I am now 76 years old. In my many years I have experienced every kind of church there is—either as a preacher or attendee. I could spend all day on the front porch sharing with you the many glorious and beautiful things I have seen. From all those years of experience I have formed an image of the ideal local church, the church I want to be a member of.
First and foremost, I want to be part of a church that believes God meant it when he said “All scripture IS given by inspiration of God” (2 Tim. 3:16, emphasis added). Not WAS given but now lost to us due to mistakes that have crept into the copies. I want to belong to a church where no one stands in the pulpit and challenges the accuracy of a single word in the Bible. God magnified his WORD above all his name, so we should too (Ps. 138:2). We sing, “His name above all names shall stand; blessed be the name of the Lord.” The church of which I want to be a member will sing, “His words above all words shall stand; blessed be the words of the Lord.” And when the kids sing “The B I B L E, yes, that’s the book for me; I stand alone on the word of God…” I want to see them waving the Authorized Version of the Bible (KJV) in the air.
The church of my choice would have several elders in the position of leadership rather than a pastor with pope-like authority. They would be humble men who studied the word of God and were ready to take oversight, always caring for the welfare of the flock without ambition or egotistical self-exaltation, never by constraint or intimidation.
Church services would center on teaching and worship. Worship would consist of singing the old and new hymns of praise in the major keys, and the congregation expressing admiration for the person of Christ.
Recounting God’s eternal purpose—not one’s emotional experience—would be the height of worship. Teaching would come from individual men of the congregation, not seminary-trained professionals, expounding and exalting the person and work of Jesus Christ. No one would leave talking about how they felt, but rather about how wonderful are the eternal purposes of God and his faithfulness to his people. The presence of the Holy Spirit would not be measured by emotion but by the holiness and repentance his presence produced.
The church I would join, if they thought me worthy, would have one job to do and every member of the congregation would make it their “first work,” their “first love,” and that would be to win sinners to faith in Jesus Christ (Rev. 2:4–5). Every member would treat every sinner they meet as if they were already beloved members of Christ. Every unredeemed person would feel the forgiveness and hope that permeates the congregants (Matt. 5:16). The love Christians have for one another and for people in general would be an irresistible force provoking the sinner to feel his need for redemption and inclusion into the body of Christ (John 13:35).
Every family in the church would be ready to entertain in their home both recently converted and weak Christians, encouraging them in the faith and providing an example of Christian marriage and home life (1 Tim. 3:2).
There would be no part-time Christians; the pastime of every member would be taken up with promoting the kingdom of God.
In the church of my dreams, the young people would be an example of fervency. They would organize fun youth activities and invite sinners to come have a good time. They would have so much enthusiastic and wholesome fun that every teenager would envy their lifestyle. And in the course of having fun every Christian youth would be praying and angling to make Christ known to the sinners present. All activities would get around to boisterous clapping and singing, mingled with spontaneous testimonies of conversions and praise to God. The kids would come home not with tales of what this person wore or who likes whom, but of the number saved that very night.
In the church I desire, the men and boys would understand pornography to be the devil’s bible and the viewing of it worship of all that is damnable. They would flee it like Ebola and hate it like cancer, being made accountable to one another. The young people would be of a higher mindset than to participate in online gossip and trivialities. They would not be familiar with pop personalities or the latest movies, but would be immersed in things eternal. The women and girls in the church would all dress modestly, not following the world’s fashion, and that not by rules or constraint but by being sensitive to the Holy Spirit.
In God’s church every man would love his wife as Christ loved the church. He would be gentle and empathetic, seeking to carry her burdens and have mercy on her shortcomings. Every wife would look to her husband for leadership and make it her primary calling to promote him in his vocation and social standing. Parents would be examples to their children and devote much time to sharing life with them in fun ways, always instructing them in the principles of success and duty (Eph. 6:4).
In the righteous church young people would not have romantic relationships until they were ready for marriage. They would come to the marriage altar unkissed virgins, pure as the Virgin Mary. Divorce would be unknown.
All children would be homeschooled with only minimal corporate instruction in a faith setting. By about fourteen years of age the young men would be working with their hands a good portion of each day (1 Thess. 4:11), learning to be self-sufficient in the disciplines of home maintenance, mechanics, and building, ready to do any common labor with proficiency by the time they are seventeen. They would be knowledgeable in the sciences and history, ready to give a reasonable answer for the hope that is within them.
And in the Church of Jesus Christ with all these righteous practices, there would be no sense of superiority in the congregation, no judgment of other churches, no undertone of contriving to draw a comparison through subtleties in conversation. They would be joyously naïve as to their excellence. No one would come away from a conversation with them feeling belittled or diminished (2 Cor. 10:12).
Much more could be said, but I think you get my drift. All these things I have seen and experienced in various degrees, here and there, throughout my life. But they have come parceled like surprise lilies, popping up in beauty and wonder, only to wilt and die with the changing of seasons. A number of times I have stood in the midst of such glory and grace, but today these things exist more in my memories and imaginations than in real-life experiences. Occasionally I see one or two lilies growing together in a dry place, and the blessed exception is most welcome. I think if I found such a church, I would be afraid to join myself to it lest I dilute the perfection. But I still lie down at night and remember moments of glory when heaven came down to answer the worship going up.
When we get to heaven and learn what feeble followers of Christ we have been and see all the unanswered prayers we never prayed, and know the power and beauty that we ignored for worldly fare, we will weep until our tears are wiped away and the pure praise begins in the company of innumerable angels and blood-bought saints of all ages. May he give more grace as we in the church of Laodicea try to keep ourselves lukewarm till he come.
Revelation 3:11-16 KJV
11 Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.
12 Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name.
13 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.
14 And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God;
15 I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.
16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.