How to Recognize a Good Church

I Corinthians 16:1-22

Introduction
My dream for Taylorville Baptist Church: our new building is more than money; it is about ministry – intentional ministry. Intentional worship; intentional evangelism; intentional fellowship, intentional development.

I have seen church buildings all over this world… sizes, shapes, conditions. And I wonder, is that a really good church meeting in that building?

Is our church a good church? How do you know when you are just doing church work or if you are doing the work of the church? How do you measure goodness in a local church? Let’s go to the New Testament and find out!

I. A GOOD CHURCH IS RIGHT IN ITS RICHES – vss. 1-9
Jesus talked more about money than almost any other subject! I think there are three good reasons why: (1) Money is so deceptive – promises o much, but gives so little; (2) Money is a definer of personal value – but this is faulty; (3) Money has great emotional power – it can shift the course of life off true center.

Yet, money is important, and a good church recognizes and owns that. This is seen in the following five points:

A. We are to give proportionately –
“… as God … ” Historically this has been the tithe.
Abraham commenced it – Genesis 14:20, with context
Moses commanded it – Genesis 28:22, Leviticus 27:30; others in the Old Testament
Jesus commended it – Matthew 23:23, with context
Who am I to cancel it? Tithing is an acknowledgement of the source of our blessings, and worship of God for all this benefits.
B. We are to give personally –
“… every one of you… ” not equal gifts, but equal sacrifice is the slogan of our campaign.
Everyone has some degree of prosperity;
Everyone has some degree of responsibility.
C. We are to give punctually –
“… on the first day of the week.”
This is the NT day of corporate worship;
Tithing, giving, is one way to worship God.
D. We are to give properly – vs. 3. This is why we have budgets and books.
There are no financial secrets here.
E. We are to give purposefully –
“… unto Jerusalem…” The Lord’s work is as important in one place as in another, though the immediate needs may change with time or circumstances.

So, one way to help our church be a better church, one conforming to the NT, is by each of us being right in our riches!

II. A GOOD CHURCH IS RIGHT IN ITS RELATIONSHIPS – vss. 10-15f
Paul mentions three specific men to point out four great principles of relationships:
A. Emotional support –
Timothy was to have no fear. Why was he so vulnerable at this point? Pastors are always vulnerable (1 Timothy 5:19) we can’t disprove a negative, and we can’t control what people say! So why was the Corinthian church admonished to make sure Timothy had no fear in coming to them?
Timothy was a half-breed. Race was not to be considered in supporting him emotionally.
God’s work is difficult, and visible results are not always immediate.
Success doesn’t crown every visit made, every sermon preached, every song sung.
B. Social acceptance –
“conduct him forth in peach . . . don’t despise him” (italics mine)
“Despise” if from a root word meaning “left out”; “a nobody”; “to cross” (cross off someone from the list); “to ex them out.”
Timothy was therefore not to be left out, crossed out, ex-ed out, and treated as if he were a nobody. (No one in a good church is!)
All are valuable, all need acceptance.
C. Personal space –
Psychologists talk of “fused personalities”, of “co-dependency” where one mark is manipulation, domination, control – making the controller feel good. They also recognize that about a three foot radius is our own personal space.
Here, Apollos is to be given his space! Vs. 12 He made his decision, and there was no good reason to deny him this right.
Everyone has the dignity to make choices, and whether we agree or disagree, this is to be honored.
D. Acknowledgment and recognition – vs. 18.
It was right for the Corinthian church to do this for Stephen; it is still right for the church to do this.
So in all these situations, and with these individuals, Paul is teaching us to be loving, sensitive, thoughtful, accepting of others!
Some, like Timothy, are young, inexperienced, immature, and may be unlike us in race, culture, clothing, status . . .
Some, like Apollos, are already disgusted with church problems (chs. 1 and 4), and need understanding acceptance as persons. Often they need time and space to “sort things out.”
Some, like Stephanos, have made the work of the church their business . . . and should be acknowledged.
As we build this church, we want to build into it emotional support, social acceptance, personal space, and recognition of others.

III. A GOOD CHUCH IS RIGHT IN ITS RESPONSES (to the Lord) – vs. 22
A. Respond by loving him – vs. 22a
This is a conscious, intentional act of putting him first so that this becomes habit! (One meaning of “love” is to “choose.”)
This is to be the Christian’s number one priority – Jesus said “you shall love the Lord . . . with all your heart . . .”
B. Respond by living in readiness for his return – vs. 22b, and vs. 16
“Anathema” is a compound meaning “banned” and “in turn.”
“Maranatha” is a word meaning “the Lord comes.” So, literally, when He comes and it is your turn, you won’t be banned! I think this means be saved, and know it! Otherwise, judgment.
Conclusion and applications:
We have seen from the NT how to recognize a really good church. This has to do more with people than with buildings. Even being ready for the Lord’s return is to be interpreted in light of our riches, relationships, responses.

We have decided what kind of building we will build. But my question to you is, “What kind of church will go into that new building?” That is a corporate and collective decision each of us makes. And it is the sum of the parts that determine the whole.

Curtis Kelley

Dr. Curtis Kelly is pastor of the Taylorville Baptist Church, Tuscaloosa, Alabama. He is an Alabama native and graduated from Tennessee Temple College (now University), Chattanooga; Tenn. with a BA degree. He received his Master of Divinity Degree from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary; and PhD from International Seminary, Orlando, FL.
Curtis Kelley

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