When someone thinks of Celebration in our community what do you want them to think? What picture of our church do you want to see? What traits of our faith community would you want them to admire? In short, what reputation do you think Celebration should hold in the community?
How do you think God would answer that question? What do you want God to think of our church? What do you believe God wants Suffolk and beyond to think of His church?
Does he want them to see an awesome worship service? Does he want them to see a preacher who is a great rhetorician? Does he want Suffolk to see a church that is the “money” church or the poor church? Is it they know the Bible inside and out? Is it the attendance number? Is it the amount of money in the offering plate?
I believe 1 Thessalonians 1:2-3 has the answer to that question. In the first few verses Paul writes of the reputation this church holds and it sets a good example for us to follow. He writes, “We always thank God for all of you and pray for you constantly. As we pray to our God and Father about you, we think of your faithful work, your loving deeds, and the enduring hope you have because of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Thessalonians 1:2-3
These three traits are what make up a good reputation in our communities and before God. Let’s take a look a little closer as to what each of these mean.
The first trait he mentions faithful work. Faith means depending on someone else to come through for you. You do your part but you depend, have faith, that the other person will do their part. In this context our faith rests in God. We do our work of the church depending on God to do his part.
It’s like when Jesus fed 5000 people with two fish and five loaves of bread. Jesus blessed it and told the disciples to start feeding the people. They did. They did the work. They did what they could do, but they had to depend on Jesus to supply the food. He had to do what he could do.
This is the definition of faithful work. A church is exciting and adventurous when it stretches out in faith and says we are going to do what we can do and depend on God to do what he says he will do. Faithful work is risky work. It’s powerful work. It’s satisfying work. A church that works in faith is a powerful and attractive church.
The second trait that gives a church a good reputation is its good deeds. Jesus said in Matthew 5:16, “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds, and praise your father in heaven.” “Good deeds” in this context is not defined by doing good things to each other in the church. In using the phrase, “before men,” Jesus is pointing those listening to those outside the faith. Our good deeds should be done to those outside the faith. Why? So that God’s fame and reputation would be praised.
This trait can be hard for a church to stay focused on. The natural inclination is to focus on each other. Why? Because we like each other and care for each other! While there are definitely Biblical examples of the church caring for each other that should be followed, we must make sure we stay focused outward. This is what brings praise to our heavenly father. Think about it, what if churches in America were known more for their good deeds than their beliefs, or political positions, or doctrine? What if we brought the tension between the two back into balance? What would our reputation be with “men” if we focused on Jesus’ for his people? What if the church, through her good deeds, would be mourned by the community at large if the doors were closed?
The third trait is to have an enduring hope. Christians are a hope filled people. We believe in a God who has a plan for our life. We believe in a God who is in control of history and that one day everything will be set straight. We believe we get to be part of this incredible plan of bringing heaven back down to earth. We believe in a God that provides, sustains, and propels us forward into a greater future. And then on top of that we believe in a God that gives us hope beyond the grave. He has conquered it! Our God is awesome! When we speak of church, life, and the affairs of life it should always be tinged with a flirtatious smile that God is good and we have a hope in him that cannot be taken away. What if the people who came in contact with us were attracted to our church family for the simple reason that in us they see God’s light, God’s joy, and God’s love. What if they went away maybe not believing in God (yet) but saying, I don’t know what they have, but they have something I don’t, and can’t seem to find anywhere else.
May our church pursue these Biblical ideals. May our church continue to garner a good reputation in Suffolk and beyond.