The church is not defined by a building, but rather by lives committed to loving God and serving people in His name. Dr. Stanley describes what we can do to contribute to the strength of our own church because churches need to be involved in spreading the gospel in their communities and around the world.
today. People are disconnected and isolated. But imagine being fully known by those around you get your free, fully human workbook today and redeem your relationships In touch with Dr. Charles Stanley celebrating 45 years of God’s faithfulness in sharing the gospel worldwide. Next on in touch a strong church. There are hundreds and thousands of buildings all across this country around the world called churches. And some of them are large. Some of them are small, some of them are weak, some of them are strong. The truth is that these church buildings are not the church. The church building houses the church for example, there was a time when we were downtown in a whole different building this church, then we had to come out this way because of traffic and so forth. And still we still have the same church. And so there are many, many churches of many, many different kinds and some of them are not all christian churches, some of them belong to other religions, but they call them churches, some of them have other names for their churches, but that’s what they call them. And so when you think about that, and you think about millions of people belong to a church, some people are saved and they don’t belong to a church. What is the church anyway. And so when you think about that, you think about, well, what kind of church do I want to belong to do? I want to belong to a weak church. I do I want to belong to a strong church. And so the title of this message is a strong church, you may say well you know what I, I came in here this morning and I don’t even know that I’m interested in church. Will you get ready to get interested? For the simple reason? When jesus said I will build my church, anything that he builds I have to be interested in, I would, I would want to be interested, I must be interested in. So I want us to read, watch this now. I want us to read a passage of scripture That I want to give a little explanation for in order that you won’t be thinking about it when I moved from it. Now that sounds sort of odd turn a few with the 16th chapter of Matthew and I want us to begin reading in the 13th verse, read through the 20th verses and then I want to talk about this whole issue of the characteristics of a strong church In the 13th verse of Matthew 16. Now, when Jesus came into the district of sensory of Philippi, he was asking his disciples who do people say that the son of man is speaking of that part of his life, which is which is uh human. And they said some say john the baptist others elijah, but still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets, he said to them, but who do you say that I am Simon Peter answered, you are the christ, the son of the living God and jesus said to him blessed are you Simon Bar Jonah because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you but my father who’s in heaven also said to you that you are peter and upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of Hades will not overpower it, I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of heaven and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven. Then he warned the disciples that they should tell no one that he was the christ. Now I want to explain what this says, what it means. So you won’t be wondering about this when I come to the 11 characteristics of a strong church. So let’s go back up when jesus said to him, who do people say that I am, he said, your christ the son of the living God. And so when jesus said to him, you’re peter and you didn’t think this up, God revealed this to you and he said to him, I said to you, you are peter and upon this rock I will build my church. Now listen carefully, Jesus was not saying that he was gonna build his church upon the apostle Peter, the apostle Peter was far from being perfect. In fact he was one of the most honorary of the disciples. In fact Jesus said to him one time, you’re you just like the devil and said, get behind me when he was in the church later on, paul had to bring him to a realization and he said to him, peter, you’re compromising your conviction because you don’t want these folks to think that uh you’re fraternizing with, with the gentiles and so Jesus would never have found his church on an imperfect apostle. So what did he mean? He said, this is the foundation of the church, this that jesus christ is the son of the living god, that’s what the church is all about, that’s what the church is founded upon. Listen, if you take any building cathedral, whatever it may be and whatever is going on in there. If you remove that truth that jesus christ is the son of the living god, it is no longer a church, it may be an institution, it may be a beautiful building, a cathedral, but it’s not a church. The church is built on the truth. The fact, the principle that jesus christ is the son of God and that’s how it is to be built. So let’s talk about, what is it? What are the characteristics that make for a strong church wherever you may go and whatever your church may be. And the first thing is this spirit filled leadership. If you have leadership in a church that is not filled with the spirit of God, you’re starting out already with weakness because if you recall jesus said to his disciples, you’re not ready to do what I called you to do. He gave them the great commission, but he says, I want you to stay in the city of Jerusalem until you be filled with the Holy Spirit. So the Holy Spirit comes upon you because he knew That they could not do what he called them to do unless the spirit of God was in them empowering them, enabling them, energizing them, giving them direction and guidance to do what he called them to do. Because think about this, he gave 12 men, one of them had to be laid aside judas and then another one took his place Matthias and then 120 he gave them the challenge to get his truth to the entire world. Can you imagine how absolutely