God Makes Your Church a Great Church

June 3, 2024

A pastor was greatly annoyed by one of his elderly members who fell asleep during his sermon every Sunday. He told the man’s grandson that, if he could keep him awake, he would pay him a dollar a week. This worked for two weeks but, on the third Sunday, he fell sound asleep. After the service, the pastor called the boy over and said, “I am disappointed in you. Didn’t I promise you a dollar a week to keep your grandfather awake?”

“Yes,” replied the boy, “but Grandpa gives me five dollars not to disturb him.”

The church is certainly an interesting collection of people. When you think about your church, do you think it is a great church? No matter how large or how small, I believe your church is a great church, or, at least, has the capacity to be a great church. I know this because your church is God’s church, and God has blessed your congregation with every spiritual gift it needs to serve in God’s name.

Think about that for a moment, every gift your church needs to minister in the name of Jesus Christ is a part of your fellowship right now. Think about the talents, gifts and resources that the people in your church have. The people with those gifts are in your church as a part of God’s plan. That is what the apostle Paul found at all the churches he started, especially in Corinth.

The church in Corinth was a blessed church where the members spoke in tongues; there were inspired preachers, great teachers and wise leaders. It was to this church that Paul wrote the inspiring “Hymn of Love” in I Corinthians 13. He wrote the words, “If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal,” because the people in this great church did not know how to love one another, the church only realized a fraction of its potential. Love is the most important ingredient in a great church.

Can you imagine what a powerful witness any church would be to the world if all of the people shared the kind of unconditional love with one another that Paul describes? There would be patient and kind love, love that is neither jealous nor boastful, that didn’t insist on its own way, and never rejoiced in the wrong. Such a church could show a love that could endure all things.

Have you ever experienced such unconditional love? Love is a unique emotion. We learn how to love others unconditionally. No one has to teach us how to be mad, sad, glad or afraid. We feel these instinctively, and then learn to deal with them. Hate, love’s opposite, is an uncomfortable emotion, yet we can’t learn to love unless we take seriously our capacity to hate.

“I hate you!” We withdraw from the sound of those words. And we can show the most hate to those we love most. Even if we deceive ourselves by not using the word, “hate,” we know we have the capacity to hate. We say (or think) to our spouse, “I hate you because you fooled around!” We say to our parents, “I hate you because you loved my sister more than me!” We say to church members, “I hate you because when our church was struggling you weren’t there!” It is so easy to hate. No one has to teach us how. But love, love we must choose.

God sent us His son, Jesus Christ, to show us not only how to love each other, but to reveal how much God loves us. This is most vividly revealed on the cross as Jesus cries out, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” It is this kind of self-giving, self-sacrificing love that must be a part of every great church for the church to realize its full potential in the name of Christ.

What role do you play in helping your church communicate love to other members and visitors? Is there anything you could do differently each week that would help your church be more loving? Do you need to let go of a painful memory of the past, forgive someone for something they said to be more loving in church?

Churches ebb and flow in their spiritual strength and vitality. It is not the job of the pastor or certain members to make a church great. God has already done that. Our job is to learn to love each other as Christ has taught, unconditionally, so that God can take our church and make us a light to the nations!