If you could get rid of all the traditions and build a church from scratch what would it be like? Do you have one particular blueprint, template or model in mind? Would the principle focus be the pulpit, pew or program? I suspect there are as many different shades of opinion on that question as there are Gentle Reformation readers.
If the most biblically-minded, in seeking answers, tend to gravitate towards Acts, the resounding example Paul gives is that of the Thessalonian Church. He begins his letter with thanks for self-evident, genuine faith: he then continues a confident boast, in the election of these saints, with some marks of God's "Model Church". Let me just mention THREE:
Firstly, the Power of the Truth
If, by contemporary standards, Paul's earthy expressions lacked rhetorical polish, this preacher packed a punch - his message, as 1:5 indicates, was Spirit-empowered, Scripture-unfolding, Christ-portraying, mind-enlightening, conscience-penetrating, guilt-inducing, soul-awakening and salvation-bringing.
Our Gospel came to you not only in word but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.
Thank the God of truth for each and every stirring sermon, instructive doctrine, family devotion and private reading - these are Gospel means by which the Holy Spirit brings us to our knees, draws forth earnest prayers, floods our souls with light, so we might be stirred to grow in grace in the knowledge and power of Christ.
Secondly, the Pattern of the Cross
If Silas and Timothy remained for follow-up discipleship, sound foundations were laid in Paul's initial, intensive, three-week, mission event. If the Thessalonian Church had a regional accent, the biggest imprint was left by the indelible mark of the Cross: not only did saints mimic apostolic holy death and life - the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus was tattooed all over believers who gladly praised in pain as Christ's suffering and rejection splashed over onto their lives.
You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia.
Rejoice in the privilege of suffering with Christ. What is your pain in comparison to His Cross. Let bruises for His sake be your comforting New Birthmarks. Ask your glorified King, as most understanding Great High Priest, for resurrection power: seek holy lips and life as you walk in Jesus steps and persevere through faith.
Thirdly, the Penitence of their Walk
Not only was the Macedonian Church marked with the stamp of Christ - escape from coming wrath, on the final day of Christ, was a transforming truth: it filled their hearts with hope in such a way that error was renounced, idols became trash, and sin was forsaken; gladly, they served the Lord in fear and waited for King Jesus to re-appear.
For they themselves report concerning the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols, to serve the Living and True God, and to wait for His Son from Heaven, whom He raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come - 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10.
Bless the God of the Gospel who has shown us the truth, exposed the lies of Satan, subdued the power of the flesh, produced a loathing for sin, and granted us servant hearts. Hearing the Word each week, and praying truth in each day, pray your gaze at Christ, enthroned in light, at height, will generate such sure hope that your all is offered to Him, by way of grateful response.
There are so many things that pastors and people want to cram into church life - with all the bustling life that characterizes God's House, these are three cardinal marks, to be found in any model church, and which we dare not be without. To end on a high note, it was these very marks, of Word, Cross and Life, that made their presence felt as the Gospel rang out all over ancient Eastern Greece v8. If that is the case, brothers and sisters, take this message home - pray for every city, town, and village of the West to blest by believing bell-ringers of a vibrant. local, Model Church.