ridiculous that may have sounded in his day? Today, we can say, we got radio, we have tv, we have iphones, we got everything in that day. It was word of mouth and he said, but you’re not ready. You’re not ready until you ba filled the spirit. And the truth is saying today, no staff of a church is adequate to do the work that God calls them to do unless they be filled with the Holy Spirit. That is not only the pastors, but the members of the staff and so if you’re going to have a strong church, then the leadership of the staff must be filled with the Holy Spirit listening to him and depending upon him for direction and for guidance and for the power of the energy and to know how to carry out the work of a church churches. And what we attempt to do does not just happen. There’s a lot that goes on in the midst of it all. So, first of all, you have to have spirit fill leadership and in their lives out of their life. That should be the evidence that they are filled with the spirit, which paul gives his in Galatians Chapter five of Love and Joy and Peace and all the rest he mentions. So that’s number one, that’s the beginning, that’s first strong church pastor leadership, all the staff of people who feel the spirit, secondly, they’re doctrinally sound messaged that they have that meets the needs of the people. Now, I think about how many people go to church, week after week after week, never carry a bible. So think about this, they go to church. They sit and listen usually for 20 minutes or 25, 30, but I think about people who just go to church and don’t carry a bible. How do you know if what he said is the truth or not and you have a right, it’s your privilege, it’s your responsibility to question. Have I heard the truth I have or not? So to be doctrinally sound means that we have doctrines, that is, we have beliefs that are fastened to the word of God, They are born from the word of God, they are taught in the word of God and that we have to teach others the same. And so to be doctrinally sound means that we believe the truth. The truth is taught by God’s word. Somebody says, well, now, wait, about what about people who don’t agree with us. There’ll be people who don’t agree with you about what you believe. For example, there are some people who believe that you can be saved and be lost and no matter what you tell them, they still think they’re going to be lost. And of course we don’t believe that, because the bible doesn’t teach it period, it doesn’t teach it, but they still believe it and from their interpretation, that’s what they believe. And so you should have a personal doctrine. Here’s what I believe about jesus christ, that’s what I believe about heaven. Here’s what I believe about sanctification justification, Here’s what I believe about the Church, here’s what I believe about the devil. Here’s what I believe, that all of these things, you should have, you should have your own personal doctrine based on the word of God. If you don’t, somebody come along and teach you something that is absolutely false and there are lots of false teaching going on? No question about that. And so when somebody says, what do you believe? We’ll ask them, why do they believe it? If they pull out some pamphlets or something, somebody has written, he said, listen, what does the word of God say? And so you should know what you believe and why you believe it. And not only that you have a responsibility to teach your Children what you believe about the Word of God. When they grow up, they should grow up believing as you believe. If you believe the Word of God, they their doctrine should be become a part of their life early in life, because it’s what you believe. Now, there’s gonna come a time when they’re gonna test that and they’re gonna say, well, I know that’s what you believe, but I’m not sure that’s what I believe, You know what that’s okay, They can test it if you have taught them the truth, the truth will not only survive, but it will conquer. And then of course, uncompromising in their convictions. If a strong church is a strong church, it’s because people have convictions, they don’t lie. They don’t lay aside and they stand by them. For example, if you have a conviction that you should not drink alcoholic beverage and somebody comes along and says, well, I mean a little bit, it’s not gonna hurt you in the bible mm on and on. They go and you say, well, you know I believe that, but I don’t I don’t guess it’ll hurt me too much or I don’t want to be an oddball? So for now you just compromise your conviction when you compromise your conviction, what you do is you lay aside what you believe in order to please somebody else or please yourself, knowing that you’re doing the wrong thing. So, if you have conviction, for example, if you have convictions about what you watch, if you have convictions about who you associate with, who your friends are, places you go, things that you do, how you spend your money, you should have convictions about all these things that you absolutely will not compromise a church in which the pastor compromises, the word of God is a week church. Whether people compromise their convictions, it’s a week church. God wants a strong church based and built on the solid, unwavering truth of the word of the living God, then of course, there is a strong emphasis on faith and prayer. If a church is gonna be strong, you’ve got to be strong about prayer and about faith. If you don’t pray, you’re not gonna live a Godly life. And you hear heard you’ve heard me say it week after week after week, you ought to begin today on your knees. If you can’t get on your knees, sit in the chair, whatever, but talking to God, not just talking to him and reading his word, Listen, if you don’t read the word of God, you can drift off into all kinds of things. If you will read the word of God daily and you listen, start today, here’s what you’re saying, you’re saying, God, I acknowledge that I need you this day, Lord, I want you to speak to my heart. I want you to give me guidance and direction for this day. All day long. I want to walk in your will when you start the day like that, you think God’s not gonna answer that prayer. Yes, he will. And here’s