|The Character of the Church|
The Church of Jesus Christ is a living thing. It has organization, but it is much more than an organization. It does business, but it is much more than a business. We must never forget or lose sight of this reality: The church is alive.
As such, the Church has characteristics or character traits that are uniquely hers. They define her to a lost world, searching in the dark for reality. Because the world does not know God, it is imperative that the Church realize and stay true to her unique defining characteristics. If she loses sight of these, she loses what makes her Church and defines her to the world she is called to reach. She is to be a light, shining in the dark, a city set high on a hill for all to see. She is to be above all a declaration to the entire world Who God and His Son is. (“Are” is not proper here because the two are one.)
To a great degree and for the most part, Church Leadership of late has focused primarily on the end result they desire and the activities (works) that can produce the desired result. Like the children of Israel Moses was leading out of their bondages, leadership has focused on the works of the Church and not her ways (her character).
Character is the very foundation of a person, business, organization, or church. If that is flawed or skewed, then all else will be also. Or as the Lord Jesus put it: “…a bad tree cannot produce good fruit.” So, character is key; it is of utmost importance. It is absolutely more important than our methods and goals. We may have a great and right purpose (or mission as we like to say in church circles), but if our character is flawed, then no matter how good our intentions, the end result will be flawed.
Remember this: everything produces after its own kind: fig trees still cannot produce apples or horses, and geese still cannot lay solid gold eggs. We reproduce who we are. Is that as scary to you as it is to me? Wow! Talk about a wake up call—that reality causes me to examine my own heart to be sure it is firmly established in grace and faith and that it exhibits the character of those spiritual realities in all I do.
But it should have the same effect regarding our churches and ministries. We should first ensure we have the right character—that we are who we are supposed to be. Then, and only then, are we ready to do.
We have heard it said many times that if we will do what they did, we will get what they got. But that is only true if we are who they were. Case in point: Pharaoh’s pursuing army and the fleeing children of Israel. His army did what the children of Israel did, but they sure did not get what they got. The difference: who they were and who the children of Israel were. Just because we do what someone else did does not mean we will get what they did. In fact, we may get just the opposite.
Every church has a character about it that identifies who it is and much more importantly who it is from, i.e its lineage. It either demonstrates the Character of God or it demonstrates the character of man. There are churches today from both lineages—some from God and some from man. Numbers and budgets tell us absolutely nothing regarding lineage. But the lives of those in a church declare everything—they are the fruit of the tree, not the number attending. As a matter of fact, when we focus solely on the number, we are to a great degree declaring our lineage—man. Man is consumed with numbers—bigger is better. But God is looking at the heart. And those who belong to Him do the same.
Pastor, which church are you pastoring? What character does it demonstrate, not only to those within it but also to the community around it? Do they see Jesus when they look at you and the people you pastor? Or do they see man?
First, get the heart right, then all else will begin to fall into proper order? Trying to get a church to look and act like God, is like herding cats—good luck! But when God inhabits the throne of the heart, His character begins shining through. It permeates everything and radiates out through all we do.
So, do the first works and the rest will follow.