Identifying the kingdom characteristics of a healthy church
There is much discussion about identifying and articulating the culture of our individual local churches. Amid countless innovative trends and strategies, we have to keep a strong grip on the fact that we are carrying out one central mission. Jesus, the head of the church, preached the kingdom of heaven.
As we carry out our mission of building the church He began, there is a “kingdom culture” that must be protected. I love what strategist and author Sam Chand says: “Toxic culture will eat great vision for lunch!” Any senior leader whose great vision has been hijacked by bad attitudes, practices or motives can attest to the fact that a crucial responsibility of leaders is to be guardians of the culture of the ministries we lead.
There has been much that has occurred in this season that could cause our hearts to faint, and fear seems to be on the horizon each day of our lives. However, we must continue to persevere in faith, knowing that God is in complete control at all times. Though lawlessness appears to prevail at times, we are given grace to persist and develop our faith in God. Our Lord is the God of Light and He will light our pathway which continually leads to life. Let us recall a few Scriptures that give us hope in this season.
James 1:16-18 reminds us that the Father of heavenly lights gives only good and perfect gifts and that He is the God of truth:
"Don't be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all He created" (NIV, with emphasis).
The subject of blessing and prosperity has become very controversial among those in the church. We want to be blessed and live the abundant life Christ died to give us, yet we don’t want to approach God as if He is a lottery or a slot machine—if you put in the right amount of prayer, praise, worship, faith and good works, out comes your blessing. But for some, that is all they see God as, and they get beside themselves when He doesn’t come through the way they wanted Him to.
Blessing and prosperity are more than money. According to Strong’s Complete Concordance of the Bible, one Hebrew word for prosperity is shalom. We often associate the word shalom with peace, but the peace that Christ went to war for on the cross is a complete, whole kind of peace. Also according to Strong’s, shalom is “completeness, soundness, welfare and peace.” It represents completeness in number and safety and soundness in your physical body. Shalom also covers relationships with God and with people.
In today’s culture it’s easy to think that the only way to solve the overwhelming challenges we face is either through innovative business or big government. Yet the reality is that the church, despite its faults, is still God’s chosen instrument of blessing and has been for 2,000 years.
When senior pastor Rick Warren began rethinking Saddleback Church’s missions strategy, which led to the PEACE Plan, he realized the body of Christ has several advantages over the efforts of business and government to help those in need. He saw that:
1. The church provides the largest participation.More than 2 billion people claim to be followers of Jesus Christ. That’s one-third of the world’s population! In the U.S., about 100 million people went to church last weekend. That’s more than all who will attend sporting events this year in the U.S.
"Christmas is the time when nothing ought to change.”
Our newly married daughter, Liz, put into words what all of us were feeling. We had come from our home in New York state to spend the holidays with her and her husband, Alan, in their new apartment in Tucson, Ariz. Outside, on Christmas Eve, cactus-wrens hopped about the mesquite bushes beneath a glorious desert sky, while indoors the four of us gulped iced tea and thought of pine woods and falling snowflakes.
“Home in Leicester,” Alan recalled of his Massachusetts upbringing, “we’d generally go skating about now.”
“And tonight there’d be the midnight service at St. Mark’s!” Liz said. “Remember, Mom and Dad, how you can see your breath, walking in from the parking lot?”
We did remember. We wanted every time-hallowed tradition just as it always had been. No changes. Not at Christmas.