What is a Great Church? by Pastor Ken Damstrom
Great is a word defined in the dictionary as “huge”, elaborate”, “numerous”, “large in size” “much beyond the ordinary,” and several other descriptive words. Certainly, most of us use the word in a positive way meaning something good.
From a Christian point of view, many thoughts have helped us to understand the idea of what great means.
” If you want to get UP, step DOWN.
If you want to be SEEN, get out of SIGHT.
If you want to be GREAT, forget YOURSELF.” -Anonymous
“A GRATEFUL MIND IS A GREAT MIND.”- Anonymous
” The beginning of greatness is to be little,
the increase of greatness is to be less,
and the perfection of greatness is to be nothing.” –Anonymous
So, we understand more clearly that our Christian perspective on the words great or greatness includes a strong measure of humility, surrender, and perhaps gratitude.
Is a great church a large church? Is it a rich church? Is it an influential church? An architectural wonder? Is it an effective soul-winning church? A Spirit-energized church? All of the above could be true. Perceptions may change from person to person. Let’s look at one clear example in the New Testament of what God considers to be a “great Church!”
In Acts 2:42-47, it says of the Early Church: ” And they continued steadfastly in the Apostle doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers…and fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the Apostles…and all that believed were together, and had all things common, and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need…and they continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart…praising God and having favor with all the people…and the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.”
What do we learn from Acts about this simple, plain Spirit embodied band of believers? Let’s emphasize a few points to understand better what a “great” church existed. In ACTS 4:33, we read, “And with GREAT POWER gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus…” WHAT WAS THIS POWER? Nothing other than the power of the Holy Spirit! A great church moves by the power of the Holy Spirit. It is connected in all ways to this God sent power to go far beyond our human power. Everything impressive in this world; large buildings, big congregations, big monies, fanciful preaching, cannot substitute for a Holy Spirit driven, scripturally motivated church. Jesus has given us all things sufficient to develop a “GREAT CHURCH!”
One Evangelist put it this way: “Our efficiency without His sufficiency is only a deficiency.”
The power demonstrated in that early church was one of witnessing. They were and we are given Holy Spirit power to witness by what we say and what we do in life. The Apostles witnessed to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Alive forevermore! Easter should be living in our everyday experiences. A big church is not necessarily a great church without the power of the Spirit of God! We can have the name but be dead like the Revelation Church of Sardis.
Again, in ACTS 4:33; “…and GREAT GRACE was upon them all.” We have nothing that we did not receive by grace! GOD’S RICHES AT GOD’S EXPENSE spells grace. The Holy Spirit delivered grace to the early church in all areas of their everyday living. They practiced TRUSTING AND OBEYING. A great church must give all the credit to the grace it has been given!
The Bible says in Acts after Ananias was judged by God and died…”GREAT FEAR came upon all the church.” ACTS 5:5,11. Ananias and Sapphira were struck dead by God for sin, and fear came upon all. We must have the full power of the Holy Spirit operating in our lives and the church in order to be really dedicated and committed to Jesus Christ. Fake news will not suffice, only the “Real McCoy!”
ACTS 8:1 reads, “GREAT PERSECUTION took place against the Church at Jerusalem. In this developing world of unbelief, we need the dynamic power of the Holy Spirit to yank us out of our comfort zones and guide us through persecution. Everybody looks Christian, for the most part, today. We all want “Easy Believism”, but the truth is we have so often compromised our faith in order to keep everything smooth and cool with little or no persecution for our beliefs. II TIMOTHY 3:1-2 reminds us sternly: “” …all that will live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.”
Finally, after all the doom and gloom comes a pleasant note. ACTS 8:6,8, Phillip, separated by persecution abroad, went to preach to the Samaritans and, “the people with one accord gave heed…And there was GREAT JOY in that city.”
JOY BEGATS JOY! Negative people spread negativity! Joyful people spread Joy! This is not a flimsy, fake joy so often seen in our lives today; this was ACTS 4:33, “…they did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart.” This is the Joy of the Lord as our strength, (Nehemiah 8)”. This is Holy Spirit inspired joy unspeakable and full of glory!
Earmarks of a GREAT CHURCH! Great power, Great grace, Great fear, Great persecution, Great joy…all under the direction of the Holy Spirit. The pattern has been given and all we have to do is follow the Spirit of the Living God. Fall fresh on us! May we become…
A GREAT CHURCH, A BODY OF SPIRIT REFRESHED, ENERGIZED, COMMITTED INDIVIDUALS WHO WANT TO SEE JESUS AT WORKIN US AND ALL AROUND US, WHERE MIRACLES ABOUND.
By His Spirit, Pastor Ken