When it comes to looking for a church to attend, we have never had as many options as we do these days. Just about every flavor, sect and denomination is before us for the sampling. With so many styles and ministry focuses available, the church scene has become somewhat of a smorgasbord where we can find whatever it is we are looking for.
My desire for a church is simple: I desire to be part of a church that has God’s favor on it. Not every church can boast of God’s favor. In the last few years the church has been bombarded with ideas on how to be successful, but we have heard very little about how to have the favor of God on our congregations.
One of the reasons for this is that too many have too often made a connection with God’s favor and success. In other words, many believe that if God’s favor is on a congregation it will be successful. This idea sounds reasonable enough; however, it breaks down when our idea of success mirrors the worlds understanding of success. For example:
Many are defining success in numerical terms. Those
who do so want to know how many people attend our
church on any given Sunday?
Some have defined success in structural terms. They
want to know how big our building is.
Some have defined success in financial terms. They
want to know how much tithe and offering is coming
into our church?”
Following these guidelines for success, the Laodicean church was successful. The only problem was that they did not have God’s favor (see Rev 3:14-22). Following these same guidelines for success, there are several cult groups that we could label successful as well. They are growing numerically faster than most evangelical churches and they have more money and bigger buildings. They are successful but they do not have God’s favor. There are many evangelical churches that bear this same reproach.
If we want to know the kind of success that is a result of God’s favor, we need to take another look at the Scriptures and the examples given to us. There are two very important New Testament figures that epitomized and personified ministry success: The result of their correct understanding of success was a fruitful ministry that the world is still talking about two thousand years later. They are Jesus and Paul. Notice the example they left for us.
“I came down from heaven to do the will of Him who
sent me” (John 6:38).
"I have completed the work that You sent me to
finish” (Jn 17:4b).
Paul was sent to the gentiles, “to open their eyes,
and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the
power of Satan unto God, that they may receive
forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among those who
are sanctified” (Ac 26:18).
Later he stated, “I have fought a good fight, I have
finished my course, I have kept the faith” (2Ti 4:7).
Notice that both Jesus and Paul were sent on a mission and both completed their mission. That is success. Success is achieved by knowing God’s will and accomplishing it. The kind of church that God blesses and puts His favor on is a church who knows God’s will and who’s actively pursuing it.
We can see this truth unveiled in the message of Great Commission, as well as in the evangelistic activities of the early church. Notice a few of these different blessings:
- He blesses us with His presence
"All authority has been given to Me in heaven and
on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all
the nations, baptizing them in the name of the
Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
teaching them to observe all things that I have
commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to
the end of the age." Mt 28:19,20
- He blesses us with His power
"Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every
creature. He who believes and is baptized will be
saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.
And these signs will follow those who believe: In My
name they will cast out demons; they will speak with
new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they
drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them;
they will lay hands on the sick, and they will
recover." Mark 16:15-18
- He blesses us with His provision
“With great power the apostles gave witness to the
resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was
upon them all. Nor was there anyone among them who
lacked.” Acts 4:33,34
These above scripture references teach that these kinds of blessings come into the life of the Church as a result of doing God’s will. For the church who earnestly desires a fresh inflowing of God’s presence, power and provision: get serious about what God is serious about - the Great Commission. It’s the kind of church that God blesses, and it’s the only kind of church that can speak of success in scriptural terms. A church that has divine focus will have divine favor. God is not obligated to bless any church that does not concern itself with His purposes.
At the Judgment Seat, the only definition of church success that will matter is the one that is wrapped up in His will. Jesus stated it this way: "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven’” (Mt 7:21). The greatest confirmation of our success will be when we hear these words: “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
Can our finances, buildings and numbers be a sign of God’s favor? Absolutely! It is still the Father’s good pleasure to give [us] the kingdom. As we begin to fulfill the Great Commission, souls will be added to the church. This will mean growth and expansion. With greater numbers come greater finances. With greater finances there come greater possibilities. We simply need to make sure that we are on board with God’s plan. We can’t ask Him to bless our own agenda.
Consider this: The God of the Bible is a God of redemption and reconciliation. The Bible is a story of how God worked in past human history to bring about redemption and reconciliation for all. Heaven is a place where its theme song is one of redemption (Re 5:9). The church whose focus is not about the redemption and reconciliation of sinners is out of step with the history of God’s redemptive plan and out of step with heaven’s theme song. Do we really believe God will bless that?