We call them “church shoppers.” You know the type—Christians who hop from church to church to church looking for the perfect church. There’s always something wrong with their present church, so off they go to the church down the street. Never satisfied, they will forever keep up their relentless quest for the perfect church.
Maybe you don’t exactly fit that profile, but are you completely satisfied with your church? As the old cliché goes, “No church is perfect …” No matter how good or healthy a church is, there will always be imperfections, because the humans who lead it and attend it are imperfect.
But what would you say if I told you that I, after long years of searching, have finally found the perfect church? And what’s more, I’m going to tell you exactly where the perfect church is. But before I tell you where it is, let me describe the values to which this perfect church ascribes. In fact, in my opinion, it is precisely the fact that it holds tenaciously to these core values that makes it the perfect church.
In the perfect church, all of the fruits of the Spirit are in evidence. This church is marked by the value of humility. There is an understanding among its members that none have arrived, that all still need work, that all still need to grow and mature. There seems to be no evidence of the opposite of humility—you know, arrogance and pride.
And the church is marked by gentleness as well as humility. There is no sense of harshness, of judgment or condescension with others. Along with gentleness and humility, the church people are patient as well. They truly “bear with one another” in love. There is always time granted for others to grow; always room for mistakes to be made. Grace is always extended to others, simply as a matter of course.
Another trademark of the Spirit in the perfect church is love. As this church experiences the love of God on a continual basis, the members extend that divine love to others as well—to believers and nonbelievers alike. There is also a remarkable lack of strife in this church. I think it’s precisely because the members are so humble, gentle, patient and loving with each other that there is a profound sense of peace in this church.
The perfect church is also unified. There is a doctrinal maturity that focuses on the core theological areas on which all agree, rather than separating and dividing over the differences the members certainly will have. There is a steadfast refusal to view doctrine as a “black & white” set of propositions to be agreed with or divided over.
Probably because of the love and acceptance shown to each other, there is an exceptional sense of body life—of true, biblical community. The perfect church shows consistently how God works through every member in the church. None are excluded; everyone has value and significance, all are necessary, all are gifted and unique. I’ve never seen anything like it.
The perfect church is committed to the concept of spiritual gifts as well. They recognize that Christ gives out the gifts to every believer in measure. There is a phenomenal commitment to seeing and relating to others on the basis of their unique gifts, strengths and passions. And what about the leadership of the perfect church? They are gifted and equipped leaders who closely follow and submit to Christ’s headship and leadership. The leaders are absolutely sold out to the concept of pouring their time, energy and resources into equipping every believer in the church to do ministry. Their goal is to create a healthy leadership culture, and they are constantly looking to produce more “leader-makers” who hold to the same values.
The perfect church also has a high level of spiritual maturity among its members. They display continual, ongoing spiritual growth, as well as a remarkable level of service to others. The members have an orientation toward service; they are constantly in motion in the direction of serving others before themselves. Many in the perfect church have identified their gifts by serving others.
As growth is the hallmark of a healthy organism, this church is of course growing—spiritually and numerically. The church has a commitment to continued change, which they are constantly reminded by their leaders is inevitable. Their goal is to become more and more like Christ. His life and the example He set is the model of growth and maturity for this church. In the ongoing lifelong process of sanctification, the church members are continually exploring together what it means to be “like Christ.”
Another fascinating aspect of this church is its capacity for truth telling. But it is not done in a harsh, judgmental way. The people in this church speak the truth to each other, but always in love and marked by a willingness always to extend grace first, always to give the benefit of the doubt.
And last: this church is strong, stronger than any other I’ve ever seen. But after all, healthy, growing churches produce strong, mature believers who have strong relationships—with both God and others—that truly can impact the world.
Sound like a church you’d like to be a part of? The good news is that everyone can.
I’ll tell you where the perfect church is: It’s in Ephesians 4.