Everyone is looking for an ideal congregation to worship, but it is not that easy to be found! (note: there is only one universal church, and that is the body of Christ. But the various parts of that one body of Christ is called the “Assembly” or the “Congregation”. So now onwards, I will be using these words interchangeably to any group of believers of Christ who gather in various parts of town). The famous evangelist, Rev. Moody said once that there is no such thing called a perfect congregation, and if we think that we are in one, then we are in the wrong place! In order to find the ideal congregation, we must find the ideal member first! If we can only understand the true characteristics of an ideal member, we could easily spot a congregation that cultivates such members. I just want to take this opportunity to point out some of the noticeable qualities of an ideal member. Firstly, ideal members are sent by God to a specific congregation. It is really mind boggling to see people shopping for their church, as though they are buying a car or a house! They evaluate how the choir sings, how the pastor preaches, how the congregation is, the quality of the programs etc carefully. But they fail to consult God’s will as the primary reason for their attendance. We must always seek the will of God and say this prayer, “Lord show me my place of worship, and I will go there and fulfill your will!” Where God wants us to go may not be the place we personally would like to go, but we must obey Him at any cost. How often God flutters our heart to go to a particular congregation, but we try to tune off the voice of the Holy Spirit, and go our own way, because we feel uncomfortable in that place? On an average, people switch congregations every 3 to 4 years. It just shows the confused mind of modern people. Where God wants, that is where we should be. Just imagine for a minute about such a congregation, where people gather week after week because God brought them together for His own purpose! That place will be a mini heaven on earth! We become part of a congregation because of God, and not because what that congregation offers, or what we want from such a congregation. It could be the worst assembly on earth, yet we must go there because God commands us to be there!
Secondly, the congregation becomes a close knit family for an ideal member! It is a very precious family! It is redeemed by the precious blood of Christ, hand picked, called, and brought forth by the Holy Spirit for His eternal purpose. We must, as true brothers and sisters, come to edify and strengthen one another. But it is not a perfect family! Therefore, we must forgive, accept, and love one another as Christ loved us, and strive to have the unity and harmony of the Spirit. Our worshipping together is not a Broadway show where we watch the drama, dance to the music, enjoy the sermon and go home. It is indeed a time of true Christian fellowship. Our fellowship time is not for judging or gossip. It is God given time for us to share with one another what the Lord has done in our lives, and what we can do for the Lord, how we can pray for one another, and meet the real concerns of our lives. We rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Our common bond is due to Jesus Christ, His body (church), and the community outreach, and it is not due to our same language or same place of birth, or same caste! It has to be totally unadulterated fellowshipping in the Holy Spirit. It is indeed intimate, loving fellowship. Anyone who understands the real common bond cannot stand aloof and not fellowship. I will not trade anything for that kind of joyous fellowship in the Lord. The binding takes place not because of our own doing but because of the Holy Spirit. It is God who brings us, and it is God who binds us together. How many of us switch our brothers and sisters in our own family? We are bound even though they may hurt us sometimes. God’s congregation is very similar. We do not move away, until God takes us away! Church hopping is not from God. Close your eyes and pray to God. Seek His will and ask Him one last time where He really wants you to be. Then do not disobey. Go and be part of that congregation where God wants you to be for the rest of your life. Do not worry about what others say. You do not become part of the congregation because your family members go there. You become part of it because God wants you to be there for His purpose!
Thirdly, ideal members are broken hearted, and crushed people! They are really in need of God, and in need of God’s people. They cannot survive even a single week without the fellowship of God’s people. They are those people who believe that they are the “chief of all sinners,” and are sustained every day by the grace of God. They see their own sins so much that they do not have time to look at the negative side of others. After all, nobody is perfect! Knowing their own inadequacy, true believers will be nonjudgmental in any congregation.
Fourthly, ideal members follow the pattern of the Apostles’ way of worship – Acts 2:42, “They continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine, and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.” The ideal congregation’s worship is not contemporary, charismatic, traditional, or orthodox. It is exactly followed as in Acts 2:42. If any of these four ingredients are missing in our worship, it is time to reevaluate and align ourselves according to Scripture. All those four ingredients are given equal weight in their worship. As we faithfully follow this pattern of worship, the Holy Spirit will move within us and steer the congregation His Way!
Finally, an ideal member’s life is totally controlled by the Holy Spirit! We may speak in heavenly tongues. We may brag about our special spiritual experiences in the Holy Spirit. But yet, if we are not totally controlled by the Holy Spirit, then we are nothing but a “sounding brass or a clanging cymbal!” Those who are totally controlled by the Holy Spirit cannot hide their passion for God and His Body (church)! They come to the place of worship where God called them to serve, and pour their whole heart out for their congregation all the days of their life. They are very humble people who wait on the Lord patiently to do His will. People who genuinely love God and love people by the power of the Holy Spirit will bring so much joy to the congregation.
So let us examine ourselves and change our way of thinking so that we can become ideal members of God’s family. Then it is easy for us to steer our congregation as God wants it to be. Our place of worship may not still become the most perfect assembly, but it can come close to it!
|Pastor's Column - Ideal Church
by Rev. Daniel Israel