what will happen. You will find, there will be times when you read a passage of scripture, you think, what does that mean? What does that mean? That some had struck your heart before the day is over? Something will happen. You’ll think, oh God, you gave me a warning and I ignored it. God is a personal God. He’s intimate. He wants to work in your life in such a fashion. That the two of you have an intimate relationship. That intimate relationship is only gonna come through the reading of the word of God and absorbing it in your mind and heart, you say, well, some things are better. I don’t understand. You know what? You just keep reading. You’ll understand you. Just keep reading the word of God and God will show you the truth. He will show you the truth. Listen, he’s going to show you the truth. Especially things that you need in your life. He’s gonna show you how to accomplish that he’s going to show you where to go, when to go, Who to avoid what to avoid how to spend your money. That is God is an awesome Listen, he’s the best friend you can possibly have and you can’t lose being obedient to almighty God. No way. So faith and prayer absolutely essential in a strong church where it’s where it’s lacking, you’re not gonna have strength because that the power of the Holy Spirit flows through people of prayer and faith. Then of course, the worship service, the worship service would provide The atmosphere in which the people experience the presence of God and leave renewed in their commitment to Obey God and serve him. That’s what should happen in every strong church. That’s the kind of, that’s kind of worship service. Now, this is why I have a problem with people who have 20 minutes sermons. Listen, you can hardly get the world out of your mind 20 minutes. And so a worship services where we focus our attention upon God, not upon the preacher, but upon God, upon his word above. What God wants to do in our life, we open our heart and ask God speak to my heart and when you come into church, I think one of the first things you should do, when you come and you should say Lord, you brought me here this morning. I want you to speak to my heart. I want you, I want you to show me what I need to hear. Help me to hear it to believe it and to accept it and to apply it to my heart because listen, you don’t come, this is not this is not a theatrical place. This is a place of worship. This is a place where we meet God together. I can meet him every morning, every day, any time of day and night. But I meet him with fellow believers and there’s something about meeting him with fellow believers and and the songs we sang a few moments ago. All of these lift our spirit and cause us to have joy in our heart when we think about what we sang and we pray and we give worship. And then of course, when I think about all of these characteristics of faithful and generous in their giving. You don’t hear me begging for money. You don’t hear me pleading, putting pressure on anybody because here’s what I believe. I believe. If you obey God and you walk in his will and his way and you choose to follow him, you will give because the spirit of God will motivate you and he’s gonna motivate you. Listen for this reason. He wants us to learn to do what to worship him with their tides and our offerings. And very seldom do I mention it and people once in a while say, well why don’t you preach your money? Well, I don’t think that’s what God wants me to do at times most of the time. But sometimes I will make those explanations and challenges if there if there’s a reason. But my belief is simply this. If you are listening to the word of God and you’re obeying him and you’re believing him and you’re trusting him and you want to have a strong family be a part of a strong stretch. You will give. It’s the privilege of I’m not just talking to God, but saying Lord, I mean what I say when I say, I’m thankful, I’m grateful for the wonderful privilege. I know that you said were to bring the tides and our offerings into the storehouse of God so that the work can be carried on. I thank you for the privilege of giving listen, do you realize how blessed we are and privileged to live in this country? You’ve got a job, you’ve got income. You’ve got a family, you’re taking care of your Children. That times are tough. They’re gonna get tougher and you know what? And we’re gonna be faithful right through the tough times to prove, let listen to allow God to prove that taxes and government does not change his, gives his love, his grace to us. It does not do it. And then listen, Strong churches strategically organized to reach their God given goals. We have preschool, we have school age Children, we have teenagers and so forth. We have adults. We have programs for each age group. We have bible studies for each group. We have our Wednesday night prayer meeting and we have a wonderful dinner on Wednesday night, we are organized for everything imaginable. You said the first church didn’t get organized. Oh yes, they did. Because if you’ll notice, for example in acts early in access, what happens? The Bible says nobody was in need. Listen, if you had 3000 people get saved and nobody is in need, somebody got that, create organized. It could have been Peter whoever it might have been. And for example, Jesus, Jesus was organized. He said feed 5000, set them in groups and we’ll get them all fed. We had some leftover church is organized. The organization. Listen, the organization is beneath the surface were organized. Why? So when when you wanna come on sunday morning, we’re gonna start at the time. We say we’re gonna start. That’s organization. We’re gonna have, we’re gonna have a service that lasts so long. That’s organization. We’re gonna have singing, we’re gonna have preaching, we’re gonna have offerings. We’re gonna have invitation, we have a conclusion. All that’s organization. Then of course, a strong church that people serving the strengths of their spiritual gifts. Now you say some people would say, well, I don’t know what a spiritual gift is. So let me just give you a little briefing here in the 12th chapter of romans. You might look there for a moment, he says in verse six of romans 12. Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, that is according to God’s grace and what he wants to do in and through your life, he gives you a certain gifts. So listen he says um since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly. Now watch this. So he names them the gift of prophecy, the gift of service, the gift of teaching, the gift of exhortation, the gift of giving the gift of leading our administration and the gift of mercy. Now you say, well how does that work? Okay, watch this. When you operate out of your gift, you are the most efficient and secondly you operated your gift. You listen you’re the happiest because you sense your ability and talents and skills for example and people have all different kinds of gifts. People who are very creative uh in their spiritual gifts. So that’s the work of the Holy Spirit. Now you put that into the church and this is where we have people who teach people who are ahead of the organization, people who who for example who exhort and uh you have all the different gifts in the church and God has given us different people who do different things better. There’s some people who can do many things better than I can and if somebody says, what have you ever done besides preach? Well I deliver newspaper and wash cars and maybe a few other things, but this is what God created me for. I am the happiest doing this. I do my best when I’m doing this, if I had to teach in a classroom with about 20 people and teaching calculus, I’d be a total flop because that’s not who I am. You are, who you are and you need to find out what your spiritual gift is. You say, well, I never heard of it before. Well, I’ll tell you what it is, a powerful lesson to learn and a freeing, liberating lesson to realize what your spiritual gift is. That when somebody expects you do something, God has gifted you to do, you won’t be frustrated. A very strong church is a church where the people operating out of their, out of their gifts. So then of course, uh, united in spirit, a strong church. People unite in spirit. I think for example of several large, very large churches split, that’s always destructive. It’s always destructive when, when the people of God, something comes along that divides them. But just think about what people get upset about. And so I’m simply saying this, the fact that you’re not together, we have people from all the different countries in the world. And we have people from every race, every nation, every nationality, all kinds of languages. We’ve got people here from about 55 different languages that belong to our church. I think that’s fantastic. And so because we are the body of christ, we’re not this kind of body, that kind of body and this kind of body with just the body of christ unity, oneness, loving each other, helping each other undergirding one another and and finding out who is in need and being, that’s what the new testament church did. That’s why they were so strong, they revolutionized their day and conquered Rome and because they stuck together and believed the word of God, then of course, genuine love for one another, that’s part of that being united and love is what holds, it’s like glue that holds the church together. You see if you sit in church and you looked across the island, you saw somebody that you just can’t stand, you need to get right with God and if somebody doesn’t love me, you know what it does for me. I just think, okay, God, what you got in mind, I start praying for him, next thing, you know, whatever it was, gets all settled, loving one another was what jesus was all about. And when he said, I will build my church, what did you build it on? He built it upon the recognition of who he was the son of God and loving him and loving one another, that’s what he said then of course the last one that I mentioned is a vision for a lost world that would result in the going of some in the giving of others a church that doesn’t have a vision for the world is not going to be a strong church if you’re expecting God to honor us? And bless this Church and bless the members of the families of this church. One of our responsibilities is to get the message of this church to the world. We want to get the message in every language we can so that anybody and everybody who wants the truth loves the truth, desires the truth or ignorant about the truth, will be able to hear it and be saved by the grace of God. That new testament Church was had a vision for the world. And the reason I know that is that I’m sitting here as a child of God and that’s thousands of miles away. They never stopped. They were persecuted, Rome, trying to destroy them and the Gospel is strong today and getting stronger all over the world. So what you have to ask is this, what is this strong church? And I’ve given you what I do believe in all of my heart. 11, very, very important characteristics of a strong church. Now, here’s the question I wanna ask you, are you listening to say, Amen? What are you doing to contribute to the strength of your church members of this church? This is this morning, and all of you who are watching all of you who are listening, what are you doing to help strengthen, contribute to the strength of your church? Second question if others in your church follow your pattern, will the Church continue to be strong and fruitful for the Kingdom of God? Now, would you agree you’ve heard the truth this morning? Okay, Alright, here’s what, here’s what I want, here’s what I want to ask you. You’ve heard what a church is like. Many of you belong to this church, Some of you have your own church, and many of you out there have your church, but I want to talk to you right this moment. You believe what you’ve heard the gospel of truth? If you’re willing to say to God today, Lord, I want to make a commitment today, that I want to make whatever contribution I can make, whatever it may be, to the strength of my church, this church. If you’re willing to tell him that today, with me, as I stand, would you stand Well, here’s what we’re saying, we’re saying, Lord, we want this to be a strong church based on the word of God, and committed to reaching as many people as we possibly can. Amen