What Makes A Good Congregation?

     As most of those who read this article know, I have been the preacher for this congregation for a long time. I suppose that for this reason I find myself talking to other fellows who have long tenure with a local church. I’ve noted that our conversations sooner or later come down to a common theme: what makes a particular work good? What follows is my answer to that question.

     In the first place, a good congregation has its life and work based on Biblical principles. As far as matters of faith and practice are concerned a good church “goes by the Book.” If we don’t do that and have that everything else we might do is in vain is so far as pleasing God is concerned. A fine building and plenty of money are nice things, but following the pattern God revealed is much more important (2 Timothy 1:13).

     A good congregation has an eldership that is intensely interested in leading the church as God would have us go. Such an eldership will insure that the messages from the pulpit and in the classroom are filled with God’s Word, properly taught and exemplified. I am thankful that our eldership has this perspective and is deeply concerned for each of us.

     A good congregation has a good Biblical program of work. Congregations of the Lord’s church are autonomous. Each operates independently as there is no Biblical governmental structure above the congregational level. As such each congregation, following its eldership if one is present, determines what programs of work to do. The New Testament pattern reveals three areas of work, evangelism (Matthew 28:18-20, Romans 10:17), edification (Ephesians 4:15-16) and benevolence (Galatians 6:9-10). So it is that a good congregation does its work within these areas to the best of its ability given its resources and circumstances. Thus a good congregation may approach its work in Alabama with a different emphasis, but still within that pattern, from one in Guyana. Congregations, like people, have personalities. As long as God’s will is done, those personalities may be expressed.

     Each element of our work can, should and must manifest love. The Lord told us to love one another as He has loved us (John 13:34). So it is that a good congregation is a loving congregation. And this comes down to the people who comprise the local church. A church is a loving church when the people who make it up practice Christian love in every direction. We know that all of us have shortcomings but that should never limit the love we show. Sometimes love, which is really just wanting the best for others, has to be tough. But even then it must be lovingly tough.

    
A good congregation also follows God’s pattern with regard to worship. The first-century church was under the leadership of inspired men (Acts 2 and following). Therefore a good congregation looks to the Bible, learns how God directed those people to worship then, and follows that pattern now. Thus we sing, preach, pray, give and observe the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 14:40). A congregation may have huge numbers and do good things for themselves and for others, but if God is not worshipped as He wants to be worshipped (John 4:24) what do we accomplish? Nothing that matters in the long run! Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15).

     We have been thinking about what it takes to be a good congregation. As I said at the beginning, preachers (like me) love to talk about their home work. I don’t know many preachers who spend much time “running down” their congregation. At least, not for long! But as good as a congregation is, we know that there is no such thing as a perfect one. We all have work to do. With God’s help all of God’s people will keep on striving to be good Christians in good congregations.