This is the next sermon in our current series, “I Love My Church”
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This is the second article in our current series:
“I Love My Church”
Col. 1:3-5, “We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4 because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people—5 the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard in the true message of the gospel.”
Since the very beginning of our church our mission has stated: We live on purpose in authentic community, worshipping as we:
- Connect with our church family
- Grow to be like Christ
- Serve in church ministry
- Reach the world
Being authentic has always been a priority here at Grace. Today, authenticity is a word that everyone seems to be using. According to the “experts”, authenticity is one of the highest values for generation Z and millennials. Because of that, authenticity has become the focus of most churches’ efforts to more effectively reach those two generations. But while everyone seems to agree with its significance in the church, I have to wonder how much consensus there is among church leaders about what authenticity actually looks like in the church? Are there characteristics, attitudes and behaviors in a church that translate into actual authenticity?
I think there are. The Apostle Paul’s letter to the Colossians can help guide us. Paul wrote a letter to the church in Colossae, though according to what we know, he never met them because he didn’t start this church. So, in verse 4 when he addresses their Christ-centered authenticity, he does it strictly by observable characteristics…things that can be measured. In other words, he was not biased by any personal relationships within that church. Our goal here is to look at objective criteria as well, so his words are particularly helpful. The reason I picked Colossians 1 is that we see authenticity in both Paul’s attitude and his description of the Colossians’ attitudes.
So, let’s walk through his words and descriptions, as I share four characteristics of an authentic church:
1. An authentic church is Thankful
The first words Paul uses when writing to this church is how thankful he is for them. It shows us Pauls’ own authenticity, and I believe it serves as a measure of a church’s authenticity as well. We need to ask ourselves; do we exhibit that kind of spirit? Do we encourage and teach an “attitude of gratitude?”
Remember in Luke 17:11-19 where Jesus is interacting with the lepers? Take a moment to read it. Jesus heals ten men and only one comes back to thank him.
I think that story is a good example of a heart of gratitude, or lack thereof, and reflects the spirit of someone who has been transformed by the power of God. When a church is filled with people whose lives are being transformed by the Spirit of God, they live consistently thankful lives. They are grateful for the presence of Christ in their lives.
The next example of authenticity in the church is Paul’s reference to his prayers for this church.
- An authentic church Prays.
I’m not just talking about a traditional Wednesday prayer meeting; I mean the people within the church covering each other in prayer. They care through prayer.
Real authenticity in the church is experienced through prayer. I love seeing Pastor David out in the foyer praying for people on Sunday mornings. In Matthew 21:13 Jesus quotes Isaiah, “my house shall be called a house of prayer…”.
So, what does that say about a church when they don’t pray for one another?
I think we need to ask, what if I were praying for myself or my family? How would I pray?
Next we find Paul praising the Colossians because he’s heard of their faith in Jesus.
- An authentic church has Faith
A few months ago, we talked about a book that asked the question, “If your church disappeared overnight would your community notice or care?” I have another question, “Would the people of our community say, “those people put their hope in Christ.” “They stand for Jesus” “They’re a people of faith.” Listen, I don’t think it’s wrong for Christians to vote and have political views, but we need to make sure that our hope is not in a political party, but in Jesus Christ. We need to be careful that we don’t place our hope in our creative programming, or in our resources, or in our leadership, or in our innovative ideas for ministry, or our polished communication, etc.
You get the idea, the question is, are we calling our church to a passionate faith in Christ? I didn’t ask if we were calling our church to become the biggest church in America. I didn’t ask if we were calling our church to be thought leaders. I didn’t ask if we won an award for the most innovative church in the world. I asked if we were calling our people to an active, living faith.
Next, Paul describes having heard about the Colossians and “the love that you have for all the saints.”
- An authentic church Loves
Pastor Andy did an amazing job talking about this subject last week. Love creates vulnerability, honesty, patience, compassion. All things that you need to build an authentic church. I said this two weeks ago, but I want to say it again. In a healthy, loving church people choose to do life with each other. They choose to be patient with each other and bare each other’s burdens. They choose to help each other grow and take relational risks for the other persons benefit. It reminds us of Jesus’ words in John 13:35, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
But the love of an authentic church reaches beyond its walls. The ability to love those within our culture is becoming more and more challenging. So, we ask ourselves:
– Do we love those who hate us?
– Do we love those who passionately disagree with us?
– Do we love those who would love to cause us harm?
– Can we see past social issues and political divides and have authentic love for
Matthew 5:43-48 says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven.
He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Real love is seldom easy and always based in truth. And the best way to share God’s truth is in the context of genuine, loving relationships. An authentic church loves people more than they love their opinions…even if those opinions are right.
I have a lot of opinions on the state of our country and culture, but I choose to keep them to myself most of the time, when I’m with certain family members and friends, or on social media. On social media I try to stick to quotes, Bible verses and fish pictures. Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day.
The choice to be Thankful
The choice to Pray
The choice to have Faith
The choice to Love