What is the definition of a “successful” church? Is it one that has just built a brand-new, 400 plus capacity auditorium? After all, if a church is in need of something like that, then obviously they must be doing something right, right? Maybe the right preacher? “Your church really is fortunate to have such a Godly, capable man,” someone might say. Or possibly it’s a church that historically has had very well-attended meetings/singings/lectureships, and so it has the reputation of being a “beacon of light” in that area.

We hear these types of measures all the time, almost to the point of believing that they are the standards by which a Church should measure itself. Remember though the words of Revelation 3:10, when Jesus testified of them that “you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead” (Rev. 3:1). We cannot afford to fall into the trap of thinking that the external things that people are witness to are in any way relevant to the spiritual inner workings of a Church. As Jesus also put it: “first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also.” (Matt. 23:26).

Coincidentally, when Paul set out to write letters to churches, he also got to the root of the matter, harping on issues such as disfellowshipping (1 Cor. 5:1-8), desegregation of Jews and Gentiles (Eph 2:11-22), and basic necessities of Christian living (Rom. 12). What you won’t find in any list of things that Paul discussed to any church are things that we seem to put so much emphasis on in today’s world, such as…

Church Size

Despite declarations that various churches were thriving (Phil. 1:3-6) or struggling (1 Cor. 11:17-19), never is any mention made of the various church sizes these congregations possessed. Not once did Paul look at a church in Galatia and say, “Hmmm, you’re down to 18 people; what happened?” And yet, that’s exactly the way we look at situations. We see a congregation in the middle of Montana (a non “Bible-belt” state) that boasts a paltry 23 in number, and decry the lack of God’s presence in that area. Is their room for improvement? Absolutely, but that’s not to discredit the work they are already doing. Ask yourself: would God be happier with a congregation of 300 semi-committed pew sitters, or 30 out-of-their-mind-on-fire for God types? My bet is on the latter.

Who Came For Meetings

The denominations absolutely have it wrong (and unScriptural) when it comes to their methods of evangelism; bounce houses, community dinners and movie nights do nothing but tell the world that Christians are convinced the Gospel isn’t effective anymore. But don’t we sometimes do the same thing with meeting announcements? Admit it, one of the first things you do when you see a flyer at the back of the building is to see who it is that is coming, and if it’s someone you recognize as a “big name,” your interest is probably piqued a little more. But the truth is, regardless of who is speaking, the only thing that we should really be concerned with is whether or not sound Biblical truth is taught, not how well it’s taught. Which leads into an important point on this concept: while Paul didn’t seem to care at all about what fancy-schmancy person was teaching (1 Cor. 3:4-6), he absolutely cared about who it should not be (Acts 20:28-31).

Order of Worship

Today it seems many congregations are trending towards a more structured worship routine designed to engender emotions in their praise towards God. Which is all fine and dandy (as long as it remains Scriptural), but in truth, the placement of this song after that verse and that reading before this prayer are concepts that are foreign to Scripture, and quite frankly, the repetitive use of the same order renders the worship experience flavorless. The only thing that is mentioned is the admonition to keep things “decently and in order” (1 Cor. 14:40); other than that, the worship order is largely left up to the designation of the song leader, who assumes the responsibility of leading the congregation’s hearts every time the doors are open. These are the things we should be thinking about: how can we teach and admonish one another through the specific songs that we sing (Col. 3:16), rather than an emphasis on the overall structure and how it’s going to be perceived in a “technical” sense. Even if it’s not the most “effective” way to structure a service – by the world’s perception – it will nonetheless achieve the two purposes it was designed for: glory to God, and edification of the worshippers. And that’s truly all that matters.

Last modified: January 22, 2019