Church Wish List

If you were looking for a church to attend, what characteristics would you like to see in that church? If I put myself in the shoes of one looking for a church, I would like to find one that most closely aligns with the early Church described in the New Testament. Below are some characteristics of that early church that I would want to see in any prospective church. Some of these things might be viewed as idealistic by some but keep in mind, this is merely a “church wish list.”


Sound doctrine (both taught and lived): A biblical church is one that is founded on the Bible. They submit Scripture and the fear of God rather than modern culture sensitivity. Any church that teaches doctrines that do not line up with Scripture will never fulfill the Great Commission. False doctrine undermines faith. At the same time, it is possible for sound doctrine to be taught at a church and yet, not lived. Jesus warned about this when He said, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? And in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it” (Matthew 7:21-27). Many churches pride themselves in the sound doctrine they teach but seem content to listen and not do. Such churches are the last to recognize the fact that they hear but fail to do what Jesus taught. They are generally blind to it. If they are doers of the Word and not mere hearers, they will be fully engaged living out the gospel in accordance with those things that are described below.


Christ-like leaders:

-They derive their security from Christ alone. They don’t feel a need to impress people with their knowledge or teaching skills. They don’t feel a need to be recognized as leaders and therefore do not exercise lordship over those under their authority. They truly esteem those under their authority as more important than themselves.

-They lead by example: They teach not just with their mouths, but with their actions. Their example, if followed, will yield lives that are holy and full of ministry fruit.

-They evangelize the “unchurched” and produce disciples out in the community. They are serious about Jesus’ command to go and make disciples. They do not simply preach at the church services.

-Because of practice, they are skilled at proclaiming the gospel to unchurched people one on one according to the New Testament pattern. Young believers can learn from them how to do the same by following their example.

-They live their lives by faith in Christ and do not depend on their own understanding and resources. They make faith choices that may appear to the world as irresponsible. They love Jesus more than life on earth and they consider it to be far greater to die and be with Christ rather than remain on earth in this present condition. They have lost their lives unto Christ and value Him above all worldly comfort. They are more concerned about His interests than any interests they might have in this world.

-They rejoice whenever they hear about the gospel being lived and going forth through any of Christ’s servants, even if that servant is getting more attention paid to him than to themselves.

-They depend on the Holy Spirit to control the meetings and spend more time praying to that end rather than preparing sermons.

-They do not pretend to be more spiritual than others and they are horrified at the notion of pretending to be spiritual more than others.

-They associate with the lowly. As a result, the lowly feel comfortable being in the midst of the leaders and the entire congregation. From the example set by the leaders, the other members also associate with the lowly and do not consider them any different from themselves.

-They do not insist that people hold them in high esteem and they teach their congregations to never put them up on a pedestal. They teach the members to challenge them about any teaching that might not line up with Scripture and to hold them accountable.


Spirit-filled members: By observing the leaders and those being led by them, members participate in advancing Christ’s kingdom rather than remain spectators. They are being equipped to do the work of the ministry by others leading (including evangelism) and they do it. They do not relegate “ministry to believers” or “evangelism of the lost” to the professionals and while they themselves take a lesser role. Being Spirit-filled, the people of the church are people who pray much both when they are alone and when they are together. They intercede for the lost and pray for God’s glory to be revealed in the lives of His people. They pray also with all diligence for revival and that God keeps them from falling into sin that entraps. Various ministry spontaneously erupts as prompted by the Holy Spirit. The members don’t need to be prompted by others. Spirit-filled members love Christ so much that it just oozes out of them. They love to talk about Jesus and so they do that with each other and with unbelievers they know also. It is evident that Jesus is their first love.


Fulfilling the Great Commission: The members and the leaders are driven to fulfill the Great Commission. As a life style, they evangelize the unchurched in their communities and where they work. They strive to become equipped to proclaim the gospel in accordance with the pattern given in the Bible. They testify of Christ’s work in their lives and do whatever they can to communicate the gospel so that the unchurched hear and understand it. They really believe that unbelievers are condemned and drifting towards hell. Therefore, they do not shy away from speaking truth that causes some to become angry at them. They plead, warn, exhort and teach people the gospel and consider such work to be their food (to do the will of the Father). As a result of the proclamation of the gospel by the members, the unchurched hear the gospel and eventually disciples are made. Then, those who make disciples, see to it that baptism is facilitated and then they take on the main responsibility to make sure the new disciple learns all that Jesus commanded. In other words, the norm is that the members have disciples that are in turn, being equipped to do the work of the ministry.


Connection to Christ and to each other: When all of those things outlined above are happening, a strong connection is realized between all the members as co-laborers in the harvest. They love each other and therefore watch out for each other. If one falls, the others lovingly come along side to help him back up and begin working again in the harvest. This type of closeness requires that they fellowship in small circles. They would never be content going to a large church where there is no interaction that is only possible in small groups. They learn from the teaching and from each other’s example about the spiritual dangers lurking all around. They pray for each other, weep with each other and rejoice with each other, all while observing God’s glory being unveiled in their midst. The connection the members have to one another drives them to make sure that no one member goes lacking. They sense that all things are from God and therefore belong to one another rather than themselves. As the members do these things, it becomes evident to them and people on the outside that they love one another. Thus, they prove to be Christ’s disciples.


Some things that are completely irrelevant:

A church building.

Passing of the plate

Special band or orchestra


For biblical analysis and an expanded consideration of this topic, see my book The Local Church.



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