For the past fifteen years, I have been in a position to instruct, train, and counsel those who are called to lead God’s people through full-time vocational ministry. And I have in the past few years counseled several of them who are just absolutely scared of what might happen to them and their families when they accept a call from a church to become a pastor.
One student expressed to me this concern in this way. He said, “I just do not want to go to a church with problems.” Now, I could have given him a variety of answers ranging from silly to profound, but I believe the Lord directed me to say to him, “If a church does not have problems, then it does not need a pastor. That’s the reason why God has given pastors to the church.” And it is true. On the other hand, let’s recognize that there are some churches that are more problematic than others.
Some churches command respect; some destroy it. Some churches are very hard on pastors; some are pleasant to shepherd. Some churches are easy to love, some not so much. Some churches require that pastors exert authority; others follow with gratitude and submission.
The churches in Macedonia during Paul’s ministry were great churches. When Paul wrote to the Thessalonians and to the Philippians, he had no need to refer to himself as an “apostle”; the title is conspicuously absent from all three canonical correspondences to these two churches. In each of these three letters he gives an extended thanksgiving for them and expresses great joy upon his every remembrance of them.
In reading Acts, you will find that Paul’s experiences in both places, Philippi and Thessalonica, were not the best of circumstances. In Philippi he was imprisoned; in Thessalonica he was run out of town by the Jews. But when Paul considered the character qualities of these churches, nothing could damper his rejoicing. Paul says he always gives thanks for all of them. The basis of his thanksgiving consists of ten characteristics I will call “Ten Marks of Healthy Churches.” We will blog about them in the days to come.