings.” 

“It is not for us to prescribe either the time or the way in which our requests are to be answered.… Let us rather ‘continue in prayer,’ ‘watch unto prayer,’ ‘pray always and not faint.’” 

“Why is it that there is so much apparent religious working and yet so little result in positive conversions to God—so many sermons, and so few souls saved—so much machinery, and so little effect produced—so much running here and there and yet so few brought to Christ? Why is all this? The reply is short and simple: there is not enough private prayer. The cause of Christ does not need less working, but it does need among the workers more praying. … The most successful workmen in the Lord’s vineyard are those who are, like their Master, often and much upon their knees.” 

“If we would have good ministers we must remember our Lord’s example and pray for them. Their work is heavy. Their responsibility is enormous. Their strength is small. Let us see that we support them and hold up their hands by our prayers.” 

“Let us bear these rules in mind every Sunday morning before we go to hear the Word of God preached. Let us not rush into God’s presence careless, reckless, and unprepared, as if it mattered not in what way such work was done. Let us carry with us faith, reverence, and prayer. If these three are our companions, we shall hear with profit and return with praise.” 

“Let a petition for more faith form a part of all our daily prayers. As ever we would have peace, and calmness, and quietness of spirit, let us often say, ‘Lord, increase our faith.’” 

“Let us strive and pray that the same mind may be in us which was in our blessed Master. Like Him, let us be willing to go anywhere, do anything, suffer anything when the path of duty is clear and the voice of God calls. Let us set our faces steadfastly to our work when our work is plainly marked out, and drink our bitter cups patiently when they come from a Father’s hand.” 

“We must seek to have knowledge as well as zeal. Zeal without knowledge is an army without a general, and a ship without a rudder. We must pray that we may understand how to make a right application of Scripture.”

“Prayer is one of the best and most powerful means of helping forward the cause of Christ in the world. … Not all believers have money to give to missions. Very few have great intellectual gifts or extensive influence among men. But all believers can pray for the success of the Gospel—and they ought to pray for it daily.” 

“Prayer is one of the principal weapons which the minister of the Gospel ought to use. To be a true successor of the apostles, he must give himself to prayer as well as to the ministry of the Word (Acts 6:4). He must not only use the sword of the Spirit, but pray always, with all prayer and supplication (Ephesians 6:17, 18). This is the way to win a blessing on his own ministry. This, above all, is the way to procure helpers to carry on Christ’s work.” 

“Daily bread and daily mercy are by far the first and principal things that mortal man needs. He is the rich man who possesses them. He is the wise man who is not ashamed to pray for them every day.” 

“Nothing that concerns God’s people is too little for Him to manage or for them to bring before Him in prayer.”

“‘He spoke a parable to this end: that men ought always to pray, and not to give up.’ These words, be it remembered, are closely connected with the solemn doctrine of the second advent, with which the preceding chapter concludes. It is prayer without fainting during the long weary intervals between the first and second advents which Jesus is urging His disciples to keep up.” 

“Let us often pray that we may have wisdom from above in order to answer rightly when perplexing questions are put to us. The servant of Christ must expect a portion like his Master. He must count it no strange thing if the wicked and worldly-minded endeavor to entangle him in his talk, and to provoke him to speak unadvisedly with his lips.” 

“Whatever other means of relief we use, let us pray. The first Friend we should turn to ought to be God. The first message we should send ought to be to the throne of grace.” 

%d bloggers like this: