The Apostle Paul planted an exemplary church in the city of Thessalonica. It was a church that was imitated and it is a church that should be imitated (1 Thess. 1:1-5).
Here are eight characteritics of a church, centered around the person and work of Jesus.
1. Established in God (1 Thess. 1:1a). A gospel-governed church is one that is firmly rooted in and resolutely established by God. Paul knows that the church he is writing to is not only of God but in fact they are in God. This is evidenced by people who are God-centered, both theologically and methodologically.
2. Empowered by Grace (1 Thess. 1:1b). It is a community of called out people who are empowered by the unmerited favor which comes from God. This grace is not a mere infrequent occurrence. It is visible in and experienced by those who attend this community of faith. It is so real that it becomes tangible. You wont be able to enter this gathering without feeling the gravitas of this grace.
3. Ensconced in Prayer (1 Thess. 1:2a). It is a church in which the leaders labor and toil in prayer on behalf of their people. It is a church in which when someone says that they will pray for you, they actually do. This is the culture that Paul cultivated within this exemplary church. Paul wanted his people to know that their spiritual condition is so important to him that he is constantly praying for them, praying about them, and praying on behalf of them.
4. Endowed with Faith (1 Thess. 1:3a). It is a church in which an unwavering faith in gospel truths is evident in the lives of the people. When asked what faith is, people have an unlimited amount of testimonials to share with the person who asked. When asked what is the one element that gets them through the week, they answer — Jesus in whom we believe. Others who are around them, agree that this most definitely is the case. This active faith defines a church in which the people are gospel-governed.
5. Entrenched in Love (1 Thess. 1:3b). It is a church that is characterized by a relentless love which is evidenced in and amongst the members. It is a church in which grudges are not carried and hurts and hang ups are dealt with using the principle Jesus introduced in Matthew Ch. 18. It is a church in which when people smile at you, they are genuinely happy to see you. A shaking of a hand is not a mere formality but a demonstration of loyalty.
6. Enabled by Hope (1 Thess. 1:3b). It is a community of faith that is enabled and bolstered by a hope for what is to come. It is a church that is aware of and lives in light of eternity. It is a church in which the people are motivated by the hope in that which is to come. It is a church in which people approach set-backs and failures with resilient hope that endures amidst affliction. This hope enables endurance regardless of intensity or pressure.
7. Elect of God (1 Thess. 1:4). A gospel-governed church is complete with people who were predestined by God to believe in Jesus the Christ. Realizing this privilege that we possess from a God who knows us so well brings about perpetual gratitude. Those who are part of the church are objects of God’s love and the focus of God’s care. They have made the Spirit-infused decision to turn away from dead idols and follow the only true and triune God. The gospel accomplished that which it set out to do in the first place, before even the beginning of time (Eph. 1:4).
8. Exemplary in the Gospel (1 Thess. 1:5). It is a community in which the truths of Christ are not only preached emphatically from the pulpit but are enthusiastically lived out by the people in the pews. There is no mist in the pulpit and there is a favorable lack of a fog in the pews. A gospel message is practiced, preached, taught, embraced, initiated and completed. All for the fame of Jesus’ name.
Question: What else would you add to this list of the marks of a Christ-Centered church? How are you actualizing this within your community of faith?